Tandem Babywearing

My first 2 kids were 21 months apart. I’ll tell you, getting an easily distracted, and often non-cooperative, toddler to the car while carrying a newborn, diaper bag, snack bag and park blanket is an ordeal! These were the moments I first really started wondering how moms do it without babywearing! I also trade babysitting hours with friends sometimes and would often care for 2 one-year-olds. My baby would want to nurse constantly when there were other kids over and my friend’s baby would be missing his mama and need to be held constantly or worn down for their nap. Hello tandem babywearing!

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Wearing two at a time is a bit of an advanced skill, and you do need to already be comfortable with back carrying of course. That said, it’s totally worth learning. I know I’m not the only parent to be in these situations!

The trick is to put the baby going on your front on first. Any carrier will do. Once that baby is secured and has their head well supported you can put the other baby or toddler on your back. I recommend a mei tai or soft structured carrier for the back, for the easiest method, but you can use a wrap if you want!

You’ll want to bend over flat like a table, again making sure baby up front has their head and neck supported as you do so and put the other child on your back as normal. Then you’re all good to go!

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I don’t recommend this for long hauls as it is a lot of weight, but it is amazingly useful for those times you just really need to contain 2 kids. I found my personal max was 50 pounds before it just got to be too much weight, but you’ll figure out what that is for you.

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I did wear three once, mostly to see if I could by using a ring sling on the hip. I thought about doing four, just for a picture, but never got around to it.

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Is it Fall Yet? Can We Talk Wool?

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, dear reader, but here it feels like the summer will never end. I’m looking forward to pumpkin everything, hot coffee, and sweaters! Most of all I’m looking forward to cooler weather for warm, snuggly carriers!

Now I know all summer I’ve been all about linen, but come fall and my love affair with wool starts right back up again! I have had many wool wraps come and stay with us over the years and I have to say it is one of my favorite fabrics for carrying. It is snuggly soft, with a nice bounce on the shoulders that feels almost elastic and takes the pressure points off of my shoulders. I personally find stiff wraps diggy, although many love that firm, rock solid feeling.

So let’s talk wool! Wool is amazing because of it’s give and softness. It has a nice stretch to it but when blended with cotton still gives incredible support for a heavier baby. I used my 20% cashmere blend from birth to four years with my daughter Fiona. We loved it. Not many wraps lasted that long in my house! I’m a bit picky ;).

Wool will add that extra layer of warmth while still being breathable so you don’t have to worry about baby getting too hot. I generally recommend that you dress baby in one less layer than normal when wearing to account for body heat. You of course know best and it will depend on what the weather is like where you live. Wool is awesome for our temperate San Diego winters and will help you bundle up your little one if you live somewhere with real weather lol.

Cashmere, merino, or just plain wool. These wraps are beautiful and comfortable. Wool blends are also absolutely amazing for ring slings! They have enough support to keep mama comfortable with only one layer of support and a soft cushiness on the shoulder that make a one shoulder carry more comfortable for longer!

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Air Merino Carl from Ellevill

Babywearing and Adjusting to Becoming a Parent

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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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Heat Wave Madness!

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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!

Emergency Babywearing Part 1

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

Babywearing to Soothe an Older Child

Many parents I meet who are interested in learning about babywearing assume they will be done carrying their child when they are able to walk independently. But as their children get older they find that the tool continues to be helpful in new ways.

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Wearing an older child can be useful for keeping them safe in crowded places. Ever try pushing a stroller around a crowded farmers market or street fair? How about trying to hold on to a three-year-old’s hand at the zoo? There are so many situations that can be made easier and safer by securely carrying a child in a carrier.

And then there’s the day to day. Children from ages 2 to 5 tend to have very big feelings they don’t yet have the tools to handle. This can manifest as temper tantrums, poor attitudes, and other behaviors that can be very challenging for parents. Often parents see this as a discipline issue and use time outs or other tools to eliminate the behaviors. While that may sometimes be necessary, some parents see an unmet need. Young children get tired out suddenly, they go go go! until they just can’t anymore and they melt down, seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes they need to check in with home base. Babywearing can help an older child settle down. They reconnect with their caregiver, getting the cuddles and attention they need, and the motion of the adult is soothing as well. Babywearing can help an older child settle down, often even falling asleep if they had been resisting a nap before.

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If you have a child that wants to “help” and participate in everything you do, you can use babywearing so they can be a part of your daily activities while keeping them safe and somewhat out of the way. I have cooked many meals with a little one on my back. They can see what I’m doing and I can talk to them and interact with them and even let them pour things in a pan or help in small ways. All without being afraid of them touching the stove or being underfoot at the wrong moment.

