Babywearing and Limitations

I first started babywearing within a week of my first child’s birth. We started with k’tan, grew into the ergo, and then fell down the rabbit hole of wrapping, rings slings, and Mei Tais (oh my!). Expecting our second, I grew excited about wrapping another baby. Fortunately, while pregnant I was able to keep wearing my toddler while I built up a newborn stash.

And then she engaged badly in my hip. Any turn of her skull sent me to the floor in agony and I was unable to straighten my right hip.

And then I gave birth – which was wonderful and challenging like nothing else – and the pain didn’t go away. It only got worse.

For the first few weeks post partum, I could barely walk without a severe limp and a lot of pain. Rolling over in bed was excruciating. My pelvic joint was severely out of alignment both in the front (at the pubis) and the back (the SI joint), not to mention some soft tissue damage. Boy, oh boy, will I have “if you know what I sacrificed for you…” material for her when she becomes a teenager.

Thanks to several weeks of physical therapy I’m now mainly pain-free, though I’m limited in what and who I can wear. No soft structured carriers- redistributing the weight to my pelvis is a bad idea. Mei tais are also uncomfortable. Wrapping is fine, but only symmetrical carries, no hip carries. No wearing my crazy, adorable toddler, small infants only.

On the one hand, I still get to wrap my new baby and we are both healthy and comfortable. On the other hand, it’s been very hard adjusting to not being able to use my favorite SSC, not being able to wear my older kiddo, and having to embrace (gasp) the stroller. Heck, having to buy a double stroller in the first place – wearing newbie in the SSC and pushing Kaibeast in the stroller was my post-partum work out plan… not so much anymore. My tandem dreams? Done.

First world problems? Absolutely. First world, niche parenting method, babywearing problems? Check, and check.

However, this has also been a big wake-up call for me about respecting limits and limitations in babywearing in particular, and life in general. For me, my primary limitations are related to my physical ability to wear my children but the idea of limits and limitations encompass so much more. Maybe your limitation is that you work hours that don’t coordinate with your children’s schedule and don’t get as much time to babywear. Maybe it’s that your toddler, infant, newborn is on a wearing strike. Maybe they hate being worn or are still adjusting to being worn. Maybe you are struggling with t-rex arms and feel like you’re never going to manage to wrangle a baby and meters of fabric/all the buckles/those stupid rings that keep ending up in the middle of your chest. Maybe your wearing is limited by your, or your child’s, body. Maybe it’s limited by your budget. Maybe you always wanted to wrap, and you have a gorgeous stash of wraps, but really, if you’re honest, it’s the $30  mei tai that really gets the love while your wovens sit, artfully folded, in a box. Maybe babywearing is something you always wanted to do but just isn’t the right fit for your family. Maybe your whole family actually prefers the stroller – and that’s totally fine!

I just want to say that we all face limits in babywearing. Some are physical, some are psychological, some are our own, and some are our children’s – and it’s ok. Babywearing is a tool. If the tool fits the situation – great. But if it doesn’t, that’s ok too. It’s also a process that changes as we go along. What works today might not work tomorrow because we are human and our conditions change. Limits can be frustrating, but they can also open new and unexpected doors. I can’t wear my SSC, which means I’m become a wrap  and ring sling ninja. I can’t wear my toddler, so my partner gets more toddler-wearing action, and wraps make damn good toddler tents.

PS A final word to the post-partum mamas – be kind to your body, it’s been through a lot. You may not be ready to babywear right away. Don’t worry, you have many, many years of wearing to come. Don’t rush it, you only get to hold a newborn for so long. More importantly, listen to your body. If it starts objecting, tweaking, twinging, aching, or hurting, put the sling down. You’ll pick it up again soon, but let your body – your bones, muscles, ligaments, and brain – heal.

Using an infant insert in a soft structured carrier

The purpose of this post is to help achieve a proper fit in a soft structured carrier with a newborn, using an infant insert. DSC00678Soft structured carriers look deceptively easy to use, but can actually be quite challenging to fit comfortably. Even if you can get a larger child up with little fuss, try using one with a squirming newborn and the bulk of an infant insert, and it can be a recipe for frustration. Hopefully the pictures and video in this post will help.

First things first: Safety

You can find a detailed and beautifully illustrated resource on babywearing safety at Babywearing International.

Why do I need an infant insert with my soft structured carrier, why can’t I just use the rolled blanket hack?

