Monday, June 9, 2014

The Other Side

I just realized I’m guilty. I’m guilty of posting about the “good things.” I’m one of those moms who posts the adorable pictures and the precious moments and paints the bland picture of happiness to my readers. So tonight I’m posting just a few sentences to say -

Being a parent is hard. It leeches you of your energy and your freedom and your sense of control and spits you back out gasping for air. Being a stay at home mom is hard. It steals away the identity you spent years molding and leaves you feeling lost. All of this is hard. You try to retain some semblance of you by showering every few days or trying to remember to put on some moisturizer; but frankly, it’s a bit of a fa├žade.

It just is. Really fucking hard. Really exhausting. Really shattering.

Each day, each week, each month. I am tired, I am lonely, I am sad.

And I am in love, in love, in love.

So that’s that. Just wanted to point out the other side.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Babywearing: From A Beginner's Perspective

Time for a purely informational post. If you’re not interested in the topic, pass on by. I’m writing it because little ol’ pregnant me stumbled across a few random blog posts on Babywearing and they were helpful, so maybe someone will find this helpful as well.

When I was about five months pregnant I went to Disneyland with a mom of a two month old baby. I had no idea what she would do at DL with a two month old baby. But when we got there, I hardly ever saw her. She was wrapped up in a Moby Wrap the entire day. I was impressed. I was intrigued. I was a bit intimidated. But I knew I needed one.

Little did I know, I would become obsessed with Babywearing. There are lots of reasons people fall in love with Babywearing. Skin to skin contact, nursing, chasing older children around, comforting a sick or teething baby, helping your baby to sleep, or just…getting some stuff done around the house! For me, I was “blessed” with a very active, mobile baby. A baby who is not easily entertained and was never happy with sitting in a swing, staring at a mobile, or just…chilling. He also is not a cuddly baby. He loves people and is very social, but cuddles require him to sit still and…well, you get the idea. Unless, I found, I was wearing him. When wearing my baby, he is soft and warm and cuddly and still and content. And lately, during his phase of trying to cruise around the furniture, when I am wearing him, he is safe.. And so, I am in love. I have bought way too many baby carriers and am a bit embarrassed by my obsession, but it is what it is. I am sold.

Oh, I should also mention that Owen never loved being in the stroller. I remember many walks where I would be pushing the stroller and carrying a crying baby. Not fun. Later we progressed to pushing a stroller and wearing a baby. Improvement? Now that he is older, he will sit in the stroller because he is able to sit up and look around, or entertain himself with a toy. But in the beginning…babywearing saved me.

It didn’t start out as love. Remember my friend with the Moby Wrap? I originally had a Moby Wrap and a Beco Gemini on my Registry. The first time I tried the Moby was a disaster. Screaming baby and all. And the Beco? Well, I look back at early pictures and realize I was wearing him much too low, in an awkward, dangly position. In fact, when looking for photos for this post I found early photos of how I wrapped him that made me cringe in embarrassment. But hey, we all start somewhere.

So I am going to take you on a short journey of what I have learned. I am by no means an expert. What I have learned I have learned through a million Youtube videos, a bunch of Babywearing Meetups, and hours of practice. I still would call myself a beginner compared to a lot of Mamas out there. But here goes….

I will start with a basic run down of safety and how-to’s and then run you through my experience with each type of carrier.

Safety

First, I should say, there is a lot of controversy regarding “good” or “safe” babywearing and the “not ergonomically correct” babywearing. I think we need to distinguish between which rules are really about “safety” and which are more about comfort. As long as your baby is really “safe,” then you can get all of the benefits of babywearing in a $20 carrier that you can get in a $500 carrier (or $1000…or $2000…yes they exist!). So, let’s not get carried away here…That being said, here are some good rules of thumb to follow.

First, you should always follow the TICKS rules. 1) Wrap baby tightly against your body. And yes, I mean tightly. It honestly feels better for you and baby if he is wrapped tightly against you. You will often find your baby will stop crying or fussing if you just tighten your carrier. 2) Keeping baby in view comes from those “bag style” baby pouches in which the fabric wraps up around baby like a cocoon. Not safe. 3) Close enough to kiss is one that I really messed up on in the beginning. My baby would be dangling down near my waist. This is because I wasn’t tightening enough to get him high enough. Not as comfy, believe me. 4) Keep chin off chest. This is extremely important. You don’t want your baby’s chin to be compressed or pointed down to his chest. It should be tilted up to allow him a clear airway. 5) Supported back. An ergonomic baby carrier allows baby’s back to round naturally, yet be supported comfortably.

