Snug & Tighten: the secret to making your wrap work

The wrap is so wonderful because it is so versatile.  You get a custom carry every time, tailored to you and your baby.

There are countless ways to tie your wrap, but even one basic tying method, such as the Front Cross Carry, can be used to carry your baby in an upright tummy-to-tummy carry, a semi-reclined or sideways carry, a high and safe cradle carry, a low nursing carry, a high-shoulder/burp hold carry, or even a facing-forward carry for short periods (though I recommend against the forward-facing position).

Front Cross Carry - Newborn Burp Hold

Front Cross Carry - Newborn Burp Hold

To become an expert, pick one carry that works for you.  Learn to tie it, to insert your baby, and then learn to snug and tighten every part of the wrap so that it holds your baby just where you want him or her.  Each time you do it, you will become better and faster.  The wrap will become like an extension of your own body, another set of arms to cradle the one you love.

But if you don’t pull the slack out of the wrap, it won’t do the job perfectly.  Your baby will start to feel heavy and you won’t wear him or her for long.  Or you won’t be able to nurse hands-free, because you need to use your arms to keep baby high enough to stay latched. Or you’ll use one hand to support baby’s head.  Or baby will complain because the carry is too loose.

Don’t fret.  You’re learning.  Next time, pay more attention to snugging and tightening every part of the wrap and it will be better.  And you do it every day, and in no time, you’ve got it down and can do it without pausing in conversation.

How to snug and tighten properly?

When you put the wrap on, make sure you are not twisting it anywhere.  This is easiest accomplished by holding onto only the top edge as you bring the wrap around your back.  Gravity will hold the bottom edge down for you, and you have no chance of getting it twisted where you can’t see.

Christiane Back Wrap

Holding only the top edge of the wrap as I bring it around my back keeps it from twisting.

Because your wrap is not twisted, you can see where there is slack–perhaps at the top, near baby’s head–and you can tighten along that very strand of the wrap at the end of the wrap before you tie.

If your wrap is striped, or has a color gradation, you can use the colors to help know which part of the wrap to tighten.

Remember that the bottom edge of the wrap should be holding up your baby’s knees higher than baby’s bottom.  Pull any slack through so that the wrap is smooth and tight under the knees and around baby’s bottom and back.

There’s a Hole in my Wrap!

A woven wrap can catch on something sharp or rough and if some threads get pulled or torn, you’ve got a hole in your lovely wrap!  Of course the important thing is to ensure that the wrap is still safe to carry a little one in.

Some of the ladies on the Facebook page knew what to do when one member of our community had this problem and I wanted to preserve the answer for others who need it in future:
“You just use a machine to straight stitch long zig zags (like 3 inches long back and forth), then repeat the same thing in a perpendicular pattern.”

After that, just keep an eye on it to make sure your fix has solved the problem and . . . Happy Babywearing!

That Looks Hard

Grammy wearing Annabelle in Elsa EllaRoo

I imagine all babywearers hear it, but wrappers more than most, I think: “I would never be able to do that–I’m not coordinated,” or “That looks so complicated,” or even, “I wish I could do that!”

If you are already wrapping your baby, you may have thought it looked hard at first, too. But now it’s easy. So what do you say to the lady in the store who thinks she could never do it?

Some moms in this community had great suggestions. Tegan says, “It’s easy once you get the hang of it!” Simple and believable 🙂 Then, she shows them! That is key!

Mandy offers to let people try her wrap. Because who is going to invest in a wrap if they don’t believe they can use it?

Siobhan explains that is much harder for her to listen to her baby cry. Ah, the emotional argument!

And Haddas tells them that her 6 year old niece taught her…that puts it in perspective!

So whatever you say, keep it light, and speak from the heart. Remember that saying something like, “It’s not that hard, and it helps me so much!” can be more persuasive than a well-thought out argument with bullet points and scientific references.

That Elusive Rucksack Seat

Half the wrappers around will tell you that a Rucksack Back Carry is the easiest and should be the first one you learn.  It’s true that a Rucksack IS easy and very fast, IF you are good at it.  But the other half of the wrapping mamas will tell you that it’s impossible, that they gave up, that it took tons of practice, or that baby never feels secure in a Rucksack.

Why such discrepancy?  It’s because you have to know how to get a real good seat in a Rucksack, or it just won’t fly.  So if that comes easily, or you figure it out early, Rucksack is easy.  And if it took you two years to finally have it click, well after that it’s easy, too.  I’m hoping this video showing my method for a deep seat will help be that moment that makes it click so that the Rucksack is easy for you.

