Vegan Babies and Toddlers
My World of Wearing
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by Heather Ethriedge
As a young mother, I was given a padded ring sling called an "Over the Shoulder Baby Holder" from an experienced mother and loving friend. She raved about how her little Lindsey nursed in it and slept in it and how it was the best parenting tool she had found. I quickly tried it on but couldn't really get it to work. So, I resorted to a stroller and then to a metal framed backpack. My daughter, Kailee, and I took two walks daily in our (then) warm state of Arizona. If I had known how to get that particular sling to work, I can only imagine how much easier my life would have been.
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Four years later Dalton was born. I was very determined to wear him in that padded sling so that I could still spend lots of time with Kailee. I thought (correctly) that it would reduce sibling rivalry. I made the sling work. I wore it backwards! Truthfully it worked quite well for about four months. At that point, I had dropped 40 of the 60 pounds that I had gained during my pregnancy. Now I couldn't get the sling to tighten enough on me. A friend and I decided to make one with flannel fabric and craft rings (side note: Do NOT make one with craft rings! I never had a problem but they are obviously not for ring slings!) I used that sling happily for over a year and a half.
By this time Dalton was about two years old and I stumbled onto the website called The Baby Wearer and discovered that there were hundreds of companies making slings like mine (without padding and an open tail). Then I discovered other carriers called pouches, wraps and mei tai's. WOW! Was I amazed. I even found that there are thousands of people who wear their babies! My friend, who is a more experienced sewer, made me a mei tai for Dalton. We had been using the metal framed backpack for walks but he no longer fit into it comfortably for either one of us. The mei tai was like another dream come true (after my beloved sling). I carried him in that for a two mile hike and we both loved it! I have two philosophies about the different carriers: one: I wish I had found out about them sooner and two: I'm glad I didn't or I would have spent a lot of money on all the wonderful types that are available!
Different Types of Carriers
Soft pack carriers
Most new mothers and parents have seen constructed soft pack carriers such as the Baby Bjorn and Snuggli. These are readily available at all baby stores and are usually put on the parent's wish list. They are two shouldered carriers with buckles and straps for adjustability. It can be used in the front with the baby facing in or out. This type can work for most people but for a limited amount of time. Quite quickly it can start to be uncomfortable for the wearer and the baby once the baby gets about 15 pounds or two/three months.
Another type of soft pack is called a mei tai or asian baby carrier (ABC). These are also two shouldered carriers with straps or buckles for adjustability. These are different in the fact that the baby is against the wearer and then tied on, whereas in the Bjorn or Snuggli the baby is put into the carrier itself and hangs by a narrow piece of fabric. Mei tai's and ABC's can be work on the front or back and have a long life span (I've carried Kailee in it when she was seven and it was just as comfortable as doing a piggy back ride).
This is a tube of fabric that slips over one shoulder and makes a cocoon for the baby. It's very versatile and is a good carrier for beginning baby wearers. These are good carriers because you wear the baby in their natural position whether that may be up and down like you would hold them during burping or in the cradle/nursing position. The trick is to get the right size to fit you and your baby perfectly. The downsize is that it's not adjustable (although there are a few companies that make them with snaps so you can make them a bit larger or smaller).
This is a long piece of fabric that also slips over one shoulder and makes a cocoon for the baby. It is a bit more versatile because rings are sewn into it to make it adjustable. It can be worn by many different sized caregivers and can do all of the same positions as the pouch and maybe a couple of more. My first ring sling (Over the Shoulder Baby Holder) was padded in the shoulder and on the rails. You can also purchase some that are padded just in the shoulder area and some that have no padding at all. It comes down to personal preference. For me, I found that once I tried the non-padded I found it less cumbersome and more lightweight.
This is a piece of fabric between two and five yards in length that is wrapped around you and the baby in a variety of positions. Many cultures have used this instinctively to go about their daily lives. They had cloth and they used it to put their babies on to them. This has been going on since the beginning of time. This type of carrier has a bit higher of a learning curve but many people love it for its versatility and the fact that it can be two shouldered.
With my son, Dalton, I knew in my heart of hearts that wearing him would be good. At first I thought it was only because it was convenient. I soon came to realize that, yes, it was convenient but there were so many other benefits!
It's convenient: Babies need and want to be held. With little ones, they are so wobbly, you need at least one hand, if not both to hold them. When you use a sling to keep them close to you, you will have two hands free. Slings can be worn anywhere: at home, at the store, at a restaurant, at the library, at church, school, at the doctor's office, etc.
Keeps the baby happy and content: Studies have shown that babies that are held are more content, cry less, and don't show signs of colic as often as babies that are not held. In other cultures that regularly carry/wear their babies, colic does not exist. Worn babies have a more regular respiratory rate, heart rate and internal temperature.
In our daily life (through the media and other well-meaning adults) we hear about why we shouldn't spoil a baby. But, think of life the way a baby sees it. He/she just spent nine months in a soft, cozy, warm environment. All of a sudden he/she is pushed out (rather abruptly) into this bright, loud atmosphere. All the baby wants is for someone to cuddle him/her and make him/her feel safe. This is usually in sync with a woman's natural instinct. Think about how when you were pregnant, you just wanted to see and hold your baby. Well, now you can. Our society thinks that we need to constantly put our babies down and let them cry it out. Babies don't cry to manipulate us. They cry to communicate with us. They might be feeling lonely or sad or scared or hungry or wet. They don't want to be ignored. Dr William Sears says that worn babies will cry 40-50% less. What an idea! Who wouldn't want their babies to cry less!
Helps babies to thrive and grow: According to Dr. Sears, babies (especially babies with failure to thrive and premature babies) spend less time crying when they are being held. So, instead of crying, they can focus their time on growing. Motion has a calming effect on babies. The close proximity also increases feeding frequency, which will obviously produce a growing baby! Research shows that babywearing promotes growth hormones and body enzymes that enhance growth.
Enhances learning: While the baby is being held, he/she is up at an adult level. The baby can see and hear what is going on around him/her. This causes the baby to have more awake time called quiet alertness. This is when a baby is content and can interact with the environment around him/her. According to Dr. Sears this is the optimal state of learning for a baby. Research shows that carried babies show enhanced visual and auditory alertness. Baby wearing also increases bonding time with the person carrying them.
When babies are carried they spend less time laying in hard plastic car seats and swings. This reduces the risk of plagiocephaly (asymmetrical head shape).
Transitioning between different activities is easier on both parent and baby: When a baby is used to being held in a carrier, he/she can go from car to store to car without waking up and feeling disoriented. As long as he/she can smell mom or dad they will feel safe and secure and won't care where they are. Many times babies who are in strollers or facing out in front structured carriers can get over stimulated quite quickly. If they are snuggled up in a natural position carrier, they can sleep and eat with very little distraction.
This idea also goes to babies that are in day care. If their mom/dad hold them at home, they will love having that same atmosphere at day care and they will enjoy all of the above benefits.
Here are some great babywearing sites:
TheBabyWearer.com - a plethora of information and support all to do with babywearing!
Mamatoto.org & WearYourBaby.com - great sites that will help you learn how to make and use a wrap. They also list people in your area that teach babywearing classes or offer babywearing help.
NineInNineOut.org - a non profit organization whose main purpose is to offer babywearing help through different groups. See if there is one in your area.
SleepingBaby.net/jan/Baby/index - for help on making any sort of carrier that you want.
Have fun learning how to wear your baby. The benefits will last a lifetime!