Finally, you hear a lot about “the seat” in a good baby carrier. There is some research to back this up, but I am not sure it is really as serious as some fanatics will tell you. In other words, some people will tell you if you don’t have the right seat, your baby can develop hip dysplasia. Actually, based on what I’ve read, this isn’t the case as much as, if your baby is already at risk for hip problems, then a good seat is critical. Otherwise, we’re really talking about comfort here. SO…what is a good seat? A good seat is visually represented by an “M” position, meaning baby’s knees should be higher than his bottom and his bottom actually sinks down into the fabric. The fabric should extend from one knee to the other, fully supporting his bottom.

Other than that, just make sure the carriers you buy are bought from a safe source, so that you know the seams are reinforced and strong, etc, etc. Be sure if you are trying something new that you always have a spotter and always ask questions if something doesn’t feel right!

Ok, safety out of the way, let me tell you about the carriers!

Stretchy Wraps

This is where I started. A Moby Wrap is a typical example of a Stretchy Wrap, as is a K-Tan or a Boba. I think a lot of people end up buying these and then having absolutely no idea what to do with them. As in, what do I do with all of this material?? I think I would have given up if not for witnessing the babywearing magic at Disneyland. Stretchy wraps are known for being excellent for newborns. They are soft, t-shirt like cotton that allows you to pre-wrap your fabric and then slide your baby in. Once I got the hang of the stretchy wrap, I used it a lot with Owen. I especially loved nursing him in it back when he was a constant nurser in the newborn stage. My biggest mistake with the Moby was not wrapping it tight enough or high enough, meaning he usually ended up much too low. Stretchy wraps are noted for not being good as babies grow bigger because, well, they stretch. This contributed to Owen being too low as he got closer to 15 lbs. I think I stopped using it right around 15 lbs or so.

Soft Structured Carriers

Soft Structured Carriers are what most people think of when they think of baby carriers or baby backpacks. They do not have any metal or frames as you would find in a hiking backpack, making them soft, but structured. Typical SSCs include Ergo, Beco, Boba, etc. Baby Bjorns also fall into this category, but they don’t allow for the proper M-shaped seat, so some babywearers won’t buy a Bjorn.

I started with the Beco Gemini. I picked it because it allows you to face inward, face forward, put baby on your hip, or on your back. Also, it doesn’t need an infant insert like the Ergo, so you can use it right away. I loved my Beco. It was great. I used it for front facing (facing in toward me) and on my back. It was easy to use and my “go-to” for walks or when I needed something easier than the Moby. For a while, putting Owen in the Beco was my go-to for getting him down for naps as well.

Just a month or so ago, I decided Owen had outgrown the Beco. It probably would have been just fine for quite some time still (he was around 18 lbs), but with his long legs, they had begun to dangle somewhat as the carrier didn’t reach to his knees anymore. Again, just fine…but not as comfy or supported.

Conveniently, this coincided with me wanting to buy another SSC – go figure, huh? After moving to San Diego, I discovered Tula Carriers (made here in San Diego) and fell in love after trying one on. What can I say? They really are so, so much more comfortable! Owen just seems to mold into my body (either on front or back) and I hardly feel him at all, even when hiking up a mountain with 19 lbs of him on my back. The canvas is soft and moldable, supporting him, but not clunky. Plus, it’s super cute!

Tula also makes carriers that are constructed out of hand woven wrap material, which I would die for, but they are highly sought after, super expensive, and hard to get your hands on. Imagine thousands of mommies trying to vie for a chance to buy a $500 carrier. Seriously.

