Monday, February 24, 2014

Meet a Leader: Angelique

Name:  Angelique

How old are your children?

E is 6 1/2yrs old
A is 4yrs old
Q is 14 mo old

What jobs, activities, hobbies, volunteer work, etc. did you do before kids?  Do you still do that thing?

Before Kids:  I was a parent educator supervisor through the Early Head Start program.  I worked with pregnant moms, and families with children between 0-3.

Sadly, I do not do this work any more. It is something that I would like to get back to
when my children are a bit older. I really enjoyed knowing that I was giving back to the community
that helped me and my family out when I was a kid.

When did you start babywearing?

I started babywearing when my first was born.  I did a TON of research to find the PERFECT ONE CARRIER.  (editor's note: I don't think she succeeded)

Did you know you were going to wear before you had kids, or what prompted you to try it?

I didn't know I was going to be a babywearer, per se.  I just knew that I needed some sort of device that would help me make my days at home with a baby easier.

Who was the person who most influenced your babywearing and what did they do that was so influential?

I don't know if I have a single person who made the light click for me.  It was definitely a group of people through a lot of interactions that has made my journey remarkable.


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 definitely choose a wrap.  It is the only carrier that conforms to ME.  All of the other carriers, I have to conform to it in some shape or form.  Wraps are also the most versatile.

 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?

I would choose my Girasol Earthy Rainbow.  The colors are beautiful, and rainbows just make everyone smile and happy.

 Which carrier do you find you return to time and again, whether it be for each newborn, or just a consistent workhorse?

 I have been wearing for many, many years now.  My stash is divided into two group:  the tried and true, and the fun/fashionable.
I am absolutely in love with my Didymos Natural Hemp indio.  It is soft enough to handle a delicate newborn, yet is able to stand up to the task of wrangling my 6 YO when she wants to be held.

Tell me a story of a time that babywearing made a huge difference in the outcome of a family outing.

 I traveled across the country to see my dad with a 2 1/2 year old and a 6 month old by myself.  Had I not had a baby carrier, it would have been a DISASTER trying to navigate the airports with two kids, a rolling suitcase and a diaper bag.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which carrier would you want?

I think I would want my hemp indio.  It is light in color, so we wouldn't attract too much heat.  It is strong, so we could use it as a hammock to have a place to sleep up off the ground.  It is washable, so a dip in the water won't hurt it when it gets dirty.  Very practical.

What is your favorite thing to do while wearing?

Nothing makes my heart swell more than putting a little one to sleep by just swaying back and forth.  And being able to sniff the tops of their heads, breathing in that intoxicating smell...whether they are a tiny newborn or a stinky toddler. 

What is your least favorite thing to do while wearing?

Using the public bathroom.  You don't know the thigh burn until you have a baby strapped to you and you hover over the toilet.


Why did you decide to become a VBE?

Being a VBE is very much in line with what I used to do in my former, professional life.  I enjoy working with parents become better parents to their little people.  I also think that volunteering is something that I want my kids to do when they are older.  Helping others for the sake of having the ability to do so is a characteristic that I want my kids to embrace.  The only way that I feel I would be true to my belief is if I live it out in front of them.

What is your favorite things about being a VBE for BWI of DC-MD-VA?

I get to meet so many people, and share with them how wonderful it is to be a babywearer.  We are great at sharing all sorts of parenting information to all types of parents.

Tell me a story about a time you helped someone at a meeting that stands out to you.

I had a dad come in, and he was adamant about learning how to wrap.  I must have wrapped along side him a good dozen times to show him the steps to completing the carry.  I walked away from him, leaving him there on his knees, as he maneuvered the material around his body.  Later that evening, I received a message from his wife that he had spent the afternoon practicing and had conquered the fabric.
Thanks for taking the time to let us get to know you, Angelique.  You are definitely an important part of our leadership team.  You can meet Angelique and learn her awesome skills at most of the meetings in Northern VA.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Let's Get Real...

