Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wearing While You Work

It's been said that a mother's work is never done, and how true it is!  Whether you're a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), a mom who works outside of the house (WOHM), a mom who runs a business out of her home (WAHM), or some combination of these, there is always work to be done. Babywearing makes it possible to be attentive to your baby while also getting those things accomplished that just can’t wait until after bed time.
I, personally, am a SAHM with a new part-time job at a cloth diaper store where I'm allowed to bring my children to work with me.  I have a 4 ½ month old and a 19 ½ month old, and without babywearing, taking this job would have been completely out of the question.

My coworkers joke that I change my carriers as often as I change my baby's diaper.  And they're not too far off.  While I could keep the same carrier on for my whole shift, I find that mixing it up keeps me exercising different muscles and eliminating any soreness that I may have had, had I kept the same carrier on the entire shift.  And it gives us something fun to talk about when business is slow ;).

I’m not the only one who can be seen wearing a baby at work, though.  The store manager often has her toddler on her back in an Ergo.  One coworker wears her baby in a Moby almost every time we work together and her toddler on her back sometimes too, and yet another mom has one of her two toddlers (ages 2 and 3 ½) on her back in a BabyHawk Oh Snap! much of the time she’s working.  

All of my coworkers are moms with kids, as many as 5 per family, and without babywearing, our job would be impossible because even though we have a play area, a Pack N Play, a bouncy seat, and tons of toys, often there’s just no substitute for mommy snuggles.  And when we get busy, we often don’t have time to sit down and nurse, so the carriers provide a way to keep hungry babies fed while giving the attention to the customers that they have come to know us for.

As I mentioned earlier, “work” doesn’t necessarily mean going somewhere and getting paid to do something
- I also wear my babies to work at home.  Whether I need to do laundry, vacuum, garden, change my older daughter's diaper (or entire outfit, as the case may be), wash dishes, prepare dinner - you name it, babywearing enables me to do it without missing a beat.  If my little one needs to be close to mommy, she will probably be in a carrier.  My older daughter will also ask to go up occasionally, while the little one is otherwise occupied.  Sometimes both my girls want to be close to mommy at the same time, and carriers make that possible too!  I don't do a lot of "tandem wearing", but I do it when it needs to be done.
Let's not forget about the dads, either.  My husband regularly wears one of our daughters to wash dishes, do laundry, work in the yard, etc., as well as to go on walks so mom can stay home and get some much needed rest!

Snow White sings about whistling while you work, but if you have a baby, wearing while you work is much more practical (and a lot quieter), though nothing says you can’t whistle, wear, and work all at the same time!
Posted by Jenni

Monday, March 28, 2011

5 Things I Didn't Learn from Babywearing

1. Patience

Unfortunately, if you weren’t patient before you had kids, learning to affix a child to your body is not going to magically make you a more patient person.  Having a child will, however, definitely make you wish you were a more patient person, regardless of your starting point.  The nice thing about babywearing is, while you may not become more patient during the excruciating and ever-variable length of time it takes to get a 3 year old moving in the direction of your desire, you will at least not have to worry about where the baby has gone off to.
2. Stain Avoidance

If you have ever been near children in a public setting, you may have noticed that children are, well, sort of disgusting.  And sticky.  And slimy.  Especially in the spring and fall, what with allergies and colds and stuff.  And winter, because, you know it’s flu season. And summer (because of the popsicles).  Once you actually have one or more of your own, the ick-factor is undeniable.  Unfortunately, with babywearing, the regular proximity of noses, mouths, eyes, hands, torsos and diapers to you pretty much guarantees that you will end each outing with some sort of something smeared on your clothes.   However, you will have ample opportunity to discuss stain removal, and perform a number of at-home comparison tests.  Take good notes- this will hold you in good stead when you must face the dreaded Science Fair projects that loom in your future.

3. Color Coordination

Unless your budget is unlimited, or you have a monochromatic wardrobe, you are unlikely to have “the” perfect carrier for each and every fabulous, stain-free, slimming, sleek and chic ensemble you have in your wardrobe as you go about your daily affairs.  However, you will learn how to select the perfect carrier for its ability to support the child in question during the activities you have planned for the day, and if you choose wisely, said carrier might also hide the muffin top or the muffin stain someone so considerately place on your shirt. 

