A Trend not Started by a Man whose Last Name is Sears…

by Iola  Kostrzewski

If you were to run into a mom in the 1800’s she would have probably had a baby on her back. Depending on the climate, the carrier the mom would have been using may have been made out of animal fur or a beautiful piece of fabric that the mom would have woven herself; or perhaps a fellow woman in the community may have given it as a gift. The gift-giver would have known from her own experience with her own children that the new mom would need it while she gathered food, cleaned a hide or just went for a walk.

Now fast forward to the 1900’s, lets travel to Japan…There you may have seen a mom wearing both her boys in what resembles a modern day Mei Tai, happy as can be carrying on with the day’s activities. In a village in French Guiana, you will find a mom holding a child on her hip breastfeeding as she herself is trying to finish her morning meal.  Today, you may see a mom wearing her baby in an Ergo as she shops at the mall, or a baby wrapped securely in a very pretty piece of fabric at an art fair. All of these are examples of babywearing, and all proof that babywearing is not a just a trend that started by a man whose last name is Sears.

Like all of these women depicted above, babywearing has been welcomed with open arms into my own family. It has become the norm since my oldest was three months and I traded in my Baby Bjorn for a Moby that was much more comfortable. When my mom saw me for the first time sporting my son in my wrap her words were, “You will spoil him like that! Put him down!” My mother in-law didn’t understand either, with the words “spoiled” and “pampered” being thrown around during our visits.

As much as I wanted to be upset with their comments and yell as loud as possible that “only food spoils, not my baby,” how could I? I understood that they were parents during the time when “baby trainers” were at the height of their popularity. They were told to not respond to every cry, that small babies will self soothe, and no matter what you do …. DO NOT HOLD BABY! So of course their responses are normal, because it’s what they were told.

Yet for me as a mother,  babywearing is way more than part of the attachment parenting style that my husband and I seem to have adopted as parents. You see, my carriers have all come in and saved the day. I think of them as little super heroes that I like to hoard. My ring sling has saved me from losing what I have left of my sanity by corralling in my toddler on days he finds the need to “help” with every chore I am trying to complete. My soft-structured carriers have stayed with me and paced the floors late at night, as I have tried to soothe a teething baby to sleep or lift the one whose feet have given out on him after he has run and run until he could run no more. My recent run-in with wrapping has taught me that it’s a great tool for a calming a toddler tantrum and gives great support for a nursing eight month old.

The women before me were smart. They knew this secret:  a happy baby was one who was with its mother. They had figured out that since baby was most likely breastfed, baby had to be with them, not to mention the dangers of leaving an unattended baby in the middle of the wilderness! They figured it out, and to this day many of their carriers are still being used with some small modern improvements. For that I am thankful, and I am pretty sure my children are too.

Need more proof? Grab a gold dollar coin and flip it over.  Apparently Sacagawea had a great time wearing her son as she led Lewis and Clark during their exploration of the west.


Babywearing: So Many Benefits!

Sweet sleeping baby snuggles in the Ergo.

Sweet sleeping baby snuggles in the Ergo.

by Christina Owen

It seems as though the more children I have, the more I learn. Or, the more children I have, the more I need to learn to survive. I never wore my daughter, my oldest. She was fine in the stroller and I didn’t know any better. When my middle child was born, I lived in a very urban area, where I walked and took the bus everywhere. I wore him out of survival, in my homemade stretchy wrap, at least until he was big enough to sit up in a stroller. I knew more, but I still didn’t know better. Oh how things have changed.

I then got pregnant with my third child. I knew I would be wearing him right away, all the time. Anyone who has multiple children knows that there is a direct correlation between how many children you have and how much (or little) sitting around you are able to do. Older kids like to go places and participate in activities and need their parents there. The only way to accomplish those things, and retain any semblance of sanity, is to wear your baby.

There are many benefits of babywearing. Research has shown that babies who are worn by their mother, or another caregiver, cry less and are not as “demanding” than babies who are placed in a swing or bouncy seat. After being in the womb for nine months, listening to his mother’s heartbeats, hearing her voice, and falling asleep to the swaying of her movements, a baby does not want to suddenly be away from his mother. I also found out from having a December baby in Minnesota, that if I put my baby in a wrap and then put a coat over the two of us, not only were we both plenty warm but we were also much less likely to get the odd stranger who wanted to touch the baby. That was an added perk during cold and flu season.