Rucksack is such a wonderful tool to have in your toolbox! When you do know how to do it, it’s the fastest thing in the world.  I invariably do a Rucksack when the cashier at the grocery store asks me how I got my kid back there by myself.  “Wanna see?” I offer, and I take my child down from whatever back carry he had been in, and toss him up in a quick, easy, secure, and always impressive Rucksack.  Makes babywearing look easy, which it should.

And while my video isn’t about this, I should note that it is also important in a rucksack to pull the top edge of the wrap good and tight so that your little one cannot lean back away from you.  There should not be space between his tummy and your back.

So, tell me, did I do it?  Does this help?

Rucksack Seat

BabyDancing

A customer asked about babywearing and dancing.  She had seen a video once of someone flamenco dancing with a baby on her back.  Could she continue her traditional dances with baby wrapped up?  So I asked around and I am in love with all the babywearing dancing I turned up.

Firstly, thanks to some help from the gals on the facebook page, we found the Flamenco Dancer.  Love it!

And what else do I love?  Bunches of coreographed babywearers!  Especially dancing swing!

Or their own Boston Babywearing version of Wheels on the Bus:

And what about expressing your love of babywearing with a music video:

When I asked the Facebook community, several people told me they dance in their livingrooms with their babies.  Many prefer baby wrapped on the front so they are like a dance partner or can be cuddled while danced around.  And their babies love it!

And then I googled “babywearing dance” and found out that lots of places and groups are offering babywearing dance classes.  My heart swells at the thought of all the fun being had dancing and babywearing!  Do you?

Tucking Arms Into a Back Carry

Most babies upwards of 6 or 7 months will enjoy having their arms out of the wrap when you wear them, but when they fall asleep, this makes it difficult to ensure that the wrap provides them with head support.  Cassidy (10 months) fell asleep on my back in the woods in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and I had my husband shoot a quick video of how I tuck his arms and shoulders into the wrap.

This shows a Double Hammock Carry but my technique is the same with any back carry: Get hold of baby’s hand and pull baby’s arm up over my shoulder; pull the inner/top edge of the wrap (nearest my neck) down and around baby’s arm and shoulder, then up and back onto my shoulder, letting his arm sink down into the wrap.

If your baby is laying his head against your neck or back as in this video, you don’t need the wrap to hold him or her against you.  Sometimes just tucking in the arms pulls baby close enough against you to lean comfortably on you.  If you do pull the edge of the wrap over the back of your baby’s head to support it, make sure that baby’s face is clear.  Baby will usually lay one side of his face against you, and you pull up whichever side will go over the back of his head, leaving the face clear.  Sometimes pulling the wrap up across the baby’s neck will provide support enough to keep his head from hanging.

It should be noted that he stayed asleep throughout (though he doesn’t always) and the squawking you can hear is from his two year old sister who was impatient with daddy for standing still while she was wrapped on him.

Options with Straps

Once you pick a carry, there are still so many variations and ways to customize it for comfort or appearance! Here is a video that shows several different ways to do the straps in a rucksack carry:
standard rucksack straps
crossed in front
twist in front
chest belt
tibetan tie

Which is your favorite?

How Heavy in an EllaRoo

Photobucket

Different people have different experiences.  Some find the EllaRoo not as comfy with a heavier kid as thicker German-Style Woven Wraps.  Others happily use their EllaRoos exclusively through toddlerhood.

A recent conversation on the Facebook page addressed the question with a variety of answers.  I loved Jennifer’s point that a thinner wrap does better in layered carries (like a front wrap cross carry or double hammock back carry) than in a simple Kangaroo or Rucksack.   Check out the conversation!

Rebozo challenge

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Anyone up for a rebozo challenge?  I love wraps, but I’ve hardly used rebozo carries at all.  The rebozo back carry works for me pretty intuitively…but the front carries need some work.  They remind me of the very beginning of my babywearing career when I was struggling to make a Maya Wrap ring sling work.  I never did get that right, and I switched to wraps, which were easier for me from the start.

Well a rebozo front carry is a lot like a ring sling carry and there’s a hump I’ve got to get over.  It’s just so hard to bother with, when there are so many carries with a longer wrap that are easy, fast, and comfortable!  And yet, the challenge of it!

And what an impressive skill!  Tying your baby on with a long piece of cloth is awesome, but the ability to do it with a short piece of cloth, that would make you unstoppable, wouldn’t it?

So…are you up for it?  Shall we become mistresses of the mighty rebozo?  Report back to each other so we can’t get lazy?  Or if you are a rebozo expert, will you give me your tips?