4. Karmic Balance
Try as you might to remain on an even keel, children have the most maddening way of putting your ability to remain calm, to find your inner eye, feel your zen, escape to your happy place, to the test on a regular basis.  And babywearing is not going to make those moments any less frustrating.  But babywearing can improve your actual balance.  I’m no Sarah Jessica Parker, but I have been spotted on occasion high-tailing after some wayward child, wearing heels with a baby strapped to my back during a pickup gone awry after a long day of work.  
5. The Right Way to Parent

Despite what the book you’re reading promises, and despite what your mother keeps telling you, there isn’t really a “right” way to parent.  And some times, groups of parents can make you feel defensive about the choices you’ve made, and you gravitate towards those who share your parenting approach.  In my decade of motherhood (okay, typing that made me feel a little queasy- four kids in, how do I still know nothing?), I have never felt more different, yet more welcome, more supported, and more included than at a babywearing meeting.  I believe that our local group has always had a special ability to create community, and the friendships I have made have lasted through all kinds of transitions.  And it is impossible to overstate the importance of being among those who can give you a different perspective.  You may not always agree, but you might broaden your appreciation for the incredible variety of ways there are to be a good parent.

It takes all kinds of mothers to mother all kinds of children … the only “right” way is to be the kind of mother you are.  (I mean, unless you’re a dad.  Then you probably want to go another route).   But mom or dad, it doesn’t help anyone in your house to try to parent like someone else.   So much of parenting is about acceptance – accepting your limitations, accepting your childrens’ challenges, and accepting that “because I said so” doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else will agree.  But it can still be the right thing for you to do.

So throw on some clothes.  We won’t mind if they’re not completely clean.  Slap on a smile.  Strap on your kid.  And we’ll see you at our next meeting.   Wonder what you won’t learn…  

Posted by Nancy

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Babywearing Triplets: Each Baby is Unique

One of the first questions that people ask me when they come to a babywearing meeting is “What carrier should I get for my baby?” They are often looking for that magical answer that will work perfectly for their baby and their life. I also come across many parents who have a carrier but feel that it is not working for them and their child. There is no one size fits all answer for any parent and child or a particular carrier that is just right at a certain age. The right carrier is the one that works for a parent and their child and their lifestyle. When parents come to meetings we are able to teach them to adjust their carrier, often one that they thought did not work for them, to meet their needs, or give them a chance to explore their many options. Knowing your baby and the many ways to use your carrier can be the best tools for successful babywearing.
All these things have become blatantly obvious now that I have three very unique babies in my house. We always talk about how different our children are but it is amazing to see three babies, born on the same day from the same mom, and realize how they truly are individuals. I wear all of them in the same carrier but I wear each child differently, as they have different preferences.

E is an active little boy who loves to kick his legs and wants them out of the carrier, but he was still a bit too small to comfortably have them out of my Mei Tai. However, a good friend taught me a little trick, which was to put a hair elastic at the bottom of the Mei Tai to pull it in so it wasn’t so wide. That made it perfect for little E’s legs to be out and comfortable and still snuggling with mom.
Now R, on the other hand, is awake the most, very social and wants to see everything that is happening in our busy house. So, I put her forward facing (more on the controversial art of forward facing in a future blog). She went back and forth between liking her legs in or out of the carrier, so I continued to use the trick of synching the carrier with an elastic. And yes, I was changing her sister’s diaper while she was in the Mei Tai. That’s how life works when you have 3 babies!

S has remained a feet in the Mei Tai type girl, when in a front carry. My children have also begun to appreciate the back carry- as have I. Sometimes they enjoy it for the great view, and sometimes they just like to snuggle in and take a nap. And of course, around here, sometimes I am doing more than one carry at a time. It is so helpful to our budget to know that with just one carrier I can meet the individual needs of three sweet babies. It even works for big kids too! So stop by a meeting and we will put you on the path to babywearing success. 

