Monday, January 4, 2010
"Look Ma', No Hands!" : Wearing Your Newborn
kangaroo care or wearing baby skin to skin. However, many busy parents are like me and stumble upon babywearing when they have a baby who insists on being held. Still other parents are drawn to babywearing as it fits with their parenting philosophy, urban lifestyle, or simply because they like the look of carriers. You can even post on the internet from the hospital while holding your sleeping baby, or at least that's what I did to relieve the boredom from being stuck in bed following my third c-section.Whatever path you took to get here, there are many options to fit you and your baby comfortably and safely.
Some parents like to use a ring sling or pouch in the early days. These one shouldered carriers are fast, easy to take on and off for frequent changes, and seem a bit more "approachable." Pouches are generally fitted and tend to be difficult to fit correctly especially in the post-partum period as your size changes a lot. Most people tend to choose pouches that are too large in my experience, when in doubt, size down. My favorite pouches from my last child seem to be too big this time around, apparently my size changed enough that they don't work for me anymore. This is something to bear in mind if choosing a pouch. Ring slings are adjustable and are good choices if you want to share a carrier with other caregivers.
In pouches and ring slings, baby can be carried in both cradle and upright (tummy to tummy) positions. Angelique is demonstrating a RS tummy to tummy carry here. Instructions for using a sling or pouch can be found here. When wearing a newborn in a cradle carry, be especially mindful of her airway. Baby should NEVER be positioned with chin to chest. If you hear baby grunting, remove him/her from the sling immediately and change positions. Grunting is a sign of difficulty breathing.
I generally prefer a two shouldered carrier for a newborn, as I tend to do a fair amount of traipsing around the playground after my older kids. A great two shouldered option is a wrap or a simple piece of cloth. Wraps come in stretchy and woven materials. Wrap tutorials can be found in a variety of places online. A fairly comprehensive chart can be found at The Babywearer.com. These can have a steeper learning curve, but are very comfortable and adjustable for a variety of situations. Also, as they are essentially a long piece of fabric, a stretchy wrap can be made very inexpensively (see previous article on Babywearing on a Budget). Like slings, baby can be worn tummy to tummy or cradled. The same rules regarding airway apply. And wearing isn't just for mamas. My husband broke out the wrap while we were still in the hospital so that he would be able to assist me with my first post-c-section shower. The nurse was highly impressed.
Gretchen is demonstrating how to nurse in a wrap. Hands free nursing isn't a beginner technique, but can be invaluable to getting out and about with baby. My littlest one is 3 weeks and we've nursed in a carriers while wheel chairing out of the hospital, while on the playground with her siblings, at Christmas dinner, and most recently on a trip through Ikea. The ability to nurse while continuing with other tasks is imperative to me as the mom of three, I'm actually doing it right now. You can nurse in most any carrier depending on adjustability and anatomy.
Notice that she gets baby settled with a good latch, baby is semi-upright. You can nurse in upright, semi-upright, and cradle positions. Once she has baby latched, she can then pull the loose outer rail across for privacy (as baby gets older this can also help minimize distractions).
When nursing in a carrier, it is important to pay attention to baby and make sure that if baby falls asleep, she isn't smushed against mama. Also make sure the fabric isn't pulled too tightly as to make it impossible for baby to pull away if necessary. Pay attention to baby's breathing, just because it is hands free nursing, doesn't mean it is "set it and forget it."
As with all carries, especially with newborns, it is important to pay attention to baby's breathing. A high back carry can be helpful because baby will be breathing on your neck which makes it more obvious.
Whatever carrier you choose, you will find yourself enjoying more cuddles and hearing less crying than without the carrier. You won't find yourself pushing the stroller while trying to carry the baby in your arms, and your house will have less dishes and laundry waiting to be done as you try out your new-found free arms.
If you can't decide which carrier suits you best, come to a babywearing meeting and try things out. Come while still pregnant and see the carriers in action, or arrive with your new bundle and try the carriers with your own newborn to discover what works best for your needs. Some may find one carrier that will suit all of their needs; others may need 2 or 3; and still others may find they don't NEED more, but like shoes or purses, they want to have some options in carrier fashion. No matter which category you find yourself in, I firmly believe that a good carrier is a parenting necessity.