Another reason I found to wear my baby was that I was much more aware of his needs. If your baby is in a car seat –  or any of the other million contraptions that are available for putting babies in – you aren’t as aware of her cues. When you are wearing her, you will notice at times that she will start squirming, getting restless, and will quickly realize that she has a dirty diaper. At other times, she will start sucking on her hand or nuzzling into the breast and you will know she is getting hungry. It is so important to be aware of these cues, especially for a mom and baby just starting out their breastfeeding relationship. Having your baby close, and sensing her cues much faster, you will hopefully be able to avoid trying to latch on that frantically screaming newborn. Besides, who doesn’t want to have their baby up high and kissable all the time while your hands are completely free?

As I mentioned before, wearing my baby allowed me to attend to my other children. I never worried about being home for naptime. We were able to go to the Children’s Museum, the park, or the grocery store and I was able to have my hands available while he would sleep or look around. Wearing your baby allows you to fold laundry, do dishes or go for a walk, all while he is snuggled up to you, sleeping or even nursing. I even purchased a water wrap so that I could take him to the pool or even shower on those particularly difficult days.

I am a fan of baby wearing for all of those reasons and more. Wearing my baby has let me be with my older children while still bonding with him. It allowed me to meet my baby’s needs, and go about my day. He cried less often and that made us both happy.

Types of Carriers

There are so many types of carriers out there that it can seem overwhelming, trying to figure out what to purchase. Here is a breakdown of the most basic types of carriers.

Wraps
There are two main kinds of wraps – stretchy or woven. A stretchy wrap, like the Moby or Boba wrap is usually made of a jersey knit material. These are really great for the newborn period up to about 18 pounds. After that time, your baby will start to sag and it will become less comfortable for you to wear. In a stretchy wrap you can only safely wear your baby on your front or on your hip.

The woven wrap is usually handmade or machine woven material, either 100% cotton, a blend of cotton and linen, or a combination including hemp, bamboo, silk. The woven wrap tends to be the most versatile of the carriers, since you can use them from birth to toddlerhood and beyond. There are many different kinds of carries you can do with a woven wrap, including many newborn options.

The only drawback to wraps is that there is a little bit of a learning curve with them. It takes time and practice to learn how to wrap correctly and safely. Wrapping and tying all that fabric around you and your baby isn’t necessarily for everyone.

Soft Structured Carriers

Soft structured carriers have padded shoulders, buckles, and a waistband, so that the weight of the baby is distributed on your waist rather than on your shoulders or back. These are considered the most “daddy-friendly” of carriers because there is much less fuss than other types of carriers. Some examples of these are the Beco, Ergo, and Boba, among others. The time you can start using these ranges among brands. Some need a special insert in order for you to wear your newborn in it. For most of these, you can wear your baby until 30-35 pounds.

Asian-Style Carriers

The main kind of Asian-Style is the Mei (pronounced “may”) Tai. This is a combination between a wrap and a soft structured carrier. It has a body similar to the soft structured carrier, but also ties around you. It is simpler than a wrap and can be worn on your front, back or hip. You can use these starting from birth, but your older toddler may outgrow the body of the mei tai.

Slings

A ring sling is a one-shoulder sling that can also be worn on your front, hip, or back. The ring sling is great for nursing in and is a great “poppable” carrier, meaning that it is quick for getting baby in and out of. The only disadvantage is that is only worn on one shoulder which can be uncomfortable for some people. A pouch sling is a sized sling that should fit you from shoulder to hip. These are simple carriers and are also quick for getting your baby in and out. It is very similar to the ring sling.

There are so many reasons for wearing your baby. In the early days it is so important to have your baby close to you, for breastfeeding and for comfort. Choosing a carrier can seem overwhelming because there are so many options but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. There are a couple of places in the Twin Cities where you can try on different carriers before you buy them, such as Peapods in St. Anthony Park. All Things Diapers in Blaine also has a rental program for carriers. I have loved carrying my baby. When he is tired and fussy, I pick him up, put him in the carrier. Within minutes he is calm, and often fast asleep.


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