When I first dove into the world of Woven wraps, I found back carries to be really daunting. I was not exactly flexible enough to reach the high-up places on my back that I thought I needed to in order to make a “secure seat”. That combined with an arching, leg straightening toddler… meant that it took me many many months before I was confident enough in my wrapping abilities to consider taking a stab at it anywhere but in the safety of my own bedroom.
By far, the most difficult part of the whole back carry process, was trying to make and maintain that deep seat. Some of my early teachers tried to help me out by teaching me the “pants trick” of tucking the wrap into the front of the baby’s diaper or pants before getting her up onto my back to help keep the wrap in place. It was a good cheat as far as getting her up there and getting the confidence to learn how to spread the cross passes, but in retrospect it actually kept me from grasping the actual function of a deep seat entirely… something that eluded me in the months to come. My naïve understanding was that I was trying to get as much fabric in between me and baby to keep it from coming undone once she was back there. The more fabric I could shove up there, the less chance of her popping that seat. Or so I thought.
Now a few years and hundreds of wrap jobs later, I can safely say that telling someone to tuck the wrap into the baby’s pants or to “pull the fabric up to the baby’s belly button” in a front carry, is not doing them any favors. A seat, if you can picture it, is actually mimicking a hammock. Just as you would sit in a hammock, you want your baby to sit in the wrap. The weight is on their bottom, their knees are higher than the bottom, and there is no excessive fabric pulled up between their legs.
So, what’s the big deal? I did it wrong all those months, I even defended the pant-tucking method pretty vocally in some Internet groups. Why did it matter how it got there? The wrap job could still be secure, right? In theory, yes. But what happens when you leave all that fabric bunched up between the baby’s legs and then finish your carry, is that all that bunched up fabric is actually slack in your bottom rail. Slack that will be brought out into your (once seemingly tight) wrap job as soon as your baby starts to bounce around back there. It will start to creep from the pit of their knees to the middle of their little thighs and before you know it you have a baby back there that is practically standing up straight on your back with the cross passes digging into their thighs. Has anyone experienced this babywearing fail?
It used to happen to me all.the.time. I would have the tightest wrap job ever, and about 15 minutes later she would be sagging and my shoulders would be aching. No matter how good I got at cross passes and fancy finishes, it was never as comfy as a Meh Dai or SSC for me because I didn’t realize I was still not getting the most fundamental part of back wrapping my toddler. The day it finally clicked, the whole wrapping thing completely changed for me. It was so much less about flexibility than I realized.
Now that we’ve cleared up the controversy of the pant trick, lets walk through the process of getting that coveted deep seat.
With the baby on my back and the top rail tightly pinned, I use both hands to reach back and pull the woven fabric in a downward motion, getting all the slack out of the mid-section of the wrap.
Reaching between the baby’s legs and spacing my hands about the width of the baby’s shoulders apart, I grab the bottom rail and bring it upwards, enveloping the baby’s bottom in the fabric and helping them to bring their knees upwards and bent into the spread squat position. Think of the motion as holding a piece of paper on both ends and sliding it between your body and the baby, rather than pushing the fabric up between you both.
At this point, it is best to stand almost completely upright, allowing the baby to bounce down into that seat before doing your strand by strand tightening.
Finally I bring any extra slack up over my shoulders immediately to help keep the baby from trying to straighten their legs. It is significantly harder for them to do that when they are in a spread squat position. Don’t over-tighten! You will pull out your seat.
The end result, is a baby with their bottom resting deep in a hammock, knees higher than their bum in that coveted “M Position”.
Need some more help? Here is one of my favorite tutorials on how to make a seat in a woven wrap. Faith’s videos are always a go-to for me. You can watch all the videos in the world, but nothing compares to some hands on help. If you can find your way to a Babywearing International Meeting nearby, you won’t regret it.
One final note on the subject, you may notice that this method is totally unpractical for a newborn baby. There are different methods to utilize when wrapping a very small baby on your back. If you are new to wrapping and are interested in back wrapping a newborn, I strongly encourage you to seek hands-on help to learn the safest and easiest methods for this undertaking.
As always, the folks at 5 Minute recess sent me something totally awesome and budget friendly to review. This time it was one of Fidella’s new Wrap Conversion Meh Dai’s, called the FlyTai. I ended up liking the tester so much that I ordered a few for our local carrier Learning Library. Besides fitting nicely into the budget range just under $120 it is also a great option for those seeking to make a carrier purchase that will truly grow with their child.
The FlyTai has many features that I find appealing in a Wrap Style Meh Dai. The straps are lightly padded to wrap style, giving you some extra cush without too much bulk. Then you get the added benefit of better weight distribution by being able to spread the wide fabric straps across your body while wearing the carrier. This proved to be a real selling point when wearing it with my 30 lb. 3 year old. Although her legs definitely exceeded the width of the seat pretty far, I was able to better support her little pony legs with the wrap straps, giving her a very ergonomic seat which in turn gave me a more comfortable carry. I walked around a mall with her snoring on my back for the better part of an hour… and you all know what a napping toddler feels like – 30 lbs of dead weight strapped to me for that long… and I did not regret it one bit the next day. I also had enough length with the 78” straps that I was able to spread them across my chest to finish which gave me even more toddler support. I love wrap style straps!
The waistband is lightly padded and fairly wide, it molded to my body perfectly and did not create any pressure points or awkward fit issues in the waist region (to put it politely). I was able to get a nice snug fit as petite wearer, without any overlap of the padding where I tied the carrier at my waist. There was plenty of length for the waist straps, they measured 72” from one end to the other. That with the generous width of the band would make it a great fit for a larger wearer too!
