Keep them close

Reviews and information about babywearing, slings, wraps and carriers for keeping your baby close and content


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Having a baby? Consider a stretchy wrap.

Before I really even understood what babywearing was all about, or had any idea of how it would become such an important part of my life, I bought a Hug-a-Bub stretchy wrap to carry my five-week old son. Looking back, it was probably the catalyst for what has turned into a life changing babywearing journey for my family and me.

Stretchy wraps are seriously comfortable. When my daughter grew out of the Hug-a-Bub I felt genuinely sad that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy those comfy stretchy wrap cuddles again, despite continuing to carry her in a variety of other carriers and wraps. There is nothing quite like it, in my opinion.

Stretchy wraps are suitable from birth to around 8kg (with a few exceptions, that I’ll note below). The manufacturers often state they are suitable to 10 or 15kg, and while you can technically carry that weight in them, it’s not particularly comfortable for the wearer for long periods, as the stretch creates too much sag with such a heavy weight. So, for most babies, this is around four to five months of age.

If you haven’t tried a stretchy wrap, I can see that four to five months doesn’t sound like a very long time to be able to use a wrap you’ve just invested your hard earned cash in. And while I agree it does sound that way, I feel that the comfort of a stretchy wrap makes it a worthwhile investment for those important first few months of bonding with your new baby.

Many new babywearers can be apprehensive about a long wrap, unsure if they can use it correctly, and think a buckle carrier like an Ergo or Tula would be easier. But for a newborn, the Ergo and Tula require a separate insert, which can be fiddly and hard to get baby seated correctly. It can take a fair bit of practice to get right – at least as much practice, if not more, than learning to tie a stretchy wrap. And once you’ve learned how to tie it, I think a stretchy wrap is actually quicker and easier to use than an Ergo or Tula with a newborn; you can even pre-tie it before you go out and just pop baby in at your destination.

I will admit, there is one downside of a traditional stretchy wrap – they can be quite warm to wear in the hotter months. In most parts of Australia, if your baby is born in November or December, I would probably suggest you consider a ring sling or woven wrap, or look into some of the thinner stretchy wraps on the market, given your four to five months of use will be through the hottest parts of the year. And similarly if you live somewhere in the tropics where it is hot and humid all year round – there may be better options for you. But for everyone else, I really do recommend considering a stretchy wrap for your newborn.

So what stretchy wrap options are there on the market?

Hug-a-Bub, Moby and Boba (formerly called Sleepy) wraps are three of the most well known brands in Australia. While fundamentally the same, they have slight differences. The Boba is probably the stretchiest of the three, which can mean it starts to sag at a lower weight than the others, the Moby is quite wide, particularly compared with the Hug-a-Bub, which can mean it needs to be folded with a small baby, and the Hug-a-Bub has a version with a pocket on the front, which is handy because the wrap then folds up into the pocket (with a drawstring) for easy transport. Another similar brand, popular in the UK, is Kari Me.

All four of these wraps are made from reasonably thick jersey that is warm to wear in the hottest months of the year. For a stretchy wrap that is a bit lighter, try the Solly wrap or Hana wrap. Or for an Australian made brand, check out Designer Baby Wrap – stocks are low at the moment, but it’s worth keeping an eye on this new brand and supporting an Australian business. And Stop Press! I’ve just discovered that Moby intends to bring out a bamboo blend lightweight stretchy wrap very soon, so keep that in mind too.

Another option in the stretchy wrap market is what is known as a hybrid stretch wrap. The hybrid nature of the wrap means that while it has all the great qualities of a stretchy wrap, it has a firmer hold, which means you can generally use it for longer, as it will remain supportive to a heavier weight. Three of the most popular hybrid stretchy wraps on the market are the Ergo wrap, the Wrapsody Hybrid and the Je Porte Mon BeBe (JPMBB). The Ergo and JPMBB are quite thick wraps, while the Wrapsody is much lighter weight.

And if you are still concerned about learning how to manage all that fabric, there are a couple of alternative stretchy carrier options. The Caboo is like a pre-sewn stretchy wrap with rings for adjusting the tightness. The Baby K’tan is three pre-sewn stretch sections that you wear arranged in the same fashion as you would tie a stretchy wrap. The Baby K’tan is not adjustable, and comes in different sizes. It is important that you get the right size; if it is too big it will not be safe. In my opinion, you would be better off learning to tie a wrap than trying to get the right fit with a Baby K’tan.