Ring Slings

After the Moby and the Beco Gemini, I then decided to buy a Ring Sling. I wanted something easy to just pop him into when going from the car to the store or just a quick walk to the coffee shop. I also liked the idea that I could wear him facing outward (kangaroo or Buddha carry) as he always wanted to be looking around. So I bought a Maya Wrap Ring Sling. I still use mine today. It is on the “cheaper” end of things as Ring Slings go and I may someday invest in a more expensive one (softer, stronger fabric), but for now the Maya works really well. Ring Slings are known to be good for newborns or older babies. Not so much in between. For newborns, they allow for an easy, close carry that allows you to pop baby in and out and snuggle them close. For older babies (like Owen’s age up to age 2), you can wear them on your hip. You know, like we carry our babies anyhow, but with added support. The “in between” stage where your baby is not quite a newborn but doesn’t have enough back support to sit on your hip isn’t the best stage for a wiggly baby to sit in a ring sling. We’re just getting back to where I love using it for running errands because he can sit in the sling, but still be involved in grabbing things and socializing with people as we walk about.

Woven Wraps

Ahhhh woven wraps. There could be multiple blog posts about wrapping and so I will just barely scratch the surface here. Let me just say that I love my wraps, but am definitely still a beginner so I will not try to give advice in this area. Let me just tell you my experience…

When the Moby began to get too stretchy, I had just begun to really enjoy wrapping Owen. I had also learned about hand woven wraps and saw how absolutely beautiful they were. Because of the way they are woven, these wraps are stronger and allow you to do more types of carries (i.e., back carries) and carry bigger children (up to preschoolers). There is a huge range in terms of price, quality, and fabric choices. I won’t even begin to get into allow of this. If you’re interested, start googling…

I ended up with two Wraps. I chose in terms of availability (some wraps are extremely hard to find because so few were ever made), price (I wanted to stay under $150 per wrap) and beauty (I love the vibrant blues). I ended up with two made by the same company (Girasol) and both are 100% cotton. Now, these wraps are said to not carry bigger babies as well, so there is a chance I may need to invest in a stronger fabric (linen blend perhaps) if I want to keep wrapping Owen as he grows.

But for now, I love them. Both are super soft and beautiful. I have a size 6 and a size 4, as you can do different carries with different sizes. Here are some of the carries I have learned (or am still working on!)

There really is so much you can do with a wrap. And, if you are good, you really shouldn’t need any other type of carrier. Experts wrap so quickly and efficiently and there is a different carry for every need. Need something quick and easy? Pop them on your hip? Need to cuddle a teething baby? Wrap them on your front. Need them out of your way? Slide them on your back.

For me, I usually only wrap when I’m at home, or if I want him to take a nap when we’re out in public. A wrap is guaranteed to put him to sleep. Note: This can be a good thing or a bad thing if you are trying to train a baby to sleep in his crib on a schedule!! I’ve just gotten to the point where I am learning different back carries, and believe me, they are hard. But, when he is wrapped correctly, a back carry is oh-so-neat. He feels weightless, yet close. High up enough to look over your shoulder at everything you are doing, and get out of the way so you are hands free. Plus, it just looks SO cool!

Mei Tais

Mei tais are Asian-style carriers that are sort of a cross between a structured carrier and a wrap. I bought one (I told you I am addicted!) when I was deciding whether or not to get another wrap or not. Instead, I bought a Mei Tai that is made from wrap fabric, giving you the best of both worlds. I really like my Mei Tai. It is easier than a wrap, yet softer and more adjustable than a SSC. Plus, it is pretty like a wrap! But, to be honest, I have to remind myself to use it. It is not as easy as a Ring Sling or a SSC when you are out running errands, and not as cuddly and soft as a wrap for a fussy baby. Also, I find it just as hard as wrapping a back-carry, so usually ask a spotter for help for getting him up on my back. That being said, I use it most for things like house cleaning or gardening.

And…there you have it. If you’ve read this far it’s because you probably have some interest or curiosity about babywearing. Or you are just amazed by my obsession. Believe me, it can be an addiction. I think whether or not you fall off the deep end (like me) depends on your type of baby. For Owen and I, it just “fit.” Given that I could never put him down and he’d be content in a swing/jumper/crib/etc, this allowed me snuggly time and time to get things done. The need and purpose of wearing your baby changes over time. You hear people say, “Oh, my baby hates being worn,” but I think that is also something that changes over time. If you get them used to it (may take a few times out on a walk) early on, then as they grow they also are used to being worn as part of routine. Babies who are used to being on mommy’s back can actually be worn up till around age 3 (yes, really!). Also, don’t feel overwhelmed by this post. Babywearing doesn’t have to be complicated. Just buy yourself an Ergo (or Tula!!) and try it out.

Happy Babywearing!