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Episode #37: Nomad Together : Babywearing
BECKY: Where are we right now?
CHILD: In San Miguel de Allende.
PAUL: Hi, I’m Paul Kortman from the Nomad Together podcast, for location-independent families and those who aspire to be one.
My wife Becky recently recorded a three-part series on babywearing. This is the first in that three-part series, and in this episode she talks with Jay McMillin, a professional Babywearing and Lactation Educator and mother of a 4-year-old daughter. Jay is also certified with the Center for Babywearing Studies, as well as being the voice behind the blog Modern Babywearing. Jay is working to normalize the practice of babywearing and has a lot of information and experience to share on this topic.
You may be wondering, why are we covering babywearing? Well, because it’s important to us, and because we see families struggling with strollers, and because we believe that this is a really valuable way for you to experience the world and for your kids to experience the world. My 10-yer-old still enjoys riding in the baby carrier. We’ll get into all that later. This is Episode #37 of the Nomad Together podcast. To get the show notes for this episode, head on over to nomadtogether.com/babywearing.
We’ve got a couple of iTunes and Stitcher reviews that we’re going to read here. Once again, we’ll read your reviews on the air, but it helps us immensely if you just go to iTunes or Stitcher or whatever platform you go to and write a review. It helps us spread the word that this lifestyle is possible for any family.
Oh, I love this, by Liz Applegate in the U.S.: “Loving the content and energy. Wishing I would have been nomadic in raising my kids. Keep up the great work.” Thank you very much, Liz.
The next one is from Tom in the UK: “Yeah, I need a holiday. I need an excuse to go adventuring. If you need an excuse, subscribe. Enough said.” Thanks, Tom. We really appreciate that, because we don’t ever need excuses to go adventuring, but we’re hoping to help all of the families out there have the right tools to be able to go adventuring.
And then by Courageous One from the U.S.: “I love to travel. This podcast really helps me understand how to travel and still have a thriving life. Very interesting.”
It’s that simple, folks. One sentence is all you need to go out there and write us a review. You may think it’s not that big of a deal, but it actually helps us immensely. It helps Becky and I sleep better at night, and it makes us a thousand do – no, I’m kidding. Really what it is, is just the way the iTunes algorithm works for us. To be able to rank, to be able to show up, and for people to be able to subscribe to our podcast and actually find out that yes, this lifestyle is possible, we need your review to help that. So if you find any value in our crazy voices coming into your earbuds every week, we’d appreciate the little 5 stars and a little sentence just saying “Hey, love what the Kortmans are doing” or “Love your guests” or “Really appreciated the babywearing episodes.”
Anyways, each week we will read those 5 star iTunes and Stitcher reviews. And if you don’t know how to do it, you can simply head on over to nomadtogether.com/podcast, where there’s a little video that shows you how to do it.
Where are we at right now? This fun place in the intro where I get to tell you that we’ve traveled the world – no, we’re still in San Miguel de Allende. We’re here to solve a couple other health issues, but we do have an end date now. We are leaving here about the middle of December and heading over to the Yucatán to celebrate Christmas in Mérida, or just on the shore a little north of Mérida.
In the meantime, we do need to make a visa run. We’ll be heading up to Texas, because believe it or not – that’s the closest country, I was going to say – the U.S. is the closest country to where we’re at right now, so we’ll be heading up to Texas in November for our wonderful visa run, and I can’t tell you how many plans we have for checking this and that and this off the list. So thank you, U.S., for being so close and for having everything we could ever dream, want, or imagine in one city.
Let’s do this. How does babywearing improve your travel experience, and what carrier would be best for your family’s lifestyle?
BECKY: So, you’re really qualified to talk to us about babywearing. Can you explain to our audience that you’re more than just a person who bought a bunch of baby carriers? You have a lot of letters behind your name, and can you tell us a little bit about what makes you someone who people should listen to when it comes to babywearing?
JAY: I definitely started out as just a person with a bunch of baby carriers. [laughs] But over time, I started to find that there were differences between all those baby carriers, and to want to explore those differences a little bit more and find what worked and what didn’t. Through my enthusiasm, I found Babywearing International, and through them I got trained to teach as a volunteer. I became first a Volunteer Babywearing Educator through them, and then I pursued a little bit further certification as an Advanced Babywearing Educator.
Then I decided to start to pursue it professionally, so I enrolled in a school in the United States here called the Center for Babywearing Studies, and it’s a really awesome school that trains babywearing consultants here in the States. I was fortunate enough to get hooked up with them and start consulting as a business. I really came to it through wanting to do more lactation education, and I found that babywearing really helped support that, and that was part of what drew me to it in the first place. And then it really became something that I was very interested in learning about and then sharing about with other people.
BECKY: You’re also a Lactation Educator?
JAY: Correct, I have both done volunteer lactation education at local nonprofits, and I am also certified as a Lactation Educator Counselor through the UCSD program.
BECKY: Excellent. And even more important than all of that, you’re a mom.
JAY: I am. I am a mom to a 4-year-old, feisty little Dragon Baby, and she is a Gemini. [laughs] Very fun child. She is the one that has really drawn me to all this, because she was not the baby that I had planned in my mind to have. She was her own little person and she has taught me so much about life, and through that, babywearing and lactation education has become such a huge part of what I do.
