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! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Maximizing your Meeting Experience!

We have previously written blogs describing for you what happens at a babywearing meeting (check out this and this). As leaders, it is our goal to help YOU make our meetings a more helpful and enjoyable experience.  BWI of DC-MD-VA is an ever changing organization. Our leaders change, our membership changes, our needs change, and we do our best to roll with it and come out ahead. In an effort to respond to the needs of our attendees (and potential attendees), we have collected some survey data about your experiences at our meetings. We are actively discussing and experimenting with some of your suggestions already!  At our most recent meeting, we tried a signup sheet for one-on-one help to see if that allows our VBEs to better meet the needs of those seeking support. We will continue trying out other ideas and responding to your suggestions.  

One thing we have learned is that many of you would like to know what you can do to help make our meetings better!  Here is our list of suggestions to help you get the most out of our meetings.  We’re calling this, “Maximizing Your Meeting Experience!” (Exciting, isn’t it?!)

  1. Let us know you’re coming. Please RSVP to the meeting events on Facebook, if you can. A
    rough estimate of attendees allows us to allocate our leaders appropriately.  When we are expecting a large turnout, our volunteer leaders have been known to rearrange their schedules in order to give better coverage to help you, but if you decide at the last minute to come to the meeting and haven’t RSVPed, that is 100% fine!  Come!  We’d love to have you.

  1. Communicate special requests in advance.  If you have a special request to try a certain carrier, please post your request online in our FSOT and Chatter Group. We have a broad variety of carriers available in our six carrier libraries, and not every library has the same carriers available. If you ask in advance, we can point you to the right meeting (and sometimes our volunteer leaders can even ferry it behind-the-scenes to the meeting you’re already planning to attend, if time and availability permits).

  1. Bring the carriers that you already own. Our motto is, “practice not product.”  If you own a carrier, bring it! We have a working knowledge of just about every carrier out there, and we’ll do whatever we can to help you with your carrier. Our primary goal is to help you be successful with what you already own.  When needed, we’ll offer suggestions if there is something else that might truly be a better fit. We don’t sell anything, and we don’t stand to benefit from you spending more money. So bring those carriers! If you don’t own anything, that’s ok, too! Come! We have plenty for you to try out.

  1. Plan ahead for your kids. Kids of all ages are welcome at our meetings. Please come with whatever you need to keep your child(ren) happy: snacks, drinks, toys, books, whatever that may be. We ask that it be quiet and not messy (we do often meet in libraries, after all). The libraries have Wifi, so portable devices are an option. If your child has a special toy that would be stressful to share, consider leaving that in the car. When packing snacks, please avoid nut products and be aware that many of our participants have food allergies (especially nut, gluten and dairy).  We ask that you keep snacks contained (within arm’s reach to limit your child leaving food or drink where someone else could pick it up), and avoid sharing or offering snacks or drinks to other children.

  1. Make yourself comfortable. We don’t always set up chairs, as whatever we take out we have to put back and many of our volunteer leaders have to leave as soon as the meeting is finished. If you would like a chair, grab one! Sit on the floor. Lean against a wall.  Put a blanket down on the floor.  Whatever makes you comfortable!  Join us.  If you come in late, that’s fine.  Just slide right in.

  1. Put your child’s needs first. Feel free to parent your child.  Our leaders will sometimes have to pause instruction or conversation in order to parent their own children, and we understand that you may need a break to do the same.  You are welcome to breastfeed, bottle feed, stand and sway with your baby, take a child to the restroom, whatever you need to do.  The children are why we’re here, after all. Please know that many of our leaders are stay at home moms or are working moms with some schedule flexibility, so we often have our children with us, too.  Our leaders have kids that range from newborn to 12 years old.  Many of us couldn’t volunteer to teach you if we couldn’t bring our kids with us.  Our leaders and attendees will also have older children that they need to bring, especially when school is not in session. We all try our best to keep older children calm and contained, but towards the end of the meeting especially, their patience may be wearing thin, hunger is setting in, and things can get a bit rough. It’s frustrating and nerve wracking for all of us!  Please bear with us. If you see a safety concern, inform one of the leaders and/or the parent of the child.

