Thursday, October 29, 2009

Babywearing on a Budget

The birth of a baby brings many changes, many joys, and many financial discussions. For most families who are trying to save for college as well as pay for all the added costs of a child, there just never seems to be enough money. On top of that, many families see a drop in their income after the arrival of a new baby as parents choose to cut back their work hours, or pay for day care. All these factors add up to a new need to be frugal, while still trying to afford all those wonderful baby products, like baby carriers. Here are a few babywearing on a budget tips for those people who are trying to embrace their babies while keeping their checkbooks in balance.

#1 Try before you buy

The best place to try a baby carrier is at a babywearing meeting, of course! We have volunteer babywearing educators, as well as other friendly and knowledgeable parents who are happy to talk with you and let you try on their carriers. We also have a lending library with many styles of carriers. You can borrow a carrier for a few weeks to see if it truly is comfortable for you and your baby and that it fits your lifestyle. Before you go to a meeting, consider what you want in a carrier. Are you looking for something quick and easy for running errands? Do you hike regularly and want something sturdy, comfortable, and easy to clean? Do you do wear your baby all day and need something completely flexible? Knowing your needs will help us to pinpoint the right carrier for you.

Can’t make a meeting? Ask around. You’d be surprised how many closet babywearers there are. There may be other parents you know who have a carrier that you can try and borrow. Do not be afraid to ask. Most parents love to help other parents who are trying their best for their children.

#2 Buy used

Sure, we all want the best for our children, but used can actually be better. Many carriers are actually more comfortable once they are broken in. Personally, I never buy a new wrap because I do not have the time to make it soft and floppy. I just let someone else do all the work for me and then buy it used. Places like and as well as craigslist, ebay, and many consignment stores offer carriers for sale. If you are on a website be sure to post an In Search Of post to let people know what you are in search of a particular carrier. Every time I post on The Babywearer some nice mom looks in the back of her closet and finds the carrier I need.

The best way to get a good deal is to be flexible and patient. If you are set on one particular color or pattern you are not as likely to find what you are looking for as if you just choose a brand of carrier that works for you and search it out in a variety of colors and patterns. Likewise, waiting and watching the boards (and having your friends look for you as well) often proves to be the most financially savvy choice. Eventually someone will have the carrier you want at a price you can afford. Just be sure to always inspect a used carrier for wear and tear and never use any carrier that has signs of damage.

#3 Do it Yourself

I know this is a scary thought to many people, but it’s really not that hard. You don’t even have to sew. If you are looking for a stretchy wrap for a newborn, just buy 5 yards of jersey cotton from your local fabric department. Crinkle cotton gauze can make a great DIY non-stretchy wrap. That’s it! There are directions available for no-sew ring slings as well. All you need is good quality sturdy material and some sling rings (do not use craft rings from a craft store. They can break and are hazardous to your baby.) For those who have sewing skills or have a friend or relative with sewing skills, the sky is the limit. There are many websites with patterns and information on making any type of carrier, from a pouch to a mei tai. Two favorites are the Do-It-Yourself forum at and Jan Andrea’s directions . One of the great things about doing it yourself is that you can choose your own material and really customize your sling.

#4 Buy cheap

For those of us who do not do it ourselves, take advantage of good quality slings at a lower price. Once again, being flexible on colors and patterns can really help. Pouches are a great carrier to get at a lower price because they are notorious for being returned, since they can be hard to size. Take advantage and buy a returned pouch for less. Buy last season’s colors now, on sale, or look ahead to summer and buy those mesh and solarveil carriers in winter when they are cheap. Here are few examples of carriers on sale after a quick search of the web:

Kangaroo Korner has fleece pouches in their outlet for as low as $31. Mesh pouches are on sale for $50.

Hotslings has pouches in their outlet for $20.

Sleeping Baby Productions makes, arguably, some of the most comfortable and well made ring slings on the market, and the slings start, brand new, at $25. Also, you can buy your own material and send it to Jan and she will sew it for you for only $18!

