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.

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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.”

How I learned to stop worrying and love my soft structured carrier

As VBE and self-proclaimed buckle-loving babywearer, I find there are three main complaint’s wearers have with their soft structured carriers (SSC):

  1. The carrier pulls at the back of the neck.
  2. The webbing (bottom of the shoulder straps, where the buckles are), digs into my armpits
  3. My baby is fussy and it seems like their head is smooshed against my body

What would you say if I told you that in most cases there is a simple solution to all three problems? (and available today for 3 easy payments of $29.99…. ) It’s the chest clip. One of the most important adjustments to make is to find the proper positioning of the chest clip – which is actually on the wearer’s back in a front carry. Most people let this hang out around by their neck. DSC00395They either don’t know it can be lowered, or are afraid they won’t be able to reach it if it’s not at neck height. This results in digging/weighing heavily on the neck, the shoulder straps winging out to the sides of the wearers body rather than resting on their back, pulls the shoulder webbing buckles into the armpits, and pulls the top seam of the body panel tight against the baby’s neck without providing any tightening across the body of the SSC. DSC00404 DSC00396 Easy Fix: To find the proper placement for your body: with the carrier on, have a partner lower the chest clip until it rests somewhere between the wearer’s shoulder blades. You may have to play around with tightening, loosening, raising and lowering, but you’ll know once you get it in the right place. TADA

Properly placed chest clip

Properly placed chest clip

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When the clip is worn high on the neck, it tightens the carrier primarily around the top seam of the body panel. In wrapping terms, this is similar to having too tight a top rail in a ring sling carry. (Safety note: The baby in the photos below is not a real child but a demo doll sitting on an infant insert pillow. An infant the size of this doll is much to small for this carrier. They would need to be in a full infant insert with the face visible at all times to be worn safely.) DSC00806 DSC00807 This both puts added pressure on the wearer’s neck and pulls the child’s head firmly into the wearer’s body. Baby is squished, wearer is uncomfortable, and no one is happy. More importantly, because the pressure is on the top seam of the body panel, it is unable to apply even pressure around the body of the carrier and will not provide back support to the child as when properly placed. When the clip is lowered, it distributes the tension around the middle of the body panel. DSC00809 f

This provides better support for the child’s spin and takes the pressure off both the child’s and wearer’s neck. Comparing the two photos, you can also see how lowering the chest clip pulls the shoulder strap webbing lower on the body and out from under the armpits. Problem: How the heck do I reach the darn thing to clip it? I’m not a yogini! Solution: Loosen your shoulder straps. You should be loosening and readjusting your shoulder straps each time you take the carrier on and off. By loosening them, you put slack into the straps allowing you to reach the clip easily. When properly positioned, the shoulder straps should be somewhat perpendicular (up and down, not at an angle) and rest on the wearer’s back. Readjusting the shoulder straps each time will ensure that you get a precise, and comfortable, fit. In addition to making babywearing more comfortable for the wearer, the chest clip is an important adjustment for the baby as well.

Baby on Board! Babywearing While Pregnant, part 1

Sabrina Bump

Baby on Board is a 3-part series about babywearing while pregnant. This first part will address babywearing in the first and early second trimester, up until about 15/16 weeks. It will feature yours truly, currently 17 weeks pregnant with #2, as well as several other currently and previously pregnant Tucson BWI members.

Before we begin, a caveat. I am not a medical professional and this is not to be taken as, or over, medical advice. If you have any questions regarding the safety of babywearing on your particular body while pregnant, I strongly encourage you to ask your doctor, midwife, or chiropractor. More to the point, if your care provider cautions you against babywearing (front, side, back, or all) please listen to them.

Bear in mind that babywearing while pregnant follows the same guidelines as babywearing while not pregnant: Listen to your body, respect the feedback (aches and pains), and don’t be afraid to modify for your specific needs (which may change daily).

There are a few physiological changes that pregnant women need to be aware of, as they will affect how you babywear.

