Saturday, July 26, 2014

From Auntie to Mama - a wearer's journey

Our VBE, Cynthia, recently visited her sister on the birth of her new niece.  It's a great story of learning about babywearing as an aunt, and then relearning to wear upon becoming a new mom. Thanks for sharing your story.
I recently had the privilege of traveling back to my hometown to spend a week with my sister, Chenika, a new mom of a 2-week old baby, whom I’ll call Baby C.  I brought my daughter, Ziona, with me.  The four of us spent some time at home and some time out doing errands and having fun. Chenika has four types of carriers, so at the end of the week I interviewed her about babywearing and about life with Baby C.

Cynthia:  Firstly, how does it feel to be a new mom to Baby C?
Chenika:  It’s mostly joyful and sometimes challenging.  She’s so sweet and small.  I’m in love with her.  But it gets tough when she cries inconsolably at night.
Cynthia:  Most parents definitely understand that.  Now, will you tell me about how you first learned about babywearing?
Chenika:  I first learned about babywearing from seeing your Facebook pictures of using carriers with Ziona.  The first time I used a carrier was when I visited you in D.C. when Ziona was about four months old.  Babywearing made it a breeze to maneuver around D.C.’s Metro system.
Chenika with her niece, Ziona, four years ago
Cynthia:  Tell me about your first experiences with using carriers with Baby C.
Chenika:  Babywearing did not come easily to me even though I was excited about all the carriers I had before Baby C was born.  I learned from you that the both the pouch and the mei tai were too big for my little peanut.  I was too nervous to try the ring sling and the wrap by myself.
Cynthia:  During this week that we spent together, when has babywearing come in handy the most?
Chenika:  The carriers were helpful whenever we did errands.  They were really helpful when went out to lunch—you or I could keep her calm while having our hands free to eat (and talk on the phone).  At home the carriers help Baby C to calm down quickly when she gets upset...especially if she’s on the front porch.
Baby C with Aunt Cynthia and cousin Ziona

Cynthia:  Do you want to talk a bit about your first “real” day out after she was born?  When we went to the Missouri Botanical Gardens?
Chenika:    It was definitely helpful to have her in a carrier as we visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens (MOBot).   Baby C’s pediatrician recommended that I don’t let her get too close to many people right away.  When we were in the lobby of MOBot one boy form a large school group on a field trip was overly interested in Baby C.  I was able to engage him in conversation while putting some space between him and my baby.  Also, we had to walk a couple blocks since the parking lot was full.  It was easy to maneuver without a stroller.

Snuggling with mama while waiting in line

Ziona and her Aunt Chenika with Baby C at the MO Botanical Garden

Cynthia:  What made you go out with your newborn?
Chenika:  I thought it would be good for all of us because.  Baby C often gets calm being outside on the front porch—so I thought it would be good for her to get some fresh air and vitamin D.  Also, we had our big kid, Ziona, who needed an outlet for some of her energy.  Plus, I’d been cooped up inside for 2 weeks.
All the beautiful ladies

Cynthia:  When has Babywearing been the least helpful?
Chenika:  So far it has only been helpful.  I accidentally went out one on Sunday without any carriers at all and immediately knew that it was a mistake.  I held her throughout the entire church service while she slept.  Then there was no convenient place to put the car seat while she slept when we went out to lunch after church.

Chenika can eat out with Baby C

Cynthia:  I’d like to hear about your experience using your various carriers.  Can you talk a bit about your pouch?
Chenika:  Before you arrived I tried the pouch several times, but I couldn’t figure out why she disliked it so much.  It was helpful to learn that the pouch I have was too big for me.  I didn’t realize that she shouldn’t be so low on my torso.  I noticed how the pouch was a better fit for you.  I’m going to exchange it for a smaller size.  I think I’ll enjoy having something that I can pop her into quickly.
Aunt Cynthia shows how the pouch fits her better than her sister

Cynthia:  What about your mei tai?
Chenika:  I really like having an easy-to-use, two shouldered carrier.  It has really come in handy.  She’s still a bit small for it, but the modifications that you taught me really help.

