I can admit that I have obsessive tendencies sometimes. I get obsessive about checking off items on my list, I get a little too deep into details more often than I should. Sometimes my obsessions manifest in a more materialistic kind of way, such as baby carriers. More than likely this day and age, any mama who starts experimenting with babywearing will become obsessed with it. I mean there’s this whole entire subculture around babywearing, both above and underground – i.e. your run of the mill International Babywearing Conference at the top of the visiibility chain, to your closed babywearing support groups and diy groups and forums to learn how to make your own wraps, slings, carriers, etc.
I’ve long known about babywearing before I even got pregnant as a former co-worker of mine from Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea back in Roanoke, VA is the creator and owner of Obimama, some pretty rad, and amazing art pieces of baby carriers. Babywearing has been around forever around the world as a natural part of other cultures child-rearing practices, but they don’t have a specific name for it like we do, because it’s just what they do. Some cultures wear their children exclusively until they are around 9 months, when babies typically begin to start crawling. Amazing stuff.
Here in the US though, we have to put a special name to things that we adopt from other cultures so, hence, the art of babywearing is born. The art form really began to gain popularity in the 60’s and 70’s when mothers were starting to rebel against the Dr. Spock ideology and move more towards Natural and Attachment Parenting practices. Ring slings were extremely popular back then, and still are today, however so many other different types and styles of carriers are available these days it can be pretty overwhelming.
When I found out I was pregnant, so embarked my babywearing adventures as it was one of the first things I wanted to buy, even though Calla wasn’t to arrive for another 10 months. Babywearing was the epitome of my idealism of having a baby. My escape from the future reality, if you will, from the knowledge that life was going to change, and it was going to be hard. But babywearing would make everything so much easier. Rose-colored glass easy.
So the Baby Bjorn was actually my first carrier purchase. Craigslist, $35, haggled down from $40. Super excited. Got home and tried it on, and then made David try it on just to make sure it fit him. I saw a former neighbor carrying her relatively new infant in one last summer and thought it was the greatest thing. However a Baby Bjorn fits into a special kind of category referred to in the underworld of babywearing as a “crotch dangler” carrier. Explained simply, the ergonomic goals (after the baby is out of the newborn froggy position) of babywearing are twofold: 1) always make sure your baby has a deep seat in whichever carrier is being used, and 2) Your baby’s backside (bum and legs) should always form an “M.” The bum being the middle “V” and each of the legs forming the outer strokes of the M. With a Baby Bjorn, because the crotch cloth piece is so narrow, there’s no physical way to get your baby into this position. Therefore a good supportive and ergonomically safe carrier for your baby will have a structured wide seat, or in wrapping your baby, you should be creating that same M effect with a deep seat.
I’ve just sold my Baby Bjorn after really never having used it. I almost got all my money back. Don’t waste yours. Moving onto better options, I next bought the Moby Wrap, a stretchy fabric wrap, for $25.00 at a children’s upscale secondhand shop in Boulder. Moby’s are great, to a point. They are a very accessible starting point for many into the world of babywearing because of their affordability and availability. Some pro’s and con’s:
- A great way to learn the art of different wrapping techniques.
- Excellent for newborns as there are a lot of different holds you can do. The flexibility and softness of the wrap can be very comforting to them.
- Because it is such a popular wrap, there are some wonderful YouTube instructional videos to help you learn step by step how to wrap with the Moby.
- Because it’s stretchy, there is a weight limit (as there are with most carriers) of up to 35 lbs.
- Also because it’s stretchy, it is not ideal for back carries as when you are trying to secure your little one during tying, the fabric is too flexible.
- Wrapping has a pretty high learning curve that requires a lot of patience and a lot of practice, both for you and for baby getting used to it.
As I am a visual learner, I had no problems with quickly picking up on how to wrap with the Moby by watching lots of videos. But slowly over time as Calla is growing and changing so quickly, I’ve learned I need to continue moving on with different types of carrier’s/holds in order to accommodate her physiological and emotional needs. Some of these needs include figuring out how to wear her so that she can ergonomically experience the world more.