  1. Relaxin – that wonderful hormone that prepares the body for labor and delivery loosens the joints and other soft tissues. May be great for getting into some yoga poses, but it also means that your soft tissue is much more prone to injury. Things that didn’t hurt before, may start to hurt now. If that is the case, it’s your body telling you “please don’t do that,” and time to take a break or try a modification. Pay extra attention to your back, hips, and knees. For moms who back wear, the motions of the hip scoot or superman toss may be too much. Consider alternative ways to getting a baby on your back.
  2. The added weight of the pregnancy – For those pregnant and wearing a toddler (or beyond), it’s important to remember that your body is carrying the 20+ lbs of the older child as well as any additional weight from the pregnancy. This can put a lot of stress on your body and you may find you need to modify carries, carriers, or duration of babywearing. Just be aware of what your body can do.

Now on to the fun stuff: Babywearing in the first and early second trimester.

This is the phase when you might be praying to the porcelain god, so exhausted you can barely peel yourself off the couch, and rocking the baby bloat instead of the bigger baby “bump”. Fellow Tucson BWI member Meg writes, “I hardly wore at all the first few weeks I was pregnant. Between feeling nauseous, exhausted and hot and clammy all the time, I could hardly stand it. I am 15 weeks now and i would say around 10 weeks-ish I was more up for wearing.”

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The limits of my babywearing from week 6 to about week 10.

But once you start feeling better, or if you are one of those lucky people who doesn’t get morning sickness,  it’s also the time when babywearing is least limited, at least by the baby bump. For the most part, babywears can continue to wear carriers front, side, and back as they would were they not pregnant. (Though, my nauseous self could not fathom the thought of standing, much less babywearing.)  At this point in a pregnancy, the uterus is under or just above the pubic bone, a spot generally not impeded by babywearing. If it feels good, do it!

That being said, there are some modifications that may make things more comfortable, especially if the famed first-trimester bloat makes your midsection uncomfortable.
Hip Carries!Meg RS 1

Hip carries in a ring sling, woven wrap or pouch sling eliminate any sort of waist band on the abdomen. You may need to position your kiddo so they are off your stomach, but this is generally pretty easy to do by shifting them further to the side. Hip carries that don’t wrap around the waist, such as robozo carries, HCC and Robin’s hip carry, may be more comfortable than hip carries that also tie around the waist. (I’ll note that in my case, hip carries were the first ones I had to drop. Between the 26# toddler and the loose ligaments, it puts too much pressure on my back and hips.)
Meg (about 16 weeks) writes, “I also still comfy in a RS for quick trips. Her leg just kind goes above my bump. We haven’t been wrapping much, mostly because neither of us have the patience right now. She tolerates being up if it’s quick and I can get her comfy without a lot of fuss.”

Meg RS2

Although hidden in part by the tail, you can see that the toddler is positioned just off the baby bump.

Back Carries! Because there are several options, I’ll break this down into carrier type:

Back carries in a SSC or MT – Consider playing around with the positioning of the waist band. I find I like a higher back carry with the waist band on my natural waist. Others prefer to wear low and snug. Try each out and see what works – but keep in mind you’ll have to readjust the shoulder straps and sternum/chest clip when you reposition the waist on your body.

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13.5 weeks, you can see the waist band fastened high at my natural waist.

Back carries in a woven wrap. Here, the possibilities are endless. Short back carries or back carries w/ no waist pass are great. Some examples are: Ruck tied at Side, RRRR, Jordan’s Half Back Carry, Double Rebozo Shoulder to Shoulder. Candy cane chest belts and tying Tibetan will become your friend. (note, I found my breasts were too tender to handle some of the chest belts).

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Double Hammock with a Candy Cane chest belt: plenty of room for the bump at 16 weeks, and support for the toddler on back.

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Double Rebozo Shoulder-to-Shoulder, tied under bum (14 weeks).

