Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bonding with Dad: A Babywearing Story

As I prepared to welcome our second son, Ansel, to our family, I knew that as a stay at home mom I would need to use babywearing to manage our lives. I knew that there would be times when I would need to hold Ansel, to sleep, to nurse, or just to be close, when I would also need to be able to cook, clean, shop, whatever! So I researched baby carriers and babywearing, joined and readied myself. I had a few carriers on hand so I would be prepared. As soon as I was physically feeling up to it (which ended up being only a day after giving birth) I started wearing Ansel and began a new routine as a stay at home mom of two!
What I didn't plan on, or expect, was the significance that babywearing would play in the relationship between Ansel and his father, the working parent in our family.
We also had a lot of breastfeeding challenges, and as such, Ansel became very attached to me. Ansel was also a very "high needs" baby (see Lindsay's blog post). For the better part of his first year of life, he would not allow anyone else (including his father!) to hold him. I couldn't even leave the room Ansel was in without having him burst into tears that only I would be able to calm. My husband was admittedly quite disappointed. He and our older son had been very close from the time he was born, and he had often even preferred his father to me. We had all hoped that a similar close relationship would be present with Ansel. Having a baby that wanted nothing to do with him most of the time was very sad. I felt sad for him! But I didn't know what to do.

And then enter babywearing! We had worn our first son, Kadin(who is five years older than Ansel), at times when he was small in mainstream carriers. But primarily because the carriers were not very comfortable, we didn't wear him a lot. Even so, my husband had always loved doing it, and did it more than I did. And when Ansel was born, it was a given that he would wear Ansel as well. At some point, it occurred to me that when I needed to be apart from Ansel for some reason, like to clean the bathtub, to shower, or just to have an hour to myself, that perhaps babywearing could come into play.

We had amazing success with sending my husband out of the house on errands with Ansel and a
carrier (which he patiently allowed me to show him how to use). Because Ansel was breastfed and did not go long between feedings, these outings were quite short, but they were my only time since his birth that he wasn't right next to me. I enjoyed the time very much, even though it was usually spent on household chores. And I very much believe that my husband enjoyed it. At times I would call him, having expected him to already be home, only to find that they were out wandering an electronics store or somewhere similarly manly. My husband would tell me that Ansel was fine, he'd fallen asleep in the carrier, so no need to rush home. Ah, the magic of babywearing!

As Ansel grew, this continued. Anytime we went out as a family, my husband insisted upon being the one to wear Ansel. I was a bit
disappointed at times, as certainly I loved wearing him, too, but this was a special time for the two of them. I was the one who got to breastfeed, I was the one who snuggled him close at night, I was the one who got to stay at home with the kids. I could give up babywearing on family outings. And as Ansel got older, he got more and more comfortable about being with his dad. The bond solidified, and my husband was happy to see that the initial rejection was not a rejection of him, but just a stage in our son's development. At 14 months, my husband even offered his services and completely took over "night duty" with Ansel and helped him to nightwean, which made my life so much easier! Without the bond and comfort they had between them from babywearing, I do not think this would have been reasonable.

Even now, with Ansel over three years old, his father is the one who wears him when we're out of the house.
My husband even wore while being sick. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and while it strained many aspects of his life, he continued to wear Ansel.  Certainly it would have been physically easier for him not to, as some of the medications caused him tremendous back pain, and while he wouldn't likely admit it, I believe he wanted that closeness with Ansel, even if it meant some discomfort on his part.

Babywearing offers a special opportunity to bond with your child and to spend close time. Perhaps at the end of a day of work, with so many more tasks to accomplish before bedtime, it only makes sense to multitask and combine cuddles with cooking(or cleaning!). It can lessen the challenge of being separated from your child during the day, whether you're a mother or father, a single income household or a dual income household.

Posted by: Nicole

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Testing your carriers

No matter how gently you treat your carriers they are made of fabric and are not indestructible. They can tear or fray just like any other fabric item, but with a carrier a tear can be dangerous. The best way to prevent potentially dangerous tears is to regularly inspect and test your carriers for signs of weakness.

Don’t be afraid to tear your carrier while testing- while we’d prefer that they not tear at all, if the carrier is going to tear it’s better for it to happen during testing than during use.

