Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Babies and bats: Surviving Academia with a Baby in Tow

Baby’s first bat meeting. With M, then 3.5 months old, in a mei tai ready to hear more talks at a conference in Portland, Oregon. (Note name tag clipped to mei tai.)
When my first child was born in 2009, I was deep in the throes of graduate school. I quickly found babywearing to be an asset for, among so many other things, getting work done while meeting the needs of my baby (not the mention the free snuggles). While my new son napped in a carrier, I had hands free for typing and data analysis.  When he was about seven weeks old, I resumed attending lab meetings, with the baby tucked snuggly into a ring sling. 

While these activities were made easier by babywearing, I felt the benefits of wearing quite acutely when it came to attending academic conferences. Since becoming a parent 6.5 years ago, I have traveled to and given presentations at about half a dozen conferences, and in all but one instance, I had at least one of my children with me at the conference.

When my first baby was 3.5 months old, I flew alone with him across the country carrying no more than two small bags and two carriers, to attend and give a presentation at a meeting on bat biology in Oregon. Babywearing first came in handy during the travel portion of this adventure--  he stayed in the sling in the airport, on the airplane, and while taking public transit to the hotel. Then, because he still napped a lot and wasn’t mobile yet, it was relatively easy to keep him contained in a mei tai while I listened to presentations, viewed posters, and shared meals and conversations with colleagues.
1-year-old M is worn by his grandmother while I attend a conference nearby in Williamsburg, VA.
While I was fortunate enough to have a family member with me to help with childcare for later conferences, babywearing—by both myself and those caring for the baby while I attended sessions—made life much easier. My mother wore my then one-year-old son in a sling while she watched him at an animal behavior meeting, and I strapped him on when it was time for meals or crowded poster sessions.
In between sessions at the animal behavior conference in Princeton, New Jersey with 7-month-old E asleep in the SSC.
My mother wearing 7-month-old E in an SSC while caring for her at a conference in Princeton, New Jersey.
At a conference when my daughter was seven months old, our hotel was situated on the opposite side of a college campus from the meeting proceedings, almost a mile away. Using an SSC, I easily transported my daughter back and forth from the conference site to my mother, who was watching my son and sometimes the baby back at the hotel. Most recently, I attended a conference in Florida with my nearly-two-year-old daughter. Both my brother, who came along to watch her, and I carted her around on our backs through airports, at the conference, and on a couple of post-conference outings.
22-month-old E on her uncle’s back outside the conference center in Jacksonville, Florida.
As with so many other things, baby- (and toddler-) wearing has made the experience of attending meetings and caring for my children immensely more doable.  As many parents have learned, being able to continue to pursue other avenues of one’s life—whether it is a career, volunteer work, education, or caring for other family members— while spending time with and meeting the needs of your child—is a large part of what makes babywearing such a wonderful and valuable resource.

Posted by: Genevieve

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

It's Wintertime! Bread, Milk, and Babywearing Meetings

This post isn’t a how-to but more of a head’s up.

Our area enjoys all four seasons.  Usually during the winter months when it gets a little chilly and there is some light snow or ice, we lose our damn minds and close schools and public offices while buying milk we won’t drink (forgot about that lactose intolerance) and wait for the neighbors to also go outside to shovel out their car so it feels like an outdoor party.

A crowd of snow people
As such, when there are school delays or closings due to the weather, this will affect our meetings as well.  Some meetings will be cancelled entirely, others may start late or end early to accommodate the leader’s ability to pick up or drop off children at school.  

A list of our upcoming meetings and events can be found here https://www.facebook.com/BWIofDCMDVA/events?ref=page_internal
And we will try to update cancellations as soon as we can on the event page.    

We will also try to post on our chatter board.  In the case of inclement weather, attendees can also post and ask https://www.facebook.com/groups/BWIofDCMDVAFSOT/

If in doubt regarding the weather, please use your best judgement.  It is OK to stay home if you don’t feel comfortable out in the weather!

This is also a time of year when sniffles, colds, and coughs abound.  What should we do about illness?

Norman Rockwell painting of a boy at the doctor with his pants loose awaiting a shot
While our meetings are always open to the public, the nature of our meetings means we usually have a number of pregnant women and/or very young infants. As such if  you or members of the household have had fever, vomiting or diarrhea within 24 hours of the meeting, please stay home, rest and recuperate!   

Other symptoms of illness, like a cough or runny nose are a matter of discretion but if the germs can spread easily, it may be best to plan on attending when the worst of the cold symptoms have passed.  If this affects returning a learning library carrier, please feel free to contact us to arrange an out of meeting return.  While we are sorry not to see you, we appreciate everyone’s effort to keep each other well.