My favorite feature of the FlyTai, is the 4 way adjustability of the carrier. There are places to cinch the carrier on all four sides of the body panel, so you have the ability to make the seat narrower and the height of the panel shorter to fit a smaller baby. Not only was the carrier a pretty decent fit with my own giant toddler, but I was able to get a great fit with my friends’ 3 month old too! Though other Wrap Conversion Meh Dai’s like the DidyTai have a place to adjust the carrier at the bottom to make it narrower, I liked the aesthetics of the Fly Tai’s adjustment much better, and they include the ability to adjust for height in the panel too – which is not something you see in the more commonly available Wrap Style Meh Dai’s. The height can be adjusted from 9.4″ – 18.9″ and the width from 4.5″ – 15.7″making it appropriate to wear with your newborn, and to keep fitting comfortably until you max out the upper weight limit at the manufacturer recommended 33 lbs.
The 4 way adjustment is by far my favorite feature of the FlyTai, though it contributes to one of the only faults I found with the carrier. When you adjust the width of the base of the carrier to its most narrow setting, it causes some unsightly “puckering” right at the place where the body panel meets the waistband. This kind of cosmetic thing is pretty inescapable when you combine this level of adjustment with a wide padded waistband, but nonetheless it is something I feel the need to point out. The good news, was I was able to cover that part of the carrier with the straps when they were spread out, so it was not visible to others. More importantly, it did not cause any discomfort around my waist at all. It did not detract from my overall satisfaction with the carrier.
The flat hood is really simple and it’s fully adjustable as well. It does a great job of showcasing the patterns of the lovely organic cotton Woven Wraps Fidella is known for. The shoulder straps have attached loops to thread the strings of the hood through, which can prove to be a little tricky in a back carry, but definitely doable. When you cinch the width at the top of the carrier, it makes the hood look like your baby’s own little Superhero Cape, which is kind of amazing. I don’t know if it was intentional, but it sure is adorable.
Just like all the Fidella wraps and ring slings, this FlyTai came out of the package deliciously soft and silky to the touch. A little too silky actually. I was having a really hard time getting the passes tight enough with my giant toddler at first, because there was so much glide in the fabric. I kept tightening and tightening, and it kept slipping again. The problem was solved when I gave it a wash (I know, I know… cardinal rule) at which point it fluffed up even nicer, and it developed much more grip once the fibers were roughed up a little bit. The next time around it was way easier to tighten and to keep the passes in place. I haven’t even mentioned the prints! Fidella has some lovely designs available. I personally always gravitate towards the more elegant prints like the Iced Butterfly, but the Outer Space and Rock n Rolla prints are very Daddy friendly, and the Sherba print is so, so much fun. They have a nice cross-section of patterns to appeal to many different tastes.
What a win for this lovely German budget line. I appreciate the economic accessibility they are bringing to an otherwise rather expensive category of baby carrier. With all the new regulations making custom Wrap Conversion Meh Dai’s harder and harder to get a hold of in the states, I expect that these FlyTai’s are going to keep Flying off of the shelves! (ha ha ha, couldn’t help myself) Well deserved though, I have to say I have been impressed with everything Fidella has brought to the table.
Back in November, I received this Vena Cava Tester from Smitten With Wovens. It will be the Freshman release for this budget line woven at a mill here in the United States. I can’t help but love when I find a company to support locally, even more so when it is at an accessible price. It is with much anticipation that I have been awaiting the release of this fun new line. The time has finally come…
When I opened the package, the print jumped right out at me. It was bold and fun. Reminiscent of those heart shaped chalky candies that we all used to give each other as children for Valentine’s Day, it made me smile when I looked at it. Even though it was my least favorite color in the whole world, I was excited to try it out. This woven can be worn in any direction, inside out or upside down – and the print looks equally appealing no matter what. That is a real highlight when you first lay eyes on it. It was pretty soft right out the bag, but it was so fluffy and had a great texture after a quick wash. I didn’t even bother to iron it, but it wasn’t really necessary. Right off, it reminded me of many of the 100% cotton Natibaby’s that have passed through here over the years. Beautiful tight Jacquard weave, nice weight in hand. It was medium thick, weighing in at 235 g/m2 pre-wash. Super supportive, and nowhere near beastly despite being totally toddler worthy. It had this gorgeous Ecru warp that was all satiny and shiny, so I kinda thought that it would be rather slippery to play with… but all the texture in those little hearts gave it some great grip. I had an easy time wrapping in it, and pulled off some fancy finishes while I was at it. It had the slightest bit of bounce to it, allowing you to get those passes really tight, with no sag after the fact. It was wide enough for a big kid too, 70cm top to bottom. I never struggled with getting a solid seat with this leggy toddler. The length was 4.6 meters, so I did a lot of multi-pass carries while I had it. It wrapped very true to size, with totally reasonable tapers making knot tying a breeze. I put my 27 lb 2.5 year old Dragon Baby up in a Double Hammock and took a long hike with her around the neighborhood, covering several miles while she took a nap on my back. Rock solid. Not only did she not budge at all, but I didn’t feel any kind of strain after the journey. I was thrilled that this new line was off to such a great start.
Over the next few weeks I wore and wore that Pink carrier. Color aside, I was really loving having it. We tried out some different double hammock finishes, a Ruck with a Slingring finish and later tied Tibetan. In every carry it totally passed the giant toddler test. I never felt like I was wrestling with the passes, and got a comfy and secure carry every time. My toddler loved it so much, she actually asked to be wrapped in it. :gasp: Who wouldn’t love a wrap covered in hearts? It’s like practically impossible. I handed it off to another avid wrapping friend with a toddler wearee, and she loved it too! Every single person who got their hands on this tester has loved it, without exception.