Christmas Kozy carriers are on sale for $69

Comfy Joey has pouches and ring slings on sale for $27.50

Gypsy Mama has their Sarah wrap on sale for $55.

Don’t mind Pink Leapord? You can get a second from Ball Baby for $50.

Baby Sling Outlet- of course- is an outlet! (A long Hoppediz for only $32 sounds good in any color!)

Attached to Baby , Carry Me Away, Along for the Ride, Simply Slings and many other sites have clearance and outlet sections.

#5 You don’t need THE carrier (and borrow it if you really do!)

Sure a $300 silk sling would be nice, but my $30 ring sling is comfy, durable, and perfect for my every day uses. When it came time to baptize my son I borrowed a high-end ring sling (thank you!) from a very generous babywearer to look fancy for the day, and then went back to my regular, budgeted life just fine. Think you “have to” have a wrap handcrafted by fairies in the moonlight? The inexpensive used wrap that has snuggled a few babies before yours will do just as well without costing an arm and a leg. Once again, be flexible. There are a lot of great choices out there, and for special occasions, borrow! It will make the day feel even more special.

#6 Speaking of Special Occasions….

The holidays are coming up- so put that prized baby carrier on your list. Birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Baby showers are all great times to get a baby carrier as a present and not pay a dime for it! Many online retailers also have gift certificates. A few $50 gift certificates can go a long way and before you know it you will have that dream carrier and still have money in the bank.

Personally, I have at least 15 carriers but only regularly use 3 or 4 of them. If you take the time to find the carrier that works for your lifestyle you will be set to take on the world- or at least try. The most important thing to your baby is that you love him or her. So pinch your pennies, sew up your material, or snag that deal, and then enjoy the time spent snuggling with your baby.

Article posted by Carolyn

This article is intended for informational purposes. Carriers and vendors mentioned are for examples only. This does not constitute an endorsement of any one brand or vendor over another.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wearing Three - Ellen's story

Having three children aged three and under meant that when my first reached her half-birthday, I was already pregnant again. By the time she took her first step on her first birthday, I was far enough along to know that we were expecting another girl. By the time she was running on unsteady toddler feet, I was ready to deliver. The day I was discharged from the hospital with my second daughter, my 15 month old was buckled into her carseat first.

With my first, I got by using a too-large heavily padded closed-tail ring sling and a borrowed mei tai. As soon as she could walk, she strongly resisted being worn. So, it was in parenting two spaced so closely together that my practical experience and knowledge of babywearing grew.

With a toddler that was charming, quick, mama-focused, and adamant about being down and doing it herself thank you very much, it became vital that I wore her newborn sister.

I ordered an open-tailed ring sling that arrived days before my second daughter's birth. I practiced in the hospital and insisted on wearing her as often as I could in the first few days home from the hospital. For two weeks it seemed like I was constantly adjusting, repositioning, and checking on my newborn until I found my 'sweet spot' and I could quickly put the baby in, tighten my rails, and go. Spending so much time those first few days learning the ins and outs of my sling saved me so much time and provided me with so much mobility.

We walked to the playground at the end of our court. My oldest would run, climb, and slide. Her little sister sat in the buddha position in my sling. She took in the world, and napped when she had regarded it for long enough. On trips to the mall, I wore the new one and strollered theolder one. At the play area, I'd let the mobile one run. Once a mom with just a toddler asked me how I managed. Without thinking I carassed my second daughter in the sling and replied, "I keep my hands on one and I keep my eyes on the other."

We'd go to church. While my husband tried to engage our oldest in the liturgy, I would nurse the baby in the sling, using the tail as a cover. I was used to sitting or standing still and nursing discreetly, until one day she was still nursing as it was time to head up the aisle for communion. I made my way to the front of the church, looked the priest in the eye, and made my way back to our pew without anyone being the wiser that not only did I have a baby in there, I was nursing her too. The being able to nurse in the sling further opened up our ability to go and do.