Finally,  with the gray days, indoor time and cold weather its not uncommon to feel blah this time of year.  If you want to connect online we’re just a post away in the chatter group—you don’t have to have something for sale to chatter with us!  If in person meet ups are more your thing, in addition to the regular meetings, playdates are welcome. Just post a time and place in the chatter group and you'll likely have a crowd in no time.
A ginger cat and black cat.  The ginger cat has a paw around the
shoulder of the black cat as they gaze out a window

We hope the weather doesn’t interrupt too many meetings and illness doesn’t keep too many of you away.  We look forward to wearing with you!

Photo of a casual picnic following a Tysons meeting last summer

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Things You Can Learn at a Babywearing Meeting!

I knew before my first son arrived that I would want to wear him and keep him close. I researched some options and went with a Sleepy Wrap (now Boba wrap) and an Ergo. Thankfully, the Boba wrap had tutorials and I was able to figure out the pocket wrap cross carry fairly easily. Or so I thought... I could never get it tight enough and with increasing weight, it was always uncomfortable. I transitioned to the Ergo with the infant insert and that was more comfortable. It wasn't until my son was older and over 20 lbs that my back began to hurt with the Ergo. I watched videos and tried everything to perfect the fit but it just was not working. I decided to try a wrap instead so I could really customize the fit.

I got my first wrap, a Didymos Lisca Pastell in my base size and could not wait to start playing with it. After using the Boba wrap, I figured I'd be a pro! After hours of YouTube tutorials, pictures in babywearing facebook support groups and lots of conversations, I just could not get it tight enough to feel solid and safe. So I attended my first BWI meeting.
A panoramic photo of the Centreville meeting

I was definitely overwhelmed when I came in but someone quickly greeted me and offered to help. Having been supremely frustrated with all of my failed attempts at home, I was so relieved that someone was so quickly willing to offer me help.
Sarah helps a mama try on a coral Baby K'tan

We started with the basics - how to tighten a wrap and work each strand through a front wrap cross carry. We worked on that carry for a while and realized that maybe it wasn't the best option for me so I was taught another carry - front cross carry. The carry was simple, easy to get baby in and out (poppable), and easy for me to tighten! I was so incredibly relieved!! I walked out of that meeting with a carry that worked so well for us that it is still my go-to carry with my second son.
Tiffany helps a mother adjust her ring sling

I continued to attend meetings and at each one I learned more and more. After lots of practice tightening, I learned how to get my then toddler on my back and complete the secure high back carry. I learned how to do a slip-knot with a rebozo carry. As my skills improved, I started being able to help others. 

AM teaches a mom to back wear and a dad attempting
a carry with his wife before trying it with baby
Most important of all, at every meeting, I got to talk to amazing mamas. We would swap tips for babywearing and tips for life. We'd offer each other support, encouragement and kind words. Everyone was at various points in their babywearing and mothering journey and was always so open to teaching when asked. While I have not been to as many meetings as I would like lately, I know that if I ever need some guidance a meeting is just a short car ride away.

Posted by Lorelei

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Life Out of Focus - PPD and Babywearing

She is 11 weeks old, and she rarely smiles.  Maybe my post-partum depression has contributed to that.  Maybe she is just a serious baby.  Only time will tell.  Things started out well.  I was happy.  My husband was happy.  Even her big brother seemed happy.  A large part of this happiness was that I was wearing A around the house and out of the house since the day we came home from the hospital.  I used a K’Tan and a Moby, and after a BWI meeting at two weeks, I ordered a mei tai as well.  We were a happy baby wearing family, and everybody noticed.  I got compliments all the time.

Then, at four weeks, after a blessedly long paternity leave, my husband went back to work.  I wore Baby A.  I kept up with Big Boy B’s preschool schedule.  I kept house.  I allowed myself the luxury of ordering groceries because two kids and grocery stores just didn’t appeal.  But something wasn’t right.  I read more about babywearing.  Keeping A close was the only thing that made me feel completely at ease.  I decided to order a woven wrap.  It came, and I worked hard on the front cross carry – poppable and good for newborns.  

Things were not going well for me.  I was angry at everyone who was not A. I was anxious whenever A wasn’t right there with me, even when I could see her across the room.  She also started crying more, especially in the evenings, and the only thing that soothed either of us was wrapping her close and wandering about the house and neighborhood singing.  I couldn’t even begin to deal with anything else if she wasn’t near me, and babywearing facilitated that.  After several frantic phone calls to my psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression.  

I was absolutely beside myself.  I felt like I couldn’t give my family or my baby anything that they needed.  I was especially worried about my growing A who I felt like needed so much from me.  At her two month check up, which I wore her to, I broke down in front of the doctor.  I tried to explain that my PPD was being treated, but it was hard for me to play with the baby or show her toys or do anything other than wear her.  That doctor saved me.  She told me that right now, what my daughter needed was to be close to me, to feel me, to smell me, to hear my heart beat.  She told me that if all I could do for my baby was feed her and wear her and make sure she got her tummy time, then I had nothing to worry about.  For the first time in weeks, my tears were tears of relief.  For everything I couldn’t handle, I could handle this.