Proper Hip Position in a Carrier

In the babywearing world there is a category of carrier disdainfully referred to, by those in the know, as “crotch-danglers.” It’s not that these disdainful mamas are elitist. No, it is that they know what an unsupportive position this is for a baby, and how much stress it puts on the base of the baby’s spine and they wish all the other mamas in the world knew it, too, before they gave or received one of these Bjorn-style carriers for a baby shower present!

Here’s a quick explanation with photographs.

A wraparound carrier should be used to hold baby with the optimum leg positioning as shown in the link.  This is best achieved when baby is facing your body, with a wide seat underneath the baby’s bottom and thighs.  If you have a carrier that does not allow for this, chuck it! There are lots of better options.

Tips for New Wrappers

Tips for those who are new to wraps:

Start with a front carry and move on to back carries once you have a good feel for using your baby wrap.

To keep the fabric from getting twisted when you pull it across your back, grasp only the upper edge of it so that you know gravity will keep it straight for you.

When pulling to tighten the wrap, look to see if a particular strand of the wrap is loose–say the top, around baby’s shoulders– and pull on the corresponding section of the end you are tightening, in this case, the upper portion of the wrap. If you kept it untwisted, you can in this way tighten precisely where needed and you’ll find that this helps keep baby from sinking down in the wrap, helps provide sturdy head support, and keeps baby solidly in an optimum–and comfortable–position.

Wrap your baby high up on your chest. Baby’s bottom should be no lower than your belly button and baby’s head should be close enough to kiss.

Keep baby’s knees raised higher than his bottom whether his legs are tucked into the wrap in a newborn-froggy position, or whether legs are wrapped outside the fabric. This will ensure a good seat in the wrap and proper support of baby’s spine. This means that the bottom edge–or rail–of the wrap will get pulled a little tighter, pulling baby’s knees up and holding them against your torso, while the wrap spread across baby’s bottom will obviously have farther to go, though the wrap should be uniformly taut across all of baby’s body, fitting like a bandage around a wrist.

Each layer of wrap around your baby should be pulled snug before the next layer goes across. Any slack in the wrap means that in a few minutes baby will have sunk down or changed position.

Finally, don’t fret! Practice makes perfect and stressing over it will NOT make it easier. Each time you wrap, you’ll learn more about it, so no attempt is wasted. Try again, later!

Using Your Wrap With SPD

Mothers who experience SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, also called Pelvic Girdle Pain) after giving birth may find that some baby carriers that put weight on the hips–such as soft structured carriers like the Ergo–are painful. This does not have to put a damper on your babywearing:

A short wrap (rebozo) can be used like a ring sling or pouch, simply knotted and looped over your head and one arm like a messenger bag. Your baby rides on your front or hip in this manner, and none of the weight is distributed to your hips.

However, you may be even more comfortable with a two-shouldered carry, and one that distributes your baby’s weight evenly across your torso, instead of concentrating it on one shoulder. For such a supportive and comfortable carry without a hip band my first recommendation is a Double Hammock Back Carry because it wraps tightly around your upper torso in its entirety. Try tying it high under your breasts instead of at the waist, or finish it off with a Tibetan tie instead of tying at the waist.

If you want to wear your baby on your front, try a modified Front Cross Carry. By bringing the crosses over both of your baby’s legs, instead of between, you allow the band across your back to stay spread wide and this should result in a very comfy, high, tight front carry good for plenty of cuddles. Here’s a video:

If you have SPD, did this, or something different work for you?

Hip Cross for the Playground

The Hip Cross Carry is easy, fast, and poppable. Great for little babies or toddlers, especially for shorter periods and when there will be a lot of getting in and out, such as when running several errands and switching from wrap to carseat. Or, as in this video, at the playground with a baby:

 

Are Wraps Hotter Than Other Baby Carriers?

The hottest thing about baby wearing is your baby.  Just as your pregnant belly warmed you up throughout your pregnancy, your little heater–now outside your body–will raise the temperature several degrees anytime his or her body is pressed against you.

Baby carriers that are open on the sides will, naturally enough, allow more air flow and many people think they feel a little cooler.  However, those people may not be using the wrap’s versatility to its best advantage here: not many carriers allow you to customize your carry to the weather, but a wraparound baby carrier can!

Use carries with fewer layers like a Rucksack or Kangaroo Carry, which has only one layer across baby, and only rusksack straps or a cross on the wearer’s back. A Front Wrap Cross Carry can be modified to have essentially one layer, by pulling the crosses so that they are bunched up along baby’s sides instead of spread across baby’s back as shown here:

Front Wrap Cross Carry with crosses bunched in Summer.

