Thursday, August 27, 2015

Confessions of a Babywearer: A Twin Story

While we would all love to believe that everyone has an easy time following the birth of their child, that isn't always the case.  Sometimes new families struggle to find their groove, and sometimes, they fall apart.  By working through the struggle, they will find their strength.  We begin a new series this week sharing the stories of strength and struggle that our families have experienced after birth, and the role babywearing had in helping find their strength.

I began my babywearing journey in an unexpected fashion.  During my pregnancy with boy/girl twins, I purchased a Moby wrap and registered for a couple of carriers.  I figured that it would help to have the carriers since I would be managing two babies, but didnt give it much other thought.  

After giving birth, I became completely consumed/slightly depressed regarding breast feeding.  I didnt expect to be hit so hard emotionally with my breastfeeding difficulties, but I ended up with a lot of tears and disappointment.  I hired a postpartum doula and she helped me figure out how to wear my twins.  During the stress of two new babies and breastfeeding issues, my marriage fell apart.  There was constant stress in our home and I often escaped by wearing my babies and going for walks.  I began joining pages on Facebook and learned about the many more beautiful options to carry my babies.  My depression (undiagnosed but quite real) started to improve as I browsed and purchased beautiful wraps/mei tais/conversion/SSCs.  It gave me somewhere to channel my emotions while feeling so overwhelmed and alone.  Wearing my babies gave me the closeness to them that we all needed.  Looking at wraps/carriers, learning how to use them, and fluff mail all gave me opportunities to feel connected, even though I spent most of my time cooped up in the house.  Slowly, I started to feel better as my focus shifted from something unsuccessful that was good for my babies (breastfeeding) to something successful for my babies (wearing them.)  When I went out in public, wearing them shifted the conversations with random strangers from them asking me if I was breastfeeding (something that I beg everyone to stop doing because that simple question can flood a new mom with emotions) to asking me about my carrier.  It made me feel better and helped me connect more with my babies.  Wearing them also gave me the confidence to know that I could handle raising them on my own.  It helped me feel like I could logistically manage the situation without compromising the bonding.  Now, as a single mother of 16 month old amazing twins who ask to go up,I look for more opportunities to wear them and hold them close.  In such a short amount of time, so much has changed.  I know that wearing them will only last for a blip of time in their lives, but the bond that was strengthened will have an ever-lasting effect.  

Thank you for letting me share my story and thank you for existing.  I didnt know anything about BWI during my pregnancy and didnt know anything about this whole world of babywearing, but it truly impacted my life in a positive way that I will forever be grateful for.  



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How do I Sign?

Research has shown that babies who live in households that use American Sign Language (ASL) learn to communicate earlier than those in talking households.  Because so many early tantrums are expressions of the frustration of babies and toddlers who can't seem to get anyone to understand what they want, many hearing families have begun to use ASL to communicate with their pre-verbal children.  One question I often hear from families using ASL with their pre-verbal children is "is there a sign for wearing, or up?"  We've asked Tiffany, one of our VBEs, to help us show a few words that may be helpful for parents wanting to use ASL with their children.  In this video, Tiffany will cover the signs for Up, Down, Front, Back, Wrap, and Sling.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Babywearing is a Family Affair!

I was fortunate to grow up around babywearing. My parents added two babies to our family when I was a teenager, and I not only watched my mother wear them in a ring sling and my father occasionally carry them in a backpack, I wore them myself at times.

So when I became a parent myself, the use of slings and carriers seemed like a natural option. I've worn both of my kids since they were newborns. When my older brothers and their wives started having kids, they also embraced babywearing, making us a whole family of babywearers.

We recently had the pleasure of hosting our kids' cousins (and their parents) for week. Everyone had a great time, but the question might arise:  How do you keep up with six kids age five years and under-- including three one-year-olds-- when the kids outnumber the adults and you're touring the DC area for a week? Answer:  babywearing!

On a few outings, we brought one stroller that some of the kids took turns using. But we always brought lots of carriers. During our visits to the zoo, a farm, monuments, museums, a festival, hiking trails, and more, the ability to put a child on one's back while chasing or helping another child was invaluable. Babywearing allowed us to explore and have a great time together while keeping a large number of children safe and content. I look forward to many similar adventures in the future.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Babywearers, Balls, and the Beach!

This week, members of Babywearing International of DC-MD-VA went to visit a unique exhibit open at the National Building Museum this summer!  It's the BEACH!  An art installation that fills the huge atrium of the National Building Museum with a beach with no sand, water, or sharks!  A giant ball pit that is fun for children and adults alike.  After we got our workout playing in the "water" we walked a few blocks and enjoyed lunch.  This was a fun outing that we highly recommend.