BWI has done so much for our journey.  We’ve been coming to meetings since I was pregnant with A, and we’ve learned so much.  The wonderful volunteers have taught me about the different carriers, checked my positioning in whatever I’m wearing, introduced me to new ways to wear old carriers, and so much more.  Their assistance and education has made wearing A so much easier, which in turn has made having PPD a little more bearable.  Wearing babies makes life better in so many ways.  

Posted by Mama C

Editor's note: If you are struggling following the birth of your child, please talk to your doctor. You aren't alone, and you CAN get help. Also, talk to us at meetings, there is a lot of support to be found in our group for finding the right treatment, or just agreement that being a mom is really hard work.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Many Layers - Wearing with Head Coverings

When I found out about wrapping in 2012 and headed over to The Babywearer online, one of the many things I loved about it was the diversity. There was someone who looked like me in the banner — a mom wearing a headscarf. (OK, maybe not exactly like me — she was a lot skinnier, but still. It made me feel at home.)
A large group of women wearing headscarves and babies pose in front of a beautiful mural of a tree

Babywearers are from everywhere. I love this little microcosm of the world, brought together by the universal love for our babies.

My own babywearing experience has intersected with my experience as a Muslim American woman in a variety of ways. I hadn’t really thought about it much until I was asked about how my headscarf impacts babywearing.
A dark skinned mama wears an older baby in a mei tai and a yellow hijab, her son poses in front of her

A woman wears a toddler in a ring sling on front in a pink to
blue grad sling and a matching pink hijab
First, the practical: When I was learning to wrap, there was definitely a lot of fabric going on. First, does the scarf go over or under the wrap? And you’ve already got the wrap catching your shirt — add a scarf while you’re still getting used to back carries and there’s fabric tangled everywhere. Once or twice I ended up with my head pulled over to the side, with all the grace of a young horse trying to scratch its ear with a rear hoof. (If you haven’t seen that, believe me, they do that, and they still have better balance than I do. Granted, they do still have three legs on the ground.) Anyway, I learned quickly to flip my scarf out of the way or lean my head forward to create enough slack in my scarf. Problem solved.

When my baby got older and got the memo that he was supposed to pull out my hair, I chuckled. HA! I had the solution. I put on a scarf. Then he pulled on my scarf and tried to strangle me. Sigh.
In front of cherry blossom trees, a
mom in a patterned scarf wears her
toddler on her back.
The scarf drapes down her front.

For some women who wear a scarf as part of a choice of overall modest dress, there’s the issue that some carriers and some wrap carries accentuate the chest. As one friend put it, “Hello, boobs!” Well-placed scarf tails can help with that.

Some people ask if we’re hot in extra layers. My thin scarf is not what’s making me hot — it’s the little heater on my back causing that. But I’m fond of the little guy (plus, wrap snuggle!), so he can stay. At least longer clothes also mean less sweat, sunblock or other toiletries on the wrap. This is a good thing because with three kids, I’m washing enough emergency laundry already that if a wrap makes it into the pile, I may not see it for awhile, and I will miss it. Once in awhile, I make sure to visit and say hello to my old permastash Gira ring sling that’s been waiting for a courtesy bath for … maybe a year? So less laundry is better here.

There was really only one practical issue that lasted — matching. I had a system built up over the years — solid-colored shirt and a patterned scarf to match. Voila: dressed and out. Wraps messed that all up. I drooled over tri-colored Zaras on the swap, looking so elegant on a simple wooden table for their beauty shot. They did not look so elegant next to my floral scarf. I have relatively low standards for being presentable, but I couldn’t work with poor Zara tri-blue — sadly, it was just too much. The natty phase was a bit of a relief.

Wraps did give me some great ideas for scarves though. I found a scarf with a purple to white grad and made it mine. Now that I’ve gotten my loom up and running — yes, I’ve reached that stage of babywearing — I’m planning to weave lots of scarves in grads.

A woman wears a purple to white graduated scarf and a blue wrap.  The hand of a
toddler is seen reaching over her shoulder as she grasps the little fingers 
With most practicalities out of the way, there remains the issue of visibility. When women go out in a headscarf, we stand out. When we go out with a baby in a wrap or carrier, we stand out. Add both and you are definitely a curiosity. I’m used to that, though, so I quickly stopped caring.

A babywearing and hijab-wearing friend pointed out that the baby in the carrier diverts some of the attention away from you. We’ve both struck up good conversations with strangers who otherwise might not have talked with a Muslim. In today’s climate, with rising Islamophobia, we truly welcome those interactions.
A woman wears a blue hijab while wearing her toddler on her back in a rainbow wrap
The overlook a wooded area with water in the foreground.

