Babywearing? What in the world is babywearing? Yeah…I’ve heard it so many times! More often though, people see me out and about and will ask me about how my baby doesn’t fall off of me when he’s “tied on like that”, or “doesn’t that hurt your back?” No, no it doesn’t. It’s pretty funny! They’ve never seen anything like it before and they are curious. I’ll admit I had never heard of babywearing until I was pregnant with my 3rd baby. I had been a babywearer with my first two, but had never heard the term. With My first, I used a soft structured carrier, the kind you buckle onto yourself and the baby faces you belly to belly. I didn’t like it very much. It was alright, but it wasn’t working very well for me. That may have been in part because I had no resource from which to get help like I do now. With my second baby, I used a peanut shell sling. I didn’t know how to use it well and it was hard to adjust. He leaned back too far in it and I always felt like I had to have a hand on him to keep him from falling out. There is nothing wrong with these two kinds of carriers AT ALL! There are many different types of carriers, and mommas have preferences based on their own comfort, the size and age of their baby or toddler, and where they are going to be using the carrier.
First, why would you want to wear your baby? It is certainly an element of attachment parenting, keeping baby close to you and the ability to soothe him being two of the most important benefits. Even if you don’t subscribe to AP, the benefits are still great. You can have your baby on you while you are hands free to do other things that need to be done, because let’s face it, the world doesn’t stop revolving just because you’ve had a baby. After a couple months of rest (if you’re lucky!), you will have to get back to cleaning house, shopping for groceries, and doing other chores and errands. Babywearing allows you to do those things with more ease. Another thing is that it eliminates the need for a stroller and for a carrier. If you’ve ever had to carry that heavy bucket into a restaurant or grocery store, you know how hard it can be on your back, and how it immediately robs you of one arm, which is detrimental when you have two other kids with hands that need to be held! Also, I used to cringe when I walked into a place with my stroller and immediately knew that there was no way I could navigate through a maze of people, clothing racks, or vendor booths. Here’s another great benefit: soothing a fussy baby. My first and third babies were both very similar. They nursed to sleep and woke up when I tried to lay them down. When I know that it’s nap time, baby has been feed, but I can’t just lie there with him during his nap, I wrap him up on my back. He fusses through it while I’m wrapping him, but as soon as I’m done he calms down and is usually asleep in minutes. I use the next hour or two to do many of my household chores while he naps. This ability to multitask is a must in my home since I also have a 5 yr old and a 4 yr old who need direction, homeschooling, and attention from mommy.
Now let’s talk about some of the common types of carriers. Most people are familiar with a stretchy wrap that you tie around yourself, like a Moby. These are better for newborns, but once they get to around 20 pounds or so, they aren’t supportive enough because they are too stretchy. You can tie this in advance and pop baby in and out without having to re-tie every time. The babywearing community calls this being “popable”. People typically use this type of carrier for front wraps, and you can also breastfeed the baby in it.
The next type I want to talk about is by far my FAVORITE carrier for a newborn, the ring sling. What I absolutely love about the ring sling over the peanut shell sling is that it’s adjustable. When you put baby in, you are able to adjust the top and bottom rails independently. What’s a rail? Well, if you look at the sling and see that there are two hemmed sides to it, whichever one is oriented on the top near baby’s shoulders is the top rail, and the one under his bottom is the bottom rail. When you pull the tail through the rings to tighten it, you can pull just the top rail, just the bottom rail, just the center section, or the entire thing. Generally speaking, I loosen the sling, slip the baby in and make a seat (a little pouch for baby to sit in), pull all of the tail at once just to tighten the slack and get baby secure, then I start tightening the rails independently for an even snugger fit. I even like to wrap the tail around the rings to make a cute faux knot. This sling is great to nurse in, and the tail can be used to cover the baby if you feel you need a cover. The sling I have is a Sakura Bloom Pure Linen wrap, which you can find on www.sakurabloom.com.