BECKY: Awesome. We’re trying to help people understand that when they travel as a lifestyle, investing time, energy, and money into a quality baby carrier is actually going to be beneficial to them. Their kids, their relationships with each other can change. I’ve got a lot of questions here that I would love to pop through with you and see if we can get some of that information out to our audience.
Why should people wear their baby or toddler?
JAY: I think the number one thing that really should draw people to babywearing is the convenience of it. I know there’s a lot of other angles that we can definitely explore here, but the number one thing that I think will get most people interested in it is that it’s a convenient way to transport our children. Especially if you’re a family that is traveling quite frequently, it is oftentimes really cumbersome to bring things such as a stroller. To try to navigate public transit, especially in places that might not have the same infrastructure that we do in a lot of parts of the United States, I just find that it’s incredibly convenient to have a baby in a carrier and to be able to move about at your own pace and to attack whatever hurdles come in front of you and to not have to worry about any other equipment other than yourself and your baby.
BECKY: I totally agree. We’re talking airports, trains, buses, boats. There’s just so many things, and being able to be basically hands-free just gives you so much more mobility to do the things that you’re doing and going places.
Some questions that I’ve been asked that go with that are, can you wear a baby while running through an airport?
JAY: Although I’m sure many educators would encourage you to not wear a baby while running at all, definitely an airport is one of the places that you should do that. [laughs] Trying to catch a flight with your bag dragging behind you and trying to drag a toddler along with you can be a really difficult process, but having the baby on your back and then dragging your suitcase behind you as fast as you can through all the terminals is definitely one way to catch that flight.
BECKY: Absolutely. Another question: can you wear a baby and a backpack at the same time?
JAY: When I’m wearing a small baby on my front, then I can wear a backpack on my back pretty comfortably. Now my daughter, though, is quite tall, so I prefer to wear her on my back and then have a backpack on my front. Not the ideal situation, but because she’s so tall, my visibility is definitely increased in that situation.
BECKY: Is there any other reason why not to use a stroller, other than it being cumbersome and it doesn’t fit in the overhead bins on an airplane or in the seat next to you on the bus or whatever? Is there any other reason, other than it’s just big and bulky?
JAY: Well, the baby has a completely different experience when they’re riding on the level of the caregiver. When a baby is in a stroller, they are essentially seeing what’s going on at about knee to belly button level for most adults. Clearly the conversation is not happening there, and a lot of the things that they might be interested in seeing aren’t there. And even if there are interesting things to see at that level, they can’t really dialogue with us about those things if they are being pushed away from us or have some kind of a barrier surrounding them that doesn’t allow for them to hear or to look up and say things to us and for us to know what’s going on.
So I really enjoy that about a baby carrier. You’re having your child at the same level as your head and all the other adults, so they can be involved in the conversation, they can see your face as you’re processing the beauty and the joy or the fear or the relief, anything going on in the situation around you. They can really be a part of that and be present in it and understand how we emotionally respond to what’s going on around us.
BECKY: That’s a really awesome point of view. I personally had not thought of it from the baby not being able to participate in what’s up at our level. I don’t know why I hadn’t before, because I know that when I am babywearing, I do talk to them more, and I show them things, but when they’re playing on the floor I don’t do it as much. So that’s so very true, and I just hadn’t put two and two together on that. It’s such a great perspective.
JAY: A lot of it is conscious, we are consciously talking to them, but then so much of it is unconscious, too. Them hearing the subtle change in our voice when we’re addressing somebody we don’t know, or the face that we make when we’re approaching something that we find either interesting or scary in any way. I think it’s a huge part of cognitive development for them to actually see the way that we’re processing things as adults as well.
BECKY: I love that. Everywhere we have gone here in Mexico, where we are right now, and when we’ve been in Africa, we see moms wearing babies all the time – mostly with just a piece of fabric wrapped around them, nothing fancy. But why do you think that we in the West – U.S., Europe, Australia, mostly – don’t wear our babies? Why is there a stigma about wearing babies here that isn’t in other places?
JAY: This really harks back to the really olden days here. There were a lot of philosophers and religious scholars back in the day who really pushed this agenda of children needing to be seen and not heard, children need to be independent and to not be attached to their caregiver. A lot of these concepts have become very Western, and we’ve adopted them as a way of doing things. As a way of not making the baby dependent upon us, we’ve given up things such as traditional carrying methods or so-called attachment parenting, which is really just the act of having your baby close to you – not necessarily keeping them in a containment device, but having them physically on you, which is traditionally the way most societies have raised their children.
BECKY: Wow. When I hear some of those type of things, I start to go “Yeah, I really want to reject that.” [laughs] What carriers are better when your kids grow and have different needs, like baby versus toddler, or how old or how big can your kids be and still wear them? This kind of an issue.
JAY: I think these are really good questions to ask. There are so many difficult carriers out there, and I really believe that there is a carrier for every developmental need that your baby could be going through. I know not many people would be keen on buying a carrier to suit every single one of those developmental needs, so it’s great that there are so many of them that can hit a lot of those different topics all in one carrier. I definitely do think, though, that it’s worth it to do a little bit of research on these things and look for something that you think is going to be able to do all those different things that you want to do with your baby over the next few years.
I definitely find some way better suited for newborns than others, and it’s important to realize that from a manufacturer’s perspective, it obviously makes the most sense to say that your carrier can do all these things from newborn through toddler, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be the most ideal situation for a newborn or a toddler.