R and M are having a little too much fun!

I'm sinking!
Don't let go, mom!


Best buds together again!

Uncle D's face says it all here

Uh oh!  Uncle D knew what was coming...

Everyone into the pool!


Even the grownups had fun jumping in

We played with our kids

And we enjoyed time with friends!

What a great place to practice back wearing!

Laying out enjoying the waves lapping on our legs!
Gathering for our trek to lunch

Babywearers on the move!

Back babies!

Playing with baby waiting for our table.
Our group knows how to have fun together!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Only YOU Can Prevent Carrier Abuse

Our carriers are important tools in our parenting toolbox, but sometimes we forget that they are just cloth and shouldn't be treated as unbreakable.  Today we will learn from the abusive behavior others have accidentally subjected their carriers to in order to learn what to avoid.

Activity Abuse
Once our kids are toddlers, we have to find a way to carry carriers that aren't in use.  Some place them in the cart at the store.  This can result in carriers being accidentally left behind.  So, other parents choose to leave the carrier on their body hanging behind them.  This seems like a good solution, but you must be very cautious that the carrier does not get caught on something.

Soft Structure Carrier strap caught on railing as wearer continues walking
Stories abound of carrier straps caught on door knobs, railings, park benches, playground equipment, and more.  The wearer continues moving and can cause too much pressure on the carrier in a direction it is not designed to handle.
This Kinderpack was hanging behind the wearer when she went down a slide
at the playground.  It tore nearly in half.
When not using the carrier, it is best to either roll it at your waist or put the straps back on your shoulders to keep it from catching on environmental protrusions.  Or plan to bring a tote bag that it can go in when not in use.

Car Doors
Car doors can cause the same damage if a carrier around your waist is caught as you walk away, but the more common car door damage comes when the wearer places the carrier in the car and leaves a strap caught in the door.
Example of a strap left hanging out of a car door

Broken waist strap buckle on a Soft Structure Carrier

Buckles often are broken in car doors. 

Straps can be ruined dragging on the road as you drive.
The strap of this mei tai got wrapped around the wheel and tore completely out
 of the carrier with what the owner described as a terrifying pop
This SSC strap was dragged on the highway and completely destroyed the webbing

Food/Paint/Marker Abuse
The look of a carrier can quickly be destroyed by incautious behavior around foods, paints, or markers.  I've heard stories of carriers in the car that had a crayon thrown on them by a child which then melted all over the carrier in the heat. 

Mysterious blue stain on white carrier
Children and Pets
Children and pets can be very abusive to your carriers.  Cats, dogs, and rabbits to name a few have teeth, claws, and can very quickly destroy your favorite carriers.  It is important to store your carriers up off the floor where dogs cannot reach, or inside a drawer or bin to keep cats and other climbers away.  Velcro can also cause similar damage to cat claws, so be careful around Velcro items.
The guilty furry friend with the mei tai he snacked on behind him

This wrap is torn and has multiple holes thanks to a dog's teeth

The hood of this carrier tore off when the owners 4yr old pulled down on it while in use.
Laundry Disasters
Often people complain that the laundry recommendations for carriers seem excessively challenging.  However, carriers can and do get destroyed by improper washing.  Washing different types of carriers together can lead to buckles or zippers catching on fabric from wraps or slings.  Always wash carrier only with like styles and colors.
This linen wrap developed a large hole as the owner reached to make a seat.
 Linen dislikes hard water and the deposits can abrade the fibers causing tears.
This hemp wrap was exposed to excessive heat in the dryer.  It became brittle and easily tore.
Wool wraps will felt if wash improperly which means the fibers shrink and get fuzzy. 
This will make the wrap unsafe for use.
The agitator in top load washers can damage wraps and mei tais especially.  It is important to use a setting with minimal agitation for carriers.  Bleach can eat away at fabric even after the initial color damage is done.  Colors from multiple color carriers can sometimes run in the wash.  Shout Color Catchers are a good solution to this laundry disaster.
As you can see, there are many things you can do to cause your favorite carrier to be destroyed without meaning to damage it.  It is important to be on the lookout for potentially abusive behavior so that you can prevent damage before it happens.  Because only you can prevent carrier abuse.
Posted by Ann Marie
Thanks to all who provided pictures for this article (especially BWI of Phoenix)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Summertime Water Fun with Babywearing!

