Saturday, February 9, 2008

Baby Wearing

The advantages of Baby Wearing
My daughters are both walking. At the ages of 2 and 3, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to strut around with them strapped on. But yesterday we were in the check-out line and the woman behind me was wearing her son on her back. Memories of what that was like flooded back to me. It's something I really miss and that I look forward to should we have another baby.

Babies get pulled out of the lap of luxury and thrust into the bright scary world. When babies are lugged around in those two-million pound car seat inserts, and put directly into compatible strollers, it's understandable that they would experience feelings of confusion and insecurity. Sure, a lot of them feel at home in those things pretty quickly, but other times it seems like the crying will never stop.

When you wear your baby, the baby moves with your body. She feels your breathing, your heartbeat, and is calmed by your voice. They move with your body, just like they did with your wife pre-extraction. Also, you generally have full use of your hands and can go places where a stroller cannot fit. It really opened up the world of hiking to us while we still had young kids. The closeness and contact that your baby experiences with you make them happier little people.

If you're a new father--or mother--you should know about the advantages of baby wearing. But, unless you've snooped around or have experienced friends or family, you probably aren't aware of the variety of baby wearing options opened to you or how great it can be to practice. This is something often overlooked in the early years and it's not likely that friends and family shoved baby carriers at you during any baby-shower like activities. It's something that you never, ever see portrayed as a part of parenting in the media. In the media, babies are synonymous with bottles and tank-sized strollers. And, the right baby wearing equipment, for whatever reason, isn't available at the big baby stores like Babies-R-Us.

Here are a list of baby wearing options that worked for us, and a warning against those that just didn't:

1. The Moby Wrap
This is maybe the greatest invention of all time. It's a long piece of fabric that has a good amount of stretchiness and elasticity. It wraps around your body several times and essentially joins the baby to your body. It's hard to do at first, but after a couple times I was able to put it on myself without any outside help. You may feel kind of silly wearing it at first, and you draw lots of attention to yourself out in public. But the weight is distributed so well that you don't feel the baby at all. And for newborns, the head is fully supported giving you both hands to deal with a toddler, should you have one. When our daughter, Luna, would get fussy at home or in a restaurant, we would simply strap her into this and she'd fall asleep. You can use them in a variety of ways, from the stomach to the back and several hip positions. But all of these different ways have to be practiced and learned. We bought ours a mobywrap.com, but there are other places and if you or your wife is industrious, you can save the $30 by making your own pretty easily. Trust me on this one, a moby wrap is the single best acquisition you can make with a new born.

2. The Mei Tei
Don't as me what the proper pronunciation is, but I alway say "My-Tie." I've heard "May-Tie" and even "My-Tay." Whatever the case, this was my favorite carrier for a really long time. We got ours from Babyhawk because we really liked their different patterns. But we've since seen some from other places that looked great, too. They run about $85 (!) and are worth every penny. They tie around your back, strap over your shoulders, and have a wide square of fabric that keeps the baby against your body. You can easily use this is a front or back carrier. Our babies enjoyed both ways immensely. It is easier to put on than the Moby and is better for an older baby and well into toddler years. It was rare that a baby felt too heavy on these large straps.

3. The Ergo or Beco
We bought an Ergo very late in our parenthood. They are very similar to the Mei Tei, but easier to use for some people and much easier to get the baby on your back by yourself. The large straps clip on so you don't have to tie them. I, personally, didn't find it as comfortable than the Mei Tei, but my wife loved it with a passion and wouldn't be caught dead without it. We got ours from the Ergo site, but I really love the ones I've seen at the Beco site. I was recently told not to buy from Ergo for some reason that I think pertained to labor practices, but I don't know a thing about it so I couldn't tell you what to think. One major disadvantage of this type of carrier is the price, about $95. That's pretty expensive, but you can get a lot of use out of it.

4. The Ring Sling
This is the standard baby carrier. It straps over one shoulder and the baby lies in it like you're carrying him in your arms. For some reason, we didn't have a lot of luck with ours. It could be that we had too many other options and didn't end up using it enough to get into a good rhythm. We bought our very beautiful one from sleepingbaby. net. Again, if you have any sewing skills, it's easy to make one. In fact, I think sleepingbaby has instructions on how to make your own.