Now for the woven wrap. I will admit I wasn’t sure about woven wraps at first. They aren’t generally popable (although a few carries are popable), so the thought of tying and untying over and over again wasn’t appealing to me. But guess what? I finally got my first woven wrap and I LOVE IT!!! They are perfect for newborns, but also perfect for toddlers because they can support their weight. You can carry them on the front, on the back, on the hip, and tandem (two kids at once). There are so many different carries, it can actually be overwhelming! If you venture into this new adventure of woven babywearing, you will not be sorry…and you may become a little obsessed, ha ha! A woven wrap is now my go to for my 5 month old. I wear him on my back all the time. I used my ring sling a lot at first, because it’s all I had, but it became hard to do any chores once I got my energy back because he was always in front and restricting my movements. Even shopping became a little bit troublesome because as he got bigger I couldn’t see around him to push the cart and watch my older boys. Now that I wrap him on my back, it’s incredibly easy to do shopping, wash dishes at the sink without a huge “bump” in front of me, and cook dinner. ***Word of caution: PLEASE do NOT cook with baby on your front, or at least be very aware if you do. Use extreme caution, because if we get a little too close to the fire, we feel it and immediately jump back so we don’t get burned, but if you lean too close with the baby on front, the baby will get burned before you are aware of the danger. I always feel better with him on my back where I know he won’t get hurt.*** The next thing you need to know about woven wraps is that they come in different lengths. I don’t think I need to reinvent the wheel here, so I will direct you to one of the best websites on babywearing that explain the different lengths and the different types of carried you can do with them. It’s called Wrap Your Baby, and she has a great post about how to choose a wrap and another two posts that explain all about different wrap lengths, one here and the other here. This is where I started when I was first learning about woven wraps, and it’s still my favorite place to go as I’m learning new types of carries. There are also lots of great videos on the website to help you learn how to do all of the different types of carries. I’ve had a great deal of fun trying new ones. You’d think, “How many different ways could there really be?” But you’d be surprised. There are some back wraps that put too much pressure on my shoulders and it does hurt, and I’ve discovered how to fix that problem by tying them differently. As I practice, I’ve become really good at tying the carries more quickly and easily…and without having to look in the mirror anymore! My wrap is a Kokadi Mandalina Ice, size 7.
Another common carrier is a mei tai. It’s a sewn cloth carrier that has straps on the top and bottom corners of a large rectangular shaped piece of fabric that you tie onto yourself. The baby is supported in the rectangular area, and the bottom straps tie around your waist while the top ones tie around your shoulders. I personally haven’t used one of these myself, but I know many moms who love them because they are very easy and quick to use.
The last type I want to make you aware of is a soft structured carrier. These are like the Ergos you see in the baby stores. These are very similar to the shape of the mei tai, except they will use buckle instead of ties. Many people love these for toddlers because they offer so much support.
All of these are perfectly acceptable ways to wear your baby, but seeing as all people are different, everyone has their own preferences. I prefer the ring sling for a newborn. They are so easy to use and make for a quick carry when I’m in a hurry. Also, when I know I’m going to need to take them baby up and down a lot, such as for nursing or when I know I’ll be standing and sitting a lot, I use a ring sling. For longer shopping trips, such as for groceries, I will use a woven wrap and tie baby on my back. This leaves my hands and front free to push the cart, handle the older kids, and reach items on the top or bottom of shelves without the baby in my way. At home I use the woven wrap and put him on my back more than I do anything else. It’s so convenient, and if I know I have a couple hours worth of stuff to do, it’s the place he will most likely fall asleep so I can work. Even if he doesn’t fall asleep, he’s happy there! At church, I would usually prefer my ring sling, but I’ve gotten to where I use my woven wrap lately. Church is during his normal nap time, so I start with feeding him and putting a clean diaper on at home, then when I get to church I wrap him on my back. We sit on the back row and I stand the entire time during music and announcements until the sermon starts, standing behind to pew to gently rock him and coming back to the pew to sing from the hymnal with my 5 year old (who is doing so great reading the words and learning the hymns!). With him on my back, he will fall asleep during that time. Then I can sit on the edge of the pew with him on my back and listen to the sermon. If I’m going into an antique store, he goes on my back. If we’re going to the zoo, he goes on my back. If we’re going to a restaurant, I put him on my hip in the ring sling. It just depends on the circumstances.
If you are new to babywearing, I invite you to try it! Join a babywearing group on facebook, or join a group in real life. Most groups have lending libraries and meet-ups where you can learn from other mommas. This is how I finally mastered the back wrap! Questions, comments, advice for other moms? Comment below!