  1. Speak up. Ask questions!  We love questions. We will periodically pause from instruction and ask if there are any general questions. We can handle more specific or in depth questions when we begin our one-on-one support after our basic overview instruction. We do try to get to everyone in turn. When possible, we like to work in small groups to maximize our meeting time and share more varied information. Sometimes true one-on-one assistance is needed and we will do our best to be available for that. Please speak up and ask for what you need. It isn’t rude!  If you ever need us to repeat something, we’re happy to do it. If you asked for help and we didn’t get back to you, remind us. We are not intentionally ignoring you.  You did not annoy us.  We probably just got sidetracked with all the competing demands at a meeting.

  1. Trust us!  All of our VBEs are well versed in every type of baby carrier. While we each have our favorites and our strong suits, any of us can help you with just about anything you need.  For example, if one VBE is wearing her child in a ring sling, she can still help you with mei tais. If she feels another leader is better equipped to help you, she will take you over and introduce you to that leader.  If you trust us, we will do our best to make sure you get the help you need.

  1. Be Patient!  We are moving more of our systems for check-in, membership, and the lending library to electronic databases. Please be patient with us while we figure out new technology and new systems and deal with things that sometimes don’t work the way they should.  We’re all new to it and trying to learn. Once we do, we’ll spend a lot less time at each meeting trying to manage paperwork and we’ll be more available to teach babywearing.

Remember, above all else, we’re here to help you. We volunteer our time because we want you to love babywearing and to be successful with it.  At one point, we all walked into a babywearing meeting, unsure of ourselves, a little bit intimidated, not knowing anyone, and probably tired and frazzled, as well. But something special happened for us, and we came back again.  And again.  And again. And now we’re the ones standing in the front of the room, tossing a baby on our back again and again and again so you can learn to do it, too. We hope these tips will help make meetings a better experience for all of us, and allow us to better meet your needs and make you feel included. Happy wearing!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Meet a Leader: Pamm

Our series on our Volunteer Babywearing Educators continues...

Name: Pamm

Name/Age of Child/ren: I have two boys. V is three and E is 19 months.

What jobs, activities, hobbies, volunteer work, etc. did you do before kids?  Do you still do that thing?
I have been the Director of Children’s Worship at Fairfax Community Church since 2007. I direct three creative teaching & musical worship environments as part of a team that mobilizes 150 volunteers to serve nearly 600 kids each weekend. Before my call to vocational ministry, I worked in corporate writing and editing. I channel those skills into helping our BWI chapter and blogging at More Green for Less Green. I also am an accredited Attached at the Heart Parent Educator.

When did you start babywearing?
 I practiced wrapping while pregnant and I started wearing my oldest a day after he was born. Although I had a woven wrap, I brought a Moby to the hospital and used that. Did you know you were going to wear before you had kids, or what prompted you to try it? Based on raves in the blog of an Australian woman I met in an online forum, I decided that I wanted to use woven wraps well before I was even pregnant with V.  I’d never seen anything so beautiful as a Girasol rainbow wrapped around a baby. Before V was born I received a Neobulle cotton wrap in Simon (blue and brown stripes). I registered for it because of the gender-neutral look and lower price point, but I lucked into something amazing. It was soft right out of the package and had contrasting rails which are great for learning with.

