Monthly Archives: September 2014

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Adding a new child to a family is always an adjustment. For some it’s easier than others. Not everyone adjusts to becoming a parent easily. This can be due to hormonal or chemical reasons, leading beyond baby blues and into postpartum. In other cases it can be situational, when a parent is challenged by learning a new routine.

I have four children and am often asked, as many parents of several children are, which one was the hardest adjustment. My answer is always the first one. Each of my children were wonderfully unique from the beginning. My second slipped into our lives almost seamlessly. Her birth was easy, she breastfed easily, she slept well, and had a very easy to handle temperament. My third is full of energy and feelings and is more challenging to handle. My fourth is adorable and opinionated. With each of these, I had tools in place. I had an understanding of breast-feeding, I knew that I didn’t like feeding pureed food and preferred to do baby led solids, I had other mamas in my life to reach out to and ask for advice when I didn’t know how to handle a situation. I knew what kind of diapers I preferred, how to install a car seat, and what parts of parenting were my strengths and which were their dad’s. With our first we knew none of these and many families don’t. Most of us don’t grow up in big families anymore where we are caring for siblings or cousins. My first baby was the first time I encountered the majority of the skills I would need.

I had severe postpartum depression after my first child was born. I was lucky that the worst of it was over within a month, and I eventually bonded well with my son. I was also blessed with a supportive husband and mother to help guide me when I was lost. I did not, at the time, have a support system of other moms and it took me until I was pregnant with my second to find it, and that is a game changer! But what about those that aren’t so lucky? What about the families where one of the parents is at a loss with how to care for an infant and checks out? When Dad is working 2 jobs and tired at the end of the day, and mom comes home from work to a dirty house and a crying infant. Everyone is stressed and pushed to the edge. We hear sad stories all the time about situations where the pressure is too much sometimes with tragic results. In most cases it doesn’t go that far but it can lead to marital problems, emotional difficulties, and simply not enjoying life for a time!

The greatest moment for me as an educator is when I see a parent come in to a meeting tense, frazzled, and clearly overwhelmed. I work with a lot of new moms and I can often see the fatigue and the tears right behind the eyes. There is often shame in there as well. Moms are supposed to adore their infants, enjoy every coo and smile, and be wrapped up in love and joy. Too often this isn’t the case. This is a mom who doesn’t have the tools to care for herself and her infant at the same time. She has had only rushed showers and meals, she hasn’t had time to go for long walks or exercise, she isn’t able to do the things that make her feel like a whole person because she is pouring herself into caring for this new tiny person with very big needs. When I help that mom into the right carrier and baby settles in snuggled up close, often falling right to sleep, I can visibly see the tension release from her shoulders. I have seen moms and dads cry in relief. It’s as if a vision of a whole different way of life flashes through their minds in that moment. Seeing that moment is why I do what I do.

Babywearing is so much more than pretty fabrics or one more thing to buy. It is a tool that allows us to eat with two hands, go for a walk, take older children to the playground or zoo and actually play with them. It allows us to take long showers with our babies. The close contact with the baby encourages bonding and an increase in the hormones that make us feel relaxed and happy. It encourages breastfeeding and being in tune with babies cues, which also helps with the hormonal drop that occurs after pregnancy. It reduces domestic violence. It helps us feel like we don’t have to sacrifice ourselves to be good parents. We CAN do both!

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So I had planned to get together with some friends and get some photo tutorials for emergency babywearing ready for you guys this week but we, here in California, were hit with an insane heatwave all last week and not many mamas were up for the park! Which brought up a new topic. What do we do when it’s so hot outside we don’t want to be touched? Can we still keep our babies close and wear them or will we all sweat to death?

I for one spent all last week laying under my window AC unit and avoiding the triple digit temperatures outside, but I have that luxury! My youngest is 2 and a half and doesn’t need to be worn all the time. I have, however, had four summer babies, you’d think I’d know to plan better! So I had small newborns that needed to be held constantly in very high temperatures. There are absolutely ways to do it cooler!

As far as wraps go, thin cotton or gauze is wonderful for hot summers. You can dress yourself and baby minimally and use a thin, breathable carrier. You can purchase wraps made of gauze or make your own from 5 yards of crinkle cotton that is available at any fabric store, often in pretty colors! Gauze also has the benefit of being very washable and recovers well from pool and beach trips.

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Ellevill Jade shown with the outer passes pulled to the side so baby has only one layer on! 100% cotton

Mei Tais and ring slings are also very good options for sweaty days. They are both single layers of fabric with plenty of air flow. Ring slings designed for the pool or shower such as solarveil or sports mesh slings are also fantastic out of the water on hot days. Linen is another wonderful and breathable fabric for a summer ring sling that is also very supportive for longer carries out of the water. You can cover your little one’s head with the tail of the sling for extra protection from the sun. Always remember to keep baby’s face exposed so they can get plenty of fresh air!