Ones to stay away from:

1. The Comfort Sling
The comfort sling is a lot like the ring sling, but it's supposed to be more comfortable. Instead, they're bigger, bulkier, and hot. You'll sweat. It's gross.

2. The Baby Bjorn and the Snuggly
These aren't as comfortable as any of my above recommendations. The weight is distributed all wrong and the baby feels like she is hanging in front of you without any support. Plus, the design of these carriers puts undue strain on the baby's crotch and can cause circulation issues. Someone will buy you one of these and I recommend asking for the gift receipt.

Naturally, every baby is different and your experiences may vary. As you can see above, we ended up liking the baby wearing enough to buy lots of different models for different uses and spent a lot of money. It's possible to cut that money down by making your own or limiting yourself to one or two of them. But it's still a practice that dad's and mom's love when they try it out. Check out the shot of my adorned with my girls thanks to the mei tei on the about the author page.

I'd love to hear any other experiences out there about baby wearing. Comment away.

10 comments:

Huckdoll said...

Wow, it's amazing finding a daddy who is so into the parenting thing!

I have twins, so it was very hard to carry them both around, but I did use a Bjorn for awhile and it totally sucked. It killed my back and was very uncomfortable. Personally, I think Bjorns are a label thing, kind of like the Bugaboo strollers and such. Thankfully, I received mine as a gift and was able to sell it for a good price.

Amber said...

I wore my daughter up until she was about 1. After 1 she was miss independent and wanted to walk. I can not wait to wear our new born when he makes his arrival in March. I will be using my hotsling with him (which is light pink.) My husband saw a lady wearing her daughter at a wrestling tournament the other weekend and thought it was so cool. It was one of those store bought backpack ones. I told him I would get him a MeiTie (sp?) specially made for him. I think I will still do that and present it to him after the baby arrives. =o)

Wynnie said...

I have actually found the best of the older kid options to be the buckle-tai style carriers. They buckle like the Ergo, but have the strap style of the Mei Tai. I like it because I can criss-cross the straps for more support like a Mei Tai, but I get the ease of the buckles of the Ergo. Awesome stuff. I just bought another carrier because I still wear my 18 month old semi often (especially now that it's cold and flu season and I have a clingy, sick toddler) and get upset when my favorite carrier isn't where I need it at that moment.

Innocence Underrated said...

I also found that a regular sling (like Native Carrier and such) work well for newborn wearing (cradle position) and now that my son is 8 months I use it to hold him on my hip. I didn't have much luck figuring out how to wear him facing out in a regular sling, but the hip is good too.

Amber said...

I think it's awesome that you're a BW'ing papa...and that you're promoting it and helping others learn...thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

you should add woven wraps like
Storchenwiege, Bebina, Hoppediz, Walter's Organic, Didymos, Girasol, Lana, etc. They are even better than the Moby Wrap because they don't stretch, stretch and then stretch some more. More secure for baby and more support for mom and dad.

Christina said...

I am a huge fan of attachment parenting. I had to endure the trauma of the Bjorn I was gifted for my shower before a friend from our baby sign class turned me on to the Ergo. It literally changed my life. My baby girl loves it and it keeps her close, the way I like it:-)

I was also looking for an entry on co-sleeping as that's what we've chosen to do and would like to read your thoughts on it. I was recently derided by some 'friends' who are also parents who basically think the concept is idiotic and good for nothing but smothering babies (both physically and emotionally).

Sol Smith said...

Christina-

I happen to be a fan of cosleeping. We dealt with it a few months ago in this post: http://www.badassdad.com/2008/09/co-sleeping.html
We are doing it with our new daughter and my wife especially is in love with it this time around. Personally, I don't think it to be emotionally smothering. After doing it, it's hard to imagine putting her in a room all by herself! It seems so lonely and sad, Who wants to be by themselves at night?

Tamsin Michelle said...

I'm surprised you rate the bjorn so low! I LOVE it and have worn both my babies in it and never had any back problems. It's so comfy!!

Sol Smith said...

Tamsin-

The Bjorn puts undue stress on the baby's crotch. Those and the snugli both make the baby hang by the space between her legs. The above mentioned wraps and carriers all bind the baby to your body, making it much more comfortable for the child. In many cases they are harder to put on than the Bjorn, but in all cases they are healthier.