Use a carry that does not wrap around your waist like an Abbreviated Front Wrap Cross Carry (pictured below), Poppins Hip Carry (short version),  Reinforced Rear Rebozo Rucksack (back carry), or a Rucksack Back Carry tied under baby’s bottom in the back.

Dad wearing baby in an abbreviated front wrap cross carry for Summer.

When using a back carry that crosses in the front, try rucksack straps instead for a cooler variation.  When your back carry ties around the waist, try tying Tibetan style for a cooler feel.

With other kinds of baby carriers, the fabric is as thick as it is, and you cannot make it thinner by using fewer layers.  Padded straps are comfy, but cannot be spread thinly hot weather.  And waist straps on other carriers cannot be removed when Summer comes…

Babywearing with Fibromyalgia

Alison sent her story for me to share with you.

“Before I met Toby 3 years ago I was in terrible pain suffering with fibromyalgia infact that bad at times I could barely move if I wanted to go shopping it was a challenge to say the least I even brought an electric scooter to help me get about

“I then got pregnant with William and I was dreading the prospect of having a baby and being in so much pain luckily some of the pain went with being pregnant and I started to enjoy a semi normal life again William was born and he has been very challenging waking every hour in the night would not sleep during the day and would never allow me to put him down

“William is now 17 months and is not your average size baby he is 30lb and wearing some 2/3 year clothes he has always been big for his age and I was having trouble holding him as he was so heavy and he was making the pain in my arms worse

“I then found slings and wow what a difference I could hold my baby and carry on with daily tasks even going to the loo was no longer a challenge it was hard at first though William just did not like being in the sling very much and used to fight with me arch his back tried to get out you name it he did it so I would take him out again

“I persevered and now he loves being up I my back looking at people as we go along the street and in shops he has a better view with what’s about and the best part he holds his arms up when he wants to go in the sling

“I still get asked from some family and friends why do I still carry William on my back and also gosh he is to heavy to be there he will damage your back my answer is he is 17 months old you see other babies his age in a buggy so why not on my back he is to young to walk everywhere also we get some lovely cuddles when we couldn’t if he was in a buggy and no he doesn’t hurt my back his weight is distributed evenly unlike being held in your arms

“What I’m trying to say is that if you have a medical problem yes you can still carry your baby listen to what your body is telling you and never over do things and if you don’t find your perfect carrier in your first purchase don’t be put off there is something out there that will be perfect for you but most of all enjoy”

I love this ending, but here’s an update from this month:
“william is now 19 months and is 33lb oh boy i wish he would stop growing for a bit i was told by my gp a few days ago that i have a bladder prolapse and i should not carry anymore due to williams weight will possibly make things worse i cant just stop carrying my baby we love being close so i have adopted my carry now and can no longer carry on my front but for a few minutes or even half an hour i will wear my baby and listen to what my body is telling me and the first hint of a pain he will be going down

alison x”

Babywearing with Disabilities

Who out there is babywearing with a disability? I know that babywearing has the potential to make parenting easier, and parents with physical disabilities–as well as parents of children with special needs–can use all the “easier” they can get. But there can be extra challenges to babywearing depending on the disability.

There is such a vast community of babywearers online now, that I am sure we can collect up some stories and create documentation that has the potential to help many others. The “each one teach one” model of spreading help is, in my opinion, still superior to dusty tomes sporting long chains of alphabet credentials…

I have heard mention of several ways that babywearing was used to help with special needs, but was never before now collecting the stories to archive as a reference.  I know that parents on crutches and in wheelchairs have found babywearing easier than handling a stroller.  I know that parents with only one arm or only partial use of the second arm have found success with a carrier that doesn’t need wrapping or buckling–a pouch or pre-adjusted ringsling can be put on over your head with one arm, and then baby can be lifted into it.  I know that wraps have the versatility to be wrapped creatively around babies or children with various kinds of braces or casts.  I know that wearing your baby can improve muscle tone in healthy babies as well as those with special conditions.  And I know that autistic and otherwise sensitive children of all ages have benefited from the closeness and security of being worn snugly against their parents’ chests, while the benefit of babywearing and kangaroo care to babies born prematurely is well documented.

So please tell us if you have any experience with special needs and babywearing. Tell us what worked, what was difficult, what you wish you could have found a solution for. What was the hardest part, and what was easy? What do you recommend or what help do you need that another member of our community might be able to provide.

I love these words from Rachel Coleman’s blog:

We would be her legs. We take her up slot canyons, through coniferous forests and bring her almost face to face with moose. I have pointed out wildflowers and taught her their names as we‘ve hiked to lakes in Glacier National Park. She’s seen the mud pots and geysers of Yellowstone, and yes, she has seen the waterfalls too. In winter, when she was invited up the canyon for a snow day, I wore Lucy on my back as we tromped through snowdrifts that were thigh high!