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Meg in a wrap conversion mei tai, tied Tibetan to keep the waist band off of the bump.

On the other hand, waist and chest passes often provide much needed support for heavier toddlers. In many cases, a carry can be modified to tie above the belly. For example, Double Hammock (tied above bump or under bum), Ruck tied above the bump, Shepherd’s Carry, Christina’s Ruckless.

Sabrina DHTUB

Double Hammock, tied under bum.

Sabrina Ruck

Ruck, tied in front.

Front carries! As long as they are comfortable, front carries are fine at this phase in pregnancy. At 13 weeks I could easily wear my 26# 2 year old on the front in a Tula, and in the FWCC. At 15 weeks, I prefer to have him on my back.

Sabrina shares, “Love this one can’t see bump but was comfy for a few minutes”.

Sabrina FWCC

Half Front Wrap Cross Carry.

What are your favorite babywearing tips for the first trimester? Share them in the comments below! And stay tuned for Part 2: The second trimester.

Peace, love and babywearing,

Kelly

Babywearing and the Holidays, Pt. 1

Welcome to our multi-part series on babywearing during the Holidays. Babywearing is a great way to keep your sanity, stay warm, and get things done during this busy time. The first installment will cover Cooking & Decorating, the second will be Babywearing Out & About, and the final installment will feature members pictures highlighting babywearing through the New Year (so make sure to bust out those cameras). These posts are a compilation of tips and tricks gleaned from our Tucson BWI members.

Part 1: Cooking and Decorating!

First things first – stay safe while babywearing. Make sure your carries are secure, and be careful not to engage in activities that could lead to injury. A few things not to do while babywearing:

  • Frying latkes, taking things in an out of the oven
  • Climbing on a ladder, step stool, or chair to hang that bundle of mistletoe, decorate your Festivus Pole, or when putting up your solstice lights
  • Lighting candles (menorah, luminarias)
  • Take extra care in inclement conditions such as snow, ice or rain
  • Keep hot drinks in spillproof mugs so you don’t spill hot cocoa/cider/mulled wine all over your baby and your carrier
  • Basically, use your common sense and put yours and kiddo’s safety above all else

Warning out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

Cooking and Food Preparation

Babywearing can be very helpful when decorating cookies, heading out for holiday parties, or just trying to get a meal on the table. Here are a few tips to combing food and babywearing, without turning your lovely carrier into a makeshift apron:

  • Back carries shine when dealing with food prep. Make sure tails and straps are tucked out of the way to avoid food spills. This isn’t the time for a fancy finish, lest the fabric absorb cooking smells and spills.
  • Soft structured carriers and mei tais are great because the tails/straps are thin and stay out of the way.
  • When wrapping, Nicole recommends, ” I try to focus on carries that keep the wrap out of the way and off my belly, lest it become a dishtowel. This means carries that avoid chest passes, and that use ruckstraps. I prefer to tie Tibetan and tuck the ends under my arms, or tie a candy cane chestbelt. Like I said, I avoid tying in front.”
    • Other alternatives are tying under bum or doing short versions of carries (double hammock double rings, double robozo shoulder to shoulder, ruck with a candy cane chest belt), and tucking long tails back behind your body.
  • Hip carries in a ring sling or robozo will also free up your hands, but keep an eye on your tail – don’t want it dragging in your food – and keep an eye on bigger kiddos, don’t want them leaning out of the carry to “help”.
  • If front wearing, be extra cautious about what you are doing. Even if your baby is small, it’s not the best idea to be doing fancy knife work while reaching around your child – it puts the baby closer to the blade and it can be hard to see and maneuver around them. Similarly, it’s not a good idea to be doing work on the stove, simply because your child is closer to the heated elements. However, much food prep can be done while front wearing – measuring, arranging, mixing, decorating, etc. If you have to do something potentially dangerous, ask for help and/or put the baby down.
  • Nicole adds, “or decorating Christmas cookies, for the love of God, use a wrap or carrier that you could handle staining — or pass the baby off to someone else.”