Mei Tais, Buckle Tais and Soft Structured Carriers

Begin by inspecting the stitching where the straps attach. Look for signs of popped stitches or unraveling. Pull on any loose threads to check if they’re part of the stitching or simply something left by the seamstress. Next check the fabric itself for fraying, broken threads and holes/tears. Be especially diligent in checking areas near weight bearing seams, like where the straps meet the body of the carrier.
If the carrier is a Buckle Tai or Soft Structured carrier move on to inspecting the buckles and webbing. Check the buckles for cracks or white areas that might indicate the plastic was damaged at some point, and brittleness from age or over exposure to the sun and heat. Examine the entire length of the webbing for holes and fraying, make sure to move buckles aside and look for damage and wear that may be hiding under them.
If your carrier has passed inspection then it’s time for testing.
To test the shoulder straps firmly grasp both the strap and the top of the carrier body then steadily pull them apart with increasing force. Keep pulling until you’re pulling pretty hard. Look and listen for signs of tearing, but keep pulling regardless.  Repeat holding the same strap and the side of the carrier body. Finally, holding the body bunched in one hand and the strap in the other, give a sharp tug (this simulates the sudden stress that bouncing your child in the carrier causes.) Then repeat all steps for the other shoulder strap.
There are two main designs for waist straps- either the waist is one continuous piece, or it’s comprised of two pieces extending from either side of the carrier body. If your carrier has a 2 part waist then follow the directions for shoulder strap testing (minus the sharp tug) on the waist. If your carrier has a single continuous waist then read on.
If your carrier has a padded continuous waist strap you’re going to want to be a bit gentler with your pulling as the goal is not to stress the stitching holding the padding place. Pull outward on the waist strap while hold the waist itself, testing the integrity of the fabric. Then, holding the side of the carrier body, pull the strap down and out (more gently than when you tested the shoulders, but still firmly.)
As a final test, one by one twist each strap and pull firmly out from the carrier body. Re-examine your carrier following the stress test, if it appears to be damaged in any way discontinue use immediately until it can be repaired or replaced.

Ring Slings
Before anything else, examine the rings on your sling. They should be suitable for supporting the weight of your precious cargo. Slingrings brand rings are preferable- they’re made out of either a strong but light aluminum or nylon in a variety of colors and have been tested to ensure your child’s safety. Harness rings (such as those sold at a hardware or tack store) are also appropriate, though heavier. Craft rings are not appropriate- they’re not intended to hold weight of any kind and can snap when used for slings. If your sling has craft rings discontinue use immediately until you can get a new sling or replace the rings with Slingrings.
If you are unsure what type of rings you have, check the fabric and ring FAQ at Jan Andea at home.

Begin by inspecting the stitching where the rings are sewn in; there should be at least 2 rows of stitching, with no loose threads, holes, or fraying fabric.  Next examine the fabric where the rings sit at the shoulder and where it’s threaded through the rings on the body, again there should be no holes or fraying.  Especially look for areas of wear in the pouch area and on the section where the fabric moves through the rings.  Grasping the fabric about 12in apart, move along the length of the sling pulling the fabric with increasing strength (see wrap picture). The last thing you want to do is, holding the rings in one hand and the shoulder of the sling in the other, pull firmly apart, increasing your pressure while listening and watching for signs of tearing or popped stitches. Then give one sharp firm tug outward. Re-examine the fabric and stitching after your stress test. If there appears to be any damage to the sling discontinue use immediately until it can be repaired or replaced.

Pouch Slings

To test your pouch sling, first examine the seam, it should be a French style seam, and there should be no fraying, holes or loose threads. Then, holding the sling bunched in your hands on either side of the seam pull firmly apart, increasing your pressure while listening and watching for signs of tearing or popped stitches. Then give one sharp firm tug outward. Working your way around the pouch, repeat until you’ve worked your way back to the seam. Re-examine the fabric and stitching after your stress test. If there appears to be any damage to the seam or surrounding fabric discontinue use immediately until it can be repaired or replaced.

Your wrap should be one long piece of cloth with hems being the only seams. Going along the length of the
wrap examine it for holes, tears and fraying. Then, beginning at one tail, work your way along the wrap, holding the wrap bunched in your hands with about 12in between them pull firmly apart, increasing your pressure while listening and watching for signs of tearing or popped stitches. Then give one sharp firm tug outward. Repeat until you’ve reached the opposite tail.
Should you happen to have one that is seamed in the middle please follow the instructions for testing a pouch sling to test your wrap.