Posted by Carolyn

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Emergency Babywearing

This past week we have all been moved by the devastation in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami.  One photo from the event that seemed to move many parents was this one of a grandmother wearing a little one in a traditional onbuhimo while trying to navigate terrain that would have been impossible with a stroller or for a walking toddler.  This got me thinking about how we might handle such an emergency.  Babywearing is not a tradition here in the way it is in Japan.  Our grandmothers are unlikely to pull a carrier from the closet in case of an emergency.  So, I'm going to show you how to pull a carrier out of your closet.

These are my supplies:

A towel, a scarf, a belt, and a fleece blanket.  All items you might have around your house, in your car, or on your person.   These are not items only a parent would have, these are items ANYONE could use to help children in case of an emergency. 

First, for a newborn or small infant a front carry is preferred.  I don't have a newborn right now, so Baloo is going to play the part today.  With a newborn, you can just tuck in your shirt, tuck baby into the shirt, and I have added the belt for extra insurance at the bottom.  If you have a higher neckline, you'd probably want to cut it to make room for baby to have an open airway.

Now, in MOST emergency situations, a back carry is going to give you better mobility.  So, these are all back carries that can be done with an older infant or toddler.  Teagan is 15mo.
This is a strap carry done with a scarf.  This is done traditionally in Asia with a strap similar to a martial arts belt.  You don't want anything TOO thin, rope or similar would dig into baby's skin.  If you are a wrapper, this is done like a ruck tied under bum, but without the same width.

Another option is a torso carry.  This is the same carry as a kanga from Africa, but I've used a towel.  Knot above the breasts in front with the top, then below the breasts with the bottom.

Another option might be using a fleece blanket and your belt.  This is borrowed from a Native American tradition. I've tied the top above my chest, and then used the belt to create her seat.
Now, some of you are currently in the middle of "baby days" and are thinking to yourself, "I never go anywhere without a carrier (or 10)."  So, let's look at what you can do with a carrier in case of  emergencies.

Many carriers have a long length of fabric.  If needing to cross a short bit of moving water, a wrap or mei tai could be secured to either side and then used as a handhold to ensure you didn't lose your footing.  Those straps could also be used to tie you or a child to a solid object out of the way of harm.  If trying to move several children, you may have to leave one somewhere that it wouldn't be ideal (in a tree), a carrier could be used to ensure they didn't fall.

What about an emergency while hiking?  Your family is on a short day hike, you brought a carrier in case the preschooler gets tired, but your teenager falls and breaks an ankle.  How do you get her back to safety?  Well, in a pinch, a carrier WILL carry an adult.
In an ideal world, no one would ever have to deal with a situation like the one in Japan.  However, we all know that sometimes bad things happen.  So, hopefully this helps you to prepare for a situation that you never face.

Edit 3/15/2011 at 1:30:

I received a message from an old school friend reminding me that some of this may not be clear to non-babywearers.  So, I'm going to post her questions here to try and help answer those questions.

For instance...
How is that scarf attached to child and adult?

Good question!  The middle of the scarf is behind her back and under her arms.  It comes up over my shoulders like a backpack.  Then I bring it back behind her and tie it underneath her bottom.  I know she won't fall out because her bottom is lower than her knees, this places the tie slightly between us.
Is the towel (next photo) just flat against child's back or up under her bum? How on earth does she not fall out the bottom of the towel?

The same thing as with the scarf, her knees are higher than her bottom, it is smoothed down her back and yes, tucked up a bit between us.
With the blanket and the belt, where does one decide to place the belt? By "creating a seat" do you just mean "a way to keep your passenger from sliding down?"

I place the belt just under her bottom, I'm creating a pouch, like a hammock chair.  Her bottom should be a bit lower that her knees (and it'll settle slightly lower than the belt) so that her bottom takes her weight and not her legs.

How tight are all of these cinches/ties?

Snug enough to be secure, but not so tight as to be uncomfortable.  You don't want them to be able to slip out or wiggle free, but you do want them and you to have plenty of breathing space.
Can one person arrange this on themselves (if so, HOW??) or does it take a second pair of hands to help?