The mei tai was a versatile option for both mama and auntie

Cynthia:  What do you think about the ring sling?
Chenika:  I like how small it folds and how snug she is in it.  I’ll keep practicing how to adjust it properly.

Aunt Cynthia could snuggle baby AND do her hair
Snuggles with Aunt Cynthia

 Cynthia:  Will you talk a bit about the wraps you have?
Chenika:  I’m looking forward to learning how to use them.  I love the versatility, though.  I have the woven wrap that you used with Ziona, as well as a hybrid stretch/woven.  I’m happy that I have something that I can pre-tie and then pop her into.
Aunt Cynthia demonstrates the stretchy wrap

Cynthia:  It was fun spending the week with you two.  Thanks for trusting me with your baby!  I am excited that there are carriers that these two cousins will have both been carried in.
I’m also proud that I was the second person to hold Baby C—and the first to wear her…within hours of her birth. I love you two, sis!
Cynthia with a Baby Ziona, 4yrs ago

Aunt Cynthia and her beautiful sister with brand new Baby C


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wearing a Happy Camper!


As summer gets into full swing, it’s a good time to talk about yet another leisure activity during which babywearing is very useful:  camping. My older son was almost two the first time we took him camping. I didn’t wear him much around the campsite, but when he was too excited about being in a tent to sleep, putting him on my back for a walk around the campground came in handy, and of course he rode there for portions of hikes when he was tired or drop-offs were nearby.

Because her brother had already developed a deep and abiding affinity for camping, our daughter’s first camping trip occurred the day she turned four months old. When my husband and I began camping with two children, I really began to see the benefits of babywearing in a camping setting. In no particular order, here are some of those advantages:

1. Babywearing gives you somewhere to put the baby while doing all the things camping out requires— erecting the tent, preparing food, tying up hammocks, gathering kindling for the fire. Aside from the tent itself and baby carriers, we bring no baby-holding devices on our camping trips—no stroller, no bouncy chair, no portable carseat. This not only cuts down on the amount of paraphernalia to squeeze into a car already full of camping gear but also gives the baby a close-up view of all the action

2. Babywearing at the campsite keeps older babies and toddlers safe from potential hazards. Although our daughter is not quite mobile yet, I can see this being a huge advantage in our near future. Wearing the baby can keep him or her safe from darting into the road or crawling too close to the fire.

3. Babywearing allows you to interact more fully and easily with older children. If the baby is secured in a carrier, the parent has both hands free to help an older sibling roast marshmallows, play a twilight round of hide-and-seek, catch fireflies, or read a bedtime story.

4. Babywearing allows for more adventurous activities at your camping destination than might be feasible with a stroller or a free-ranging toddler, such as hiking on uneven terrain, wading in streams, or taking in the view from scenic (but potentially dangerous) overlooks.

5.  Babywearing allows the baby to feel safe and secure in a setting away from home. Even at an early age, infants are observing the world around them, and camping out has many differences from eating and sleeping at home.  Being close to his or her parents while experiencing new things, such as listening to birds, peering into a campfire, or swinging in a hammock, can of course be accomplished without baby carriers, but they do make it more convenient. Wearing can also help babies settle down and fall asleep more easily, despite being in an unfamiliar setting.
All in all, we continue to love camping and hiking with our children, and babywearing greatly contributes to the ease with which this can be accomplished.

 Posted by Genny


Thursday, May 29, 2014

It's HOT!

by Shel Silverstein
It’s hot!
I can’t get cool,
I’ve drunk a quart of lemonade.
I think I’ll take my shoes off
And sit around in the shade.

It’s hot!
My back is sticky.
The sweat rolls down my chin.
I think I’ll take my clothes off
And sit around in my skin.

It’s hot!
I’ve tried with ’lectric fans,
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I’ll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.

It’s still hot!

