Babywearing question: Does wearing baby facing out limit babywearing?

November 30, 2008 § 4 Comments

Trisha commented on my last post about babywearing and wanted to know if I had any more thoughts on wearing baby facing out. Trisha said:

I personally don’t agree with a small baby facing out when in a busy place. On one hand, I applaud the parent for holding the child close, (as opposed to facing out far away in a stroller) but the positioning for both parent and child- so uncomfortable looking! In my experience, parents who use only front-facing don’t babywear very long. What do you think?

I’ll give you a theory that bilingual papi and I share and then address the question about length of babywearing. Our theory goes that families may find that wearing a baby is handier than putting them in a stroller. However, being a stroller society where distancing ourselves from our children becomes a way of giving mom a break, we want to have the carrier mimic the stroller. Having baby up against your chest where you notice every inhale and every wiggle may not be part of what a mother thought she’d be feeling. It may be too much for a mother (or father) to have baby staring up at them, mirroring their fears or anxiety. When you wear a baby, you’re more likely to interact with them. You’re more likely to hold their bodies, all curled up in fabric. You’re more likely to feel them breathe on your body. This may just be too much. In other words, facing baby out is a way to mimic a stroller while still holding them close.

Although I absolutely love wearing babies (and wore bilingual baby through 2 winters until her desire to walk outdoors overcame her) I can speak from the standpoint of feeling over-touched. Some times when I have nursed both babies at the same time, I’ve temporarily had the “get off me” feeling. I know mothers who feel this early on. If I had felt this when bilingual baby was a tiny baby I might have plopped her in a stroller to distance myself from that feeling and been able to take a break. Unfortunately for our babies, our culture and economic situation is such that for bilingual papi to find a job we had to move far from his family and even further from mine. So there’s nobody who’s retired who can come over had I felt over-touched during the day.

I don’t say any of this out of judgment. I haven’t had a difficult time caring for my babies. Yes. We do have days where I think I’m going nuts but for the most part they’re pretty chill. Even my nearly 2 year old who’s getting her second set of molars! I understand that strollers can give the mom a much needed time away from a baby whom she may not feel capable of caring for or holding close all the time. That’s a reality moms can face and facing it without support can be very harmful to the mother.

I also applaud any parent for going against the grain (though it’s getting to be more popular) and wearing their baby. I know a number of moms who started out using a baby bjorn, facing baby out, and after some time (probably at the point when the bjorn becomes too uncomfortable) they found out more about babywearing and devoted themselves to a wrap, sling or mei tai. For the most part, I don’t think that simply facing baby out lessens the number of babywearing months. Wearing only a bjorn probably will, unless the family turns to more supportive carriers. The bjorn just doesn’t have the versatility of other carriers but it has been known to be the entry point for more babywearing.

Disclaimer: I don’t think most people think about why they put their baby in a stroller. You get pregnant, you buy crib, carseat, stroller. It’s a majority thing. I think (some may criticize and say I overthink) about everything I do that concerns my babies. These are my theories and I humbly submit them for your perusal. I’m open to your first hand experiences.


Why bother with babywearing?

November 29, 2008 § 9 Comments

There are many benefits to babywearing, including bonding, warmth, trust, responding to baby’s cues before they need to cry to be heard, a gentle transition into motherhood, helping a toddler chill out, and the one most people talk about: getting things done by being hands free. I don’t advocate “getting things done” in the first couple of months for several reasons. You could wear yourself down and get ill (or mastitis, thank you very much) and you need your energy to withstand time. I also think that trying to get things done, even when baby is sleeping, can backfire when baby is older. Babies love to see what an adult does during the day. Leaving the chores for when baby is asleep keeps them from understanding the world around them.

When you wear your baby in front (facing you) they will most likely drift off to sleep without you doing much of anything. Going for a walk can easily put baby to sleep in the sling and allow you the much needed fresh air. This can be a godsend in moments of frustration or simply when you feel like you’ve exhausted your emotional resources to tend to your baby. That can especially be the case with women with postpartum depression. I’ve never had it so I don’t speak from my personal experience, rather from other’s experience. When a mother who has ppd can’t even look at her baby, talk to her or engage her cooing, wearing her baby becomes a way baby can thrive. Being worn, the mother can mother (through her body’s warmth) while she tries to cope with her feelings. Even a mother without ppd benefits from wearing her baby. When you have two babies, it is easier logistically to wear the littlest one and get food and read a book to the older one. Nursing while standing up in the kitchen making a sandwich for the older baby has saved me a number of times.