I would totally recommend this wrap for anyone! It is a great woven for first time wrappers and long time collectors alike. It is really low maintenance – 100% cotton means no fuss when it comes to caring for this budget woven. For those who are easily put off by the thought of breaking in something, this beauty was easy peasy. It took almost no effort to soften it up. It’s floppy enough for a newborn, and thick enough to carry around a preschooler and not hate yourself for it later. I could see this being a very versatile woven for a family looking to purchase only one wrap to grow with their child from infant to toddler stages (Ha! Sound familiar? I think my husband fell for that line once) or a caregiver with multiple aged children looking for a versatile budget friendly carrier option. It would be a great fit for a lending library too!
I inquired about the price, and was told that they are planning to retail right around $120 for a size 5 (4.2 meters). I couldn’t believe it when they told me that pricing! I can honestly say that this line is going to give some of those more mid-range brands a run for their money! What a lovely option for those looking to bring something beautiful into their home at a price that isn’t going to make them uncomfortable. I am by no means opposed to budget lines, I own quite a few and they can be fantastic… I am just loving seeing the growth in the industry and how much more available awesome woven wraps like these are becoming. Bravo for contributing to our job growth locally, and for making an outstanding product to boot. This line is making their debut March 20, 2015 at 5pm/PST, and will be sold exclusively on 5 Minute Recess. I am so excited to see what other colors it will be released in! I really can’t wait to see what else they come out with. I’m totally Smitten. 😉
When I tell people that I am a Babywearing Educator, more often than not I get a very puzzled response.
“Baby – what?” they ask.
I am sure that the first image that comes to mind for most is a baby hanging in a front pack on their dad’s chest, a la The Hangover.
Simply put, babywearing is the act of using any kind of fabric carrier to wear your baby (or toddler) close to you. But babywearing is sooo much more than that. It is an ancient childrearing tradition, a practical modern day parenting tools, a fashion statement, a bonding moment, a reclamation of natural parenting practices, a necessity, a means by which to survive. It is light-years beyond than just strapping a kid in a carrier – even if you don’t think about what it is when you are doing it.
The tradition that is babywearing has been utilized by many different cultures all over the world. From the Welsh Shawls to the Rebozo, from the Kanga to the Mei Tai, woven baskets to cradle boards… you are in good company when you realize that wearing your baby is the most practical and natural way to care for a young child. Though the western world is really starting to embrace babywearing as a fashionable accoutrement to parenthood, its usefulness was definitely where its popularity began. Historically, currently, and in other parts of the world…Babywearing is way less about fashion than it is utility. Having your infant strapped to you would allow you to continue to work to support your family after the birth of your infant. You could more easily travel long distances or navigate difficult public transportation systems without available baby transport like a stroller. It allows women to feed and mother their child at the breast while attending to the demands of everyday life – often as essential as collecting water or harvesting and planting crops.
Though I am privileged with a car and a stroller, there are still tons of things that are made way easier with babywearing. Here’s a list of some day to day tasks that would be awful without a baby carrier.
You can’t push a stroller and a shopping cart at the same time! That’s ridiculous. “Just put your kid in the shopping cart!” suggests some idiot who has never raised a toddler or a well-meaning old person who has long forgotten what a toddler actually is. Toddlers don’t stay in shopping carts. If they manage to stay in, they do so only to gleefully fill your cart with unwanted items every time you turn your head. So much less fuss when my kid is camped out on my back. When she was too small to fit in the cart anyways, babywearing was a welcome alternative to lugging that million pound bucket car seat into the store with me.
Bonus! I can prevent my child from getting horrifically injured in an accident by not placing the car seat on top of the grocery cart! Win – Win!
Laundry. My washer and dryer are not in my house. I have to trek with a basket full of laundry out to the garage. Not a far trek… but I can’t leave my kid unattended while I do it. I imagine this situation would become even more complex if I had to go to a laundromat around the corner or down 4 flights of stairs to the basement to use the shared apartment laundry room. Try bringing your stroller on that excursion. Not happening. So… up she goes on my back. She stays back there while I’m folding too sometimes. That way I don’t have to refold everything about a million times to toddler specifications.
Walking a Dog. Ok, actually I don’t have a dog. But I have tried to walk with my stroller and my friends with strollers and a leashed dog. It is up there on my list of most obnoxious things I have ever done. So much easier with a kid strapped to you, dog walking merrily along assuming they have most of the attention on them so they don’t keep trying to kill you with their leashes.
Subways. (Or trains or buses) Want to be public enemy number one on the commuter train? Bring a frigging jogging stroller on with you. Even if it isn’t that crowded… trying to contend with the bikes and all the passengers coming in and out of the tiny aisles… avoiding those poles in the center of the train… The few spots that are big enough to actually fit a stroller are all designated for disabled patrons, so if in fact someone gets on who needs that spot – where are you going to go? Off that car to another car? Ha, have fun with that. Not like I have any experience with getting left on train platforms or anything like that. -_- Don’t forget about the stairs! Every train station is riddled with them. The elevators are few and far between, and they always smell like piss. Somehow they manage to be the most excruciatingly slow moving elevators ever made too. I’ll take the stairs any day with my toddler securely attached to me.