BECKY: So some of them can reach the gamut, but either end of the swing is going to be not the best.
JAY: That is a really good way to describe it.
BECKY: I’m going to assume – and you can tell me if I’m right – there is no perfect carrier.
JAY: Yes, I think that’s one of the questions that I get asked most often by everybody, is “What’s the best carrier out there?” If you’re a babywearing educator, you absolutely cannot answer that question. It is a matter of, where are we going? How big is the baby? What’s the temperature like? What am I wearing? There’s so many things that are going to come into play when we’re answering that question because it is very case-specific in most senses.
BECKY: So, types of carriers. Let’s talk about frame carriers. What are they, why would you use them, when should you use them, what are the pros and cons?
JAY: Frame carriers, they’re great for people who are very active outdoors looking for something dedicated specifically to hiking. I don’t necessarily consider them great for travel specifically because they are quite bulky and they don’t fit very well into overhead compartments or into small storage spaces. Not only that, but they don’t necessarily work very well for a smaller baby. They’re geared towards a larger child who can hold their head up, so we’re looking between the 6 and 9 month marker for most of those.
And although they have things like sunshades, a lot of them I find actually slightly uncomfortable for long-term use – not just for the adult, because it’s such a large, bulky pack, but also for the baby because a lot of them have a more narrow base for the child to be sitting in compared to some of the other soft structure carriers that I might recommend.
BECKY: There are lots of styles and lots of brands. Give us a little more information about what kinds of carriers are out there. So frame carriers would be mostly used for hiking; I know that there are sling carriers and there are wrap carriers. Talk about some of the different kinds, so that we can give an overview of what the choices are at the top of the funnel.
JAY: Definitely the frame carriers we talked a little bit about, and they have both external frame carriers and then something that’s kind of like a hybrid. It’s almost like an internal frame backpack carrier, where there is a backpack and then a seat for the baby all attached to each other. Some examples of that would be the Kelty Junction and then also maybe the Kanga Kid by Deuter. Those ones run a little bit less expensive, like $160 to $190, and they’re fairly lightweight. We’re talking about 4 to 5 pounds for the pack itself. So those are a little bit of a hybrid between a framed pack and then moving towards the next model of a carrier, which is a soft structure carrier.
Those ones I tend to see more frequently these days, especially in the West. The Ergobaby would be an example of a soft structure carrier. Beco Gemini is another example. Basically these are just a carrier with a canvas body and some kind of a buckle component to them, and typically also they will have a structured waistband to help distribute the weight, similar to a hiking backpack.
For me, when I look at a soft structure carrier, I think that it has largely been modeled after some more traditional carrying devices such as a Mei Tai, which is a traditional Chinese style carrier that’s been around, which is a panel with four straps. Soft structure carriers to me are kind of a take on that, with just a more modern, Western buckle finish to it rather than tie. That’s not to say that Mei Tais don’t exist, because they still do, and I actually think they’re fabulous carriers for the kind of lifestyle that you’re describing because they’re very versatile and lightweight, portable, and really work well with an infant through a toddler.
BECKY: I do not have one, but I have seen them and I have loved them. [laughs] If I were to get another, that’s what I would get.
JAY: It was one of the last styles of carriers that I got into. I feel like my daughter was almost 2 years old by the time I bought my first Mei Tai, and it has become one of my favorite carriers since then. It’s just an incredibly versatile piece of equipment, and I just love how small you can fold it up and toss it into your bag when not in use. We particularly have one that we absolutely love that’s a linen Mei Tai, and it has been great for travel in hot weather, such as when we were in Tokyo in August and it was 100 degrees and like 90% humidity or something. I really was enjoying that linen breathability along with the support that it provides, that fabric.
BECKY: That was another one of my questions: which carriers are best for hot weather? Because I know a lot of our location-independent families are heading to Southeast Asia or different places where they’re like “Let’s find some really great tropical place to live, or at least visit.” So that was one of my things: what’s the best one for hot weather?
JAY: There are some great options out there nowadays for hot weather. I was just mentioning the Mei Tai. There’s a lot of different brands out there. One of the ones that I’ve been really partial to is the Soul Slings brand linen Mei Tai, just because of the breathability of it. It also has these wrap-style straps which really help to distribute the baby’s weight quite nicely, so I find it very supportive for hours and hours’ worth of wearing if you’re out and about.
Then going back to the soft structure carriers, there’s quite a few of them now that are great for heat. One of the examples is Beco Gemini. They’ve been around for a really long time, but they make one now that has a mesh panel. That’s a really cool option. LÍLLÉbaby makes a carrier which is called an All Seasons which has a panel that zips down in the front to expose some mesh in the front. They also make an airflow version which is entirely mesh, so I really like that for the heat. Ergobaby has come up with this really cool Ergo 360 model, which is one of the ones that can actually forward-face ergonomically. They have come out with a cool mesh version, and that retails right around $180, so fairly accessibly priced. They make another model called the Performance that has mesh and it has a fairly large pocket for storing things, if you were looking to be traveling about for the day.
The Onya Baby, that’s another model that is actually very dad-friendly. A lot of men tend to gravitate toward this model because it’s very sporty. They make an Outback version with ripstop nylon, and then a Next Step version, which is actually made of recycled water bottles. Inside that carrier, both the panel of the carrier has mesh inside and then the straps and the waistband are also lined with mesh. It sits off the body a little bit, and it allows for cool air to pass between you and the baby and also between the padding and your body. So I find that carrier to be really good for the heat.