 

Decking the Halls – Babywearing and Decorating

Babywearing can help you be hands-free while decorating, but there are a few things to be aware of:

  • Get all decorations down from high places before you put your baby on.
  • This is the time to assist (helpfully, from the ground) while some else handles ladder duty, hanging high decorations, or lights on the house.
  • Related, if you are setting up a tree, let someone else set it up and adjust it on it’s base.
  • Take extra caution when lighting candles. Consider having someone else do it or use led “candles” instead.
  • Nicole again, “If you’re decorating and have a grabby toddler, keep their presence in mind so they don’t accidentally yank the whole tree over while you’re hanging ornaments.”
  • On the other hand, babywearing is a great way to keep little ones out of boxes of tiny, shiny, ingestable holiday decorations. I know from experience, at 9 months I ate a small silver ornament thinking it was a Hershey’s kiss.

Some Final Thoughts

The holidays may also be a good time to introduce other friends and family members to babywearing so you can take a break (or queue in line for Black Friday…). If introducing another friend or family member to babywearing remember: Keep it simple, and take your time. Easier is better. Work within their comfort zone. Soft structured carriers are a great gateway, ring slings for the braver, and even a pre-tied poppable woven carry (front cross carry, short cross carry, pocket wrap cross carry) can help someone else get some baby snuggles. Also make sure to take your time explaining what you are doing and how to wear kiddo safely.

Spread some babywearing love this holiday season.

Peace, love, and babywearing,
Kelly, BWI Tucson VBE

Air Travel and Babywearing

Within the babywearing world, one of the most frequently asked questions is about the ins and outs of air travel and babywearing. The goal of this post is to give you some tips to comfortably combine your babywearing with your jet setting lifestyle, or at least to give some basic guidelines to make your travel experience easier.

First things first:
The Official TSA Guidelines can be found here. This covers all of the official details for getting through security. Short version:
-Everything must be x-rayed or passed through a medical detector.
-If you are babywearing, you must bypass the Advanced Imaging Technology scanners (the ones made infamous for showing all of your nooks and crannies) and use the metal detector instead.
-Your hands will get swabbed for chemical residue after you pass through your screening.
-You may request a pat down instead of the metal detector if you have concerns.

And the official Federal Aviation Administration stance regarding children/infants on airplanes.
-Short version: The safest place for a child on an airplane is in an approved child safety restraint system. Not on a lap, not in arms, not being worn.

This post will cover why you might want to babywear while traveling, some options for convenient babywearing while cramming yourself and your wiggling bundle of joy into an airplane bathroom, and options for babywearing on-board an aircraft. Please note, this is not supported by the FAA but it is also not prohibited, and in the United States most airline carriers allow “lap infants” up to the age of 2 and do not require the use of an approved safety restraint system (though most recommend it).

Have baby, will travel – Getting through the airport:

Babywearing can be a convenient, hands-free way to navigate an airport. It allows for easy nursing and feeding, keeps little ones close and safe, and no worries about toddlers running off in the sometimes chaotic environment of an airport. It can also be a great tool in your arsenal for encouraging that mid-flight nap. Though strollers also have their place, some families (ours!) find them bulky and cumbersome to navigate through an airport. Granted, they have the advantage of being able to carry bags, but this post is about babywearing and air travel.

The things you want to consider when choosing a carrier for air travel:
1 – Something you can get on and off easily. In my experience, this is the time to leave things with long tails or straps at home or in your carry on. In case you do have to unwrap at security, or if your stewardess asks you to unwrap for take off, shorter wraps, mei tais, ring slings, and soft structured carriers (SSCs) are much easier. Consider what you would be able to use easily while standing in the aisle of a plane, and then decide on what to wear. You can always pack your long pretties in your bags for your destination.

Pro tips:
-If using a mei tai, tie any of the knots that you normally tie behind your back off to the side. That way you don’t have a knot digging in your back while you are sitting.