Yes, one person CAN do these on their own.  I took all of these pictures with only my 3yr old in the house.  I put her up in each carry alone.  I'll be honest, most people would do well to have practiced a few times with a spotter before trying the first time, but in a pinch, using the scarf for example, I held it snug under her arms and then passed her over my shoulder, like Santa's sack.  Bend forward to create a table for baby to lay on while you adjust the ties.

Here's a good video of a kanga carry (like the towel) that shows another way to get the baby back there and creating the seat.   This video shows a Superman toss (my usual method for getting a baby on my back) and a ruck carry.  The ruck carry it similar to the strap carry, and it could be done with a bedsheet.

Hopefully that helps clarify some of the aspects to the non-babywearing reader. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How I Change the World, With a Baby on My Back

 Editors note: Cynthia's post comes as BWI is participating in the Empower Women 2011 campaign with Great NonProfits.  We hope to be listed as one of the Top NonProfits for Women 2011.  In order to be selected, we need reviews from those who have been helped by our volunteers.  Like Cynthia, we volunteer with babies on our backs (or fronts).  Please consider writing a review of BWI.  The Syracuse location is the national organization.  BWI of DC-MD-VA is the one listed in Montclair, VA. Thanks for your support of our work!

Being the mother of a young child has not prevented me from continuing to do something that has been very important to me—volunteer work.  I’m still able to give back to people or communities in need and to causes that matter to me.  In fact, Babywearing has allowed me to make community service projects a family activity.

When my daughter was 7 months old, I took her with me as I walked in the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  I’m proud to say that leading up to the race I was the person on my team who raised the greatest amount of money.  On the day of the race, I dressed my daughter and myself for a long walk on a hot summer day in D.C.  I chose a wrap that is known for being thin and breathable.    I also chose a carry that is sufficiently supportive and comfortable for longer periods.  I woke up super early to metro to downtown D.C.  On the train I met some inspirational cancer survivors who talked with both my and my daughter.    During the opening speeches and ceremony, my baby started off very excited by all the activity.  She eventually fell asleep during the walk and took a long nap on my back.  Afterwards, I took her to the kids’ tent where she was able to nurse and nap then have a snack (while sitting on another carrier) that was provided by the organization. 

I also took my daughter with me when I participated
in the September 11, 2010 Day of Service and Remembrance.  I volunteered to work with a group of children at an area Boys and Girls Club.  The other volunteers and I began by playing with the children outside while my 9-month old happily observed from my back.    First I played a calm game of four-square.  I was happy to have my hungry nursling close and we took a few breaks so that I could feed her.  Then I safely played outfield in a game of kickball.  Later, I scoped out a game of dodge ball.   Once I decided that it was safe enough to play, I joined in the fun with (and actually won a round).   The volunteers led educational indoor activities, such as completing work sheets and holding age-appropriate discussions about the events of September 11, 2001 and the important work of our men and women of the armed forces.  During the indoor activities, I switched my baby to a hip carry so that I could sneak in a few kisses and cuddles while continuing to do my work. Finally, everyone rested a bit outside in the nice weather. 

My most recent volunteer project was on the 2011 Martin Luther King Day of Service when my daughter was a toddler.  During that project, my daughter was on my back “talking” to everyone.  The adults cut fleece into scarves while the group of children we were working with decorated canvas bags.    We all assembled the scarves along with hats and gloves then stuffed them into the canvas bags.  The children were very proud to be making winter gifts to share with children in need.    Then we talked about Martin Luther King, Jr’s life work and his importance to this country.  We ended the day by reading various books related to social justice; my daughter was in front carry in the wrap.  The adults read to the children then the children read to the adults.  Afterwards, I unwrapped my daughter and she toddled around and played with the “big kids.” 

I carefully choose safe volunteer projects when I know my daughter will likely come along.  It wouldn’t be safe for me to take her with me for projects like working to rehab an older building.  She also wouldn’t go with me to the food kitchen where there are lots of us moving around with knives and hot liquids.

  I like to think that I am setting a good example for my daughter by bringing her with me when I volunteer.  I plan for these projects to be just the beginning of many service projects that we participate in as a family.  I also hope that volunteer work will become important to her and that she will choose to actively seek out service opportunities as she grows.