It also has this really cool function on it, which is a highchair function. You can actually strap the carrier to a chair and use a little pullout harness to work with your baby, so if you’re in a situation where there’s not a highchair, your child can still be restrained at a restaurant and eat comfortably with the rest of the family – which I found amazing for when we traveled. Certain places are not very child-friendly when it comes to having highchairs in a restaurant.
BECKY: Absolutely. That’s really cool. I’m actually going to be looking that one up after this to see it. Tell me a little bit about price. We’ve talked about numerous different kinds; give us some ideas about price from one style to another.
JAY: The majority of the carriers that I’ve been mentioning retail between about $130 to $180. These are for a lot of those more popular soft structure carriers that you can find fairly accessibly at places such as Amazon, or even on Target.com I’ve seen a lot of these available. REI often has some of these carriers as well. These are ones that we would consider more accessibly priced.
I think when people look at that price point, they consider it a little bit intimidating to jump in with a carrier, but I like to think about the use that you’re going to get out of that item. For me, my baby carrier is one of the few pieces that I actually have 4 years later that I had when my daughter was a year old, that I’m still getting use out of. Pretty much anything from our baby shower has come and gone from this house years ago, but the baby carriers are all still here, and they can be used with a second or a third child as well. So you’re really looking at a great value for the money that you’re spending on these carriers.
BECKY: I totally agree with that. When we sold our house and moved into our RV and started living location independently, we did not take any of our baby stuff. When we moved into our RV, our youngest was 3 at the time, and we had none of the baby stuff anymore. None of the clothes, none of the toys, anything. But we still have the carrier. We’ve even used it on our older children when we’ve been walking somewhere. Our daughter sprained her ankle. She was I think 6 or 7 at the time, and Paul carried the baby and I popped her in the carrier, and she rode in there the rest of the way home. It works fine. [laughs]
JAY: I completely agree. I think people often ask, “Why would you want to wear a baby that large?” But honestly, there’s going to be many times when that child around 5 or 6 is too tired to walk, especially if you’re a fairly active hiking family, or like you mentioned, spraining an ankle. An injury is a common thing. Or maybe a whole day at a theme park, a child might not want to walk towards the end of the day. I always just feel pained for those people I see walking through the parking lot with their 7-year-old in their arms, because that is a difficult amount of weight to carry in your arms. So I still really find the ergonomics of the carrier to be incredibly useful, even with an older child.
BECKY: Yeah, I remember Paul asking me, “Are you sure? Is she too heavy?” And I’m like, “Actually, no. It feels fine.” Even a big kid, the way it distributes the weight better than trying to carry somebody on your hip is just – I mean, even if you put the carrier on your hip, it still is distributing the weight in a way that your body can carry more comfortably.
Can you make your own? Should you make your own? They’re expensive, so if you can find a tutorial on YouTube that says “this is how to make your own carrier,” would you recommend that?
JAY: I completely recommend doing DIY if that is something that you are interested in. I would just recommend getting a pattern that is going to be durable and that has solid box frame stitching at the corners. I would just get advice from a babywearing educator or a local consultant, or just find a website that you know to be reputable to actually find these patterns. And there are a lot of them out there, so read the reviews and just make sure that other people have mentioned that this carrier is durable.
I don’t want to call out any horrible patternmakers necessarily, but I’ve seen some in craft stores. I’ve seen patterns for baby carriers, and when you actually look at them, the positioning of the baby is just horrible, and they look like they’re not made very well. You know that those people aren’t actually making baby carriers for a living; they were just doing it for fun or for craft. So definitely look into people who are making them and know what they’re doing so that you follow a pattern that’s going to hold up over time.
BECKY: Awesome advice. How do you judge a carrier or sling? How do you know whether or not it’s going to be a good one?
JAY: The number one way to know if a carrier is going to be good is to try it on. I strongly recommend that you find a resource locally where you can go to try on some baby carriers, because every single carrier is going to be fit-specific. So what works for your partner might not necessarily work for you. I think most people are concerned about what their baby is going to like, but the majority of babies in this situation are going to be fairly content with you wearing them in whatever carrying device you decide to start out with. There are definitely cases where that isn’t the truth, but for the most part, most babies are…
BECKY: Easy to please.
JAY: Yeah. As long as you’re holding them, they’re generally okay. There’s definitely exceptions to that, so I just think the best bet is to go and try them on, try on as many as possible, and if there’s something that doesn’t feel good about that particular carrier, ask questions. Say “I don’t like the way this is hitting my body. Is there something where the straps might fall at a different angle?” Or “Hey, I don’t like how this feels on my waist. This is carrying the weight a little higher than I would like it. Is there something where I can actually wear it lower on my body and distribute the weight across my hips instead?” Don’t settle for something just because it’s a decent price or you like the way it looks; instead, find something that feels genuinely good on your body so that you will be more likely to want to use it for a length of time.
BECKY: It’s like a personal accessory, and you happen to put a baby inside it. But you want it to feel like it’s really comfortable on you.
JAY: Yeah, there’s really no point in owning an expensive piece of equipment that doesn’t really suit your needs personally.