Newborns are very small and in comparison to soft structured carriers. The big safety concern with newborns, and really all infants, is that they will slump in a baby sling, compromising the airway, and suffocate. Sad, horrible, but that’s at the base of the concern and why educators make the recommendations we do. While head control plays a large role in being able to keep an airway clear, the infant’s core strength plays an even bigger role. Core strength is something newborns simply do not have. Infant inserts, opposed to a rolled blanket, are designed to both boost the child in the carrier and provide essential side support to keep them from slumping over in the too-big body panel. Using a rolled blanket does not provide the necessary side support for a young infant. For this reason, manufacturers have amended their previous recommendations that infant inserts be used until 8 weeks, and now recommend using inserts until 4 months. (Exceptions to this are carriers purposefully designed to fit a newborn without an insert such as the Beco Gemini and Lilebaby, or designed to provide side support in conjunction with a carrier-specific insert, such as the Boba 4G).

Second: The SSC itself.

The SSC is made of a few different parts. The waist belt and webbing, the body panel, the shoulder straps and webbing, the chest clip, and the hood. All of the webbing is adjustable. I’d say about 95% of the people I help fit in SSCs have only ever bothered adjusting the waist. They either don’t realize that the shoulders and chest clips are adjustable or don’t know how to juggle adjusting with corralling their children. Without contest, not properly adjusting the straps for each user, each time the carrier is used, is the number 1 reason why SSCs are uncomfortable. Although important with a larger infant, this is even more important when dealing with an infant insert.

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This is an example of a poorly adjusted SSC. The chest clip at the neck causes the shoulder straps to wing out to the sides and pulls on the wearer’s neck.

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Better clip positioning. In this picture, the model is wearing a 3 week old on the front, in an insert.

You can read more about how and why you should adjust the chest clip in this post: How I learned to stop worrying and love my soft structured carrier

Finally, putting it all together.

In the video below, I demonstrate how to wear and adjust an infant in an infant insert in an SSC. For this video, I am using the Ergo performance insert with a standard Tula. The directions are the same for any of the similarly designed inserts (pillow + back/side support).

Here are a few photos that will also help:

Positioning the newborn in the insert: The bottom should rest on the pillow part of the insert as if on a seat. The legs should fall naturally. DSC00680DSC00679 A note on fussiness and feet Most newborns get irritated (whimpering to screaming bloody murder) when their feet are messed with. DSC00683For this reason, many newborns will protest at being put frog-legged in an SSC from weeks 2ish-7ish (Our first child had no problems from week 4. Our second child was ok in an SSC at week 3, but then not again until week 6 ish). The design of the carrier against the wearer’s body may just be too uncomfortable for the child. As with many things – being cold at diaper changes, screaming when someone dares to put socks on the newborn, hating light/wind/noise/darkness/being hungry/being full/etc – this is a phase that many babies go through and grow out of. It may mean that you just have to wait a tad longer before heading out for a 6 mile hike with your newborn. That being said, there are a few things you can do to see if you can get the two of you more comfortable:

DSC00682DSC00684 Once you have everything and everyone sorted, reach in between you and the child to make sure that 1) the legs are generally parallel to the wearer’s body and not at an odd angle, and 2) pressure is off of the little feet. (Note the caption in the photo should also read “parallel” to the reader’s body. I blame sleep deprivation for the typo.)

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Face visible and kissable.

IMG_6232 Happy and safe babywearing!

Babywearing While Pregnant, the Second and Third Trimester

Babywearing in the second and third trimester feels a little bit like early tandem wearing. Bumps are getting bigger, babies are getting more active, and ligaments are stretching. We’re growing on the front and trying to find a place for the older child. In this phase, front wearing can still be a possibility – depending on the pregnant wearer’s comfort – but most carries are either done on the back or the hip.

Today’s post will follow up with the 3 moms we highlighted in Part 1 and see how things are going in the second and third trimester.

Kelly

The beginning of the second trimester required several changes to my babywearing. I could not carry comfortable on the front in either a wrap or a SSC and I found the SSC weight belt to be uncomfortable in back carries – but, I still needed a way to wrangle my toddler. So this Buckle-loving girl put away her Tula and dusted off her wraps. Being pregnant forced me to commit to wrapping nearly every day. In the process, my skills improved, I got much quicker at it, and I really learned to customize the wraps to fit my belly and my 2 year old. I’ve definitely gone from a Buckle-girl who wrapped on occasion, to a full-time wrapper.

For me, the key to getting a comfortable carry with my pregnant body and a toddler on my back is finding alternative finishes that can tie off over the bump. I’ve become a big fan of the Double Hammock and variations (tied at side, tied at side with a     candy cane chest belt, tied under bum, and the freshwater finish tied at side or under bum).

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Double Hammock tied at side with a chest belt.

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Double Hammock Freshwater finish. At 7 months pregnant, I could do this in a 7.

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Double Robozo Shoulder to Shoulder in a 6.