Then there was housekeeping. Baby and I often cleaned house together. She was very afraid of the vaccuum, even waking from a deep sleep if it ran. So I put her on my back in the mei tai and vaccumed while her sister napped. I could also do dinner prep--the washing, chopping and mixing at least during our afternoons. The more I wore my second daughter, the more things I found I could accomplish. Trips to the park, the store, the hospital, the bathroom. Dinner prep, vacuuming, wiping fingerprints off the walls and windows.

While my husband didn't mind that I was eager to wear the children, he was reluctant until he saw firsthand what an effective tool it was. This may be a familiar story to other babywearers, but it happened when my husband had a crying baby, and no mama to fix it for several minutes. He wrapped the baby up in a simple piece of cloth, she settled down, and settled into a peaceful sleep.

Once he had that experience, he encouraged my interest in babywearing, made it possible to acquire other carriers I admired, and even advocated the usefulness to other new parents. While it seems like I'm spending a lot of time writing about daddy babywearing, I mention it because his interest in wearing made it possible for us to plan for and welcome our third daughter.

While some days never seemed to draw to a close, the time passed so quickly. My second was eager to catch up to her older sister and she was a very early walker. I was able to wear her into her toddlerhood. Often in a soft structured carrier on my back. She frequently napped back there until my belly expanded so much that I couldn't even buckle it low on my hips. We slung for a little while, then all walked together.

When the new baby arrived, my three year old, who hadn't been worn in two solid years, made a return to being worn. It was an excellent opportunity to snuggle with her. My two year old also asks to be carried sometimes, but mostly she just brings me a carrier so that I can wear the baby.

I guess I should explain how I manage, but I'm not sure I can other than to say we do. My husband might wrap the baby if the older girls are particularly interested in having me put them to bed at night. I definitely sling her for a trip to the store, and I wrap her for a longer walk through the neighborhood. I guess it also helps that my children have had siblings for as long as they can remember, so there's little jealousy over the baby. Now that there are three young ones, they have realized that they do have each other, and it's such a satisfying sight to see the two older girls with their heads together playing pretend, while the baby looks on and chews her fingers.

Up until several weeks ago, I had three children, aged three and under. Now I bear the almost-but-not-quite-as-noteworthy distinction of having three children four and under. Passerbys will comment quite frequently “You’ve got your hands full.” The response I learned from a fellow babywearing mama, is “better full than empty”

When I make a trip to Costco, there are three blonde girls with me, two chattering in the cart as one sits on my hip. When we make a trip to the mall, one peeks out from the mei tai while the other two trail behind me like ducklings as we file past the perfume counter The comment I hear most often from passerbys is, “You’ve got your hands full.”

See, the thing is, technically, I don’t. Busy? Yes. Occupied? Most definitely. Rushing in where angels fear to tread? Sure, but no my hands are most definitely not full.

Posted by Ellen

Friday, October 16, 2009

Babywearing and the High Needs Infant

While babywearing helps meet every baby's need to be held and every caregiver's need to get things done, babywearing can be especially helpful for high needs babies.

When my oldest daughter was born, I felt as if I was handling the shock of new parenthood quite well. Until she started screaming all day long, stopped napping, and started refusing to nurse. Gulp. The days were long, very long, with both of us in tears.

After noting that one thing I often saw suggested for unhappy babies was babywearing, I decided to try to babywear through the stress. Caroline and I would pace the apartment over and over, occasionally dancing to music, which seemed to especially calm her. And sometimes she would even nurse. Or sleep. Bliss.

Anyone who has ever had a baby with 'colic' knows that every moment of quiet brings stress in itself -- when will the crying resume? According to a 1986 study from Pediatrics, babies carried for at least 3 hours a day cried and fussed 43% less than babies who were not carried in a soft carrier -- 51% less in the evenings. For a fussy high needs baby, 43% could be whole hours of a day.

If merely walking in a carrier does not calm baby, it can be useful to take a step into the outdoors. Babies can sense stress and often times it can be difficult to avoid falling into a pattern where both child and caregiver are feeding off of each other's tension. Changes of scenery and fresh air help both caregiver and child relax.