BECKY: Very true. You mentioned this before, wanting to be sure that you were talking about a carrier that was ergonomically correct for a baby that was front-facing, and I know that not all carriers are, and some front-facing baby carriers are really bad for baby’s posture and spine and bone development. So which carriers are good for your back versus which carriers might actually harm your spine or your posture, and also not just yours, but also baby’s?
JAY: I definitely think that there’s a little bit of misconception surrounding some of the more narrow-based carriers as being bad for a baby’s hips or bad for their spine development. There’s not very much actual research that backs that up. It’s things that people have pieced together to come up with this idea. I definitely will encourage people to pursue ergonomic positioning, because overall we just know that to be better for both baby and ourselves – not just in carriers, but in every other aspect of our life, we strive towards ergonomics. You can do that with your baby. I think that you’d be better off, but that’s not to say that the other carriers are necessarily dangerous.
With an ergonomic carrier, you’re looking for something that’s going to support the natural hip placement of the baby, support their spine in the shape that it should be in for their developmentally appropriate stage. There’s plenty of carriers out there that can accomplish that at a relatively decent price point. For example, if you were looking for something that had the ability to face out, some of the more popular ones like the Björn are the ones that people tend to gravitate towards.
But having owned some of those front pack carriers and used them, I know from personal experience that they can be quite uncomfortable, because a lot of the weight is hanging from your shoulders rather than having a waistband to distribute it to. So they’re great in the beginning when the baby doesn’t weigh that much, but once you start topping out around 15-20 pounds, you’re really going to start to feel that weight hanging from your shoulders.
Some of the more ergonomic options for something such as facing forward would be a Beco Gemini carrier or possibly a LÍLLÉbaby carrier, or the Ergobaby 360. They all support the baby’s hips in that in position that we’re really looking for, where the knees are placed higher than the bum, and the baby’s bum is actually rested in a seat. So they’re using your chest as a basis to support their spine, and then their hips are placed at that healthy position, and their legs aren’t just hanging. I find if you are going to be wearing a baby for a long period of time that that might be a much more comfortable position for them to be seated in.
I also think for the adult’s perspective, those carriers offer a waistband which is supportive for our backs, to help take a lot of the weight actually off the shoulders and have the majority of it centered on our hips. The other thing is that both the Beco Gemini and the LÍLLÉbaby, they actually offer the ability to cross straps across your back in an “X” rather than having them backpack style, and I find in a front carry that that really helps to distribute the weight better across your back.
BECKY: See, I wish I would have known all this before we did any babywearing way back when, because this is just such good information.
Before we finish some of our last questions, I would like to do a lightning round. I’ll mention the baby carrier brand, and you tell me pros, cons, or some interesting information in about a sentence or two about each one, to just give a really quick, rapid-fire overview of some of the top brands.
I’m going to mention right now the framed carriers which we talked about that were mainly for hiking. There are a lot of them out there. I’m going to quick list them, but we’re not going to go through them in the lightning round, just because these are ones specifically for hiking, not ones that you might use for everything else. Snugli, Osprey, Deuter, Chicco, REI, Kelty – these all have really nice external framed packs for hiking, if you wanted to look into that specifically.
But let’s talk soft carriers specifically, because they can be used for absolutely everything that you want to do. Talk to me really quick about Ergo.
JAY: The Ergobaby is one of my favorites because it is very accessible. You can find it on Target, you can find it on Amazon, you can find it almost everywhere. Fits a baby 7 to 45 pounds, so it’s pretty much a one and done carrier. You can use that with an infant all the way up through toddlerhood. It was one of my first carriers, and it is my husband’s favorite to this day.
BECKY: Yay! How about Moby Wrap?
JAY: The Moby Wrap is a great first carrier for an infant. It’s stretchy and supportive for that fourth trimester skin-to-skin care. I don’t necessarily consider that a great carrier for something such as hiking or being outdoors because it can be kind of hot.
BECKY: Very good. How about BabyBjörn?
JAY: BabyBjörn, that’s one of the most common carriers that we see out there these days, and one of the ones that many people start with. I think that it’s a great carrier to fit a newborn because it does not need an insert to support their little bodies, and it won’t swallow them whole. But because it does not have a structured waistband – well, there’s a few models, and the models that are most readily available don’t have structured waistbands, so a lot of the weight will hang from your shoulders. So over time it will become quite uncomfortable.
BECKY: Okay, Boba Wrap.
JAY: The Boba Wrap is a lot like the Moby except for it has a lot more stretch to it, so a lot of people say it’s difficult to get it tight enough. I do think it’s a quite wonderful carrier if you can manage to get it on, and it’s really great, once again like the Moby, for that skin-to-skin fourth trimester time. But it really stops being comfortable and starts to feel a little insecure around 15 or 20 pounds because the sag that comes into it makes it no longer sturdy.
JAY: Tula. That brand was recently bought by Ergobaby, which has made it a lot more accessible. You can now actually find it on the Target website. This carrier, although really popular, I don’t think is great necessarily for an infant. They do make an insert, but I find most babies fit best in that carrier around 8 months to a year. It’s a fabulous carrier to use from that time all the way up through toddlerhood. Although they make a toddler carrier, their standard will fit a 2- to 3-year-old quite nicely.
BECKY: Excellent. How about Beco?
