Monday, April 29, 2013

Babywearing Tips, Choosing a Carrier, and WHY you should put down that infant seat and take a break from the stroller...

Ardyn asleep in Hotsling

Every babe is asleep tonight so I am going to write a little bit about Babywearing. It's something I've been doing since Ardyn was born 5 years ago, and it's something that I am passionate about. I don't wear my baby all day every day, but I do believe in closeness with your baby and bonding and snuggling, and I do believe that wearing a baby can help you accomplish much more than you would accomplish if you have a fussy baby, a cuddly baby, or even a special needs baby or toddler. I've found that when babywearing I have a much happier, calmer, less fussy baby, especially compared to other babies who are always stuck in their stroller or carseat. I have a smiley baby instead of a fussy one. I find the right carrier to be less cumbersome and more freeing than dragging around an infant carrier or a stroller. ESPECIALLY a large stroller when in a crowd or dealing with other toddlers. Although my toddlers learned at an early age "hands on the stroller!" It's much easier to navigate a theater, museum, etc. without the awkward stroller that won't fit the aisles. And you get a LOT less dirty looks from other peeps when your stroller isn't in their way all the time. My favorite is that you don't have that problem where the baby gets fussy and wants out of the stroller and you end up carrying the baby while also pushing the stroller one handed and trying not to crash in to anything. I've also found that because we are MOVING so much of our day (the two older kids are in two different school districts, and we have violin lessons, dance class, and T-ball) the baby just has to go with the flow most of the time. He spends enough time in a car seat, and I want him to feel like he is loved and that he still gets that mom time that is so important to both his development and our bonding. It's also easier for me to know that he is hungry or needs a change when he is truly WITH me instead of always in a contraption. The more time that I can be holding him, and that he can be feeling my skin, my warmth, my kisses and hearing my voice, breathing, and heartbeat... the better we both feel and the more confident and happy he becomes. Babywearing and Breastfeeding are THE reasons I believe I have a happy, confident child! (three of them to be precise!)

Marek asleep in the Hotsling
When I first started babywearing, I owned an Infantino Carrier and a Hotsling. My collection has grown rapidly to include two hotslings, a ring sling, a Babyhawk, and a Moby Wrap (and now a Wrapsody Woven Wrap, which I have updated about at the bottom of this post.) Each carrier has it's pros and cons and also has situations where it's well suited. I've been babywearing for three kids, and I just want to share my thoughts about each carrier. Specifically because whenever I am out and about wearing one, at least ONE mom comes up to ask me about babywearing and usually comment on how much they wish they A) had a carrier like that ~OR~ B) would have bought one of those when their kids were small. I am now often having grandmas stopping me to ask where they can get one for their daughter and grandbaby. It always makes me smile.

Ardyn in the Newborn Hold in a Ring Sling

First I will start with my Hotsling. I have two hotslings. One patterned and one black. They are easy on, easy off. No long fabric, no ties. They have padded leg openings for softly resting against chunky toddler thighs and they carry babies in a side lying hold or toddlers on your hip. I really like the hotsling for a quick carrier for a side lying baby who is lightweight. I am not a fan of the toddler as much because the entire weight of the child is put on one of your shoulders, similar to a ring sling. using a hotsling and a ring sling frequently with my first child actually put me in chiropractic care and eventually physical therapy to straighten out some serious pain caused by back strain from one shoulder bearing all that weight. I would not recommend a hotsling as your single baby carrier. I like that I can get the baby to sleep in the hotsling and easily (EASILY!) remove the hotsling and lay the baby down while keeping them asleep and undisturbed. It is not a handsfree carrier in my mind as I was not able to bend over without putting a hand on the child to steady and secure them.Also, because the hotsling is a sized carrier, you purchase them to fit your body size. it is not adjustable and therefore isn't always good if you and your husband or partner want to share in the babywearing. It also isn't good if you lose weight and gain it between kids, OR if you want to wear it in cold weather and put it on over a jacket or heavy sweatshirt... because it is not adjustable.

Washing Dishes with Ardyn on my back in the Babyhawk

Ring Sling. There are SO many ways to wear and adjust a ring sling. I really did enjoy my ring sling, and all the ways I could use it, and the ease of nursing in a ring sling. But I didn't always enjoy the ring digging into my shoulder. Everything I read EVERYWHERE said that if you could feel the ring, you weren't wearing it right. I adjusted that thing a thousand ways and looked all over the internet reading information and watching videos on proper use. I couldn't see anything that I was doing differently, but with extended wear the ring always bothered me. I also had the same "one shoulder" weight bearing issues that I had with the hotsling, and I never used the ring sling with my second or third child because along came....