Hiking I have been known to take the B.O.B. on some pretty mellow hikes. But once I took it on this strenuous hike with rocks and hills and narrow trails on the edge of hills. What a mistake. I thought I was going to have to call to be air lifted out of there. We made it eventually, but from that point on I always make it a point to ask “Is this a stroller accessible hike, or should I wear my baby?” If you are an avid hiker, most of the hikes worth going on are not going to be stroller accessible.
Airports So so many reasons to wear your little one through the airport. Hands free to deal with luggage and removing *all the things* during the security check. You don’t have to go through that awful body scanner. You can use escalators. You can sprint through the terminal to catch your flight that you are about to miss because your toddler threw a fit when trying to get them into the car. You can lift your bag into the overhead bins. You can avoid chasing a crawling child around on the filthy airport floors altogether! Baby + Carrier = Done.
Naptime Many times a week I hear “My baby won’t sleep unless I am holding them”. Great! Smart Baby! Why spend all day fighting it? Just wrap that baby up and go about your business. Eat your lunch, have a cocktail, ice a cake… do what you do. They won’t want to sleep on you forever. The time is actually fleeting. Before long you will crave those little naps your child used to take on your chest or your back – you won’t even remember the resentment you felt when they woke up every single time as soon as you put them down on the bed. Babies seem to nap so much longer when being worn than when in their beds too. You actually end up having way more time to yourself this way.
Festivals, Fairs & Farmer’s Markets These crowded and often cramped social situations are much better navigated with a worn baby. Many kids find events like these overwhelming, and meltdowns are a common occurrence. Not to mention the possibility of a toddler running off into a crowd and getting separated. Not my cup of tea. When I wear my little one, she can bury her head in my back if some stranger is trying to talk to her. I can hand her samples and ask her professional opinion on the seasonal produce, and she can ask me questions about everything she sees around her. It is such a dynamic experience, and it is free of the daunting task of maneuvering a stroller with an angry toddler in and out of busy stalls where all she can see at her height is table legs and knee caps. We end up being able to stay way longer with a much happier toddler when I allow her a birds-eye view of all the fun.
These are just a handful of the myriad of things I find way less complicated with a baby in a carrier. All joking aside though, one of the best parts about wearing a child is the bond that you form with them. By having your child worn at your level, your interactions are constant. You find yourself talking with them, describing things going on, sharing your view of the outside world with them. They hear and see things that a baby in a stroller would totally miss out on. My friend and fellow babywearing enthusiast Slingdad Dom was sharing with me some of his favorite things about babywearing the other day.
“Above anything for me, and something often forgotten about – is how much fun it is! My children and I laugh, tell jokes and play games while they are on my back. They get to discover the world with the same view I get as a 6ft plus dad… but with the safety, security and comfort of being carried as if in my arms.”
He’s totally right! I don’t often mention how fun babywearing is when I am talking about its practicality with caregivers. Though it is seriously the most useful parenting tool anyone can have… it is the fun of it that got me head over heels into the rabbit hole that is babywearing Enthusiasm. I love wearing my little Dragon Baby! So much so that I continue to wear her even when she’s pushing 3 years and 27 lbs. Those little giggles in my ear when she is dropping things down the back of my shirt, the brilliant little questions and observations she daily surprises me with, hearing her interpretations of the world surrounding us, feeling her warm breath (and sometimes drool) on the back of my neck and she peacefully sleeps on my back. These are the fleeting and beautiful moments that those of us obsessed with the practice of babywearing cannot begin to describe to you. It isn’t a matter of the most expensive carrier, you don’t need all the fancy bells and whistles on your buckle carrier or the newest vogue handwoven. What all babywearing has in common is some fabric, a caregiver, a baby – and with those commonalities across cultures, across time and space… we all share in the boundless joys of carrying our babies.
Breastfeeding a baby is hard work. With all the unrealistic portrayals of breastfeeding in the media and in crappy parenting books, many new moms find themselves completely unprepared for the sheer quantity of time it takes to feed these little babies. For breastfeeding to work, those first few weeks (er… months) it really starts to feel like all you are doing is feeding the baby. Many mothers begin to feel overwhelmed. I remember firsthand, that my little Dragon Baby was a particularly enthusiastic nurser. I didn’t leave the house for weeks on end…. I couldn’t find time between feedings. When I finally figured out how to nurse in the Ergo, I felt like a breastfeeding master . It was so discreet, nobody even knew what I was doing. I’d be walking the aisles at Costco sipping on some soda, baby strapped to my boobs… no one batted an eye. People would come poke their head into my carrier and then yell out startled “Oh! I didn’t know you were doing that!” Your welcome for the show. Nobody told you to put your head in there.
Anyways…. those early months can be maddening, and moms too need to get out of the house. Studies have been done that conclude that breastfeeding rates are greatly improved for mothers who utilize a baby carrier. The physical closeness helps stimulate the hormones that produce milk, and the proximity to the breasts that the carrier provides makes it easier to live with the kind of “nurse around the clock” scenario that is the best case for breastfeeding success. Many mothers stumble upon this knowledge instinctively, so it is no surprise to me that one of the most commonly asked questions I get from a new mom is “Which carrier is best to breastfeed in?”
Short answer is always “You can nurse in any carrier”, because I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to run out and buy a carrier just to nurse in if they already have one that we can make work. But in reality, the answer is really long and complicated and best summed up with “Depends on your body, your needs, and your preferences.” So lets talk about safely breastfeeding in a carrier, and how some different carriers may better work for your nursing needs.
