In May 2009, we posted about the many options of baby carriers on the market. Since then, we’ve gotten the scoop from from someone who knows all about babywearing – yep, we want you to wear the baby! Susie Spence, of Babywearing International of Birmingham has graciously given us a little of her time and knowledge to share with you on babywearing. Here’s what she had to say:
1. What is the best way for someone who does not know much about baby wearing to learn more?
There is so much information about babywearing available on the internet, and there are so many different baby carriers, that the information can be quite overwhelming. I think the most efficient way to learn about babywearing is live and in person, either from a knowledgeable friend or at a group meeting. That way, you don’t waste time trying to find the type of information you’re looking for and digging through commercial information from baby carrier sellers promising that their product is the best one available.
Also, when you have in-person help, you get immediate feedback on what you’re doing right or what could be better. For example, at meetings, we almost always have a few cases of troubleshooting-to-solution in less than a minute. A knowledgeable person can often see a problem almost instantly and offer a quick tip that makes a huge difference.
Our group meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. on the bottom floor of the Hoover Public Library, and helping people learn more about babywearing is why we exist! Also, we have articles about the benefits of babywearing, babywearing safety, and babywearing basics (with links to instructions) on our blog, which can be accessed from the links page of our website, www.magiccityslingers.com.
2. Do you recommend different slings/wraps for different ages/stages or activities?
There are many different baby carrier options, and most of them are good for many different activities. There is a page at the www.babywearinginternational.org site called “Choosing a Baby Carrier” that describes the main types of carriers. Trying to capture all the variables and create a flow chart to identify what’s best for what circumstance is a daunting task. However, some types of carriers do have standout strengths, so here are some thoughts on that:
Hiking and walking: For hiking and walking, most people prefer a carrier that offers two-shoulder support and can be worn on front or back. There are many options for this, and I don’t want to give the impression that one is “the best.” When we have group hikes and walks, there are always many different carriers represented. Popular choices include soft structured carriers with padded waistbands (which transfer some of the baby’s weight to the wearer’s hips instead of her shoulders), mei tais, and woven wraparound slings. Because they tend to be fast to put on and don’t have long straps that can drag in the dirt, I think soft structured carriers really shine for hiking, but certainly there are many people who love their mei tais or the custom comfort of a wraparound sling for hiking.
Around the house: At home, you don’t have to worry about straps touching the ground, and many people particularly enjoy their wraparound slings around the house. They offer a custom fit every time and can be used to carry a baby in many different positions: on your front, on your back, on your hip, however the wearer and baby are most comfortable. Wraparound slings can be tied in many different ways, so they can offer two-shoulder support, one-shoulder convenience, and even strapless carries where the sling is wrapped around the wearer’s torso.
Quick trips: A lot of people keep one-shoulder carriers in their cars for quick trips to the store, post office, older sibling’s school, etc. A fitted pouch sling is quick and convenient. These types of slings are the most widely available in stores in our area, but correct fit and correct usage are crucial, so I like to encourage pouch-users to watch the DVD that is included with their Hotslings pouch or, if they have another brand, to carefully read and follow the instructions. At meetings, we help lots of people learn to love their pouches. Ring slings also offer a quick one-shoulder carry. Sizing is less important with ring slings than it is with pouches, because you adjust the sling for a custom fit by pulling the tail fabric through the rings. Both ring slings and pouches come in a fabulous array of fashionable fabrics, and lots of people have a few options so they can coordinate their sling with their outfit.
Adopting a toddler overseas: The International Adoption Clinic at UAB recommends babywearing adopted children because it promotes attachment between the child and parent. To promote attachment, eye contact must be possible, so front and hip carries are in order. Although newly adopted children are often small for their age, they can grow quickly, and most families are well served by a carrier well suited for carrying a larger baby. A soft structured carrier such as an ERGObaby carrier (available locally at Swaddle in Homewood), a Beco Baby Carrier, the new BabyHawk Oh Snap! buckle carrier, or a Toddler Patapum, would fit the bill as far as front carries go. An excellent alternative, though, is a dedicated hip carrier. Hip carries allow a baby to look at the parent or to get a good view of the world. The Scootababy hip carrier has a padded waistband and, like the two-shoulder carriers mentioned previously, the baby’s weight is transferred to that waistband and then to the wearer’s hips so that not all of the baby’s weight is born by the wearer’s shoulder and back, so this carrier is very popular with the parents of toddlers. An Ellaroo mei hip is a less expensive dedicated hip carrier and also offers some waist support although it does not have the padded waistband.
3. What type of carrier usually works out for moms with back problems? With large children (I say this gingerly, but I had & have big babies, so I feel I can be frank 🙂
I have big babies too, that’s why I had to become knowledgeable about babywearing … my expensive, highly-recommended brand-name frontpack became unwearable when my babies were about 2-3 months old and I needed another option! Babywearing is a skill, and technique makes a huge difference. Moms with back problems can usually benefit from two things: choosing a carrier that distributes the baby’s weight to both shoulders (not just one), her torso, and her hips; and getting some in-person help to get the fit just right. Our group leaders and experienced members are weight-distribution geeks.
A little information on Babywearing International of Birmingham
Babywearing International of Birmingham is a nonprofit organization and a chapter of Babywearing International, Inc. Our leaders are volunteers. Neither our group nor any of our leaders sells baby carriers, but we do have an extensive library of premium baby carriers that dues-paying members can borrow for a month at a time; dues are $30. Meetings are always free and membership is never required to attend or to try slings at the meeting. At meetings, we discuss and demonstrate various babywearing techniques and provide one-on-one help with babywearing. For more information, please visit Babywearing International of Birmingham at www.magiccityslingers.com