The BABYHAWK. This is the absolute KING of baby carriers in my opinion (*Second only to the Wrapsody, which is NOT for everyone but you can read about below!.) When I talk about the babyhawk, I practically glow. There are other similar mei tai (asian inspired) baby carriers on the market, but the babyhawk happens to be the one that I use and adore. I purchased mine when Ardyn was still fairly young, when I was dealing with the physical therapy issue. Babyhawks are not cheap. Mine was a custom made (chose my own fabric, made it reversible with two pockets and two fabric choices, and added a keyring/pacifier holder) and it cost me $119. When I say that, parents flinch. But I have to tell you, and recommend to you, that a good baby carrier can make ALL the difference when it comes to whether or not you babywear. And at the time, I wasn't sure if it was going to be what I wanted, but what I DID know was that it would hold it's resale value. AND that I would be having more kids, so if I in fact did like it, I would get my use out of it. I still have an entire child to use it for (since Ewyn is just 5 weeks old) and I have already MORE than gotten my money worth. And I was able to loan it to my friend Courtney when her second was small. Priceless. Worth $200 in my opinion :) I loved it so much I sewed a mini version for Ardyn to carry her dolls and animals in. The babyhawk is a handsfree carrier in that I can do almost any task without having to put my hand on the baby or toddler to feel they are secure. It is also easier to tie when running about in public than a Moby (more on that in a bit) and a lot less fabric in general compared to a Moby. It also isn't stretchy (like the majority of moby wraps are) which means you don't have to tighten it periodically as the fabric stretches and it loosens. It takes a bit of practice to confidently put a child in the wrap, but really it's not difficult. I am able to do it by myself with no issues now, but other people often find it frightening to watch (I don't think they are as confident in me as I am :) The Babyhawk distributes a child's weight over both shoulders and you can tie the shoulder straps behind the child's back for a more secure support (for an infant) or under their bottom for more "lift" (for a toddler.) I don't have the back strain with the Babyhawk that I have with all the other carriers, and it's incredibly well made. the Babyhawk also allows you to do a front and rear carry, which is awesome for when your kids get bigger, and also allows the Newborn hug hold (with their legs in a fetal position) as well as a big kid style hold where their arms and legs stick out. It is not AS handsfree as the Moby wrap because if you have an infant with less head control, you can't tuck their head inside the wrap as much to prevent their little head from wobbling when bending over to do things like laundry or tying a big kid's shoe, or picking up something like your diaper bag or a dropped item from the floor. But all in all it's pretty handsfree. More so than a ring sling or hotsling in my experience. Very secure. I love it for getting groceries or going out and about because it's not as time consuming or complicated to tie as a Moby and it also isn't as HOT as a Moby in the summertime. (all that fabric! oy!) Also it doesn't drag on the ground when you are tying it as much as a Moby, which can be a pain if you are in the dirt or snow, or if you are in a grungy parking lot. With the babyhawk I just keep the shoulder straps inside the doorway of my van or vehicle while I work on tying, and it's easier to keep under control than the long long long pieces of Moby fabric.

That said, the Moby is a pretty awesome carrier. I purchased mine used from a friend who was selling it. For her (she is short) it was way long and cumbersome, and too much fabric to deal with. What I really like about the MOBY is that it's great for newborns because you can really tuck their little head inside the fabric and still feel confident that they can breathe, but allowing you to be COMPLETELY handsfree. It is also so supportive and covers every inch of them and makes them feel very secure and cozy. It's comfortable to wear and can be worn a HUGE variety of ways. It also allows you to wear your bigger baby facing OUT in the front, which the other carriers don't allow for. I've also found that this video (and this one) for nursing a baby in the Moby wrap is very nice... especially when you have to nurse at places where you might not have any privacy.... church, school functions, the grocery store, etc. Strangely enough, the older I get the more I worry that I might offend someone by nursing. I don't know why that is. I am pretty adamant that it's the right thing to do, but I didn't cover up much when nursing my first two kids, and I am a little more discreet this time around. It's nice to be able to nurse without feeling like everyone in a ten mile radius is watching you and scrutinizing how much skin you show :) But in the right crowd I don't cover up. That's where I am most comfortable.