Most will agree that babywearing is a skill to master. However, to master it you don’t have to learn everything that’s out there. Just learn the skills you need to do the tasks you want to do. I wore bilingual baby in one carry with one tie (in the Moby) for about 4 months. After that, I ventured into Mei Tai world with just one carry and that lasted me for an even longer time. There are several places online where you can seek help.

The Babywearer is a forum where you can talk with other babywearers from all over the world about how to carry your baby, how to tie a knot, what carrier you should get, etc. If you have a question, this is the site to go to for help from other families. I do have to add that the opinions of those on the forum are just that. Some opinions you may not use and some (most) you’ll probably get to use over and over. It’s all first hand experience. There are also pages that you can enter without signing up for the free membership but I recommend entering the forum and sticking with one sub-forum at a time. Otherwise, it can be quite overwhelming. If you want a suggestion on where to start, leave me a comment and I’ll try to help you navigate the site.

This site is a wealth of information. Tracy Dower runs this site and is awesome! I love looking at all the videos she’s put up. She’s a huge fan of the SPOC (simple piece of cloth) and there’s even a video of her tying her baby on with a pair of sweatpants! Let me draw your attention to her babywearing safety page, benefits of bw’ing page, and diy page where she encourages you to use what you have. It can be very empowering to find out you can use that wide shawl, blanket, or sarong you already own to wear your baby. Women over thousands of years have been doing this. Check out the flickr photo pool showing traditional babywearing. It’s very inspiring.

What kind of carriers are out there?

The most versatile is the wrap. There are stretchy wraps like the Moby and Baby Bundler, and woven wraps like the Didymos and Ellaroo. The thing to know before buying a stretchy wrap is that you may come to a point where your baby is sort of sagging in the stretch of the wrap and because they end up so low on your body it’s not as comfortable as it once was. That said, the Moby is less expensive than these high quality woven wraps, and if you don’t want to make your own woven wrap, they end up being a great entry into babywearing (it was for us). You can do a lot of different types of carries with a Moby- though the back carries tend to be less comfortable with an older child because of the sag. There is a learning curve on learning to tie the wrap but it can quickly become your favorite, since you can do so much with it.

The easiest to “master” is a pouch. You put it on and put your baby in. No tying at all. Most, like Hotsling, are one size fits all (tho there are adjustable pouches) so you will most likely be the only one using it. It’s great for toddler who want to go in and out of the sling all day long and it easily folds up into a tiny heap of fabric. Also an easy carrier to make at home, granted you follow instructions on making a very sturdy seam, as it is what holds the weight of the baby.

One of the most beautiful is the Mei Tai. It is also an easy one to master. It’s like a wrap but you don’t have all the fabric in the straps. It’s a great back carrier- which is what it was traditionally used for. I’ve only used it as a front and back carrier. I’ve never tried to actually use it as a hip carrier, though I know how to do it. It’s not the most comfortable. I used this carrier through my entire pregnancy with my toddler and found it incredibly comfortable and easy to get on and off. Sometimes the straps are padded, sometimes they’re just really wide, like a wrap. The body varies in size. Some are huge and can be folded to accomodate a younger baby and unfolded for a toddler, while others are smaller, which you may like as well.

Similar to the Mei Tai is the podeagi (pronounced poe-DAY-ghee). I love my podeagi because of the blanket. It totally envelops my baby boy. I know he’s warm and I know he’s safe. The tying is just like the Mei Tai so it was quick for me to figure out.

Ring slings weren’t the easiest for me to conquer but little by little I’m finding better ways to get a handle on it. There are different kinds of shoulder padding which can make it more comfortable, depending on your taste. Mine is completely unpadded. I’ve tried on the most padded ones and feel unsafe using them in a cradle carry because they seem to eat up my big boy. I’m sure as a hip carrier it might be different. The trickiest part for me was to adjust the rails (top and bottom of the sling). I do like it as much as my wrap but there are days when that’s all I want to use.

Soft-structured carriers, like the Beco or Ergo, are quick to master and have a ton of padding in the waist as well as the shoulder straps which can be more desirable if you’re going on a hike. We have an Ergo and it is the carrier that bilingual papi uses the most. It has clips and there’s no tying involved. It’s great as a front and back carrier and some use it with the infant insert for their newborns. It’s really popular these days, and for good reason. It’s nicely made and plain (though they’re starting to use prints, too) for every day use. This carrier is not intended to be used with the baby facing out, so be warned if that’s what you’re looking for.

Which brings me to…

What carrier can I put my baby facing out?