Lastly, it is possible to make your own stretch wrap. You can buy 5 metres of stretch jersey from the fabric store and then half it lengthways to get the right width (so you’ll end up with two wraps). It won’t need to be hemmed as jersey wont fray.

Three different stretchy wrap

From left: Hug-a-Bub with pocket, Wrapsody Hybrid in Wish design exclusive to Angelrock Baby, and a Moby with print design

How do you wear a stretchy wrap?

As with all wraps and carriers, following TICKS guidelines is important. A stretchy wrap needs to be tied tight enough so baby is close enough to kiss. Use the stretch of the fabric to put baby in, rather than leaving slack in the fabric.

It is also important with stretchy wraps that the carry includes three layers of fabric, as baby can push back against the stretch of the fabric which they can’t do with a woven material. The carry used for stretchy wraps that creates three layers is called Pocket Wrap Cross Carry. With the Baby K’tan, it is imperative that the third horizontal cross pass is always used as the third layer, not just the two cross passes. Note: another pre-sewn stretch carrier called Yoli and Otis has recently been marketed, but as far as I can tell it does not have a third horizontal pass so I do not recommend it.

Stretchy wraps should also never be used for a back carry, and while you may see instructions on how to use a stretch wrap for a front facing carry, I don’t recommend it. Similarly, some stretch wraps provide instructions on keeping a newborn babies feet inside the cross passes for the first few weeks, rather than putting legs through the cross passes. I don’t recommend this either, the secure seat is created by the legs going through the cross passes and the fabric sitting behind the knees of the baby; without this I don’t feel the seat is as secure.

The stretch-hybrid wraps however are an exception to some of these rules. Due to the hybrid nature of the fabric, they can be used for back carries, and you can use a front wrap cross carry rather than a pocket wrap cross carry if you prefer.

And one last point about safety. While stretchy wraps can be used from newborn, special care needs to be taken with premature babies, and the three layers of fabric may be too much for a premature baby, especially if they have breathing issues, so please, if you do have a premature baby, speak with other babywearers experienced with premmies before deciding on the carrier you will use.

Did you use a stretchy wrap with your newborn? Do you have a favourite brand?


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Babywearing: what’s it really all about?

In the crazy online world we inhabit these days, it is easy to get caught up in the hype of the next wrap release, or in chasing our DISO (desperately in search of) HTF (hard to find) WC (wrap conversion) that we absolutely MUST have. And in itself, there is nothing wrong with this. The collection of babywearing items like wraps and carriers is a hobby, just like collecting any other objects of desire.

It’s been almost one year since I wrote my first blog post, where I outlined the reasons why babywearing can be a great tool for any parents. It seems timely to take a step back from the hype and reflect on what babywearing is all about; how we ended up in this community in the first place. And that is our babies.

I recently attended the Australian Babywearing Conference in Adelaide, where we were lucky enough to hear a keynote session by the founder of the Canadian Babywearing School, Arie Brentnall-Compton. Arie was inspiring, I took so much from her speech, more than I could have even imagined, and as a result I’ve been reinvigorated to continue working to promote babywearing, when earlier this year I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be part of this community now that my youngest (and last) child is two.

Keynote speaker at babywearing conference

Arie Brentnall-Compton addresses delegates at the Australian Babywearing Conference 2015

This inspiration comes from being reminded about what babywearing really is all about, and that is carrying your baby. Babies are born expecting to be held, but in this modern world, they often spend a lot of time in prams, swings, bouncers, bumbos and a multitude of other things marketers love to push on new parents. And while each of these things might have a place in helping you care for your baby, there is a definite need to see the amount of time babies are held by their parents increase across modern society as a whole.

Arie strongly advocates for carrying of babies to become normalised and for old-fashioned notions of spoiling babies by holding them too much to become a footnote in the history books. Babywearing plays a part in this because carrying your baby in your arms can make it hard to get on with the rest of your busy life. While you’re holding your baby you can’t make dinner, or shower, or play properly with your other children. As many a new mother with a newborn will attest, you can feel trapped in your own home by a baby that will not be put down without much crying and unhappiness (from both the baby and the parents!). So wraps and carriers are the tool that allows you to do what your baby needs you to do (carry them), but still get on with your life.

