Sarah W.’s (very basic (I disagree – Sarah) ) Introduction to Babywearing!
I’m completely honoured that Sarah thinks I know so much about babywearing that she’s asked me to write a little introduction for her very delicious blog! I’ll start out by saying that I have absolutely no qualifications in this area, and most of the things I know I’ve simply learnt by reading A LOT of articles and picking A LOT of brains during my little human’s life! I love babywearing – I have a lovely travel system which was bought by my mum while I was pregnant because I thought this was one of the essentials for any mum-to-be but I wish I’d saved the money and used it to buy lots of lovely wraps and carriers instead J I really can’t remember how I stumbled across babywearing but I’ve been wearing my gorgeous girl almost full time (only almost because my threader won’t do my eyebrows while lo is attached to me!) since she was 3 weeks old.
With slings and carriers, as a rule, you get what you pay for. You can pick up a cheap Mei Tai, for example, on the likes of Ebay and Amazon. These are great for smaller babies but tend to be less supportive and can become uncomfortable as they gain weight. Ebay is also awash with fake carriers which are made to look like popular brands (Ergo in particular have been the victim of mass produced fakes) so beware – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Fake carriers do not have their dyes tested so may be toxic to your baby and also the stitching isn’t safety tested so it may not be sturdy enough to hold the fabric together.
I’m going to write a little bit about the types of slings that are available, and include some references for safe babywearing and direct you guys to some websites that will offer you some more in depth advice. I really hope somebody finds this useful!!
Types of Slings and Carriers
There is no ‘one size fits all’ carrier out there. Some ladies can walk for hours in stilettos, others can’t even stand in them, some ladies love a flip flop and others can’t abide the awkward little bit of shoe between their toes! The same can be said for slings and carriers. The best thing to do before buying a carrier is to hire one from a local sling library. Here you will find somebody who is trained to offer advice to potential babywearers and you’ll likely be able to hire a carrier for a few weeks, for a nominal fee, to decide whether you love it enough to buy one.
- Stretchy wraps – A long piece of stretchy jersey material (Moby wrap or similar) or a slightly more structured stretchy (like a Close Caboo ). These wraps are suitable for front carrying from birth up until baby is around 4-6 months. Manufacturers say they are suitable for longer but, from personal experience, once baby gets a little bit wriggly and nosey they become awkward to use and feel insecure as they push against the fabric.
- Woven wraps – A long piece of woven fabric, available in lots of different fabrics or blends such as cotton, hemp, linen, wool, silk and more. These wraps can be used from newborn until forever! I’ve seen photos of people wrapping their adult friends and family in them but it’s not something my back would be up to! Woven wraps can be used for a massive variety of front, back and hip carrying depending on the length which can vary from just under 3m for a size 2, up to almost 6m for a size 8. The size of wrap needed depends on the size of the mummy, the baby/toddler/preschooler and the carry you want to use. Front carries tend to use a longer wrap, back and hip carries can be done with shorter wraps. A really great database for types of carries you can do with a woven can be found here. These type of carriers are best when they’ve been ‘broken in’, and become lovely and soft. Depending on the fabric composition this could take a simple wash, dry and iron, or it could take months of using it as a hammock, twisting it, tying it around banisters, braiding it, using and abusing it! The more difficult to break in, the longer it will likely last and the more supportive it will probably be.
- Mei Tais – This type of carrier is, essentially, a rectangle of fabric with long straps on each of the corners. The straps at the bottom are tied around the wearers’ waist and the top corner straps are crossed at the back and tied around the waist for front carrying (like this), or passed over the shoulders, under the arms and around the baby before tying around the waist for back carrying (see here!). Variations on the mei tai carriers are half buckles, full buckles and onbuhimos, all of which can also be used for front and back carries. Please excuse all of the YouTube links but it really is the best place to look for carrying instructions!
- Ring Slings – These are great for ‘quick ups’ like nipping into the shops etc but put all of the baby’s weight on one shoulder so can be uncomfortable for longer periods. They’re made from woven wrap fabric and can be bought directly or converted by WAHM’s. It’s possible to front, hip and, with practice, back carry with a ring sling. One end of the fabric has 2 rings attached; the other end is a tapered end which is fed through the rings to secure. They can be tricky to begin with but really easy to pick up and master.
- Narrow seated carriers – Readily available in most high street stores but notoriously uncomfortable for the wearer due to the way they hold baby so far away from the centre of gravity. Most of these carriers also condone forward facing carrying which is not recommended by any babywearing consultants as it’s impossible to keep a close eye on the baby and ensure the safety of their airway if they fall asleep. It’s also difficult for the baby to protect themselves from overstimulation because they can’t turn their head into the wearer to avoid the stimulus. This type of carrier should also be avoided for any baby who has weak hips due to the lack of support offered, and for any wearer with back problems. Information is available here for healthy hips.
- Bag slings – These slings are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Many babies worldwide have suffocated in this type of sling as they curl the baby up and encourage chin to chest.
- TICKS guidelines – Here are the guidelines for safe babywearing. Baby should be Tight to the wearer, In view at all times, Close enough to kiss, Keep chin off chest and Support babies back at all times.
- Positioning – The following photos from Je Porte Mon Bebe show correct positioning:
The Best Bit…
Babywearing has loads of benefits for our little people, as well as helping the wearer to burn off extra calories (up to 300/day, but as many as 100 simply by taking a brisk walk!). As a newborn the world is such a scary place, completely different from being safe and cosy in utero. The world is light, busy, noisy and spacious, baby has to rely on a caregiver for everything they need as they are completely dependent. Being worn in a sling mimics the movement which baby has become used to, they feel close to their carer, their needs can be met quickly, they are warm and close to a heartbeat. Colicky and reflux babies are often calmed by being held upright in a sling. Babies who are worn often cry less than those who are not because they feel safe and secure. Wearers often interact more with their baby and subconsciously chat to them frequently, they spend more time in a state of ‘quiet alertness’ which is recognised as the best behavioural state for learning. Babywearing is also great for breastfeeding privately whilst out and about, although it’s better to master both skills individually before trying to attempt both together. Personally I use breastfeeding time as an excuse to sit, drink tea and eat cake but it’s nice to know the options are there if necessary!
For More Information…
- Contact your local babywearing consultant or visit your local sling library. If you can’t make it to a library see if your local one organises walks or meets so you can meet with other mamas who will want to share their knowledge and slings with you!
- Get involved on Facebook pages and parenting forums – there are literally hundreds of babywearing pages out there but the community is a LOVELY, helpful and informative one.
- Get on YouTube – it’s a mine of information when you can’t for the life of you work out what part of your carrier goes where! This will happen a lot in the early days!
- The following websites have great information which you can browse at your leisure http://ruckingmarvellous.com/
HAPPY BABYWEARING!! J