There’s a divide in the babywearing world on facing baby out, away from the wearer’s body. There are carriers like the Baby Bjorn. These are the carriers I see more babies facing out in. I’ve heard the comment that, “my baby just has to face out, otherwise he gets uspset” a lot. Here’s what Didymos and Ergo have to say about facing baby out. There are others who figure facing baby out, when done a certain way, isn’t as bad as some say. Zolowear has a video on their site showing how to do a kangaroo carry facing out. Though Kelly, maker of the Kozy Carrier (a Mei Tai) shows how to carry your baby facing out, she also says, “I recommend parents use this position sparingly, so that baby gets used to also facing in as that is generally more comfy for the wearer for longer term use.” She, as would I, prefer a high back carry for a child who wants to see out. This also eliminates your need to decide if you should carry your baby facing out and your responsibility to do it correctly.

If you still want to face your baby out, make sure of a couple of things:

Baby’s bum is lower than their knees.

Baby is leaning back, toward the wearer.

Avoid baby hanging from their crotch. This youtube video shows exactly what I mean. The babywearer is using a Moby to put baby facing out, just like the booklet that comes with your Moby shows. She has baby dangling from their crotch. You can see that baby’s knees are lower than their bum and she is not reclined, but rather leaning forward.

I wish I could find a video of someone settling baby in correctly. If you’ve watched the youtube video at least once, try these instructions on adjusting baby. Place them in the X of the wrap and spread the fabric from knee to knee as much as possible. One way to make it more possible is to adjust baby so that they are reclined against your front. Then, instead of pulling baby’s legs through the cummerbund, pull the cummerbund up around baby’s bum, leaving their knees above the bum, if that makes any sense.

Don’t leave them facing out for long periods of time, especially when you’re out and about in a busy place. They may like to face out a bit but give them a break now and again and face them toward you. Other options for your “need to face out” baby is a high back carry with a wrap or Mei Tai or a hip carry with a pouch, ring sling or shawl. The nice thing about the hip carry is that they can face out and turn in all in one. I would find bilingual baby turning in when strangers wanted to say hi to her on the street and looking out when she found something interesting. It was also the carrier bilingual papi used the most around the house so that bilingual baby could see what adults do during the day. Plus, remember that when baby is facing you, they can still look to the side and see stuff.

Still, I’ve gotta plug a secured high back carry. It’s much easier to accomplish any task (I just can’t do dishes with my baby boy in front- my arms aren’t that long), pick up a toddler, bend over to put away toys and safely cook. I’m sure that as my little boy gets bigger I’ll be doing more back carries. For now, at 3 months old, I carry him in high back carries when he’s asleep- when he’s awake he still just nurses and pees.

I hope this hasn’t overwhelmed anyone- I know a bunch of you already know this stuff. Remember that you only really need one sturdy carrier to get you from birth to the toddler years, and you only need to learn one way to carry them. There are many reasons to bother yourself with babywearing. I may not have touched on a reason you feel is important but perhaps give it a try. Start with what you have around the house. Start with one carry you like and give it a go and let me know if I can help.

Happy Babywearing!


Update: 12/02/08, 6:30pm

Thanks to the concern raised by Sarah V in the comments, I have re-evaluated this entry and removed some of the original text.

Invention Convention: A nursing tank

November 27, 2008 § 3 Comments

Back in my school in Colombia, we had this thing called the Invention Convention. I think it was the 8th grade when you participated and when I did I made a combo shampoo/conditioner bottle. I have since found many other producers of said bottles. For a while I felt robbed. I’ll get a patent next time.

My current idea is due to my difficulty in finding a nursing bra that fits just right. Right now I’m still fluctuating in my milk production because bilingual baby’s nursing has been changing. So, I really need a bra that accepts that fluctuation. Bravado has one that does that but it doesn’t go as big as I need it. After giving birth to bilingual baby I bought a couple of nursing tanks. One from Glamourmom and another from Glamourmom’s nursing tanks are great because the elastic around your ribs is nice and snug. The downside is that the bra part is a little too snug. Their website shows that they have a new nursing tank that accepts fluctuation but the size is still not big enough. The motherwear tank I bought fit my breasts fine but the elastic at my ribs was way too loose so it didn’t actually feel supportive. I find that anything that is sized XL will fit my top but not the rest of me. I have to look in the plus-sized nursing bra area even though I’m not plus-sized. Conversly, a woman who is plus-sized but has a small chest will have the same problem.

With that as my impetus, I hope to make a nursing tank that fits me. I’ll keep you posted. I’m working on the recon blanket first. In the meantime, in the comments you can leave me tips or requests- any features I should consider.

When the going gets rough

November 26, 2008 § 2 Comments

As you know, I’m brutally honest on this blog which makes it so very me. In the past, there have been posts that have annoyed people and that’s the same in real life. I know that my opinions are many and often far from mainstream so I get that some may feel attacked by what I write. It’s not the intention. It’s only my intention to make this blog reflect who I am right now.