JAY: Beco was also recently acquired by another company. They were purchased by the Boba Company. They make a line of carriers, and it remains to be seen what’s going to happen to them now that they’ve been bought, but the Beco Gemini has a fabulous front-facing-out carrier that you can use forward facing. You can use it with a newborn with no insert. It’s one of the better-fitting carriers for a newborn with no insert, in my opinion. They also have a standard carrier which works really well with a 6- to 24-month-old baby. And they have a toddler carrier which has one of the highest weight limits out of all carriers on the market. It’s a 65 pound weight limit. I look at it more as a preschool carrier than a toddler carrier, though, because it fits a child in about 3T pants.
BECKY: Okay, are there any others that, from what I’ve just said, you’re like “Hey, we really should mention this one”?
JAY: I said the Onya Baby earlier; that one’s a pretty cool one. They’re based in California, so I’m a little bit partial to them. But I do think that they’re really well-known for being an outdoors kind of a carrier. So if you’re into a sporty look or something that’s very durable, the Onya Baby can be great for hiking.
Another one that I think is worth mentioning but kind of difficult to get a hold of would be a Kinderpack. Kinderpacks are just these great carriers. They’re similar to an Ergo or a Tula, but they’ve got these really nice seat darts that make for a really deep, comfortable seat. They make four sizes: an infant, a standard, a toddler, and then they also have a preschool version which goes all the way up to 55 pounds. They’re fabulous carriers. They make them with cool mesh, and they also make them with canvas. Like I said, they’re a little bit difficult to get a hold of, though. They make only a certain amount at a time, and they stock them weekly. The resale market for them is pretty good.
BECKY: A big question I’m sure a lot of moms want to know: can you nurse in a carrier, and which carriers are best for nursing on the go?
JAY: You can nurse in pretty much any carrier. I think it’s a little bit more difficult to nurse with a stretchy carrier because you have to loosen it so much that it’s not really supporting the baby anymore at that point. Also, some of those front pack carriers, they have internal harnesses on the front, so that would also be a little bit difficult because you wouldn’t really be able to get your breasts out around it.
But other than that, most of these carriers are quite easy to nurse in. Ring Sling is great to nurse in a cradle hold or on the hip. You can nurse on one side. It’s easy to lift it up and down to adjust it for nursing. I always preferred something structured or something like a Mei Tai for nursing, though, because I had two shoulders’ worth of support still rather than the one shoulder with a sling. I also really liked that it could be discreet if I wanted it to, with like an Ergo, because I could pull up the sleeping hood on one side and give myself a little bit of coverage or some sun cover for the baby as well. So I really liked those kind of carriers for nursing.
I think the majority of carriers can be nursed in pretty comfortably as long as you just get a little bit of help with adjusting it until you figure out how it’s supposed to go. I just strongly encourage everyone, if you’re just learning to breastfeed, don’t think that you have to know how to breastfeed with a carrier right off the bat. I oftentimes will just try to work on the two skills independently before trying to put them together, so don’t be discouraged if your first time trying it goes a little funky.
BECKY: Mine sure did. I thought for sure that this whole nursing in a carrier thing was totally not going to work for me, and it was always a mess and nothing was going right. It just took some time and some practice. So stick with it; you’ll get it. Just give yourself some grace.
JAY: I think a lot of people end up nursing in a carrier in a moment of complete desperation. [laughs] You’re standing in a mall somewhere, or on a subway platform somewhere with a screaming child, and then you’re like “I bet I could probably feed them in this.”
BECKY: [laughs] So true. Okay, so talk to me a little bit about how babywearing has changed your relationship with your kid or with your husband or both. How has it helped you become a different parent?
JAY: I’ll say in the beginning, when I was nursing my baby, it really seemed like an around-the-clock thing. It seemed like she just needed to be nursing all the time, and that I was constantly trying to time my errands or going out based on when her last feed was. And then there was always this clock running. You had approximately an hour and 15 minutes until she was going to start getting upset again. I felt really kind of stuck at home. My daughter was kind of high needs, too. She was one of those babies that constantly needed to be in arms.
So those two things really pushed me towards wanting to learn how to use a carrier. Once I finally became comfortable in the carrier and then learning how to nurse in a carrier, it really changed my entire relationship with my daughter, because I no longer felt like I was confined to my home, like I was having to give up all the things that I once cared about because I needed to just stay home nursing all day. I suddenly had back my independence, I had back my freedom, and I felt like I got to bring the pieces of myself back that had been missing for a while and just learn to be the kind of mom that I had wanted to be. It gave me this whole independence that I had been seeking while still being able to meet my daughter’s needs and have her close to me, the way that I wanted to.
I just think overall, it changed a lot about our relationship. I don’t know that I necessarily thought that I would someday be wearing a 4-year-old when I started this whole journey, but it has become such an integral part of our relationship. She sees it as her place of comfort and solitude when we’re in an unfamiliar location or around people that she doesn’t know well. She comes to me and says, “Mom, I’m feeling tired. I think I want to go in the Ergo.”
For her to know what that is to her too, to understand how to self-regulate when she needs that help and to come to me and to see that as a tool for that, I really think it has just tremendously helped both of our bonding with each other.
BECKY: I know firsthand how when you are tired and the baby is small and you’re not getting enough sleep, and then you’re feeling stuck at home, you’re just starting to build feelings of resentment toward this little person that you love so much. They have completely altered your life in ways you didn’t expect, and the freedom that being able to babywear gives you just feels like you do have a piece of yourself back.
