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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

March of the Babywearer! Coaching while Wearing

When we found out I would be having my second child in July, one of my first thoughts was “Not during marching band season again!” As a color guard instructor for a local high school’s marching band and competitive indoor winterguard program, the end of summer kicks off a busy season of training camps, rehearsals and performances that lasts from when school lets out in June until early April. My daughter Sam was born in fall of 2011, smack in the middle of this crazy schedule. As a result, I missed the remainder of the season caring for her. As a veteran parent, and a more experienced babywearer, I knew I could handle the demands of coaching with a baby and preschooler with me from the start. So when my son, TJ, was born in the summer of 2014, I started attending BWI meetings as often as I could to learn as much as I could so I could arm myself with as many babywearing skills as possible to help the season run smoothly.
 I did end up missing most of marching band season while I kept TJ away from crowds during his infancy (except for a few short visits to practice and training camps throughout the fall). Sam attended several performances with me, being worn on my back since her feet would often tire during the long walks during warm-ups at marching band competitions and football games. It also kept her close so I know she wouldn't try to join the performance - she thinks she is part of the marching band too! Sam is also not too keen on loud spaces, like crowded football games, so being able to wear her gave her a place for her to be close to me and feel safe while I was still able to help where I was needed with the marching band.
By time indoor colorguard training began in November, I started taking TJ to rehearsals with me. Kept close to me, on front or on back, TJ experienced 5 months of rehearsals and performances while being kept safe, close and secure. As an added bonus, with TJ being worn, I had two hands to help keep Sam from becoming too overzealous about performing during practice, too. Saturday rehearsals and shows are the most demanding days in the winter competition season, and my students found it amazing that TJ would sleep for an hour or more in his carrier while I did my job coaching them. The high schoolers would watch in amazement as I would hoist TJ on my back, snap up my SSC or tie off my wrap all while counting off a warm up or giving performance feedback.
TJ rarely fussed or whined while being worn because I was able to read his hunger cues and respond to his needs very quickly since he was so close to me. Feedings and diaper changes gave him breaks from being worn. On days when practice or performance demands lasted more than 3 hours, my husband would keep TJ and my daughter home in the morning, bring them to rehearsal for a few hours to be worn, then take them back home for dinner and bedtime. Getting those few hours midday to give TJ a snuggle without really having to abandon my role as a coach was a great way for us to be close in a sometime hectic environment.
I was always overly cautious (and will continue to be) while wearing TJ (and Sam!) and marching band and indoor guard rehearsals and events. I followed the general rule of “don’t do it if you wouldn’t do it while holding a baby/child” and I gave my students a few extra feet of buffer space if they were spinning flags or other equipment near me. I am so grateful for babywearing because this time around I was able to continue teaching and passing on my passion for the marching arts without sacrificing all of my rehearsal time away from my children. I am looking forward to many seasons to come with this band and indoor guard, as they were very open and accepting of babywearing as my solution to being able to juggle parenting and coaching together.  Who says you can’t do it all?
Posted by Stephanie N.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Wearing Through Chronic Pain

Over the last 3.5 years, I've lived with two conditions that have caused me quite a bit of pain. The
first, Hidradenitis Supperativa, caused me to have a wound under my arm for 3 years that just
wouldn't heal. I also suffered with chronic back pain and pelvic pain from my third pregnancy and
birth in three years. I have always worn my babies, but over the last year it got to be considerably
harder. I had to improvise a lot to find carries that were supportive enough for my back but
wouldn't put pressure on my underarms. Some people might say, “why not just use a stroller?”
There is nothing wrong with using a stroller. We do that, too! However, babies want to be close
to their parents, and their parents often want to keep them close. Keep in mind, too, that many of
us that have back pain have a harder time with holding our baby in arms than we do with using a
baby carrier.
These are a few of the things that I learned while wearing with chronic pain over the last few
years. Remember that every person's situation is different. What worked for me may not work for
1. There weren't very many wrap carries that didn't put pressure under my arms. I loved double
hammock for my back, but the ruck straps really hurt after a few minutes.
2. Every SSC fits differently. This was a really good thing for me. The thing that worked best for
me was to find SSCs that allowed the straps to cross. While these carriers were originally intended
to be worn with the strapped cross for a front carry, I found that I could do the same for a back
carry. Onya and O&A carriers are examples of SSCs with straight straps that are easily crossed. I
also really like Blue­Kangaroo. These SSCs have straps that are designed to rub your underarms
less than other SSCs.
3. Mei tais and half­buckles with wrap straps. I have a Bamberoo half­buckle with wrap straps.
The SSC waist supported the baby really well. I was able to cross the straps to minimize underarm
rub. The wrap straps gave me extra support since I wasn't able to tie tibetan, which is my favorite
way of tying mei tai straps. You don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get a mei tai or half
buckle with wrap straps, several wrap manufacturers make them these days.

4. It's okay to use a stroller or just sit down and enjoy your baby if the pain is too much. There
were some days when all I could do was just hold my baby in arms. That's okay!
If you have special situations like chronic pain, it's a great idea to reach out to your local
Babywearing International VBEs (Volunteer Babywearing Educators) to see if they have any
suggestions. Even if they don't have an answer right away, they have access to a large network of
babywearing educators that may be able to help you with your current situation. Remember:
sometimes you may not be able to wear your baby as much as you would like while you are in the
middle of a pain flare. It's okay to take breaks and hold your baby or do whatever you need to do
to make things work for your family.