Making it Safe
If you have a brand new squishy baby and you are still in the “I need 3 hands to breastfeed” mode… it is best that you wait until you get the hang of things to try your hand at nursing in a carrier. It is recommended that you have both mastered the art of breastfeeding, and also have safely figured out how to use your carrier before you try to combine the two things.
* Baby’s face must be free of obstructions. Don’t cover their face and nose with the carrier or your breast. You should be able to see their nose and mouth, hear them sucking, and remain aware of their positioning as long as they are nursing.
*Maintain an open airway at all times. Your baby should never be in a position where their chin is against their chest, whether nursing, wearing or otherwise. This can cause the airway of an infant or small child to become blocked and lead to suffocation. Check out this post on T.I.C.K.S. for more babywearing safety basics.
*Baby should be in a nursing position only when actively nursing. If you hear or feel the baby stop sucking, you should move them back to the high and tight position they began in, and re-adjust your carrier appropriately.
The majority of carriers work best while baby is breastfeeding in a vertical position, parallel to your body. I’d say that most of us are more accustomed to nursing our babies in a cradle hold – horizontal to our bodies… so you can see how this new position might gum up the works with a newborn. For this reason, I often show mothers how to position the baby in an upright nursing hold to practice this latch on the couch at home first. You will notice I said to practice at home first? That is always the best place to try out a new carry – At home, with a well fed and well rested baby…. rather than at a mall with a tired and screaming hungry newborn. You will have a much better shot at getting it right with less drama.
Dress for Success
For me, whether or not it’s easy to nurse in any carrier is largely determined by what I am wearing. I have worked out a “nursing uniform” over the years to keep myself comfortable yet leave the girls easily accessible. Here’s some tried and true tips.
*Layers. I usually wear a camisole or nursing tank underneath whatever else I am wearing so my mid-section isn’t exposed if I pull up my shirt for nursing.
*Easy access from the top. It is much easier to pull a shirt down rather than up when you have a baby strapped to you in a carrier. For this reason, I often wear V-neck t-shirts, or button down shirts, scoop neck T’s or sometimes shirts that have a wrap-around front if I can find one. These are really easy and fast to have the breasts available, no fuss. Added bonus, you can use the collar to prop up your breast so it’s a little higher for the baby to reach it without you having to hold it in place. This works particularly great if you are well endowed.
*Think through your outfit before leaving. Are you headed to a wedding? Dinner party? Don’t wear that turtleneck dress… you’re going to have to get naked in the bathroom or car to nurse in it. (Not that I know from personal experience or anything. Doh!) Surprisingly, you don’t have to get special nursing gear or shop at specialty stores… plenty of mainstream clothing works just fine! You just have to spend a little time thinking about the logistics before the event. Asking some other nursing moms will yield all kinds of suggestions for dresses and shirts out there that fit the bill.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Not all carriers are going to work well for everyone. That is why there is no easy response when people ask about the best carriers for nursing. Our body types and the baby’s size and age all contribute to this equation. I know that the end goal is Hands Free Breastfeeding, but just know that realistically not everyone can achieve this. Even some of the most skilled babywearers find that they need one hand to support their breast or help their baby to latch – especially when they are newborns and still do not have adequate head control. If you are blessed in the breast department… you might find it helpful to roll up a receiving blanket or washcloth and tuck it under your breast to help position it higher up for the baby to reach. Also keep in mind that if you are feeling like you have to keep one hand on the baby’s head when they are in a carrier…. you may need some tweaking or tightening with your carrier to better support the baby. Ask someone for some help! Just like with any new skill…. breastfeeding and babywearing takes some practice to do properly. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right off the bat! Try, try again.
Here are some examples of nursing in different carriers and when they might be appropriate for you.
*Ring Slings– One of my favorite carrier suggestions for nursing a newborn. They are lightweight and can be quickly adjusted. Whether you are quite busty or a member of the itty bitty titty committee… you can get a good fit with a ring sling. I always prefer to use it in an upright position, but it is also one of the few carriers I would recommend for breastfeeding in a cradle hold. As long as you are vigilant about watching your baby and about re-adjusting your carrier to the proper position when they are no longer actively nursing, a Ring Sling can be a good fit if you are having a hard time with the tummy to tummy position while breastfeeding. The downside for many people, is that it is a one-shoulder carry. Some folks find that uncomfortable, or find it difficult to nurse on both sides in this carrier. I personally never had that issue, but I know many women who do.
Lots of people say they like nursing in Ring Sling’s because they are discreet. I have heard recommendations to use the tail as a cover for nursing. Please Do Not cover your baby’s face with the tail of the sling – or with any fabric… ever. Mouth and nose should be visible always.
To Adjust: Lower the baby to desired height, and then tighten the fabric around the baby to help support them in that position. Make sure you re-create the seat once they are positioned properly so baby doesn’t slip out the bottom of the sling. When you are all done, raise the baby back up until they are close enough to kiss and re-tighten the sling.
*Soft Structure Carriers– I Practically lived in the Ergo between 3 months and 1 year. I preferred the two shoulder carry for extra support, I loved the hood to keep people out of my business. It was so discreet and so easy to use. We ran all over NYC in the Ergo… you can’t even tell my daughter is nursing in any of the photos. I have heard from some of my bustier friends that it can be difficult to get a good fit with an SSC and that there simply isn’t enough space for baby’s head and their breasts. If that sounds like you, you are not alone. Don’t fret… there are other carriers out there.