So why is carrying your baby important?

foodspoilsbabiesdont

Carrying your baby is the biological norm. The fourth trimester has become a popular concept in parenthood recently, and for good reason. Moving from life in the womb to life in the big, wide world is pretty confronting for a helpless newborn who really should have stayed inside for a bit longer if it wasn’t for the size of its skull. Staying close to mum or dad (or other caregiver) is where baby can feel safe and secure and gain an understanding of the world and their place in it. Babies are born to be worn.

Arie shared an interesting perspective on helping people to understand why babywearing is important. She talked us through a day in the life of a new mother, and how babywearing fits into that day.

In the morning, a mother needs to eat breakfast. Carrying her baby in a carrier allows her to make herself breakfast and finish eating while also meeting her baby’s needs. A proper diet is important for a mother’s well-being and also in establishing breast milk supply. Skin-to-skin contact with her baby also assists in establishing breastfeeding.

Brushing her teeth, brushing her hair, putting on some lipstick even – looking after herself is important. Not having the time to look after herself is a risk factor for post-natal depression. Babywearing allows her to meet her baby’s need to be held while allowing her to do a few small things for herself as well.

The dog needs to be walked. Walking the dog while pushing a pram is difficult, if not impossible. Babywearing helps get a mother (and her dog) out of the house for some much needed exercise. Exercise, even just walking, can have as positive an impact on mild to moderate depression as medication.

Next is a trip to the health care clinic for baby’s check up. The car capsule is awkward and difficult to carry. It is not recommended that babies remain in capsules outside of the car. It can lead to a flat head and even positional asphyxiation. Popping baby into a carrier means baby stays calm during the visit and mum has her hands free.

Witching hour. Arsenic hour. Whatever you call it, there’s that time of the afternoon or evening when baby just cries for no apparent reason. Research has shown that babies that are carried will cry less (Hunziker UA, Garr RG. Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 1986, 77:641-648). Crying babies can have a serious impact on family life. Arie pointed out that babies who are most likely to be shaken are those that are crying inconsolably. She also suggested that securely attached fathers are less likely to abuse their children, and also less likely to abuse their children’s mother. Babywearing can help fathers bond with their babies.

Time for bed. When baby sleeps badly, everyone sleeps badly, and this can have a negative impact on families and relationships. Babywearing can help to settle your baby, and promote longer periods of sleep. And sleep begets sleep.

Babywearing can be instrumental in improving breastfeeding rates and reducing post-natal depression. It can help develop stronger family bonds and securely attached children. The method of carrying your baby isn’t very important, as long as it’s done safely. Babywearing really is about the practice, not the product.

I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but each of us can make a difference in helping babywearing become widely accepted in the community. Let’s normalise carrying your baby. Let’s aim for mothers-to-be to see babywearing everywhere and understand that it is just what you do when you have a baby.

Are you promoting babywearing in your community? Tell me how!


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Is babywearing for you?

Welcome to my blog! I’m here to share some information I’ve learned on my babywearing journey – I want to help other parents and carers to enjoy some of the many benefits of keeping your baby close. Before I get started, for simplicity I am going to use the word “carrier” on this blog to mean any device you use to carry your baby, whether it be a wrap, sling, mei tai or structured carrier.

I think one of the greatest misconceptions about babywearing is that it is complicated, and I completely understand that, it does involve a bit of learning and can seem a bit overwhelming at first. But absolutely anyone can do it, whether you’re a first time mum, only finding out about it with your fourth child or even if you’re a grandparent wanting to bond with your beautiful grandchild. And babywearing isn’t just for “crunchy” mums or “hippies”, I wouldn’t use either of those words to describe myself – it doesn’t matter what parenting style you ascribe to, if you want to wear your baby you can!