In an effort to move more towards the serious side of babywearing, and less casual, I decided to invest in an Ergo after much research. I felt this carrier David might actually wear, especially once Calla is big enough for back carries, which she is definitely getting close to. An Ergo is a soft-structured carrier (or SSC as their abbreviated in the babywearing world) and less versatile than a wrap with only 3 carry positions: front carry, back carry, and hip carry. It’s a pretty comfortable carrier so far, plus it has a storage pocket (albeit it is in quite an awkward place), and an attached piece of fabric that snaps to the straps to act as a sunshield, or nursing privacy cover. I have really enjoyed my Ergo so far (by the way, I purchased mine on Ebay for $60.00, and then the infant insert, also on Ebay, for about $15.00. The Ergo itself, retail, starts at $115.00). The straps are slightly uncomfortable under the armpits for a front carry. But I think it will be super comfortable once we start back wearing.
This week I’ve just invested in my first Mei Tai! I bought my Infantino Sash Wrap Mei Tai at a JBF (Just Between Friends, more on this amazing phenomenon later) sale for $14.00. Normal retail for these lower end Mei Tai’s can range from $30.00 to $60.00. Infantino Mei Tai’s are like the Moby’s of the wrapping world in terms of accessibility as they can be purchased from retailers such as Target and Walmart. They essentially are a hybrid as they are structured around the contact points of your baby, but how it attaches to you is by 2 very long straps that you wrap around your body; one as an anchor strap that gets tied around your waist, and then two longer straps that can be adjusted in different ways depending on how your wrapping. Like the Ergo, it only has 3 carry positions, front, back, and hip. I’ve only used it twice so far, and absolutely love it. It’s also a lot more stylish and comfortable than the Ergo, but does have more of a learning curve.
Calla is already exploring signs of needing to explore the world around her and often is not comfortable to be tummy to tummy in a carrier with me as she should be at this age. Am I surprised? No, not really, but sometimes I do feel a little deprived of the babywearing experience because of this. But here’s the main evolutionary vision that has come from 3 months of babywearing so far: Babywearing is not about me, it’s about helping Calla feel more comfortable in a crazy, over-stimulating world.
That being said, it’s time for me to start venturing into the non-stretchy wrapping world, aka woven wraps. Woven wraps still have some give to them, but no where near as much as say a Moby, or a Boba wrap. They offer infinite possibilities of sizes, carries, and patterns. With all this new found flexibility (pardon the pun), comes an increase in price. SSC’s, such as the Ergo, Tula, and Mei Tai’s, are just what they say they are, structured, but conforming to your baby at the same time. They certainly require a significantly lower learning curve than wrapping, and are a great option for quick put on’s when baby is fussy, or you don’t have time or space to fool with a woven wrap. Again, because of the level of more detail and sophistication, price points are definitely higher here. I will also in the next couple of months be experimenting with making my own Mei Tai and woven wraps.
All of these points can be so overwhelming that I have to admit it has delayed my desire to just dive right in like I normally do. So I have spent a few months just exploring, observing, and researching (all while starting to secretly hoard stashes of fabric to embark on my own wrap-making adventures). Being the DIY gravitator that I am, I am theoretically obsessed with the idea of making my own wraps. I participate on the fringes of a few babywearing/diy groups, and I feel it’s time to move forward, and obviously so does Calla. A few days over 3 months old and yesterday she just rolled over for the first time and for weeks now will freak out if you a) keep her sitting too long, as she loves to stand, or b) laying flat for too long, as she’s obsessed with doing little baby crunches right now.
So here’s my dilemma. I own a sewing machine, but am still a very extreme beginner sewer. As in I’ve only made one project, a circular tree-skirt for our Christmas tree last year, which I was super proud of:
So my goal for the month of September is to really work on expanding my sewing skills. My mom is visiting her granddaughter for the first time right now, so I hope to enlist her help, and I have another friend that I’ll be swapping knitting tutorials with for sewing lessons, so it should be fun! In the next couple of days, I’ll post some swatch pictures of the fabric I’ve stashed for future carriers. Being the savvy thrift store shopper that I am, I’ve resorted to stalking a few stores for fabric scraps to make carriers out of. Not only is this infinitely cheaper, but it significantly satisfies the treasure hunter in me. In David and our budget? Yea not so much, but compared to the amount I could be investing in manufactured wraps and carriers, quite a bit of savings. I mean some women seriously are probably majorly in debt because of their baby carrier habits. It’s real folks. But not real for this mama. I can’t wait to start my new adventures!