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Double Hammock Freshwater finish tied under bum in a 5.

On the other hand, carries that have chest pass finishes with no horizontal pass (either a chest pass or a waist finish) – such as a Ruck Tied Tibetan or Shepherds – do not counter balance the weight well and become uncomfortable very quickly. As I’ve grown, so has my “base size”. Carries that I could do with a 5, now require a 7. In fact, I refer to 5s as my “shorties”.

The biggest change has been finding the ring sling love.

IMG_5852Until very recently, I’ve had a well-known reputation for being ring sling adverse – not for other people, but they never worked for me and my bowling ball of a child. Even at under 6 lbs, he felt heavy and diggy in a ring sling. However, about half way through the second trimester I had the opportunity to bundle him up in a quick ring sling hip carry. Because of the location of my bump, I had to wear him quite high on my torso and, all of a sudden, the ring sling love clicked. We use our ring sling at least once a day. It allows for some face-to-face toddler snuggles while also facilitating the quick ups and downs that 2-3 years olds are known for. Worn high on the torso, you can distribute the waist off of the pelvis and the abdomen, making for a comfortable hip carry. My toddler doesn’t fully understand what’s coming, but he can sense the changes in my body. These days, he frequently asks to be worn in the “mommy hug wrap”, for security and closeness.

Sabrina

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Sabrina also continued to wrap – and front carry! – throughout her pregnancy. Although not for long-term wearing, she reports that she can still do a front wrap cross carry over the bump with her 35# 2 year old. Like with Kelly and the ring sling, front carries have become a bonding point for her and her toddler.

She also back carries frequently, as the photos will attest. In the second and third trimesters, she prefers to do Rucks, Double Hammock Rebozos, and other Double Hammock variations. Speaking to the difference between wraps and wrappers, while Kelly more or less requires a multi-layered carry with a long wrap, Sabrina is still embracing the shorty-love.11006210_10152747365698175_234667161_n

Meg

For a variety of reasons, Meg’s babywearing, (well, external babywearing….) has tapered since entering the second trimester. She also finds that Rucks are a go-to for quick ups and downs and has been enjoying putting together a newborn stash.

Which brings us to…. preparing to wrap a new baby! All three of us currently have toddlers and are (were) expecting our second child. Although we all began babywearing at some point with our first children, neither of us have much (any?) experience wrapping a newborn. In the spirit of third trimester nesting, here are our (pre-baby) choices for our newborn stashes. We’ll follow up with each mom in the “Fourth Trimester” (post-birth) to see what we actually end up using.

Kelly

With my first child, we started with a Baby K’tan and the Ergo Performance with an infant insert. We used the K’tan for the first few weeks and then became deeply attached to the Ergo. This time around, we’ll still use the K’tan in the early days. Our Ergo has been replaced by a Tula, which fortunately works beautifully with the infant insert. My partner and I have enjoyed using both of these carriers with our big kid and we look forward to using them again.

In addition, I’ve accumulated a few additional carriers  that we’ll be trying with the newborn. When choosing carriers I looked for things that were flexible enough for an infant, but also supportive for a toddler. So far, they all work well for the 2 year old and I hope they’ll be good options for the n00bie. I’ve added a Natibaby Ring Sling, a size 5 Flamenco Hemp Indio, a size 6 Vaquero Cabana under the Sun, and a BBTai mei tai. I’m hoping to rock a lot of Front Wrap Cross Carries, Front Cross Carries, mei tai, and ring sling use. If all goes well, each of those should be good options for tandem wearing my toddler on my back in my beloved SSC.

Sabrina

Sabrina’s pre-baby newborn stash consisted of: Waka lacuna 4.2, clementine whisps of autumn 4m, ETLA AZ sunset twill 4.8m, uppy (gone) and dream weaver woven greater than 4.6m , nejesa RS cosmic ra.

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Meg

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“Here is my squish stash – Left stack:  Oscha Roses Juliet RS, Oscha Zen Roses RS, Didymos Lisca Pastell6.  Middle Stack:  Didymos Lisca Sunset 4, Didymos Lila Hemp Indio 6, Firespiral Moonlit Birch Trees 6.  Right Stack:  Bamboo Happy Wrap (Stretchy) and Mesh Ring Sling.

As far as my reasoning – Stretchy wrap will be awesome for a new baby (I loved mine with Blake).  they are soft, easy to wrap with, easy to wash and the bamboo makes it nice and thin for tucson heat.  The mesh ring sling will help me shower and swim with baby while chasing DS1. Hopefully…  The Liscas were both purchased (in base and Base – 2) because they are so soft and cuddly.  The LHI is one of the thinner hemp indios and will hopefully be good for Tucson.”