This poem is often what comes to mind when people ask about wearing in the heat.  To some degree, you can do a million different things to try to make wearing cooler, but at the end of the day, on a 95 degree high humidity day in DC, strapping a little heater to yourself isn't going to make you cooler.  I consider this my personal reminder system to take regular water/nursing/bottle breaks for you and baby.  It is also a good reminder that breaks in the shade or AC are a good plan.  Baby in a stroller is just as hot, but you might be less aware because YOU aren't as hot. So, no matter how you transport baby, when taking baby out on a hot day, pay attention to hydration and sun exposure for both of you.

There are some things you can do to mitigate (but not eliminate) the heat.  Some people find that it is helpful to use a mei tai or soft structure carrier.  They seem to allow for a little more air movement between parent and baby.  With twins you can wear both a mei tai AND a soft structure carrier!

Some prefer to use a mei tai or SSC that has a mesh panel or is made from a tech fabric like a  performance nylon or with a mesh interior for increased air movement. 

A few such carriers are even labeled for use in the water!
Some wearers have found that exercise cooling towels can bring a little relief on a hot day.  These work through water evaporation, but apparently once wrung out they don't get you wet.  Many put these between themselves and an older baby or toddler, or between the child and the carrier.  I don't recommend putting it against a small baby, but you can still drape it around your neck for cooling.  You can see K has one hanging out from between them.  Even a low tech wet wash cloth can be used, but you'll feel much wetter... I'd reserve that for an all day festival where you're going to feel wet and gross no matter what.
One popular brand of the high tech towels is Frogg Togg, but many have found cheaper versions at discount stores.
Other wearers prefer to stick with the comfort of wraps on a hot day.  They feel the support of a wrap overshadows any minor increase in warmth.  However, certain carries can feel cooler on a hot day.  Single layer carries can relieve a little heat, especially if you dress baby in little to no clothing. In general, as long as baby is big enough for back carries, most people find back carries to feel cooler than front carries. 

When working in the house or garden, you can even remove your shirt.  A double hammock carry can be done shirtless to give you the least extra layers.

Another carrier style that is popular in the hot summer months is a ring sling.  It is one layer of fabric all the way around and it can come in a variety of fabrics including linen and a mesh that works in the water or out.  This can be a great option for a newborn that isn't ready for back carries.

Whenever possible, it's a good idea to help keep baby out of the sun.  Large sun hats (with a chin strap) are a great option.  Some families use an umbrella as a parasol, but another option is a carrier sun cover.
Finally, when all else fails, get wet!


And when you're finished in the pool, that water sling will help get a slippery baby showered off!

Other accessories that can help with cooling include those little personal fans or a misting bottle (or those combo fan/misters).  Hopefully some of this will help with making babywearing a great way to transport baby to every summer activity your family wants to enjoy!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Meet a Leader: Gwen