J demonstrates a mesh sling with a toddler in a local lake
One of the trickiest parts of taking babies and young toddlers in the water is that they become very slippery and tricky to hold.  Whether you're at the beach, a lake, the sprayground, or the pool, babies want to be part of our summer fun!

Babywearing can be a lifesaver, both literally and figuratively.  If you have older children that need hands on attention while you also hold the baby, a sling can make a world of difference.  While you always need to be aware of where baby's head is in relation to the water, and you will need to monitor the baby for chill, a sling can allow the whole family to enjoy summer water play.  Front or hip carries are the safest choices for being in water to best monitor baby's airway.  I know sometimes, even with baby on front, I've gotten too exuberant with our play and baby has gotten a mouth full of water.  It's easiest to recognize and remedy errors in judgment when baby is in front of you.  It's also easier to teach water fun like splashing when baby is in front and can see you patting the water.  We want our babies to associate water play with fun, not fear.

A shows us how a sling makes it possible to parent 2 children in the water.  She supervises her older son learning to boogie board while holding her younger son safe out of the waves.

One place I do not recommend wearing near water is on boats.  Babies and children need a Coast Guard approved floatation device on at all times in a boat, and the flotation device will not work properly while attached to an adult.  I love to babywear, and I see how wearing seems like the safest way to keep baby from falling overboard, but if there is an emergency requiring everyone to abandon the boat, you may not have time to remove baby from your carrier and add a proper floatation device.

Now, on to the carrier options:

Ring Slings:

K demonstrates a mesh sling at the beach with her toddler
I loved water ring slings.  I owned a few over my wearing days and they are quick in and out for baby, they dry fairly quickly, and they have a handy tail which makes a fabulous kick board for preschoolers learning to swim.  In general they are made from Athletic mesh (like gym shorts) or Solarweave (a material similar to men's swim trunks).  On the used market you may find some solarveil slings as well.  These materials have the qualities of handling water well, and drying quickly.  The concern of weight distribution is less important when wearing in water that at least comes to the baby's body because the water helps carry some of the weight.
M demonstrates a mesh sling at the beach with her sweet baby.  This shows excellent sun hat usage too!
K uses a mesh sling at the beach

C demonstrates using a solarweave sling in the pool with a 7mo old Z.
Grandma demonstrates a blue solarveil sling in the ocean with a 4mo old baby.
A Zanytoes Splash at the pool with a sleeping newborn
Several companies sell water slings.  A couple of our favorites are Zanytoes for the Zanytoes Splash (the solarweave slings pictured).  Comfy Joey,  Beachfront Baby, and Sweet Pea Slings  offer mesh slings in a variety of colors. KoKaDi has recently introduced their own water sling in pretty prints!  As mentioned, several companies once sold solarveil slings, these are available on the secondary market.  Always rinse your carrier after use in water to rinse out chlorine, salt, etc.
Water wraps are great for those needing the symmetrical support of a wrap even when wearing in the water.  These wraps are often made of a stretchy material, similar to a women's bathing suit.  They are lightweight, pack small for your bag, and are simple to use.  Like most stretchy wraps, you can always wrap first and then add baby once you have the wrap prepared.  At one time, water wraps came in only black, but there are wider arrays of colors available these days.  The two most popular water wrap brands are the Wrapsody HDuO and the Beachfront Baby Wraps.
M shows us how to have fun on the beach and still be covered from the sun!
R shows us how to stay covered and cuddle baby at the beach in her water wrap.

P demonstrates for us nursing on the go at the beach!  Sun hats are great for nursing coverage.

Mei Tai and Soft Structured Carriers

There are fewer options in more structured water carriers.  There are some that are good for splashing, being on the beach, but just toes in the water.  But there are not a ton of options for really being IN the water with a carrier.  One buckle option is the Bitty Bean.  This carrier claims it is good for water use with a rinse immediately following.
M demonstrates the Bitty Bean at a local water park!
Another potential option is the WaterTaiTai by KoKaDi.  These are a newer entry to the water carrier market, but they are cute, have 2 shoulder support, and I expect them to be a popular choice for many families.
C shows us how to multitask at the pool nursing in her KoKaDi Water Mei Tai with rainbow dots.
Once water play fun is over, the water carrier can also be useful for after swimming showers.  Or even for your daily showers.  As I said before, wet babies are slippery.  Wearing in the shower can help everyone to feel safe while also getting clean.
G catches a shower before hitting the pool at a local rec center

Hope that this helps you find a carrier that will work to keep your whole family comfortable during water fun!  And take pictures so that next year when I ask for water wearing pictures, you all have some to share!  I love to see where you wear on your summer vacation.  Thank you to all of the members who shared photos for this post.