Hold that high needs baby tight and know you're making a big difference to them on this very day by providing closeness and security through babywearing. It may feel like every moment is a lifetime while they're crying, but someday you will be able to look back and remark upon how sweet and special all the extra cuddles were -- even through the tears.

Posted by Lindsay

Friday, October 9, 2009

Seasonal Wearing: Autumn Pt.4

The conclusion of our series brings us to the end of October and Halloween. The ritual of costumes and trick-or-treating is a family activity that is enjoyed by toddlers through teens. Parents with an infant and an older child are often left wondering how to take the older children out while bringing along their infant. A carrier can be a great help with this, but it can also provide the chance for some fun costuming choices. The carrier can be the costume: two-headed monsters, a monkey on your back, Luke carrying Yoda all come to mind. The carrier can also help showcase a costume just carry a sleepy baby.

Last year I fell in love with the Little Bo Peep and her sheep costume idea. I thought it would be completely adorable to dress the girls this way, and while they were young enough to go with my ideas, I felt I had to take advantage. Well, once the costumes were bought and the professional pictures done, I was left wondering… how does the sheep come trick-or-treating? She couldn't walk yet, and carrying her in my arms the whole time would be awful. I actually don’t own a stroller, so that option was out. I finally decided on using a ring sling. Be aware, this carry is NOT a recommended method of using a ring sling, I kept hands near her at all times in case she popped out, but I also knew my baby well enough to know she wasn’t squirmy. In this manner, we all enjoyed a short tour of the neighborhood, and the neighbors got to see the full genius of the Bo Peep and Sheep pairing.

However you choose to include babywearing in your Halloween, it can be an important part of helping the whole family have a safe and fun evening.

Babywearing tip: Making a costume from your carrier doesn’t have to be expensive. A piece of fleece cut right and a couple fun hats could make a 2 headed monster. A pair of ears, a tail and the reverse of a brown strapped carrier (or a brown wrap) could make a monkey. Use your creativity and get out there!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Seasonal Wearing: Autumn Pt.3

Part 3 in our series brings us to a fabulous fall activity of hiking. The proximity of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Skyline Drive to our area can provide some gorgeous fall colors to enjoy on a hike, but even short casual hikes in local parks like Great Falls can give a taste of the great outdoors. Wearing your child makes it possible to hike over ground that is ill-suited to stroller use. As a family activity, it allows the parents to continue an exercise they enjoyed prior to having children, and share their enjoyment with their children. A morning at Great Falls with my infant last autumn provided me with a chance to try out my new camera and attempt to get some pictures of the trees, the falls, and one terrible over the shoulder shot of baby asleep on my back. We enjoyed the fresh air and got a little sunshine before the cold of winter would drive us inside. Even a bike ride for the preschooler can become exploring in the woods if dad has baby in a carrier.

Babywearing tip: for long hikes, parents should choose a carrier with great support that spreads out weight across their body. A supportive woven wrap, soft structure carrier or supportive mei tai are good choices for hiking. Many people will be more comfortable wearing their child on their back. Until you become comfortable with hiking while wearing, stick to trails with clear semi-flat paths and always be aware of where your child is and what might be able to bump him.

And who said it’s all about fun? You can get fall chores done while wearing too! Raking the leaves is a tedious chore, but you can get it done with baby along. And then if your toddler decides it’s time to jump in the leaves, well… who said work couldn’t be fun too? If you’re concerned about baby becoming cold, there are many inexpensive options for keeping little one and yourself warm on a cool fall day. A large piece of fleece can be cut to make a poncho to be worn over you both, an oversized coat can be buttoned around baby in a front carry, and for the crafty among you, a cheap coat from the thrift store can be modified to become a babywearing coat. There are also several brands of babywearing outerwear like the one I’m wearing in this picture. However you choose to stay warm, keeping your little one snuggled up with you while doing mundane chores makes them a little less tedious.