Name: Gwen
Name/Age of Child/ren:
Leo, almost 4.5
Max, almost 2.5
What jobs, activities, hobbies, volunteer work, etc. did you do before kids?  Do you still do that thing?
Before I had kids, I worked on Capitol Hill for 4 years (and notoriously said I would never stay home with children) and then after I got married I worked as a government contractor. Then…wait for it…I stayed home for 3 years with my boys! Now I’m back to F/T contracting work.
When did you start babywearing?
I received a hand-me-down Bjorn when I was pregnant and just kind of assumed that’s what everyone used because that is what you see in the movies. I also registered for a pouch sling from target and it was gifted to me. It wasn’t until my first was maybe around 3ish months old that I read the term “babywearing” on an online baby forum and started countless hours of research discovering this new and exciting world in my parenting journey. I tried wearing a few times but bought my first well-researched carrier 4-5 months in and then expanded from there.
Did you know you were going to wear before you had kids, or what prompted you to try it?
I don’t think I really even considered “wearing” being part of my parenting bag of tricks before or when I was expecting. With my first I was able to spend all day and night at first holding and rocking in my arms so it wasn’t something I felt like I was necessarily missing. I lived in an apartment when my first was born with the laundry facility in the basement. So once the honeymoon stage of letting all chores go to the wayside wore off, I HAD to take him with me sometimes to do laundry so I needed to figure out how to make that happen. I never really felt comfortable with my Bjorn, or my pouch for that matter during the newborn stage.
Who was the person who most influenced your babywearing and what did they do that was so influential?
Once I decided I wanted to learn back wrapping, I went home and spent a few sweaty weeks trying to get it right. Then I took my borrowed carrier back to a meeting where Lindsay K taught me how to do an amazing reinforced ruck. I still remember her techniques to this day and it will be 4 years this Spring since I first learned. I pass those skills on whenever I teach this carry.
If someone took away all of your carriers and said they were handing you a newborn and you could only choose ONE carrier from birth until the end of wearing, what would you choose?
I would pick a mei tai. It was the first carrier I ever bought and with my second I loved how easy it was to nurse in it. I also love how quick it can be to get into a back carry.
If you had to choose ONE carrier from what you already own to be the only one you had to use from now forward, what would it be?
In keeping with my last post, it would be my wrapstar (no longer being sold in the US.)
Which carrier do you find you return to time and again, whether it be for each newborn, or just a consistent workhorse?
I LOVE my natibaby Greece. It is perfect for newborn carrying and still supportive enough for my 4 year old. It is soft but supportive and just makes me happy.
Tell me a story of a time that babywearing made a huge difference in the outcome of a family outing.
In my last year at home with my boys I kept my nephew F/T. He came to me when he was 5 months and my youngest was 3 months. It was like having twins. I had one kid in a carrier most of the day and many times they were carried in tandem. I remember one day we went to a friend’s for a play date. I hadn’t anticipated being outside but when the older kids wanted to play in the wet and muddy yard, I put the infants in carriers and was able to push the older kids on swings and just be present. My nephew was crawling so letting him down would have been trying (and ultimately messy) and my youngest was sitting up but I know that without carriers I would have had to juggle two in my arms since they were both pretty needy infants. Using carriers allowed me to attend the playdate and enjoy a nice Spring day without having ask my friend to help me care for the infants or leave them in their carseats.
If you were stranded on a desert island, which carrier would you want?
If I were on a desert island and this island were hot, I guess I would want my bali baby  breeze gauze wrap. I’ve taken many walks on the beach with various sleeping babies in that wrap. It took me some time to figure out how to make it comfortable on my bare (and sometimes sunburned) shoulders but that’s my warm weather wrap.
What is your favorite thing to do while wearing?
My very favorite thing to do while wearing is have the enjoyment of getting out of the car and be able to hold my child close while I run errands. Especially when we have a trying car ride, the only thing I want to do is hold and kiss my child and if we had to use a stroller or sit in the cart, we couldn’t have the same cuddle time. Though they couldn’t tell me when they were young, I think they appreciated the cuddles too.
What is your least favorite thing to do while wearing?
My least favorite thing to do while wearing is potty train. I mean, it’s not on the top of my list not wearing but I spent a lot of time in the bathroom with my second child on my back training the first. Add cleaning up the bathroom after training to that scenario… But I have to say I’d rather have a baby on my back than in my arms while doing this task!
Why did you decide to become a VBE?
I felt a great connection to the babywearing community and met a great network of parents and wanted to carry that on for the next group. It is also a great volunteer activity where you can bring your kids. Of course, now that my boys are crazy and have a tendency to try “kung fu fighting”, I have to limit the number of meetings they attend with me for my own sanity. (note: children of all ages are welcome at meetings!)
What is your favorite things about being a VBE for BWI of DC-MD-VA?
Working with a great group of leaders has really been rewarding! I also adore meeting parents just starting out on their babywearing journey and seeing their needs met by this wonderful skill.

Tell me a story about a time you helped someone at a meeting that stands out to you.
I fondly remember helping a mama tandem wear her 5ish month old twins for the first time. Now she is a tandem wearing fool! 