Sunday, October 18, 2015

My Two Cents: Babywearing

Almost thirteen years ago, I was walking in the small Spanish town we lived in with newborn Skyler in a sling-style infant carrier that I'd bought when I had Jayna.  Two elderly women approached me suspiciously, muttering to each other.  One of them finally worked up the courage to come close enough to see for sure, and I proudly smiled as I showed her my little baby girl. The woman's jaw dropped, and I was afraid that her eyes would pop out of her head.  I heard her exclaim, "She's carrying a baby!  In her purse!"

Once again, I was the crazy American.  At that time, almost no one I saw in Spain "wore" their babies.  The baby was always riding around in a giant, very plush stroller.  But by the time I left, ten years ago, that was changing.  I even saw Spanish fathers wearing their babies when I was out.  

I think it's becoming so popular because babywearing has so many benefits.  It helps with colic and calms cranky little ones and increases attachment and bonding.  It gives your tired arms a break, even when your baby refuses to be put down.  Most of all, though, it gives moms and dads free hands, which becomes increasingly important the more kids you have.  

I've been wearing my babies since Jayna was born sixteen years ago,

when my aunt passed down some baby carriers.  I think I've tried just about every kind there is.  Some are fantastic... Others less so.  As I sat down to write this post, I realized Annalee, now over four months old, has yet to ride in a stroller.  It's not that I have anything against strollers -- in fact, I have two -- it's just that babywearing works great for me, especially while she is so young.

I didn't know before, but apparently last week was International Baby wearing Week.  It's one of those things I somehow didn't know was a thing... But hey, if I can in any promote babywearing, I will.  It's something so valuable to me.  And since I'm always wearing my babies, so many people -- friends and random strangers -- ask about what I use and how I feel about it, so I thought I would put it all in one post, for your reference.

There are slings, ring slings, wraps, and soft-structure carriers.  (I'm not going to get into baby backpacks because I have much less experience there, and so far it hasn't been great.  Sorry.)

-- Slings are just that -- fabric stitched up to wear close against the body, like a pocket.

 The ones I have were purchased after Lilly's birth and are a fixed size based on, if I remember correctly, bust and waist measurements.  Lilly rode around in one for much of her first year.  She loved it.  She was healthy and average size.  But when I had ginormous Wyatt, who has always been at the upper end of the growth curve, they got far less use.    

What I love about these slings is that if you get the right size, they are super easy to use.  You fold them in half lengthwise, put one side over your shoulder with the seam at your belly button, and pop the baby in like you're putting him/ her into a pocket.  Couldn't be easier!  They are great for when you're shopping at more than one place but don't want to hassle with anything.  

However, the fixed size means that only you can wear it.  Okay, if you're close in size to your spouse or someone else who might wear your baby, but it's not (usually) (definitely not in my case) like Mommy and Daddy can both carry Baby around.  Also, the bigger baby, the less comfortable you will be, and also, the less safe it feels to carry the baby this way.  And I'd forgotten this until I started writing, but the fabric didn't stay on my shoulder as well when it was winter in Washington.  It kept sliding down my shoulder when I tried it over a jacket and altered the fit and comfort (probably another reason I didn't use it long with Wyatt).  I still use them occasionally with Annalee.  I keep one in my car for emergencies, and I have another made of stretchy, mesh-like material with a built-in SPF 50 that I've used at the beach

or when I know I will be in the sun because it breathes and protects her skin from the sun.  It also dries very quickly.  But now I have the Sakura Bloom.

-- The Sakura Bloom is a ring sling. (see rings below)

 It is not the only kind of ring sling out there, but I love it and hands down recommend it to everyone.  I had another ring sling with Jayna and Skyler, (picture at top of post) but I didn't like it nearly as much.  It had a padded shoulder and just felt very bulky.  The Sakura Bloom feels natural, and there are so many beautiful fabrics and colors, I wish I could buy more.    It is one of the very few items I've bought brand new since I had Annalee.  Mine is linen in Maple, in case you are wondering.  I wasn't going to buy it, even though I wanted it very much, but Matt said he wanted to carry her in a sling, too.  I couldn't share my other slings with him, so this seemed like a good idea, and I'm SO glad I bought it.  Annalee definitely prefers facing out kangaroo-style, but she's learning to enjoy facing in.  I like that I can nurse her in it, and the "tail" provides extra coverage.

-- Then there are the wrap carriers.  Two popular brands are the Moby and Solly Baby.

 I'd never had one before Annalee, but I really wanted to try it, and I was trying to decide if buying one new for a fifth baby was a good idea since she might well be the only one of mine that uses it.  Lucky for me, before I purchased one, I got a text from a friend on the island saying, "Hey, I have a Moby I'm not using. Do you want it?" Uh, yeah! 

When she was a "tiny" newborn, I loved this for Annalee.  There is a definite learning curve, and I think I did it wrong a few times.  It's also not the fastest to put on.  But I loved feeling like she was so snug and secure against me.  It places the baby's head right above the heart, too, which just feels good and so precious.

The cons to a wrap are the afore-mentioned complicated process, and also, the Moby in particular is pretty thick/ warm, which is not the most fun when it's melt-your-face-off hot -- like when we went to see the Solar Impulse 2.

