I’m really excited to share my first guest post on babywearing from an amazing woman whose opinion I value and trust… Amber Skye Morrisey (former Vancouver doula and babywearing educator who now lives and works in Saint John, New Brunswick!)
Babywearing is a topic that I find overwhelming as a soon-to-be mom. Realizing I can’t be the only mom-to-be confused about all the choices available for babywearing I thought I’d ask Amber for her thoughts as it would help me immensely and benefit other mamas too! Amber didn’t disappoint. This is such an informative post and really, really helps me narrow down what we need! Happy reading…
Click on the photo below to see the 1st wrap we just bought ♥
Photo Credit: mobywrap.com
You find out you are pregnant, and are filled with emotions. As your pregnancy continues, you begin the beautiful stages of planning to bring this child from your womb into your arms, and navigating all the stuff a baby may (or may not) need. If you are like many women, you’ve signed up online for gestational growth updates and are also receiving emails about the best buys for the year, must haves and basic necessities. When I see these lists, I giggle because you don’t need most of what they are calling the bare minimums. You may have a gift registry started and/or family nagging you to fill it up.
Your child needs: nourishment (breasts), warmth (your skin, and okay maybe some clothing), a place to sleep (bed sharing and co-sleeping makes the most sense for the early months), something to catch the poop, but even that doesn’t have to be bought (elimination communication is how parents respond to elimination needs all over the world, sans diapers), and something to be transported in (a baby carrier).
More and more families are choosing to buy just the basics, in an effort to reduce costs, waste, and save on space. Buying products on an “as needed” basis instead of filling your entire home with products you may not use. It makes sense. Financially, environmentally and aesthetically.
Once you catch on to the idea of choosing a few great quality products to have, instead of many products of lesser quality, you may notice that your choices available are actually increased once you start digging. Specifically for baby carriers and cloth diapering supplies. The choices and styles seem nearly endless! Making sense of it all could be a full-time job.
More people are choosing to skip over buying a stroller for the early months all together, specially those living in urban areas who get around by bus or mostly by car, or have a small apartment where space is limited. I personally think a good quality carrier is ideal for every new parent, regardless if they have a travel system or not. When the fussy period starts at 8pm pushing a stroller around isn’t on your wants list. So, what kind of carrier is a good carrier?
As a babywearing educator, I have a love for loads of carries and lots of experience. Many are great for the first few months and some are better for older children. If I had to choose just one, it would be difficult – and since we all have different needs as parents, and people I’ll give you a few of my top favourites.
A woven wrap: A woven wrap is a non-stretchy woven piece of long fabric designed to carry your baby from birth all the way to totally walking independence. The quality is top and a carrier like this will last you through your entire babywearing journey with multiple children. You can do a huge range of holds, it is the most versatile carrier you can buy. It is also one of the most expensive. I suggest a Didymos for a woven carrier. They’ve been ahead of the game for infant/child and wearers safety and all their carriers are organic. The learning curve on this carrier is higher than some of the “click and go” styles, but I think the benefit of learning to use it out weights the curve of doing it. Easy to share between users.
Update: We were gifted an Uppymama woven wrap and LOVE IT! We used it exclusively for the first 3 months with Madison and preferred it to the stretchy Moby wrap.
A stretchy wrap: An alternative to a woven wrap is a stretchy wrap (like the Moby or Boba wrap). These are a soft, T-shirt like material which have a good amount of give to them. One thing about the stretchy wrap many new parents like, is the ability to tie the wrap on first, and get it just so, then stretch it out to put the baby inside. You can leave it on, and take the baby in and out as needed. One of the biggest drawbacks, is that their “shelf life” in a babywearers career is very limited due to the stretch – as baby gets heavier the fabric isn’t able to support the weight and the begins to sag further down your body making it uncomfortable regardless of the soft material. It isn’t nearly as supportive as a woven wrap, but the price point and availability is fantastic. The learning curve is similar to any wrap, but a bit easier for many as the stretch makes it a bit more forgiving – as long as it isn’t too loose. If you are able to borrow one, you’ll likely get lots of use out of this carrier for around 6 months. Easy to share between users.