JAY: I think a lot of people really try to sell it as a tool for bonding, but for a lot of us, too, it can be that tool that we need for independence. You can strap your child on your back when they’re having a bad time and walk around, and you don’t have to necessarily interact with them while still meeting their needs. If you’re having a tough time, you can still have the mental space that you need as well. So I think it’s such an important tool for a caregiver to have at their disposal.
BECKY: It really, really is. I totally agree. What about dads wearing their babies? I know there’s some challenges that dads might face, so talk to me a little bit about why it’s so beneficial for dads, and how we can get rid of some of the stigma around dads wearing babies.
JAY: I think a lot of people will look at some of these carriers and think that they might be a little bit feminine, or that possibly their husband wouldn’t really be into it. I think a lot of dads gravitate toward some of the more sporty models of the carriers, or maybe even the front pack carriers like the Björn which we see often in media. We’ll see men wearing the BabyBjörn.
I’d like to shout out to some of the dad bloggers that are out there that are wearing regularly and really showing that Wraps and Ring Slings and Mei Tais can be just as manly as all the other carriers. There’s some fabulous bloggers out there that are spending a lot of time trying to dispel that myth that bonding with your child as a father is somehow not manly. I know my partner, at first he always used to argue with me about using the carrier. He said, “I can just hold her in my arms.” I said, “Well, yes, now. But as she gets older, that might become more difficult.” And as he saw me really embrace the Ergo and how comfortable she became in it, he started to really enjoy it as well.
I remember at some point I sold one of our original Ergo because I wanted to buy another carrier, so I sold I and bought something else. But my husband was so bent out of shape about me selling that original Ergo that he used to wear our daughter in that he actually went and bought another version of the exact same one, even though we have a myriad of carriers at our disposal, because he was so attached to it. It was one of the first times that I really saw that the baby carrying meant a lot to him, too.
BECKY: Paul has been a really great dad that carries his babies, and they have enjoyed that experience with him, and I think he’s really enjoyed it as well. I don’t know if it was something he was totally onboard with right from the beginning, but I think all dads have to work their way into it the first time. He’s never been somebody who was like “My manliness is more important to me than taking care of this little person,” so strap that baby on and go for a walk.
I think it’s really great that the companies are coming out with some products that help dads to see that this is something that’s for them too, and I also applaud all of the dads out there who say “I don’t care if it’s got flowers on it; if it helps me carry the baby around and the baby’s happier, then I’m going to do it.” That’s awesome.
JAY: There’s just something so unique. Many of us have that experience of having the baby inside of us and then wearing it on our chest all that time afterwards, so this is just a step for them to be able to experience that same bonding of having the baby on your chest and skin-to-skin, and feeling them breathe and them feeling you breathe and hearing the vibration of your voice. It’s just such a unique experience, and the baby carrier can really help to facilitate that with a non-birth caregiver.
BECKY: Absolutely. So where should people go, what’s the best places to look if they’ve heard a couple on here and they’re like “I really want to check that out”? What are the best places to go to look at a baby carrier, either for reviews or to purchase?
JAY: I mentioned some of the big box locations that you could get some of these, but of course I really love supporting small local businesses when I can. So I recommend people look for babywearing retailers online that carry a lot of these brands.
One of my personal favorites is 5 Minute Recess. Their website is 5mr.com, and they have a huge selection of carriers. They’re known for having a lot of very affordable carriers as well. They are a company based in the U.S., just a husband and wife team, and they’re just a wonderful group of people. And they do great things, such as they give portions of their proceeds away to charities, and they also have point systems for their customers so that you can earn points for buying carriers and save them up to get discounts on your next carrier. So I think they’re a really great company to support.
I also think that if you find local baby stores to go in and actually work with their staff to try on carriers, I think if you hit up some of these small little boutiques you’ll find some really interesting selections of carriers that might be different from what you’d find from some of the big box locations.
BECKY: Isn’t it also true that if someone sees a little carrier boutique and they pop their head in – I have heard that some places across the country in the United States have babywearing libraries, and that those boutiques might know where to find them?
JAY: That is a very good question. There’s actually this national organization, Babywearing International, which you can go onto their website to see where there is a chapter near you. But they have learning libraries where you can go to a meeting, and they’ll have suitcases just full of carriers that you can try on and in some cases borrow for a month at a time. But it is a good opportunity to try on all the different things that are out there before you commit to buying something that may or may not work for your family. It’s a really great resource.
If you look up babywearing libraries in your area, or babywearing lending libraries or learning libraries, you might actually find a lot that aren’t necessarily affiliated with Babywearing International, that are just independently run in your area.
BECKY: Excellent. I know that I went to – I do not know if it was associated with any specific organization because it was so long ago, but I remember having purchased two or three carriers before going to this group meeting where they just had a whole bunch that you could try on, and it was then that I found the two carriers that I have now, one that I use for infancy up to 15ish pounds, and the other for everything after that. It was so helpful just to be able to put a bunch of them on and really say “This is the one I like the best.” So I really encourage everybody to just check that out. It’s a “try it before you buy it” kind of thing, really. You can only benefit from it; there’s really no downside.
JAY: A lot of babywearing educators really compare baby carriers to jeans. If one of your friends says that Levis fit the best on them, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Levis are going to fit the best on you when there are so many other brands out there to choose from. So don’t always go off of the recommendations of other people, or even necessarily the reviews on Amazon. Really read things in depth and see why people thought this carrier was good, like how it fit on their body, which features that they enjoyed about it – and then take the time to try it on yourself if you have that opportunity, because chances are it’s going to feel differently than you thought it did, and there might be something better for you out there.