Friday, April 24, 2015

It's Spring! We Celebrated!

Babywearing International of DC-MD-VA was thrilled to celebrate spring this past weekend after a long cold winter.  Our second annual spring celebration took place at Nottaway Park in Vienna, VA.  There were crafts and activities for the kids, socializing, food, and fun for the parents, photo mini-sessions, and more!

Meetings are often so busy and focused on the task of teaching that we miss the opportunity to get to know folks.  So, we love the chance to let down our hair and have a little fun.  While the primary goal of the spring celebration is social, the celebration also offers a chance to raise a little money to support our large chapter, I think the final tally between donations and mini-sessions was around $200.  So, thanks so much for all you do to support our mission to make babywearing a universally accepted practice.

Take an opportunity to check out some of the fabulous pictures of the event from Seana McCroddan Photography.  Now you know that you don't want to miss our next social event.  Keep an eye on our chatter page on Facebook for Mom's Night Out opportunities, Family Day events, and more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why don't you recommend? SSC High Back Carries

Today we are starting a new feature.  We are going to explore common suggestions that we don't recommend.  In this post, we are going to cover why we don't recommend high back carries as a standard carry in a soft structured carrier.  The biggest reason is that it is not how the carriers are designed to be worn.  Because soft structure carriers use a heavily padded waist band designed to distribute the weight onto your hips, buckling well above your hips loses that benefit.

Other troubles the can occur when using this method are highlighted below.

With the waist just beneath the bust, it doesn't have anything to keep it from sliding down your body as the day wears on.
Fabric becomes trapped under the child's bottom or hangs way over the waistband making either a poor seat or an overly deep seat.

Because of the fabric lost under the bottom, the back of the carrier does not come as high on the child as it could.  The wearer also may not be able to tighten the straps sufficiently.  This mother has the straps as tight as they will go and wants them tighter.

Contrast the same child worn with the same carrier at her mother's waist.

The child has a much better seat, she has support all the way up her back, and her mother can get a much tighter fit with her straps.  You can also see the child feels more confident and supported in the carry because in the earlier photo she was holding on to her mother, whereas she has relaxed in this carry.
Does this mean that if you have a buckle carrier that you like wearing under the bust we are saying you must stop?  No, of course not.  But if you ask us to show you how to use an SSC on your back, we will not demonstrate a high back carry.  And if you come asking for a carrier to do a high back carry, we will recommend a mei tai or wrap as carriers better suited to the task.  There are a few buckle carriers with unstructured waists if you really want a higher back carry and buckles, but they still may not fit your body because of the tightening issue mentioned with the straps.  Hopefully this illustrates more clearly the pitfalls of this popular recommendation.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Moving: A Babywearing Story

In the winter of 2010, the day after Christmas, my husband, J, set off to Virginia from California with all of our belongings in one of those big yellow trucks.  I was eight months pregnant at the time, so I flew up about a week later once he and my father in law got everything unloaded.  We moved from a small little two bedroom ground level apartment in a middle of nowhere town to a three story town house on the outskirts of the DC Metro area.  The culture shock was staggering.  Having to haul my huge self up and down all those stairs was exhausting.  Add to that all the things that need to get done after a move like that-new license plates and driver's licenses, figuring out just where in the world the grocery store is, finding a new OB at pretty much the last minute, etc.-I bet you can guess how much unpacking I got done while I was still pregnant.  Not much.  The baby's room got done though!  Two months after the big move, I gave birth to our first son, D.  My first non-baby related thought?  How am I supposed to unpack now?  This tiny human needs to be in constant contact with me.  We left all of our family and friends in California, so we did the best we could unpacking on the weekends while D was sleeping.  That is, when we weren't sleeping ourselves.  

When D was three months old, J went on travel for three months.  I was on my own with this new
baby and a house that was still half full of boxes.  My goal was to have the house put together before he got home.  I started using cloth diapers around this time, and it was while shopping at the local cloth diapering store that I was first introduced to the idea of babywearing.  I walked in carrying D in his car seat, and the first thing I saw was the employee behind the counter wearing her baby in something that looked like a backpack.  I asked her about it. I walked out that day with my first carrier and information about a local babywearing group.

All of this back story to get to the point of this post: how babywearing helped me during our move. What a huge difference it made!  No longer did I have to wait until my son was sleeping to unpack as many boxes as I could before he woke up.  All I had to do was put him in our carrier, and I could get things done.  I had my hands back!  He loved being snuggled up to me, and I loved it just as much.  Probably more.  I managed to get the majority of the house unpacked by the time J got back, and was able to keep my baby close while doing it.  

Fast forward two years, and we found ourselves getting ready to move again.  Packing is enough of a chore without a two year old trying to "help."  For this reason, I wore D quite a bit while packing.  While J was at work, D would play until he started causing trouble, then I'd put him up on my back and continue to pack.  At our new house, D was much more interested in exploring than helping me unpack, but just before we moved I found out that I was pregnant again.  Yay for a new baby!  Boo for being pregnant during the move.  I was EXHAUSTED the entire 40ish weeks, and the only time we got any unpacking done was on the weekends.  Long story short, I again ended up with a new baby, L,  and a house half full of boxes.  Luckily, this time I already knew about babywearing.

Posted by Katelyn