 I'm not sure this is true for all brands, though.  And in some climates, the Moby's weight would feel just right.  I don't love putting it on in parking lots because the fabric inevitably drops on the ground.  Usually if I'm wearing it outside our home or neighborhood, I do the wrapping before I leave the house.  I think my biggest complaint about it, though, is that I haven't figured out nursing with it.  I have seen a couple tutorials, but it is definitely simpler with other baby carriers.

But if you love wearing your baby, this is a good one to have because you can use it for several months, not just for newborns.  They can be used by both moms and dads, even if there's a big size difference, and they're very good for distributing the baby's weight comfortably while keeping the little one snug against your chest.  

-- Between this and the one I will discuss last is the mei tai carrier, such as the Babyhawk.  It's sort of a cross between a wrap and a soft-structure carrier, meaning that you tie it on, but it has a definite carrying part to it -- it isn't just one long fabric a with a wrap.  This is the only kind of carrier that I have purchased and returned.  I just didn't love it for myself, and I guess you could say it's because it's sort of a hybrid.  The straps felt too thick to tie comfortably, and they didn't lie as well as with a wrap.  But I do think there are some really beautiful ones, and maybe if I tried one now (the one I bought was for Lilly) I would feel different.


-- For now, though, my favorite type of baby carrier is the soft structure carrier.  There are straps that buckle and snaps, etc. -- no tying involved!  Two popular brands are the Ergo and the Beco (I have both), though there are others.  The Beco is my personal favorite


because the Ergo I own requires a special insert for newborns that never felt particularly secure to me, plus I'm afraid it would just about roast a baby in a warm climate like here.  The Beco can be used for newborns just as it is from the get-go.  It is also adjustable at the legs to have the baby facing out front (although I just noticed when I was putting in the links that the newest Ergos do too).  Both of them offer adequate coverage for nursing and can be worn on the front or back,
and I think the side, but that never appealed to me.  I remember thinking they felt bulky at first, but I've gotten over that.  The Baby Bjorn and similar that I had after Jayna and Skyler's births killed my back because they didn't distribute the weight evenly.  But these brands I mention here, and any with a waist belt, are so comfortable because they distribute baby's weight evenly and onto your hips, so that you can wear baby for literally hours (trust me: been there, done that!) without feeling pain.  Win, win, win!

So there you have  it, my two cents' worth on babywearing  recommendations.  I'm not sure there is exactly a be all and end all carrier, because each one has unique advantages and those advantages change as the baby grows.  And what works for one person, might not work as well for another.  My favorites are the Sakura Bloom, and the Beco and Ergo.  If you can, try different carriers before purchasing and see how you feel about them.

But whatever you choose, I can almost guarantee you'll be glad you wore your baby!

{If you're a parent or caregiver with experience in this, what would you add?  If you're expecting a little one, did I leave anything out that you want to know?   I'd love to hear in the comments section below!}

9 comments:

  1. I never could figure out the ring sling. I've used the Moby, Ergo, and Baby Bjorn. Love all of those at different stages. I'm very glad that I don't have to wear a baby in the heat and humidity that you are in.

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    1. Yeah, I do remember it took a little practice to figure out the ring sling, too. But once I had it down, it's one of the simplest. I love it! The heat and humidity... Uh, yeah, I LOVE when the tradewinds start blowing! Everything gets more comfortable!!

      Thanks for commenting! :-)

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  2. I love, love, love my Ergo! I used it for Isaac well past the baby stage (until he was almost 3!) And now I use it daily for Selah. I used a Moby for Selah when she was a newborn. I agree with you that it is a little complicated to put on, but after a few YouTube videos I got it down. (I also would put it on before leaving the house so the ends wouldn't be all over the place.) The Moby was great for me bc it was wintertime when Selah was a newborn and I felt like she was safe, snug and secure. But I use the Ergo everywhere now!

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  3. The ring sling ones always hurt my shoulder and back if I wore the babies for anything over 30min.

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    1. Yeah, it isn't the most comfortable for long periods. I've found that it's more comfortable,too, when she is facing toward my body -- but she likes to face out if she's not sleepy!

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  4. I used the lilbaby all seasons complete carrier, had a chance to try it?? Out of all the ones I looked at that seemed the most diverse, except baby decided it was too claustrophobic for her in her 4th month. :(

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    1. I haven't tried that! Interesting! I thought I'd tried them all! :-). Too bad she didn't enjoy it longer.

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  5. Im in a huge love/hate relationship with wearing right now. I really want to because Lilly is a chunk and gets so heavy to carry around all day. She also loves to be facing out but is still working on the head control thing. I have the Boba and Ergo...can't master either yet. I think the Boba is easy to wrap but its too hot for Florida, she cooks in it and is just too fussy. The Ergo I can't figure out if she's big enough yet and also, she gets hot. I am considering buying another one but I feel like I keep investing in things that don't work. A friend gave me a Mei Tie to try but again, she's too hot in it. Ugh. Should I try a ring sling? They seem to be the only ones that come in a linen??

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    1. Hmmmm... I feel you on the heat problem. if it's *just* the heat bothering you, then yes, I would recommend the ring sling. The linen feels great, and she will enjoy being able to face out. But it isn't the most comfortable. I might also recommend the Solly wrap I inked to above. What I've read is that the fabric they use is waaaaayyy more comfortable. It's still a lot of wrapping, but I follow them on Insta and it looks like a lot of happy customers. As for the Ergo, maybe keep trying? I think she will probably start to like it once she isn't so hot in it. Hope that helps!

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