BECKY: Absolutely. Another thing I might mention is if you don’t have a lending or a learning library near you, any sort of a mommy group that would be around, just ask questions. I’m sure there’s lots of other mommies out there who might have information or might have lots of wraps to be able to share and say “Here, go ahead and try what I have.”
When you get together as a community, it’s helpful because people can share the information and the resources that they have, and that just makes things so much easier. I really do feel like when it comes to children, it does take a village. You can’t do it alone. It’s so much easier when you have other people that can just walk alongside you, and that’s one easy way to do it.
JAY: I completely agree with you. If it wasn’t for the La Leche League and Babywearing International and these organizations that really took me in when I was struggling as a new parent, I don’t think I would be where I am today. It was really huge to have that community and to learn from all of them to be the parent that I wanted to be.
BECKY: That’s really awesome to hear. I really think that those organizations do such an excellent job, and they have such an important place where they do their work.
What tip do you have for families trying out new carriers with their baby or toddler? What’s the last little nugget of information that you want to leave?
JAY: I think that one of the most common things that I hear when I’m trying to help people fit a carrier, the baby will start fussing, and they will tell me every time, “The baby doesn’t like this carrier. The baby doesn’t want to be carried.” I hear that really often, and I think that it’s important to point out with something like baby carriers that babies are actually just not very interested in trying new things in general. So a baby crying when you’re putting them into a carrier is likely for any reason other than the carrier itself.
I just encourage people, if your baby is crying when you’re putting them in, just commit to it. Get them in there. Then give yourself some time to calm down and walk around, bounce, walk outside, take them in the fresh air, sing them a song. Just really commit to them being in there until they calm down and then start to enjoy being in it. Typically the carrier is not the problem in most situations.
BECKY: When you’re trying new carriers, be sure to have someone there with you kind of as a spotter as you’re trying to figure out how to get the baby in and how to get them back out and how to get them in the right position. It’s just a whole lot easier to have an extra set of hands. And if it’s uncomfortable, ask for help.
JAY: A lot of people, if they try on something, they’ll say “I don’t like this carrier; it doesn’t fit me right. I’m going to get a different one.” But sometimes it could just be a matter of tweaking the fit on it, and then it would be a completely different carrier. I can’t tell you the amount of times that someone’s been telling me they hate their Ergo because the chest clip is all the way up on their neck, and then they didn’t realize that it can actually slide down and be adjusted. So it’s sometimes just a really simple fix, and it’s a matter of someone helping you to tweak it to actually fit the way that it’s supposed to on your body.
BECKY: I want to mention, too, that you have a blog. It is ModernBabywearing.com. Tell me a little bit about your blog and what you like to do there.
JAY: I write about baby carriers. Not a surprise. [laughs] I do some reviews, but what I’m most proud of, definitely, is the Education tab, which has a lot of resources for parents that are looking for different kinds of carriers. There’s an article on there talking about breastfeeding in different carriers. There’s one that addresses toddler carriers, all the different options out there. There’s one that talks about woven wraps, which is a rabbit hole in and of itself.
So I just like to put together these resources, because when I was starting out, it was really difficult for me to find the answers I was looking for, and I was kind of confused by a lot of the lingo and a lot of the little intricacies of the babywearing world. So I just try to keep my website fairly accessible. I want people to be able to go there and use it as a resource to find information about carriers.
BECKY: That is all that I have for today. Is there anything else that you feel like you really want to toss in the ring? Anything left on your mind that you want to say before we close off?
JAY: I don’t think so. It’s been really wonderful chatting with you, though, Becky.
BECKY: It has been delightful. I have enjoyed every minute of it. It’s fun to talk to someone about something that I also love. And honestly, babywearing isn’t something that I sit down like “Hey, friend of mine, let’s sit down and talk about babywearing,” but it’s really kind of fun to chat about it. [laughs]
JAY: Oh yeah. I could do it all day.
BECKY: I have enjoyed it immensely. Thank you so much, Jay, for being on our podcast.
JAY: Thank you.
PAUL: Jay clearly has a lot of experience and information to share. Check into her website, ModernBabywearing.com, and get that baby up at your level so they can experience life with you. I’m telling you, folks, it makes a big difference for them to be able to see life and to be able to benefit from all of these experiences, just as you’re walking from the taxi to the grocery store or wherever it is that you’re going.
Oh, and stay tuned for next week’s episode, when we discuss more of this babywearing stuff with Diane, who gives a completely different perspective, but yet even more in depth. So looking forward to that next week.
Hey, and I’m wondering: how was this episode for you? Do you know someone who would benefit from all this babywearing talk, or any of the other episodes that we’ve been putting together? Send them a link to this podcast episode, which is nomadtogether.com/babywearing, or just send them to nomadtogether.com. We’re available on every podcasting platform you can find, so just tell them to search for “Nomad Together,” and they will find us – even if they type it in as one single word or as two separate words.
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Folks, I’m sorry to say that’s it for Episode #37 of the Nomad Together podcast. You can see all the show notes for today’s episode at nomadtogether.com/babywearing. And folks, let’s leave those iTunes reviews. Come on, bring me some love. Until next week, let’s Nom