I try to be a calm person with my kids and sometimes it just gets so tough to be on my best behavior. (This is not a confessional.) When bilingual baby was an infant she could do no wrong and I had a lot of energy for her. I needed very little in the way of “breaks”. After the first year of her life, I started questioning my role as a mother and searched for work out of our home. Then, I found out I was pregnant and began questioning my role as a mother to two babies. Now, I have really rough days from time to time and no one to bail me out. A mixed blessing. It’s especially hard to ask for help when your kids are sick as nobody likes to get sick- much less get their kids sick. So, it rains, it’s cold, it’s icky, you feel icky and you feel isolated. Imagine that plus your morning going horribly. Pee on the sheets, yoghurt spilled on the rugs, etc.

After about 3 hours of this, we came to the peak of emotional intensity. Older child screaming, younger one passed out from the older one’s meltdown. Not to mention my meltdown. What must the neighbors be thinking? What must you be thinking of me? Then, we said a prayer. A prayer for children that bb asks for. We always say in Spanish. Here it is in English:

O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star.  Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.


BB then asked that we say a prayer for my older sister and then for her Papi. And just like that, the cloud lifted and we had moved past the morning. No more tears, no more intensity. All done.

An hour later, she’s back to helping me cook and offering unsolicited kisses.

Kids are so much more forgiving than adults are.

Mothering punto communidad

November 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

Yup. The mothering forum is now in Spanish. You have to create a new username even if you already were a member of their English counterpart but that’s easily fixed, and for free. Sign up and be among the first motheringpuntocom mamis.

Nursing bras

November 25, 2008 § 6 Comments

This post isn’t for everyone. Skip it if you don’t want to read about my woes with finding a comfortable nursing bra.

I like the Bravado nursing bras (and hear rave reviews about all the different styles) but want to wait before buying a new one because I know (or think) that my milk will regulate sooner or later and I don’t want to have to buy yet another one. In the meantime, I’m using my old ones. The ones I bought when bilingual baby was born are worn thin but useful around the house (tho I find myself using them when we go out, too- bleh).

There’s also the Anita nursing bras. I have one of their bras and loved it back when it fit. I like the fit and the style and most of them reveal the whole breast when nursing instead of just part of it (like Bravado bras). They make a bunch of bras for bigger chests that don’t have underwire. The underwire issue is a personal one but I don’t dare use an underwire bra now to keeping ducts from getting clogged. La Leche League International advises this as well.

I should also say that I’m not a small chested mami. I hate to admit my bra size for all on the blogoshpere, as I’ve been teased by family about my bra size in the past, so if you need to know, leave a comment and we can chat about nursing bra woes offline.

We’re travelling again for Christmas and I’d like to have a good nursing bra that fits well for our trip. I may just into town and get one that may not be the most comfortable but will still be better than the worn out ones that don’t even fit. I’ll let you know what I find.

(Not the best review but it’s more of a “woe is me” post)

… at least she’s eating…

November 24, 2008 § 1 Comment

Bilingual baby slowed down on eating table food ever since my son was born and my milk came in. Lucky her. She really held out for a long time, hoping every day that I would get my milk back. It’s no surprise that she’s using my milk as her source of food and taking only sips of all the lovely soups bilingual papi has been making us. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough you’ll remember that a number of months ago bilingual baby went through a period of a couple of months where she’d eat everything in sight. “What a good eater”, I’d get. Now, you can imagine that the well-meaning suggest that I offer her more choices or tell her she has to “eat something”. I just can’t do that. Do you know how many times I’ve thought that I was being a bad parent because “you” thought I wasn’t feeding my daughter? Plenty.

However, I’ve thought enough about this eating thing to have some ideas to put out there.

I don’t play airplane to get food into my kids mouths.

If they don’t want to be at the table, that’s fine. (We do end up having a meal before bilingual papi arrives which I think is just what she needs- and when she needs it.) Eating at the table is a social thing and she’ll grow into the social scene.

I don’t over-emphasize how “yummy” my food is so that she’ll have a bite. She wasn’t born yesterday! (ha!)

I try to avoid saying, “here, try it”, cos when she sees there’s food that she wants, she eats it.

I do try to offer her healthy choices so that when she does want to eat she isn’t getting empty calories- and I’m constantly pulling out food, cutting up fruit and pouring the soy milk.

I don’t believe in the “at least she’s eating” mentality. If that were the case, she’d be eating chips and ice cream for every meal just to get in the calories.

My mantra concerning bilingual baby’s eating habits: Her body knows what she needs. Trust in her and she’ll trust in herself.

My defense when someone questions me: I’m the mama.

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