I've observed a disturbing trend lately in the online babywearing world.  A parent says, "I have a new baby, I've heard of ring slings and mei tais, which ones are good?" and the immediate reply is "you need a custom wrap conversion from *high end maker*."  Or a parent will say, "I have a 6mo old and a *standard carrier*.  How long can I expect this to work for my pumpkin?"  And someone immediately jumps in with, "you should get a toddler *brand* because pumpkin is going to outgrow *standard carrier* very soon."  Or "wow I can't believe your 6mo old can fit that carrier, mine outgrew it when she was a month old."  Or my favorite, "you need to get a REAL carrier, like a woven wrap made of *special fabric blend*.  I truly believe these folks really do want to be helpful.  I think, like a game of internet telephone, they are repeating what they heard from someone who heard it from someone else who also heard it from someone else and it grew (or shrank) with each retelling.  So, I'm hoping to help reset the telephone game and provide a reference point for when you hear the game getting out of control again.

Here are a few babywearing truths you need to know BEFORE you can adequately share the love:

1.  If you wear your baby... you are a REAL babywearer. 
 I've had so many people say to me at meetings, "I want to learn more so I can be a REAL babywearer.  I only have a frontpack or big box store soft-structured carrier."  Babywearing isn't like the Velveteen Rabbit.  An expensive German-style-woven doesn't shed a thread into the ground to grow a fairy and make you into a REAL babywearer.  You ARE a real babywearer, don't let anyone tell you that you aren't.  Even if you measure in yards or inches.  Even if you own "only" one carrier, and even if you made that carrier in your kitchen or bought it from a BigBox store, you ARE a real babywearer.
A "REAL" Babywearer
Also a REAL babywearer with her real DIY mei tai (and awesome matching headband)

2. Babywearing is a SKILL and not a product.  Let me repeat, Babywearing is NOT a product that you buy.
Towel kanga at the beach
Pillowcase and duct tape podegi from the
first Babywearing Conference Emergency
Wearing class

You do not need a carrier to babywear.  You're shocked right now, aren't you?  It's true, a product may well make it EASIER for you to babywear, but it isn't the end all and be all.  If you have the SKILL of babywearing, you can use any carrier, as well as a large variety of *not a carrier* to carry your baby/toddler.  For example, a sheet,  towel, or pillowcase and duct tape can be used in a pinch.  For more examples, check out my emergency babywearing posts.

3. No carrier works for everyone.
  Have you ever had a friend tell you, "omigosh, I just got the most amazing shoes, you HAVE to get some."  You head to the store and the shoes pinch your toes or your feet swim in the shoes, or you just think they look like boats on your feet?  Carriers are like that.  The one I think is awesome may be misery for you.  Brand doesn't matter. The Latest-Greatest doesn't matter. Does it fit your child?  Is it comfortable? Does it fit your aesthetics and more importantly budget? If so, it's a good choice for YOU.
Ouch that rubs!

4. Toddler carriers are not made for the moment your baby can toddle.
    Most toddler carriers don't properly fit children in the 90+ percentile for height/weight until after 2.  So, most kids have been running for a long time before they fit a toddler carrier properly.  A too small child in a large carrier is at risk of over-extending their knees and hips.  I'd go so far as to say this is much MORE not ideal than a baby/child in a narrow carrier, and a too small baby is certainly at risk of getting lost in the fabric and possibly suffocating.  In this way, smaller is better than bigger.
Too tall: Bamberoo, 5mo

Toddler Kinderpack, 13.5mo, has been walking for 5mo
Carrier is too tall and too wide.  You can see the side of the carrier
where the buckle is sits well past her leg bend

5. Toddler carriers aren't necessary to wear a toddler, or preschooler, or elementary schooler, or high schooler.... and there is no such thing as "toddler worthy."  If a toddler is in it, it's worthy.
   Okay, I'll admit, wearing a high schooler wouldn't be my first choice, but if I had a standard carrier and I had an injured high schooler I needed to carry, I'd make use of that standard carrier like a boss.  In general, you don't wear big toddlers for multiple hours a day like you might with an infant.  So, if the carrier/wrap isn't the MOST comfortable carrier to ever hold a kid, so what?  You're wearing for 15-20min, maybe an hour tops.  Are there situations where a toddler carrier makes sense?  Sure.  Special needs kids who might be worn more often, kids who struggle with new situations and might be worn more often, parents with an injury that requires more support, or even a parent who just wants one for their toddler, all of these might make a toddler carrier make sense, but let's stop saying everyone needs one, and especially not with a 12mo old.