Babywearing tip: Be aware of where the rake is at all times, you do not want to accidentally poke your little one and you want to be aware of overly zealous “helpful preschoolers.”

Posted by Ann Marie

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Seasonal Wearing: Autumn Pt.2

At the local farmer’s market, you’ll notice autumn has arrived because local apples are available, tasty, and gorgeous. But for some people, buying those local apples isn’t enough, they want to go out and choose their own. Apple picking is a harvest time activity that is well suited to babywearing.

From an adult’s front or back a toddler can reach the trees and participate in apple picking instead of watching from a stroller or the ground. The adult doesn’t have to exhaust his or her arms lifting the toddler up to the trees if he or she is wearing the toddler at the right height. This activity can become a family tradition that children will recall every time they bite into a juicy apple.

The tradition is strong in Carolyn’s family where you can see her picking apples with her older daughter as a toddler proud of her apple treasure. Then you can see her son as an infant last year and a toddler this year. Her son was able to explore the tree and the leaves easily from his vantage on mom's back. Now that he's a little older, he not only gets to help pick, but he can catch a snack back there too! The chance for each child to experience the fun of apple picking from mom’s back is important to Carolyn's family.

Sara’s children are also taking advantage of having baby worn while the family goes apple picking. Sara is able to carry a large basket of apples while also caring for her toddler and infant. This would be significantly more challenging with baby in arms or in a stroller.

For those with older children, if you’re feeling ambitious, those apples can go home for an afternoon of apple cobbler baking involving the whole family. There is nothing as special to a child as making a meal or snack with ingredients they picked themselves. And your little one can continue to participate while being worn. Be sure to keep little hands away from knives and hot ovens using hip or back carries and enjoy your harvest bounty.

Babywearing tip: choose a carrier that you don’t mind getting apple juice on… because every smart toddler will want to steal a bite or two of the gorgeous fresh apples you’re picking.

Posted by Ann Marie
Photos courtesy of Carolyn and Sara

Monday, October 5, 2009

Seasonal Wearing: Autumn Pt.1

Autumn is a wonderful time of year to get out wearing your baby or toddler. There is a new world opening up to them for exploration. After the long, hot days of summer, the air is turning crisp and the leaves are beginning to change. You can use babywearing to share this glorious change of season with your little one. This week, we’ll explore some ideas for how to use your carriers to get outside and experience the season with your little ones.

One fun family outing in the fall is a visit to the pumpkin patch or other fall festival activity. This is a great place for children to participate in games, hay rides, try fresh cider, and depending on your location, visit farm animals up close. However, the terrain at many fall festivals is uneven and difficult to traverse with a stroller. It can make an otherwise fun day a test of patience and strength. But, with a good carrier, your child can be up high enough to see everything and you can walk around where you like without the burden of the stroller.

Last fall my youngest was about 9mo. We went to the Pumpkin Patch at Cox Farm and enjoyed a fun family day. My 3.5yr old was able to play on the slides, we took a family hay ride, we fed the pigs, danced to Rocknocerous, and my little one even caught a nap on mommy’s back. Without a carrier, I might have missed out on sitting at the bottom of the big slide and watching my husband and daughter ride together because I was stuck with the stroller, but with baby snuggled on my back, I was in the middle of the action.

This year, my little one is a toddler and I’m 7mo pregnant. When we went to Cox Farm a last week with friends, I used my carrier to contain my toddler when she decided that watching the mommy smuggling a basketball chasing her up hills was a fun activity. Having her on my back also helped me share her excitement at seeing the sheep and telling me they say, “Baa!” And wearing a toddler on your back can also help keep little fingers off the germy walls and floor when the pregnant mama needs to use the port-a-potty, AGAIN.

Babywearing tip: Events like this with toddlers lend themselves to carriers that allow a lot of quick ups and downs. A Mei Tai, Soft Structured carrier, or Ring Sling might work best. With an infant that will not want up and down, a wrap may be cuddlier on a cool day.

Posted by: Ann Marie

Thank you to Heather for additional photo.