Who was the person who most influenced your babywearing and what did they do that was so influential?
Can I have two?
#1 Ann Marie Rodgerson – I showed up to my first BWI meeting with 5 week old V who wanted to nurse and snuggle 24/7. Because of extreme pelvic instability, I couldn’t hold baby in my arms and walk without excruciating pain. I also couldn’t push a stroller. It was wear him or nothing, but the Moby wasn’t cutting it for comfort. I wasn’t able to eat, drink, or use the bathroom without my little snuggle bug losing it, which meant I was losing it. Ann Marie showed me how to use my woven wrap and how to nurse in it. I left the meeting, went home, and ate food while my baby ate (again). I cried tears of joy and came to as many meetings as I could from them on.
#2 Lindsay Killick who worked with me over and over again on a symmetrical-starting double hammock (DH) as my first back carry. DH is a tricky first back carry, let alone having a different way to start it, but it was a must for my special support needs. DH revolutionized my life! I was able to do so much more with baby a back carry. Since my kids regularly come to work with me, mobility is key.

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? A woven wrap, for sure. More specifically, I’ll go with Didymos Fire Fish, size 5. I have a buttery size 6 one now that I love, but it is a tad long.

Which carrier do you find you return to time and again, whether it be for each newborn, or just a consistent workhorse?
Girasol Amitola yellow weft, size 5. It is such a cheerful rainbow that it perks up any day, and the cotton does well year-round. It’s my deserted island wrap: breathable, beautiful, hides dirt, would make a lovely hammock, is comfortable from newborn to toddler.

Tell me a story of a time that babywearing made a huge difference in the outcome of a family outing.
Cruising while babywearing has been great. Read about it here and here.

What is your favorite thing to do while wearing?
Working and/or nursing! I love that I get to bring my kids to work with some of the time. Babywearing makes productivity and nursing while on-the-go possible.

What is your least favorite thing to do while wearing?
Bending over. Even in a back carry and bending with my knees, my little guy just hates it. He always has. I recently got a grabber to help me pick things up from the floor.

Why did you decide to become a VBE?
 I love babywearing; I love connecting people to resources; I love teaching in large group settings. I think it is important to do volunteer work at every stage of life, and this fits the kid-friendly bill. I suppose the better question is how could I NOT be a VBE?

What is your favorite thing about being a VBE for BWI of DC-MD-VA?
I love those moments when caregiver and child click with the right carrier for them. I can look at them and tell it just clicks. If baby falls asleep out of the perfection of the moment—great! Sometimes these magic moments happen with a carrier the family brought with them that just needed some tweaks and other times it is connecting with an eye-opening library carrier.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What is a VBE?

Hopefully you’ve been enjoying our Meet a Leader series. Maybe you’ve been wondering what exactly it means to be a leader for Babywearing International (BWI).

BWI certifies leaders to be a Volunteer Babywearing Educator (VBE), Advanced Babywearing Educator (ABE), or Master Babywearing Educator (MBE). For simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to everyone as a VBE in this article.

All of our VBEs are well versed in all kinds of babywearing: one shouldered carriers like pouches and ring slings, Asian-inspired carriers like mei tais, soft-structured (or buckle) carriers, and wraps. While we each have our favorites and our strong suits, each leaders has trained to help you with any type of carrier and is versed in front, back, and hip carries and breastfeeding in each type of carrier.

During a meeting, VBEs may teach in a variety of forms. Many meetings start with a Babywearing 101 session modeling the major types of carriers and safety basics. After that, we like to work in small groups if people with similar questions. It’s a great way to learn through listening, seeing, and doing, and to start to meet others in the group. When one-on-one assistance is needed, we do our best to be available for that.

Only BWI certified educators can instruct at a meeting, but we welcome other volunteers in supporting roles like greeter, librarian, membership sign-up, and behind-the-scenes things like marketing and web support. Having volunteers in these supporting roles is key to allowing VBEs as much time to teach at a meeting as possible.

The V in VBE is key. Each one of us is a volunteer. From the Board of Directors on down, BWI is completely volunteer-run. Our leaders have kids that range from newborns to 12 year olds. Some are stay-at-home-parents, others work part-time or full-time. We volunteer our time because we want you to love babywearing and to be successful with it.  We all look forward to meeting you at a local event soon.