To adjust: Loosen the waist band slightly and slide it down until it is on your hips – baby’s head should be level with your breast. Reach under your arm to adjust the shoulder strap on the side you are going to be nursing on. Give yourself enough slack to get your hand in there and help position the baby at your breast. I usually only let the slack out on the side I am nursing on, then tighten it again when I go to switch sides. I like to snap the hood on one side for some coverage, leaving the other side open to see the baby’s face still. When you are done, lift baby back up, get the carrier back on your hips and tighten it. Sounds complicated. Want to see it?
*Woven Wraps– If you can get past the learning curve… these are probably the most versatile carriers out there. Because woven wraps can be tied in so many different ways…. you can definitely find a carry that works for you and your nursling. My personal favorites for nursing are a Front Wrap Cross Carry and a Robin’s Hip Carry. I have seen many moms using a Kangaroo Carry and a Poppin’s Hip Carry… or a Front Cross Carry which is poppable for convenient on the go nursing. Pretty much any of the dozens of woven front or hip carries out there will work great for breastfeeding.
To adjust: Just like with the ring sling, you want the baby low enough to nurse… but not loose. Position them as low as you want them to be, and then tighten the fabric around the baby. The carry should still be secure even while nursing. When you are done, always readjust back to the proper height – which is close enough to kiss. YouTube has a lot of great videos for nursing in woven wraps. Some of my favorite channels are by Volunteer Babywearing Educator’s Wrapping Rachel and Babywearing Faith. Can’t go wrong with one of their tutorials.
* Meh Dai – Another great option for a two-shoulder carry for nursing. It’s quite easy to move a baby from a back carry to a front carry in a Meh Dai, and pretty quick to adjust… so if you have a very avid toddler nurser you may want to think about trying one of these carriers out. I personally prefer wrap style straps on a Meh Dai to better distribute the weight of the baby, since while nursing I am wearing the carrier a little loser than I would typically for more flexibility. I personally don’t usually recommend nursing a newborn in a Meh Dai, because it can be difficult to get a safe fit that conforms to the baby as completely as a Ring Sling or a Woven Wrap. It’s not impossible, just not my ideal situation. I prefer something with a little less structure and more flexibility for nursing a newborn.
To adjust: Untie the knot securing the shoulder straps, and lower the baby just enough to reach a comfortable nursing height, and shift the baby towards your hip on the side you are going to feed from. Then re-tie the shoulder straps. If there isn’t enough length to tie behind my back, I tie under the baby’s bum. Rarely do I have to lower the waistband in a Meh Dai, loosening the straps just slightly usually allows for more than enough give in the body panel – especially when breastfeeding a more “advanced nurser” (a.k.a. a Toddler who can find it even if you are wearing 3 layers of clothing over it). All the rules still apply with nursing in a Meh Dai. Baby should only be in a breastfeeding position if they are actively feeding. When they are done, raise them back up to a safe height and tighten your carrier to maintain that proper positioning.
This list is by no means exhaustive. These are just my personal recommendations when it comes to breastfeeding conveniently. Many people find nursing in Stretchy Wraps or Pouch Slings really work for them too! Just follow similar principles described above – including readjusting your carrier when you are done breastfeeding. Many of the manufacturers websites for your baby carriers have useful tutorials on things ranging from how to use the carrier, to how to safely breastfeed in it. I highly recommend checking them out!
If you want to know more about these carriers in better detail and to find out where you can purchase them, take a look at this post to walk you through the basics. To get some hands on help with your baby carrier, I recommend searching for a Babywearing group close to you. Many of them have lending libraries where you can try out a carrier before investing in one (or two… or three). Babywearing International has chapters all over the country… that is a good place to start. If you need help with breastfeeding, La Leche League is an International organization that can help you out on that front – many leaders are also skilled at nursing in carriers and could lend a hand at a meeting. Breastfeeding in a carrier is a game changer. It has allowed me to be the social and active mother that I always wanted to be. Though I have no qualms personally with nursing whenever and wherever… I have found that babywearing has truly helped me to meet my child’s needs with complete confidence regardless of the time or place.
Yes, yes you most definitely do. How did you make it this long without one? Never mind, you’re here now.
Let me assure you that no matter your preferred parenting philosophy… this will be one of the best decisions you can make as a caregiver to a child. Babywearing is a great way to get through the daily tasks that a caregiver is burdened with, while still being able to keep your baby close to you in the way that nature intended. Forget that constant fight to “put the baby down”, that losing battle where you always end up with a screaming child and arms too full to do whatever you were mistakenly planning to do a minute ago. Just strap that little one to your chest or back, and go on about your business, everyone will be much happier. Not to mention, your little one will benefit in so many ways developmentally with this simple act.
Though most people think of Babywearing and they imagine one of those silly looking front facing Bjorn carriers, it is actually so much more than that. Babywearing has been around for practically as long as humans have! Many different cultures on this planet have used different cloth carriers to hold their young, and all of our modern day carriers are actually based off of these more traditional carriers. I’d love to talk more about that, but I’ll save that for later time. Currently, you just want to get a baby carrying device… like, yesterday.Here is a primer on the different carriers out there, and their benefits and disadvantages.
This is the most common form of baby carrier in the media, and in brick and mortar baby stores. For this reason, most people end up with these carriers. Gifts from well-meaning baby shower attendees, or other parents who just want to share the Babywearing love. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these carriers. They won’t cause hip dysplasia or crush your child’s genitals – but they can be *really* uncomfortable once your newborn begins to pack on the pounds. The positioning of the baby isn’t as ergonomic as other carriers on the market, and your body really feels it after a while. It is also important to remind people that babies are easily overstimulated. The sights and sounds of the outside world can be a lot to take in, especially as they start to get tired. With any front-facing carrier, always be sure to watch your baby’s cues, and turn them back around if they start to show signs of irritability or stress.