Posted by: Rachel

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Greener Side of Babywearing

There are many reasons to love babywearing, but here is one that may not have been mentioned: babywearing is “green.” These days everyone is talking about how to take care of the earth and live naturally, and babywearing is part of the solution.

Babywearing is biodegradable and reusable:
Most carriers are made out of cloth, aside from a few buckles or ring slings. If people choose carriers over strollers the earth will be spared from 10 or 20 pounds of plastic sitting around for the next million years per stroller. Many people who use baby carriers also choose used strollers, since they plan to wear their babies most of the time and may not rely on their stroller regularly.

Baby carriers can be used from the first days of a baby’s life until they are preschool aged. After that, they can be passed on to other parents for their children, or even transformed! Many wraps have been changed into ring slings or mei tais. Often a well loved, soft carrier is more coveted than a new, stiff carrier. The same cannot be said for strollers. Many carriers will have a long and happy life with a variety of families if taken care of properly.

Babywearing makes walking and public transportation easier:
Try taking the stairs with your stroller and you will soon be looking for the elevator. Babywearers can easily save some electricity and shed unwanted pounds by taking the stairs wherever they go. Looking to ride the metro or the bus? You may choose your car instead if you have to lug a stroller on public transportation, but a baby carrier will make it easy to hop on or off a train. Plus, baby will be kept safe and close, away from dirty hands and other unwanted germy surfaces.

You can choose a safe and sustainable material in a carrier:
These days, most baby carriers come in a variety of fabrics, and many vendors will even let you send in your own custom fabric. You can choose organic cotton, or a sustainable bamboo fabric. There are slings available that are made by traditional methods with fair trade standards in place. You can purchase carrier and know that you have made a positive contribution to the world in the process.

Also, babies and toddler like to chew on things, and recent research has shown us that the chemicals in plastic may not be as safe for our children as we once thought. Chewing on an organic cotton sling, however, should be safe from unwanted chemicals, and maybe even yummy!

It’s so much more than a carrier!
Lastly, baby carriers have many other uses besides carriers. Need a changing pad? No problem. Did you
forget your picnic blanket? Not to worry, just use your wrap. Are your kids grown but you just cannot part with your carrier? Use it as a tablecloth.  Did you run out of tissues or napkins? That’s just what the tail of a ring sling is for!  A wrap can even be used to pull on for more leverage while giving birth, or as a blanket to wrap up that sweet new baby. And what would make a better lovey than an old baby carrier that smells like mom or dad? How about a sunshade, a pillow, a peek-a-boo toy, a nursing cover, a dog leash, a basket, a hammock, or an ice pack. There are endless uses for baby carriers, which is what makes them so versatile

So the next time you are wearing your baby, you can walk proudly knowing that it is good for you, for your child, and for the earth.

Posted by: Carolyn

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Sling Library

Beltway Babywearers maintains a lending library available to those who attend our meetings.  This post lists items available to be borrowed for a term no longer than one month.  Members who have attended more than one meeting are allowed to borrow from the library at no charge, however late returns will encounter a late fee.  Late fees will be applied to carrier maintenance and to the fund to add new carriers to the library.

Wraparound Slings--- AKA Wrap, SPOC
A simple strip of cloth makes an elegant and comfortable baby sling. A little learning is required to wrap and tie the cloth, but basic methods can be mastered in minutes. Wraparound slings can be short, for quick one-shoulder carries, or longer, to distribute the baby’s weight evenly over
two shoulders and the caregiver’s torso and hips. Wraparound slings come in a variety of fabrics, but natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, hemp, wool, and silk are more breathable and have a more appropriate texture than synthetics. Some wraparound slings are specially woven to have exceptional performance as baby carriers, offering strength, breath ability, just the right amount of diagonal stretch, and the right texture for holding the baby securely; these highly prized textiles are sometimes known as German-Style Wovens because this type of sling was developed in Germany.

Vatanai 3.7m-   (red with birds)

Ellevil Zara 4.6m -


Ring Slings
In its simplest and most elegant form, a ring sling is a shawl with a pair of rings attached to one end. The rings replace the knot or tuck-and-twist method of fastening used with traditional shawl carriers such as Mexican rebozos or Indonesian selendangs.  Some ring slings have padding
where the sling rests on the caregiver’s shoulder or along the edges of the sling, and some depart further from traditional shawl carriers by having the fabric at the end of the sling folded and stitched into a rope-like tail.