-If using a SSC in a front carry and heading to the bathroom, be sure that that webbing on the waist buckle is wraped/folded/tucked somewhere out of the way so it doesn’t take a dunk in the toilet. Same with mei tai straps. If this does happen, copious amounts of hand sanitizer come in handy and didn’t do any damage to my webbing (wash thoroughly upon arrival).

2 – Generally, avoid metal. This mainly applies to ring slings and half-buckle mei tais with rings at the waist. Metal will set off the metal detector and you will likely (but not always) be asked to take the carrier off and x-ray it separately. However, if you use something without metal – a shorty wrap, a SSC (be sure to clear change and keys out of the pocket, ring sling with vinyl/plastic rings, a mei tai – it is generally no problem to wear your wrapped baby though check-in, security, and into the waiting area.

3 – As mentioned above, as long as you don’t have any metal on you, you should have no problems going through airport security. But be aware that as you leave the metal detector, a nice TSA officer will ask to swab your hands for chemical/explolive residue. It only takes about 10 seconds and is completely non-invasive. You will be asked to take off your shoes, so choose footwear that you can easily get on and off while babywearing.

4 – This depends on the airline and on the flight crew, but some airlines/flight crews will ask you to unwrap your baby during take-off and landing. “Take off” is defined as the child cannot be buckled, tied, or otherwise affixed to the caregiver’s body. This means, out of the ring sling, out of the front carry, out of the mei tai, out of the SSC.

You can re-insert the baby after take off, so consider your carry/wrap based on poppable carries. If you are wrapping, poppable carries like a front cross carry or a short cross carry are easy for ins and outs. If you are using a mei tai, consider a front carry tied under bum – loosed the straps to lower the body panel for take off and then do some awesome airplane-seat-yoga wiggling to get the baby repositioned after take off (also: don’t tie the waist knot behind your back, tie it at your side so you don’t have to sit on it all flight long). Ring slings are easy for ins and outs. SSCs really shine in air travel – loosen the shoulder straps until the chest clip is at your neck, unbuckle and take off the body panel, leaving the waist band still on your body. After take off, put everything back on and tighten the shoulder straps until comfortable.

5 – Consider bringing a receiving blanket or your carrier’s hood. If you have a baby who likes to sleep while being worn, the airplane’s noise and vibration (world’s biggest white noise machine) combined with a familiar carrier can be the perfect setting for sleep. It’s even more helpful to be able to shut out the visual stimuli by pulling up the carrier’s hood, or using your tail or a blanket to shade your co-traveler.

6 – What if you are babywearing in the airport but also plan to use a child safety seat (FAA approved car seat)? You have two options.
Option 1: check the car seat at check-in with the rest of your luggage. Advantage: you don’t have to lug the darn thing through the airport. Disadvantage: can’t use it on the plane, and if it gets lost you won’t have it for the car when you arrive at your destination.

Option 2: Carry the car seat through the airport and use on the plane OR gate check at the gate. There are several options for making this easier with a wheeled cart or tote, and this blog post reviews several of them. From personal experience, we love our Brica roll and carry car seat bag. Why? You can fit several more carriers/wraps on the seat, safely confined in the bag! Even better, because it’s gate checked, they don’t weigh the darn thing. So if your checked bag or carry on is at weight limit with clothes, toys and diapers, you can stash you 8 lbs of wraps in with the car seat.

Finally, bear in mind that each air carrier has similar, but slightly different policies regarding travel with infants. We strongly recommend that you check with your carrier prior to arriving at the airport and ask them any questions you might have. Here is a short list of common American carriers and their policies regarding traveling with infants:

Alaska Airlines
American Airlines
Delta Airlines
Frontier Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines (lucky you!)
Jet Blue
Southwest Airlines
United Airlines
US Airways

A general overview from SeatGuru.com

 

Written By: Kelly, VBE, BWI Tucson