Reasons to like it:
*That few months (around 3-6 months) when your baby has pretty adequate head control, and they are at that super curious stage when they just want to “see out”. These are great for that stage.
*You can find these in any Brick and Mortar baby store like Babies R Us or Buy Buy Baby. The accessibility of these carriers makes them very appealing to most people.
*They are easy to get a hold of secondhand (really cheap). I see them all the time on Craigslist, Thrift stores, and Flea Markets.
*Ease of use – they are pretty straightforward. If you have ever seen someone wearing one, you can most likely replicate it.
*It isn’t that comfortable for long wear. The baby is not positioned ergonomically, and the weight isn’t distributed well for the wearer.
*They have a vast range of price points, and not all of them are created equally. One of my first carriers was a front facing Infantino Swift. It cost $15 at Wal-Mart, and it hurt so bad I almost threw up from wearing it. The more expensive ones like a Baby Bjorn can retail for between $50 – $100… and for that price, you might as well invest in a more comfortable carrier.
If you are lucky, you stumbled upon one of these as a first carrier. I have heard them referred to as “Baby Backpacks”, which is a pretty good name for them, because they work essentially the same. These carriers have a structured waistband, shoulder straps, and buckles. They come in Infant, Standard, Toddler and Preschool sizing – though the ones you can find more readily at a store are usually Standard size. The most common one on the market is the ErgoBaby, a solid carrier that has been around since 2003. Their basic model retails right around $120. There are more and more of these carriers emerging on the market, some lower end like the Infantino Union ($30 at Target) are actually quite comfortable. There are higher end brands such as Tula, whose most basic model is around $150 and it goes up from there. Most of these carriers are good up to about 45lbs, so if you are looking for longevity in a carrier, this could be a very good choice.
*Bonus* some of these carriers have a more ergonomic front facing out (FFO) option than the front packs listed above, like the Ergo 360 and Beco Gemini.
Reasons to Like It:
*Ease of use. Practically anyone can put one of these on. These are great Daddy carriers because they are comfy, with little fuss. They can be thrown into the washing machine for easy clean up.
*Easy to adjust. The baby is in the carrier already, you can tweak the straps until you get a good fit. You can also share with other caregivers, it can fit many different sizes of wearers.
*Many of these carriers can be found in a lot of places. They are easy enough to get new, and very easy to find second hand too. Especially online.
*Ergonomic positioning makes these much more comfortable for long term wear.
*Longevity is a highlight – it can be worn up to 45 lbs safely and relatively comfortably. Most of them can be worn on the front, hip, or back… allowing the carrier to grow with your family.
*The “one size fits all” design does manage to fit most, but some people cannot get a comfortable fit with these carriers. I recommend trying on a bunch of different models, because they all feel really different. Some brands have “strap extenders” that can be useful for larger wearers, and some brands you can order petite sized straps if you need a shorter shoulder length.
*Not the best newborn carrier. Many are marketed with infant inserts and there are numerous “hacks” to get a better fit with a newborn… but a carrier can become unsafe if incorrectly modified to fit a too-small baby. Use caution when trying these carriers with a newborn, get help with adjusting it properly.
*Easy to wear incorrectly. I can’t tell you how many times I have been walking in a store or mall and seen someone wearing a baby in an Ergo practically hanging down to their knees. These carriers are designed to be worn High & Tight, with baby Close Enough To Kiss.
*Fergos. This is the name we not-so-affectionately have given to the numerous counterfeit carriers that have emerged on the market. These knock-offs are all over EBay and Amazon, and for a new wearer they seem like a great cheap option. Some people buy them second hand without realizing they are fake. Unfortunately, these carriers are really dangerous. They have not been tested and do not meet the stringent safety standards the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) sets for baby carriers. They have been known to have faulty buckles that break when any weight is on it, and who knows what kinds of fabric and dyes they are using for these carriers. We aren’t even sure if they are non-toxic. Always buy from a reputable vendor, and if buying second hand, don’t hesitate to ask for the serial number to call and ask the company if it is a legit carrier you are purchasing.
These are wonderful newborn carriers; so many people will begin with these per others recommendations. They are great for facilitating the early skin to skin time needed to help with breastfeeding success, and have been an integral part in Kangaroo care for babies born preterm. They can be worn without anything underneath them, in place of a shirt. They are stretchy, made of cotton and spandex so they are relatively easy to get a good fit for everyone.
Reasons to Like It:
*Comfy and relatively inexpensive.
*Wonderful for snuggling with newborn in skin to skin contact.
*Hands free carrier, very supportive for a squishy newborn.
*There are only a few basic ways to tie this carrier, the stretch factor makes it unsafe for any carries that aren’t explicitly recommended in the instructions. This means that back carries are out of the picture with these wraps.
*They can be really hot! The jersey fabric can be very insulating, and there are quite a few layers going around you and the baby. Lots of people complain that these carriers are miserable for warm weather.
*Because this is a stretchy carrier, it loses its usability when your kid starts to push 20-25 lbs. The heavy baby stretches the fabric until it can’t bounce back. It starts to strain the wearers back after a short time wearing.
*It doesn’t have finished hems, so it becomes useless if baby starts to actively push against the wearer or try to lean backwards out of the carrier. There is no way to secure the baby in this carrier once they become that active.