So why babywear? There are many major selling points for babywearing, but you don’t really need any other reason than because you want to.

babywearing

If you’re still not sure about it, or need to convince your husband/wife/significant other, here’s a few good reasons you might like to consider:

Having your hands free to do something other than hold your baby

Sure, snuggling your baby is one of the best parts of being a parent, but unfortunately there are many other things that need your attention, particularly if you have other children. Babywearing means you can have your hands free to get on with your day when your baby just wont be put down, or you want to keep them close to you when you’re out and about. I don’t know about you, but trying to push my enormous pram down the tiny aisles at my local IGA supermarket and only being able to buy what I could fit in the pram was one of first things that turned me towards babywearing!

Calming that fractious, unhappy baby who just wont be put down

The witching hour. Arsenic hour. Call it what you like, but there will nearly always be that one time of the day (or night!) when your baby is crying, can’t be consoled and wont let you put them down. Invariably this is time you need to make dinner or help your other children with their homework! Wearing your baby during these times can help your baby stay calm and hopefully cry less.

Convenience

One of the biggest reasons I started babywearing was convenience. I lived in a house with stairs up to the front door and more stairs inside – I couldn’t just push the pram out the front door onto the footpath, and getting the pram in and out of the car was a massive pain. It was so much easier to just wrap baby up and head out for some much needed fresh air. I also had to do school pick ups and drop offs, and I soon found that babywearing was the quickest and easiest way to get this done, because let’s face it, car capsules are just not designed for comfortable carrying, and did I mention I hated getting the pram out of the car?

Bonding with your bundle

Holding your baby close to your body is an amazing bonding opportunity for you and your baby. It is also great for dads to babywear as, particularly if mum is breastfeeding, it can be hard for dad to get quality one-on-one time with bub, and sometimes mum needs a break too! Even when baby gets older, babywearing is still a great way to enjoy cuddles with your child when they start to spend more and more of their time running away from you!

That’s not an exhaustive list, and you’ll probably have your own reasons to add, but hopefully that’s enough to help you feel confident to get started.

Still not sure? Had negative comments from others? Despite people all over the world carrying their babies while they work and look after their families for eons, there still seems to be a sometimes vocal component of society that doesn’t understand babywearing and may admonish you about your choice. Whether it be your Aunt Maud, a stranger on the street, or even doubting voices in your head, here’s some myth-busting about babywearing.

Is baby safe in there?

There have been some very sad and scary stories in the media about deaths occurring as a result of babywearing, and it has rightly made people act with caution. But it is important to remember that babywearing is much like anything else with your children, if it is done correctly it is safe. The babywearing mantra is TICKS, and applies no matter what kind of carrier you are using.

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Always adhere to the TICKS guidelines when babywearing, and seek advice from a more experienced babywearer if you’re unsure.

Carrying my baby all the time will spoil her

Parenting has come a long way since the 1950s when children were to be seen but not heard. It is now well understood that babies need to be responded to and held when they cry, and that carrying your baby (whether in arms or using a carrier) helps them to feel safe and secure, which is important for healthy emotional development. If you are feeling pressured to put your baby down when you don’t want to by well-meaning relatives or friends, try this line: “Food spoils, babies don’t”.

I can’t carry my baby anymore, she’s too heavy

If your child wants to be carried, there is a carrier on the market that will suit – whether you have a 3kg newborn or an 18kg pre-schooler. Chances are though, they’re not going to be the same carrier. There are so many different options on the market these days, that if you feel your child is too heavy for the carrier you are using, it is probably just time to upgrade to something more suitable for your child’s age and weight so you can continue to comfortably carry your child for as long as they will let you!

She’ll never learn to walk if you carry her all the time

Just like breastfeeding, there are people out there who seem to think that past a certain age you shouldn’t be carrying your child anymore. I’m hoping that with babywearing becoming more and more popular this opinion will start to wane, as I’ve never heard anyone comment that a child will never learn to walk if you push them around in the pram all the time!

Ready to get started? Facebook has a plethora of groups and pages dedicated to babywearing with amazing communities of people willing to share knowledge and advice with new babywearers around the globe. In Australia, check out the Baby Wearing Buy Sell Swap Facebook group for information, advice and sales of all sorts of carriers. Most Australian capitals and some regional areas have local babywearing groups that have Facebook pages and regular meet ups where you can get advice in person. Not on Facebook? There are a number of online retailers dedicated to babywearing, check out my useful links. Bricks and mortar baby stores also generally have a few different babywearing options to choose from, and staff who can show you the ropes.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Happy babywearing!