Trick Or Treating as a Family of 5 with Ewyn in the Babyhawk

The Moby wrap is a great all around carrier. It's not the best when you will be in and out of the wrap a lot. It gets tiresome to be wrapping and unwrapping the carrier all the time with all that extra fabric. But it often is my carrier of choice when I have a little one without head control, when I want to nurse in a carrier OR when I am around home. Another thing I have discovered (with age and experience) is that I can put the moby wrap on at home, but not put the baby in it. Then I can put him in his carseat and drive to my destination (while wearing my moby wrap) and take him out of the carseat and put him right into the Moby when I arrive. The thing is, you have to be able to tolerate that knot in your back while driving, or tie the moby in front (if you're not me, but are skinny and have lots of extra tail fabric) or you can knot it on one hip instead. I think the hardest thing is the in and out of the carseat in order to babywear. But for me, I always end up having to take them out the nurse them or change their diaper or just because they get sweaty or uncomfortable in their carseat... and so being in the wrap isn't such a big deal. Plus I like to have them close over carrying that stupid heavy seat anyway. Plus I transition my kids to a convertible seat way before a year, usually at about the time they can sit up (6 months) so that I don't have to carry the seat anywhere and I just carry the baby.
Wearing your baby allows for handsfree help to older siblings as well, and anyone who has kids close together can understand the difficulties that come about when you have to help a toddler, OR when you have to cross a parking lot or the street with a toddler who likes to run (or even one who doesn't!) you need free hands to be able to maneuver and hold little hands, and keep them in line. And even now, with a 5 and 3 year old, TWO empty hands is imperative at times. I love being able to wear the baby and still do what needs to be done to help out big siblings.
Ewyn in the Wrapsody at the Ped Ophthalmologist.. in the SUPERMAN Hold
Any questions about babywearing or carriers that I could help with, I would be glad to. There is probably plenty more that I haven't covered here.
One thing that I find is that often moms say "I don't want to spend that much on a carrier" and I can honestly say that a good investment in babywearing will almost always pay off. Especially if you are planning on having more than one child and will be using it for several babies, or if your kids are close together in age and you will need those free hands. :)
Just in the first month after Ewyn was born, I attended the community Halloween party with him in a carrier, as well as helped out at Marek's class Halloween Party, went Trick or Treating with the family, attended Family Reading Night at Ardyn's school, and got groceries without crying.... all with him wrapped to me. Without a carrier, lots of those things wouldn't have been possible or wouldn't have gone nearly as smoothly. The carrier allows me to handle all three kids on my own, which is important when Evan is working a lot!
Asleep in a Chest Hold at Key Lime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort

UPDATE: Since this post I have also purchased a Wrapsody Baby Woven Batik Wrap.I have a Wrapsody BREEZE Carrier in color scheme "Hope" and I purchased mine from Amazon....  It is the same type of wrap as a moby, but isn't stretchy. This is BETTER Because the wrap stays nice and tight and doesn't stretch with wearing, and you can safely do back carries and many other carries that can't be done with the Moby. (watch THIS video that shows you why it is not safe to do back carries in a stretchy wrap like the Moby!) I sold the Moby wrap and I've now found that I actually wear this Wrapsody MORE than my beloved Babyhawk. The versatility is AMAZING. Their product comes with an very thorough and easy to follow DVD. Check out their website at and it doesn't hurt that it is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous! AND Hand Batik! I love that it can do back and front carries, in and outward facing, sling style newborn holds, hip holds, and also how it is versatile to wear over one or both shoulders. You can carry twins in this, and even two toddlers or older children because they show you how to carry one on front and one on back!

Ewyn in the Wrapsody Front Chest Carry. Asleep after two hours of Helping Mom and the PJWC on Adopt a Highway Cleanup Duty!
I actually find it EASIER to use out and about because you tie the wrap first and THEN add baby, so you don't have that learning curve to get around of typing the wrap (babyhawk!) with the baby hanging in there as you try not to drop him. (how many times have you tried to add a baby without dropping them on the pavement in the parking lot? Always practice a new carry or carrier at home in front of a soft surface like the bed or a couch! Do it until you feel comfortable wrapping without the safety net below.) Especially nice in cold weather because it really minimizes the time that baby is "outside" a vehicle while you wrap. I also like that I can tie it on the side (easily! comfortably!) and then I can continue to wear it while sitting or driving without a knot digging into my back. I wear it all day when I shop, and just remove the baby and put him back in his carseat when we are driving, and then just pop him back into the wrap in the parking lot in a store. Also works great for places like vacations, restaurants, museums, and on walks. I've used it EVERYWHERE. I wore baby at the indoor waterpark while on vacation, I wore him at my daughter's Kindergarten Class field trip to the museum, I wear him all over. And I can wear him on the front, and put a backpack on my back, and be completely hands free. Also, unlike the moby, you don't have to perfectly fold it in half lengthwise when you use it, they give you great directions for a gathered or a folded cross wrap style and I LOVE the gathered. No folding! Not complicated! I was a pro at this wrap in NO TIME!

Kidspeak- Help that Boxelder Bug!

Walking Home from School today-
"Mom! Stop! I see a boxelder bug that needs our help!!!" -Marek

Kidspeak- squirrel heaven

Ardyn - "In squirrel heaven, every tree has nuts."

You can't make this stuff up

I want to save this memory.

Hot dog dream

Meagan ~ via blogger on my iPhone

Kidspeak- carsick

Overheard From the back of the van:
Marek to Ardyn, "How do you get carsick?"

Ardyn- "When you are five you will get carsick. You can take medicine made in China."
#doomed #accupressure #madeinChina

Meagan ~ via blogger on my iPhone :)
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