This is a fabric sling that has two aluminum rings positioned on one side of it, the other end is fed through the two rings and held in place with tension. This is a one-shoulder carrier, like the traditional Rebozo used in different parts of South America. I often say that if I had a second baby, a ring sling would be my go-to for the newborn stage. It is easy to put on and take off, and it mimics the natural placement of the baby in utero, making for a very comfortable carry for your little one. They can also be used for toddlers on your hip, though one shoulder carries can become less comfortable with heavier children. Some ring slings are made from double layer cotton, linen, silk, or even converted from a woven wrap. I recommend steering clear of some of the crappier brands on Etsy (not *all* of them are crappy, do your research!), and staying with a tried and true maker. Not all ring slings are created equal.
Why We Like Them:
*Easy to use once you get the hang of them.
*Not too much fabric to contend with – travels well and folds up nicely in a diaper bag
*Can be shared easily with various caregivers, as they are very adjustable.
*Ergonomically positions baby in a natural position preferred by newborns
*Can be used with a newborn, all the way up to a toddler in front carries, hip carries, and even back carries for more experienced wearers.
*The one shoulder carry can be really uncomfortable for some wearers.
*Heavier babies can really start to hurt your back after long outings in a ring sling.
*Without help, it is easy to use them improperly. Many people feel they are “not secure” and they can’t use it hands-free. If that’s the case, ask for help. They are most definitely a safe, hands free carrier.
Oh man, you are in for it now. May I caution you that if you get into woven wraps, you are likely headed “down the rabbit hole” and there is little anyone can do for you at that point. Woven wraps are (as the name suggests) woven cotton baby carriers. They have been around forever, referred to as a Kanga, a Rebozo, a Welsch Shawl, or many other things depending on what region they hail from. They can be 100% cotton, or woven with things like linen, hemp, silk, bamboo, wool, or recently some with synthetic fibers as well. The price of a woven wrap can vary dramatically based on who made the carrier, how many were produced of a particular model, where it is made, and how popular a particular design is. The price can really put people off, but they are a truly versatile carrier. You can use them with a newborn through toddler stage quite comfortably. Woven wraps have a real steep learning curve, so brush up on your YouTube videos, or head over to a local Babywearing International meeting to get some hands-on help.
Why We Like Them:
*Woven wraps are visually appealing. They come in patterns and colors to suit anyone’s taste, and they are a lot more fashion forward than a front pack carrier.
*They are incredibly versatile. They can be tied in dozens of different ways to accommodate the size of the baby, and the physical needs of the wearer. They can be used for front, hip, and back carries, and have the best weight distribution of any carrier on the market.
*Best value of any carrier, since one wrap can last through the infant stage on up to preschooler stage, and be worn with subsequent children too.
*They retain their value pretty well. Some used ones even sell for over what they originally retailed for as they become more difficult to find new.
*The steep learning curve. Many people give up after trying it just a few times. It can be really frustrating to learn – especially if you have a newborn screaming in your face.
*The length can be really intimidating for new wearers. The average “beginner” wrap is a size 5, which is 4.2 meters, or a 6 which is 4.6 meters. That’s a lot of fabric. Take note that the more advanced a wearer becomes, the more carries they can do with shorter lengths of wraps.
*Availability. There are very very few brick and mortar stores that sell woven wraps, so most of the purchasing is done online. Not to mention, many of the brands are overseas. That can be frustrating because you won’t know what a wrap is going to feel like until you order it and receive it. Thankfully there is a pretty good resale market for wraps. You can usually recoup funds pretty easily if you end up hating what you bought.
*They are highly addictive. You’ve been warned.
*Note: This style of carrier was (and still is by some brands) referred to mistakenly as a “Mei Tai”. The correct spelling/pronunciation of the carrier is Meh Dai (Cantonese) or Bei Dai (Mandarin). For more info check out this original post by those behind the #notyourpodbutai movement
This is the last, but not least carrier I’ll mention in this post. The Meh Dai was originally used by the Chinese, and was popularized in Australia in the 1960’s. It is an incredibly comfortable and versatile carrier, and is relatively easy to use. It is a soft bodied cloth carrier with waist straps and shoulder straps, and it can be used on a wearers front, hip, or back. Some of the easy to find ones are canvas bodied, but there are some higher end ones converted from woven wraps or made from woven fabric. I have really fallen in love with Meh Dai’s over the last few months… though they were the very last of the mainstream styles I got into.
Why We Like Them:
*They are relatively inexpensive, and can be comfortably used for a newborn up to a toddler.
*They are very adjustable, they can comfortably fit most caregivers with few exceptions.
*They can be used for a back carry a lot sooner than a SSC, because their soft body can form to the baby and they can be positioned a lot higher and tighter than most buckle carriers.
*Some people might find the unstructured waist band uncomfortable or too narrow. There are some brands that have wider wrap style straps available, which is something to consider.
*Some of the less popular brands may be hard to find in stores. Online is your best option for most Meh Dai’s other than an Infantino.
Well there you have it, a Carrier 101 for your reading pleasure. This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are numerous kinds of carriers that I didn’t even mention here…. But these are the most common, the least challenging to use safely, and the easiest to get a hold of. If you or your baby have some physical limitations making these baby carriers not ideal for you, please feel free to shoot me an email and I would love to help you try to find something that works better for your needs.
I mentioned getting help. Don’t be shy! We are all new to this at some point. Just remember to follow the T.I.C.K.S. for babywearing safety, and when in doubt – ask someone! Some great resources for babywearing can be found on the Babywearing International website, as well as TheBabywearer.com. Find a babywearing group near you, and get some hands on help. Nothing beats a comfortable baby carrier when it comes to raising babies. Happy Wearing!