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Whether you’re keeping your child safe and close by in a store or at an event or just trying to keep sane and get your work done babywearing is a tool and skill that stays valuable for many years. All humans need touch and comfort, it doesn’t end when they are walking and talking. Babywearing is one wonderful way to keep your child close and comforted. Luckily, there are many fantastic quality carriers that are safe to use as long as you can comfortably carry your child!

Why We Wear: It’s Fun!

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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Why We Wear: Babywearing Dads Edition

I recently sat down with three babywearing dads to ask them why they wear their children. I just love their take on how babywearing helped them bond with and care for their babies!

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How did you get into babywearing? What made you decide it was something you wanted to do?

D: When my wife was pregnant with our first she was looking at things to help us with the baby. She found babywearing and once we dipped our toes into it we had to jump in.

I: It was born out of necessity. In reality it frees up your hands to be able to do things you wouldn’t normally be able to do with kids running around. Whether that’s housework or climbing on rocks or just generally being able to be places you can’t watch your kids and be able to do the things you need to do at the same time.  Your kids need you and it makes it so you can be there for them and still keep moving.

J: My wife did a lot of research when we become parents with our first on attachment parenting and pieces of that style resonated with her. A big part of it is picking up your kids when they cry and being there for them, and having them in a sling helped that. Our first child was high needs and he didn’t scream when he was in the carrier.

How has babywearing helped you bond with your kids?

D: One of the things I love is having a kid fall asleep on my back. I love the trust factor they have. As soon as I put them up they relax and fall right to sleep.

I: When you get into a situation where they need comfort, want to be close to you, or are tired and overwhelmed, or emotionally frazzled, it allows you to keep them close.  It’s caused me to be a little more snuggly than I otherwise would have been. I’ve been able to take them places I may not have been able to. I took my oldest hiking when she was two, I’ve been on adventures I would have otherwise have had to wait until they were much older. It provides a level of security, I can take them on an adventure and not worry they’ll have a tantrum and not make it back. I can carry them easily.

J: It’s been great. I found when our kids were first born my wife had an immediate attachment to them. As a dad that has grown over time. Wearing them helped facilitate the bond with them. It’s something we continue to do even now that our kids are older, when my 9 year old wants a piggy back ride I’ll use a carrier sometimes. It still helps center them. I could work from home and wear them and type or do dishes.

What is your favorite carrier style?

D: I love soft structured carriers. The Kinderpack is my favorite.

I: I like my full buckle. I also wear mei tais.

J: My wife made a mei tai and that is what I’m most comfortable with for sure.

What is one piece of advice you would pass on to other dads about babywearing?

D: Beyond all the bonding and hippy stuff it’s incredibly practical. When you have to take care of a kid and still live your life you can put them on your back and do chores, even mow the grass. It makes the kid happy, you happy and everything is easier.

I: Don’t hesitate. Start as early as you can. Don’t feel limited by the masculine options, just put your kid up on your back and go! Feel free to wear purple.

J: Just try it, keep at it and try a couple different ones until you find something that is comfortable. We bought some from a box store in the beginning that were just awful, don’t feel like you have stick with one that doesn’t work for you.

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I really enjoyed my conversations with these three dads and love all of their advice! How do the men in your life feel about babywearing? Share in the comments!

Babywearing Safety Basics

I love seeing babies worn! I always get a little smile when I’m walking around town and see a baby in a carrier all cuddled up on mom or dad. I’m proud to be a part of a group of people out spreading the love and teaching parents how to wear. As babywearing becomes more widespread, however, I feel that less people are getting direct instruction and more are learning from each other and some things may get lost along the way. As with anything involving tiny humans we have to be aware of how to do it safely! Don’t worry if it takes a little while to learn, there are always new things to figure out when you have a baby. Remember the first time you tried to buckle them in a high chair or car seat?!

Basic Safety in Any Carrier:

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1. Make sure that baby’s face isn’t obstructed in any way. You’ll want to be able to see your baby’s face at all times. This means that no fabric should be covering her face and her head should be visible above the “rim” of the fabric. Any cradle position that has her head tucked in to the pocket is not safe. 

2. Wear your baby as you would carry your baby. Would you carry your baby folded in half below your waist? How about under your arm like a purse? Probably not ;). We carry our babies high and near to our faces, usually with their head resting on our shoulder, chest or wrist. These natural carrying positions tend to tilt baby’s head back slightly to keep their airways open.

