DDL is very grateful to have a guest post on the basics of babywearing from a wrapping ninja and Babywearing International educator “Vabywearing Faith.” I met Faith when I lived in Syracuse, NY and purchased my first wrap from her. I would run into her again and again including when I attended babywearing meetings that she conducted. After years of perfecting her wrapping skills she has started uploading her video tutorials to YouTube and now has a great channel with several tutorials on Babywearing Faith. You should definitely subscribe to her channel since she is a frequent uploader! Also find Faith on her Facebook page Babywearing Faith.What is “Babywearing”?
If you’re here at DDL, you’ve probably heard of babywearing before. Humans have been using fabric to carry their babies since the beginning of time, but the word babywearing was invented by the father of attachment parenting himself, Dr. William Sears. Babywearing is one of Sears’s “baby B’s” – the tools he recommends to create a secure attachment to your baby. In addition to helping foster a bond between baby and caretaker, babywearing can also improve medical outcomes for preemies or special needs babies (always check with your doctor first!), reduce the risk of postpartum depression in moms, and significantly reduce crying, especially during usually fussy hours! And along with all that good stuff, wearing your baby is a heck of a lot easier than lugging a carseat carrier around, especially if you have older children to chase care for. Babywearing can also support breastfeeding relationships and allow your baby to nurse or sleep anytime, anywhere.Babywearing Safety
If you’re worried about babywearing safely, there are two rules you need to know. The first is to maintain an open airway. A newborn baby’s airway is the size of a drinking straw, so if it is bent/kinked, it can cause breathing distress. You should always be able to fit two fingers between your baby’s chin and chest to ensure an open airway. If your baby grunts or makes any other sound with each breath while being worn in a carrier, you must take him/her out and try again, making sure you can fit two fingers. The second rule is don’t drop your baby. Sounds obvious, right? You just want to make sure to support your baby with your hands until the carrier is secure – it should be very snug with proper coverage/support underneath. So, as long as you follow these two rules, you’re doing it right! And of course use common sense like don’t wear your baby while playing contact sports, throwing knives, or fire dancing, and babywearing is NOT a safe substitute for a carseat.
Taking it one step further, there’s something we in the babywearing community call “optimal positioning”. That doesn’t mean it’s the only right way to wear your baby; it just describes the positioning which is generally accepted to be best for wearer and baby’s comfort, and baby’s development. Optimal positioning means baby is upright, facing wearer (can be on front, back, or hip) with knees higher than bottom so that the legs and hips look like the letter M, and baby is high enough to give a kiss on the head (for front or hip carries, we’re not expecting any Exorcist maneuvers!). Ideally the fabric of your carrier will come all the way to the back of your baby’s knees. Newborns can be worn legs-out from birth; they just make a teeny tiny M and their knees will come toward your ribs, rather than their legs straddling your waist as an older baby’s would. If you or your baby prefer legs-in, the positioning is exactly the same; his weight should be in his bottom so if he tries to push down on his feet and stand up in your carrier, it’s time for legs-out.Carrier Styles
There are A LOT of carrier options out there and the choices can be overwhelming! If you have a babywearing group nearby (Babywearing International is a great resource) you should check them out because most have a library of carriers you can try out and sometimes even borrow, to see what you like and get in-person help using it. (Find a BWI Chapter near you) Here’s an overview of the main carrier styles available today:
A pouch is a simple tube of fabric that is folded in half to make a pouch for your baby to sit in, and worn over one shoulder. Pouches are quick and simple to use, and fold up teeny tiny for your diaper bag. Because they only go over one shoulder, they’re not the most comfortable option for long-term wearing. Also, pouches are sized to the wearer so not easily shared between caregivers, and if it’s not a perfect fit there’s not a whole lot of adjusting you can do to get it comfortable.
A ring sling is a long piece of fabric with two rings sewn onto one end, which you thread the other end through like those belts we used to wear in the 80’s. Ring slings are also worn over one shoulder, but unlike a pouch, are quite adjustable, so they can be shared between caregivers and tweaked to get a perfect fit. They’re also excellent for breastfeeding – you can even use the “tail” of the sling as a nursing cover (just make sure you can see your baby’s face the whole time, even if no one else can). Ring slings are one of my top choices for newborns and they’re also great for once your baby wants a hip carry, as well as toddlers who want up and down and up and down.
A mei tai is a rectangle of fabric with long straps coming out of each corner. Mei tais provide two-shoulder support and are primarily used for front and back carries. They’re pretty easy to learn and can usually be shared between caregivers pretty easily. They require some special tricks when used for newborns, but are great for bigger babies and toddlers.
Soft Structure Carrier
Like a mei tai, but the straps buckle instead of tie. Most SSC’s have a thick padded waistbelt that helps transfer baby’s weight to the wearer’s hips, which makes them awesome for heavy toddlers. Super-fast and easy to learn, and can usually be shared between caregivers. Not my favorite for newborns, as most require a special insert or some kind of trick, but they are awesome once you can achieve a good fit (usually 4 months or so).
A stretchy wrap is a loooooong piece of fabric with no buckles or rings, which stretches in all directions. They’re primarily used only in what’s called the Pocket Wrap Cross Carry – which you can tie on your body first thing in the morning then pop your baby in and out as needed. It might seem complicated at first but once you’ve done it a few times it’s easy. Most stretchy wraps are not supportive enough past ~15lb and most are NOT SAFE for back carries. Stretchies are my other favorite for newborns as they are incredibly snuggly and “poppable”.
Woven wraps are long strips of fabric that come in various sizes/lengths depending on the size of the wearer and what carrying positions you want to use. Wovens are more supportive than stretchy wraps for bigger babies, and can be used for front, hip, or back carries. Long wraps can be worn over both shoulders and do an excellent job of distributing your baby’s weight over your entire torso. Short wraps can be tied with a slipknot and used like a ring sling (this is a traditional Mexican rebozo carry), used for a quick single-layer back carry, or worn as a scarf when your toddler wants to walk! Woven wraps have the steepest learning curve but in my opinion, are the best newborn-to-toddler option out there.
So, that’s the lowdown on babywearing! If and when you have questions, check out your local babywearing group, or if your area doesn’t have one, there are some great Facebook groups about babywearing where you can ask questions and get help.Happy Wearing!
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