A ring sling: An all time favourite with many babywearers, this was one of the first commercially marketed baby carriers. It too is made from a woven fabric (most are at least), but instead of wrapping the fabric around your body, it has been pre-strung through 2 weight tested metal rings. The learning curve is lower than a wrap, but so is the versatility as you can only wear it on one shoulder – making long term use more difficult on your body as your baby gets heavier. This is my “go to” carrier (Maya Wrap), and much loved. It’s easy to use, just put over one shoulder like the strap of a side bag, and put baby inside the pouch using the tail ends to adjust the hold. Adjusting the hold takes some getting used to, but once you know how it works, it makes it a very fast and easy way to put baby on, adjust and go. The price is moderate, and they are easy to find in great condition used. Easy to share between users.
A soft structured carrier: Traditionally a rectangle piece of fabric with straps from all 4 corners used to tie on the baby. Different areas around the world have their own styles of carrier (Mei-Tai and Podaegi for example) and here in North America a common “modern” carrier in this style is called a Soft Structure Carrier which takes the traditional and adds a number of modifications to make it suit the market, some modifications may include; padding, pockets, buckles, clips, toy holders, key rings, sleeping/sun/rain hoods, foot support, and additional supplies like fanny packs, change mats and more! These carriers are very popular among fathers and mothers alike, and seem to meet the desire for many to not have to tie knots, and rely on more of an outdoor backpack style. The price point is higher than a ring-sling, or stretchy wrap and comparable to a woven wrap (depending on which brand you buy, sales, and shipping). The benefit to many is the “click and go” aspect. You put on the waist band, put baby inside and put the straps over your shoulders like a backpack and adjust the straps by pulling on the tabs. They are pretty static, and the versatility is limited compared to a wrap. You can wear on your front, or your back, or your side, but the position of the straps/waist is unchanging. A benefit to many is the two-shoulder set up and balance between weight on your shoulders and hips. Most can be used from birth (some with an additional insert you need to buy) to toddlerhood making it a good buy for your money. I find it a great carrier to use when carrying multiple children at once, but that is another post! Easy to share between users – although strap extenders may need to be purchased as the standard size is pretty limited. Try a Boba or an Ergo.
Update: We love our Ergo and from 3+ months it’s been our go-to carrier as it’s quick and easy to get her in and out. I just won a Boba carrier in a contest so I’m excited to discover which one I like better!
A note on “crotch danglers”: There are a number of carriers available on the market that we may conjure up in our minds as “baby carriers”, they are most often forward facing, thin padded straps and the baby dangles by its body weight from the crotch region. Often sold at boutiques and big stores alike. I do not suggest these. They are ergonomically incorrect for baby, as they put enormous pressure on the lower spine and when toward facing, the entire spine. The weight should be evenly spread from the knee-pit to knee-pit in any carrier. Some name brands are Bjorn, Snuggly and Infantino. These brands are trying to catch up to the market as more and more literature comes out pointing out issues with hip and spine development – I suggest buying from a company that had safety and comfort as a first and foremost from the start.
Many carriers come with an instruction DVD and/or instructional booklet, plus online website instructions. I suggest reading it through twice before trying, and see if they have any support videos. If you run into trouble in the early days, try your baby on when settled, and ask an experienced baby wearer for support. Alternatively, look to see if their is an experienced baby wearer or babywearing educator in your community who teaches classes. I urge parents to avoid the temptation of YouTube, as an educator I see some very dangerous carrying videos, it can be hard to tell who is teaching safely, and who is sharing how they accidentally wear dangerously. (Note from Crystal: Check out the Marsupial Mamas babywearing group in Vancouver.)
I hope this brief run through of some of my most recommended styles of carriers for length of use, wearability between users, and cost is helpful to keeping the amount of stuff we buy down, and simplify our homes and lives with a new baby. All of the carriers above support heart to heart closeness (and skin-to-skin if you dress mama and baby down underneath) to regulate breathing, temperature, reduce crying, reduce stress hormones and promote easy access to the breast (although some people need a bit of time and practice to work out easily being able to breastfeed while babywearing). I wish you a beautiful journey through babywearing!
Amber Skye Morrisey is a Babywearing Educator, Doula, Childbirth Educator, Student Midwife, Reiki Practitioner and Placenta Encapsulator. She blogs on a number of natural living topics at www.birthroutes.com and tries to spread her love of caring for children safely, instinctively and with consciousness.