Remember the babywearing rule of thumb: Visible and Kissable. Wear your baby so you can see them and they are close enough to kiss and you’ll be just fine.

3. Protect your newborn’s airway. You’ll want to always have 2 adult fingers space between their chin and chest. Follow along with me for a minute. Tilt your head down and rest your chin on your chest. Now take 5 deep breaths through your nose. Were you able to? Remember that unless they are crying babies have to breathe through their noses. You actually got a deeper breath than your baby would because your teeth open your jaw, where a new baby doesn’t yet have teeth. I know when I do this I start to feel lightheaded. I’m not able to get enough oxygen and that’s just from a few breaths! This isn’t meant to panic anyone but is definitely something to keep in mind. Always make sure that there is enough space between chin and chest to keep their airway wide open.

4. Wear your baby in the supported squat position. Newborns do not yet have the solid bones and joints of older children and adults. They need a little extra support. We want to have them in carriers in the ways that allow their natural development. Think about sitting on a bench vs sitting in a rock climbing harness. A supported squat allows baby to be more comfortable and provides ergonomic support for their developing hips and spine.

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Fun Tip: If you already have a narrow base carrier and want to make it more comfortable for both you and your baby try the scarf trick! Wrap a piece of fabric around your lower back and behind baby’s bottom and under their knees. This can be used to get baby into a more supported position while adding support for your lower back! Also a wonderful way to make your front pack last longer!

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It can seem like a lot at first. If you remember the basics: visible and kissable, 2 fingers between chin and chest, knees above bottom you’re doing great. And remember that always your instincts come first, you know what’s right and safe for your baby better than anyone else!

Why We Wear: 4 kids!

I thought it might be fun to do a series interviewing babywearers on why and how they got into babywearing and what it does for their lives. I’m going to start with myself, just for fun.

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My first son was born in 2007 and I had seen babywearing recommended in a parenting book that I had read. I thought is sounded like a great tool. My son needed to be held constantly. He was the kid that was either in a swing or I was walking up and down halls with him. There was no babywearing group or community in my area at the time so I was on my own. I bought and returned every carrier they sold at the big box store near us. We used a few here and there that were less than ideal or safe but we got through. I remember one time going into the baby superstore and asking an employee if there was something that would allow me to wear my son while I bent over and picked up toys. He said no, no such thing.

My second child came around in 2009, and I was connected with a local babywearing group during my pregnancy. I remember my first meeting very well, at the time just a gathering of a few moms near the play area of the mall. I watched these women put on mei tais and wraps and almost cried. It was everything I had so desperately tried to find and wasn’t able to. Several of the women that were at that first meeting are still my friends years later.

I now have four children and lead the descendant of that same babywearing group. I wear because it allows me to keep my baby close and still feel like a human being. I am able to put my baby on my back, sit on an exercise ball and eat with a knife and fork while he sleeps. My third child did not sleep unless he was on one of our bodies for two and a half years. I can’t imagine what I would have done without this skill. I wear because I can calm a distressed toddler in a minute flat. I can get my crazy kids to the car, sometimes two of them strapped to my body when we need to get going in a hurry. I’m the first one out of the car for school drop off since I’m not struggling with a stroller or car seat carrier. I can take my kids to the botanical gardens and go up and down the stairs without a hassle! During growth spurts when my baby wanted to nurse all day long, I was able to nurse in a carrier at the zoo and keep my two-year-old happy wandering around looking at things. My marriage ended when I was pregnant with my fourth. Wearing allowed me to bond and cuddle my newborn while learning to manage my household as a single mama! What a lifesaver.

Early parenting is a difficult time. I’ve met so many mothers who are beyond exhausted, they are into that state that I think only a young mother knows. They can’t remember the last time they took a shower without rushing, ate a full meal, or slept a whole night. Babywearing allows moms to be able to do the tasks that make them feel like a complete person again. Go for a long walk, put on some make up, cook a meal, it feels good. Babywearing helps moms avoid postpartum depression by helping them feel like they can handle it.

It may seem that it’s all about the pretty fabric and the fun of having something cute like a new diaper bag. But as someone who has been teaching this skill for 6 years the look of relief, the eyes filling with tears, and seeing the shoulders of a new parent relax for what might be the first time since their child was born is worth so much more.

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I’d love to hear some of your stories and what babywearing has done for your family! Respond in the comments and I may contact you to be featured in a future article!