ErgoBaby  15yr old, Diane is SO Boss
I want folks to share their babywearing knowledge.  I want them to share how awesome it is to wear their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.  However, I implore you to not let your want for a new carrier sound like a NEED to a new wearer.  Do you want a new carrier because it's pretty?  Awesome, if you have the means, buy it.  Do you want a toddler carrier?  Awesome, if you have the means, buy one.  Do you want a wrap made of unicorn hair?  Awesome, if you have the means, buy one.  Do you want a wrap conversion carrier made with the latest-greatest wrap du jour?  Awesome, if you have the means, buy one. There's nothing wrong with wanting a carrier or wrap, but PLEASE, stop telling new wearers they NEED those carriers. This discourages people from trying babywearing, it makes it seem like it must be very expensive and exclusive. The consumerist attitude also pushes out and discourages long term educators.

Recently, I've heard of folks telling women who founded the modern babywearing movement, women who are leaders in advocacy and the establishment of babywearing as an acceptable universal practice that they aren't REAL babywearers.  To be frank, How DARE they?  Even if she was a new mom who'd been wearing for a week, where does anyone get the right to tell others their babywearing isn't real enough for them? 

Remember as advocates, our first goal should always be to help them work with what they have.  If what they have truly won't work for them, start with a few examples of carriers that will do the job that are easy to find at a reasonable price point.  If someone wants to jump down the collector's rabbit hole, they can make that decision on their own without feeling pressured to do so.  So, I ask you to take this time to become familiar with these carriers that I have heard "can't" carry a child over 8-12mo.  Notice the wide variety of sizes that children of the same age are.  Notice that all of the pairs seem to be wearing and at the very least content with their *not specifically toddler* carrier. 
Kozy Mei Tai
Kozy Mei Tai, 4.5yrs 48lbs

Kozy Mei Tai, 4yrs old

Onya Baby

Onya Baby, 4yrs old

Onya Baby, 7yrs old

Onya Baby, 4yrs 40lbs

Ergo Baby
Perhaps the carrier MOST often disparaged as "too small"

Ergo Performance, 5yr old 
4yrs, 42lbs

5yrs, about 35lbs
3.5yrs, 99th percentile height/weight

Ergo Sport, 4yrs, 40lbs, 42"

But what if s/he is a leaner?
 It's true, a leaning kid can be uncomfortable, but kids can be taught. 
I teach them that there is no climbing out of the cart at Target,
I teach them that they can't run into the street,
and I teach them that if they want to be carried, they can't lean.

Assorted SSCs

Beco Butterfly, 4yrs, 40lbs, 42"

Beco Gemini - often seen as a "small baby" carrier, but it can still do the job at 4yrs, 40lbs

Action Baby Carrier, 5yrs, 35lbs. 
Pikkolo, another notorious "small baby" carrier,  4yrs old, no support belt added
Boba, 3 yrs, 29lbs, 34.74"

Boba, 5yrs, 35lbs

Assorted Mei Tais and Half Buckles

Babyhawk 4yrs, 40lbs, 42"

Kindercarry Standard, almost 6yrs old, makes any hospital trip better

Nuzzle Me, Recruit size, 4yrs, 40lbs, 42"

Ring Slings

Ring Sling 4yrs, 40lbs, 42" 
Also an example why the crazy long sling craze is not a good plan


I often hear that certain materials or brands of woven wrap aren't "toddler worthy."  Nonsense.
 Didymos Standard line, cotton, 4yr old
 Little Frog, cotton, one of the most inexpensive wraps you can buy, 5yr old
 Girasol, cotton, 6yr old
Old Girasol, the one with a "wrong side," these were already considered
not "toddler worthy" when I started wearing. 50lbs.

Little Frog, cotton, inexpensive, 60lb 6yr old 48", and her 4yr old sister who said, "I wanna go up in the rainbow too!" 

Traditional Inuit Amauti, 8yr old 
Admittedly, this isn't a "Standard" carrier for our area, but it is SO cool (or warm),
and can carry a wide variety of kid sizes

Thanks for reading, and happy baby-toddler-and-big-kidwearing!

 Thanks to the babywearers from around the country (and Canada) who contributed photos for this piece.