Sleeping Baby Productions--- (pictures to come)

Comfy Joey---

Maya Wrap -

Zolowear -

Pouch Slings
Simply a tube of fabric with a curved seam, a pouch sling is a sleek carrier option. Pouches are sized to the adult wearer, and what they lack in adjustability they make up for in convenience. Few carriers take up less space in a diaper bag or are as quick to put on and take off as a pouch,
and few are available in the variety of fashion fabrics offered by pouch manufacturers.

Hotslings -

Comfy Joey -

Mei Tais
The modern take on a traditional Chinese baby carrier with a body panel, shoulder straps, and waist straps still carries the traditional name, “mei tai” (say “may tie”). The new-generation mei tais typically have either wide, padded shoulder straps, or extra-wide “wrap-style” unpadded straps for the wearer’s comfort. They also offer a variety of features such as headrests or sleeping hoods for the baby, pockets for diapers or other essentials, and fabric choices that range from strictly utilitarian to truly luxurious.

Toddlerhawk, same as a babyhawk, just slightly bigger---

Kozy -

Catbird Baby -

Maya Tie -

OctiMeiTai -

Soft Structured Carriers
Also with a body panel and shoulder and waist straps, soft structured carriers replace knots with buckles and add a thickly padded waistband and shoulder straps. The result is a different weight distribution and overall different look and feel from a mei tai, putting this style of carrier into a category of its own. Soft structured carriers offer the convenience of buckles yet are vastly different from framed backpacks in that they hold the baby securely against the wearer’s body. Unlike framed backpacks, soft structured carriers are suitable from birth through toddlerhood and provide the benefits of body-to-body contact for the baby.


Action Baby Carriers---

Beco Butterfly 2---

Beco 4th gen (no longer available new)---

Pikkolo -

We would especially like to thank the vendors and individuals who have donated carriers to our lending library.  Your contribution is helping to spread the joy of babywearing to others in the DC Metro area. 

Thank you to Babywearing International for the descriptions of the types of carriers.


Monday, January 4, 2010

"Look Ma', No Hands!" : Wearing Your Newborn

We've had a mini baby boom here at Beltway Babywearers.  In the last month, two local mamas (including me) and our group founding mama (now spreading the love down South) have had new babies.  We thought this would be a great time to share the benefits of wearing a newborn.  These include bonding with baby, helping baby to transition to the outside world, and most importantly, giving parents back their hands so that they can get on with daily life.  Wearing your newborn when in public and at family gatherings can also limit the number of germy hands that touch your sweet new baby.  This can make for an easy way to avoid hurting feelings when you want to say, "stop touching my baby with your filthy paws!"
Newborns and especially preemies can benefit from 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  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."

Another more advanced wearing option is back carries.  I did my first back carry with this little one at 3 weeks.  I needed to prepare for company and she needed to be held, so back wrapping to the rescue.  This is not something to try on a whim and should be done with a woven wrap rather than a stretchy.  I have been wearing my almost 2yr old on my back since she was 2.5mo.  I got plenty of assistance at babywearing meetings and was confident in my abilities before attempting it with a newborn.  However, if you are experienced, or want to spend some time wearing dolls before giving it a shot with a spotter, this can be a great way to make your front available for needy toddlers.  I've used a ruck sack carry with a chest belt in this picture.

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.
Finally we come to Asian style carriers like the mei tai, podaegi, and soft structure carrier.  This can be a happy medium between one shouldered carriers like the ring sling, and the more intimidating long length of fabric in a wrap.  These carriers are comfortable, can come in stylish prints, and tend to appeal to more men than ring slings or wraps.  For this reason I'm showing Angelique's husband and older daughter using mei tais with their babies.  Notice that for a newborn (or doll baby) the carrier is tied behind the baby's back.  Wearing instructions for Asian inspired carriers can be found here.
My husband is demonstrating a soft structured carrier (essentially a mei tai with buckles).  Soft structured carriers tend to be the least newborn friendly of the wearing options, but this particular one is designed to better accommodate small babies.  One reason soft structured carriers tend to not work as well for newborns is that they do not have the same level of adjustability and do not mold around a little body as closely as some other carriers.  However, they are very popular for older babies and toddlers, so if you plan to only own one carrier, you might want to consider them.  Once again, these are very popular with dads as they have buckles which are apparently manly (so guys tell me). 

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.