Another babywearer who chooses to cover her face wrote her thoughts on this: “I get a lot of looks, and many times people are nervous when they see me, but babywearing often puts them at ease or is an ice-breaker. Just the other day a man stocking the dairy section at the grocery store shouted out to me, ‘Wow! I love that back pack thing!’”
A large group of women make hearts with their arms while wearing
their babies and headcoverings in a wide variety of colors

And that’s really what it all comes down to. No matter what we wear, or where we’re from, or what you did (sorry, wrong song), we all appreciate these back pack things and the sweet babies in them. Thank goodness for babywearing!

Posted by Lina
Photos provided by wearers from around the world

Friday, November 6, 2015

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu!

One of our VBEs recently headed off on a new adventure for her family.  They had made great friends here in the DC area, but the time had come to accept a transfer to Texas to be closer to family.  We are going to miss Esmeralda a ton!  But she was still thinking of us as they packed up and headed south and sent me some pics for a blog post.

 Babywearing is an invaluable tool when families need to move.  Whether across town or across the country, a baby on your back keeps them out of harms way when heavy items are being moved around.
Esmeralda with baby on back inside the moving truck finding a place for a large play structure piece
Putting more pieces of the play structure into the truck
 It also leaves your hands free to carry smaller items to the truck yourself.

Esmeralda on the loading ramp to the truck carrying a bed headboard with a toddler on her back
 Once the truck is packed and you hit the road, babywearing becomes a way to contain and connect with baby when popping in for meals, bathroom breaks, and overnights.

Esmeralda in a parking lot with the moving van in back, a preschooler girl stands in front
 and the smile on the baby on back's face says "I'm so glad to be out of the carseat!"
 Babywearing will also come in handy when you have to stop at Target for essentials along the trek.
Toddler in a ring sling drinking from a water bottle with a moving van and Target in the background
And finally, you arrive at the other end of the trip, ready for a good night's sleep before starting the process of unloading in the morning!  Babywearing has made the process of moving a young family 1,500 miles across the country a breeze.  Ok, I'm lying, it's not a breeze, but certainly more bearable.
Esmeralda wears her toddler in front of a hotel in the dark.  Her older daughter
stands next to her with her rolling ladybug suitcase.

We will miss you, Esmeralda.  I hope you find awesome new friends in Texas, and visit us often on Facebook.  Until we meet again....

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

We Embraced our World!

This year, International Babywearing Week was celebrated with the theme "Embrace Your World."  This of course had the 2 fold meaning of baby being our world, but also, getting out there to embrace what our local community has to offer.  So we did both!

Our chapter planned several fun and informative activities during International Babywearing Week.  One thing we planned was an auction to benefit the chapter.  This was a great success and raised $400 for our local chapter!
An example of one of the baskets won by the participants!
Our chapter did a day at Cox Farms in Centreville VA to enjoy the slides, music, and donuts!  The members who attended Cox Farms had a great time!
A group of members wearing their little ones at the farm
Another day we hit the Smithsonian National Zoo in DC!  It was a gorgeous day and we saw lions, tigers, and pandas, oh my!
L and her little one look out over the elephants

M wears baby on her back while observing the elephants, and big kid S photobombs in the background.

Even 5yr olds get tired.  M let me borrow her wrap when my 5yr old announced she was worn out

Half our group meets up to see the big cats!

Another chunk of the group plays with the bears

On Sunday we had an event with Takoma Attachment Parenting that gave us a chance to do a little outreach while the bigger kids did crafts!
AM demonstrates using an SSC to a group of parents

The toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids enjoyed making crafts

Our friends at Honest Soul Yoga in Alexandria hosted us for "Rogue Monday."  This has become a DC-MD-VA tradition where we host an event outside of the exact dates of IBW, but on the federal holiday to give working families a chance to participate.  This year we did a fitness and yoga walk.  This was a lot of fun!
The group warms up in the studio before the walk

Making our way out and working on some yoga poses

The group spread out down the path on the walk

Then we gathered together for some more yoga


This was a tough one, arm dips on the edge of the playground

A little relaxation break

Cool down back at the studio
And finally, while IBW was kicking off, several of your leaders were taking an opportunity to grow in their knowledge with the second part of the Center for Babywearing Studies course.  We joined leaders from several local groups including BWI of So. MD, BWI of Central MD, and Quantico Area Babywearers to become better educators to our local members.
A group photo with Joanna from Center for Babywearing Studies
and a group of educators including Angelique, Jessica, and Ann Marie from our chapter.
Overall, IBW was an amazing week and we had a great time spending it with you!  We look forward to seeing you at a meeting soon.

Posted by Ann Marie