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Sports Mesh Ring Sling

Many brands make buckle carriers with a panel in the body made of a sports mesh or breathable material. This gives you the benefit of the support of a structured carrier but more airflow for baby! If you live in an area that gets pretty warm, you might consider investing in one of those!

Additional tips: Place a cool, wet cloth between you and baby to reduce the amount of body heat transferred and keep you both cooler! There are a couple products out there for this as well! Air conditioning and water are your friends! If you find yourself getting touched out and too hot, take a cool bath or shower with your baby, head out to the mall and go for a stroll in the air conditioning or head to the pool, beach, lake or whatever is nearby. And of course, if it’s really just too much don’t feel guilty for busting out the stroller and getting a break!

This week, as we remember the events of 9/11, I’ve been thinking a lot about the various disasters that have occurred over the last few years. Every time I see a hurricane or tsunami or earthquake I always wonder how parents handle these scary situations without the skill of babywearing. In disaster situations, not just major ones, how do we keep out little ones close and safe? Next week I will post instructions on how to use things you have around your home or car to wear your child in an emergency. But this week I wanted to explore the why.

I have four children and like many parents I sometimes worry about how I would handle an emergency situation. How can I get them out of a building in a fire? How could I protect their little feet from broken glass and debris in an earthquake or hurricane? I have read tragic stories of people being stuck in a flash flood and having to hold on to a tree and their child with their arms. I believe that every adult that has contact with children should have a basic understanding of the principles of babywearing and the ability to secure a child to their body should the need arise. Everyone should know how to do this regardless of whether they choose to use the skill in their day to day lives.

Let’s step out of the big scary situations for a second and look at things that happen every day. Babywearing calms children and slows their breathing. Imagine a child having respiratory problems or an asthma attack waiting in an urgent care waiting room. Do you think that child’s breathing would be better in a car seat or stroller or in a carrier? That’s right, heart rates and respiration improve when a baby is held by a caregiver. Or take a situation with a minor car accident or other small emergency, mom is a bit panicked and baby is fussing. She might be shaking or nervous and a wearing her baby will help her safely comfort her child and the physical contact will calm them both down.

I once spoke to a woman that takes a wrap with her on every hike, even if there are only adults going. If someone is injured, if they break a leg or twist an ankle, carrying them in a carrier is much easier than trying to piggy back down a mountain! Every area has their natural disasters and preparedness is so important! Once you know how to use non-carriers as carriers you can check one concern off your list! Next week I’ll go into the how tos and provide instructions for learning this valuable skill.

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Above: Melissa carries her daughter in a bed sheet

I have been a babywearing educator for 7 years. I have traveled hundreds of miles for conferences, heard amazing people speak about the benefits of babywearing in the real world. I know how babywearing saves lives, reduces domestic abuse, helps postpartum depression, aids children with illnesses and special needs, and what a necessary skill it is to teach. I will write many articles about these topics in the future I’m sure. I believe in babywearing for many deep, meaningful reasons. But today, I’m going to take a break from all of that and talk about the lighter side, the reason most get excited about it, it’s fun! We love collecting, trading, buying, selling, ogling, petting and otherwise gushing about pretty carriers!

I attended my first babywearing meeting when I was pregnant with my second child. I had no idea I would end up getting so deeply into it, I just wanted to find a comfortable way to carry my child and keep them close. Before my daughter was born I had purchased three carriers! I bought a wrap, a mei tai, and a pouch sling. I wanted to have different styles available so I would have something I loved when she arrived and I had the chance to figure it out. I practiced on teddy bears and my toddler and got ready. Then I fell in love with the people in that group and started attending regularly. I joined The Babywearer, an online forum for enthusiasts and people learning how to wear. Suddenly I was exposed to so many different styles, colors, weaves, and fabrics! I was hooked!

Over the last 7 years I’ve probably had over 100 carriers come and go. I’ve tried silk, cotton, wool, linen, merino, tussah, and cashmere. I’ve had custom dye jobs, and fancy wrap conversions. It was a ton of fun. I sold most of them for about what I paid and lost very little money in the process. I stopped participating in the stash churning a couple years ago before there were so many new brands on the market but I had a blast!

There are many wonderful and powerful reasons that babywearing is important and I strongly believe that every adult in contact with young children should have basic wearing skills. That said, it’s ok to just be in it for the fun of it. You can absolutely find one or two carriers that are comfortable and beautiful and allow you to care for your child and get on with your life. But if you enjoy hunting for hard to find carriers and drooling over the pretty fabrics, enjoy!

Below: My kids’ father attempting to hold every carrier I owned during the peak of my collecting.

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