Say No to Nestle and Hershey

Nestle was already criminal in my book for the inhumane way they market baby formula in third world countries, making them responsible for serious malnutrition and death of helpless infants.

Now I learn that both Nestle and Hershey have been implicated in child labor and slavery in the harvesting of cocoa.

I don’t like spreading nasty news. I try to avoid it. But when there such heinous crime going unmentioned in our very midst, and when most of us are supporting these companies and using their products without anyone’s bothering to mention the horror that we are contributing to, it is time to spread the word.

Do not think that your Valentines or Easter, or your child’s enjoyment of a holiday are more important than the fact that someone else’s child has been kidnapped and made a slave. Don’t think of the broader issue. Think of that child and how that child’s mother must feel. Think of your own child–full of fascinating and irreplaceable ideas, thoughts, feelings, and purposes–robbed of freedom, and of family.

But you know, there are plenty of sources of chocolate that are not criminal. Please remember them when you purchase your casual or holiday treats. Think of the difference it makes to someone out there.

This week I am indulging in a rich, decadent, Western luxury and sending delicious chocolate to my customers in celebration of a holiday most of us can recognize as a pretty commercial construct. I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about chocolate. Just don’t buy chocolate you need to feel guilty about. Please.

Wrapping and Nursing, Nursing and Wrapping

I was going to make a video of a back carry, but Cassidy wanted to nurse and would not be put off.  So there I was standing on the beach nursing with him in my arms, holding a wrap.  What could I do?  I wrapped him up while he nursed!  I thought I was improvising, but watching the video, I realize now that I ended up tying a hip cross carry with my (almost) ten month old in a cradle position.

Tying a wrap around a baby who is already nursing is often the easiest way to learn to nurse in a wrap, because instead of having a hungry baby becoming frantic and making you frantic while trying to learn a new skill, your baby is happily nursing from the beginning, buying you contented time to figure it out!

I would, however, start in a seated position, and not standing in the middle of a beach!  I made a video of this with Annabelle when she was very young, in our living room–on the very couch that she was born on, in fact! In this video I had already pretied a front cross carry. I sit down and insert her into it, latch her on, and then get everything tightened up so that it becomes truly hands-free.

Usually while wrapping up my nursing baby, he gets jostled off the breast at some point, and I just stop to help him get latched on gain, then continue.

Patience is important as staying calm will get you a lot farther faster than anything else!  If you work at it for a few minutes and it almost works, then baby wants to get down, or needs to burp, or even just because you’ve had enough and don’t want to get frustrated, go ahead and stop.  Work on it more the next time. You’ve made progress–take a win!

A note on nursing in the cradle position: Make sure you can see your baby’s face, and that your baby’s nostrils are clear and have access to plenty of fresh air.

You also need to be aware of your baby’s airway which is especially delicate in very young infants.  In order to keep the airway clear, be sure that your baby’s neck is not bent forward bringing your baby’s chin to his or her chest as that can fold the tube closed that your baby needs for air.  You should be able to fit two adult fingers between chin and chest at any time.

Where Strollers Dare Not Go: Grand Canyon

Photobucket

Babywearing at the Grand Canyon is the way to go! A stroller might be able to get to the railing overlooking the Grand Canyon, but from there all you get is a view like a postcard.  While we would love to hike through the canyon, my husband and I are saving that for when the kids are older . . . possibly moved out 😛  Today we settled for plunging down into the canyon only a short way.  Enough to get a sense of the immensity and a taste of the craggy winding way. Here’s a picture of the trail, complete with icy patches:
Steep, windy Grand Canyon Trail

So David wrapped 2 year old Annabelle in a front wrap cross carry (our 4.6 meter EllaRoo just makes it around them for this carry) and took our seven year old by the hand to help her navigate the icy trail.  I popped Cassidy (9 months) on my back in a Short Double Hammock Carry with my 3.1 meter Inka Storchenwiege  (video below) and threw a warm babywearing kindercoat over us, leaving my arms and hands free for balance, and photography (whichever seems most urgent at any given time).

Sleeping in the wrap inside the Grand Canyon
Beautiful Family, Magestic Grand Canyon, toddler babywearing!

Wrapping allowed us to get the experience we wanted, and it allowed all three of our little ones to get an experience they wouldn’t have otherwise (like sleeping through the Grand Canyon).  Because, life is for living, no matter your age, and there are endless possibilities waiting to be experienced in every juicy detail!

Wrapping and Hiking the Grand Canyon