Here Comes Summer

As we approach May thoughts turn to the Summer and holidays, and I often receive requests for holiday carriers. Being able to reserve and borrow slings for special outings is one of the benefits of having a local library. We aim to have a range of carriers available that will suit parents who make trips to warmer climes, as well as for those going to places where pushchairs will be a hindrance rather than a help. So whether you are off to the Med, Centre Parks or just plan a weekend in London do come and see us at our meets to find the perfect carrier to borrow.

Some parents wonder when buying a carrier at this time if they should focus on a warm weather carrier. In the main the answer is probably not. As I write this it has just begun to hail, and if we face facts, bad weather is more likely in an English Summer than temperatures in the 30’s. If and when we do get a scorcher, you are more likely to be relaxing in a cool place with a cold drink than taking a 5 mile trek carrying your baby, so what carrier you have is immaterial. If you plan to just own one carrier, then I would say focus on fit rather than making ‘good in warm weather’ your number one priority.

Many buckle carriers now have mesh panels that unzip to enable you to have the best of both worlds. It could be worth considering the Lillebaby All Seasons, The Moby Aria or the JPMBB Physio carrier as your primary sling as then it can be used comfortably whatever the weather.

If you are a collector of carriers, then it may be worth considering adding a different sling to your collection, one that is good to use on very hot days and gives you a different carrying option. A muslin or bamboo ring sling may be a useful addition if you mainly use a buckle carrier or Mei Tai. A ring sling is lighter and babe tends to sit more to the hip so there is more room for additional air circulation. If you normally use a longer cotton wrap for front or back carries then a silk or linen blend shorter wrap that enables you to do hip carriers could be a worth trying or a gauze wrap in your normal size so that you have cooler layers over you and your child on hot days. A mesh Fil’up instead of your normal cotton stretch wrap will keep you both cool when- and if – the temperatures soar.

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Making Choices

When parents come to me to find a carrier it is always great to be able to marry their needs with the functions of different carriers and find the one that is right for them. For many it is the start of a journey, and they may well own several carriers during their time baby wearing or they may be wanting to select the one carrier that will be able to see them through the carrying years. For others they have already begun the journey but are finding the carrier they have is no longer working as well so they are looking for the carrier that will allow them to continue babywearing comfortably.

With a newborn I would advise that a stretch wrap is a great first carrier to use. Going for a two way stretch will mean the carrier will last for longer and therefore often represent better value for money. I find the thinner options are both easier to use and more comfotable to wear and weight can well be an important consideration.There are many good brands to buy, all safety tested, but if babe is tiny it is good to know that the Hanababy is one of the few tested for tiny babies.

However, some parents very quickly want to find a comfortable buckle carrier as wrapping isn’t for them. With so many on the market it can be a bewildering choice and an expensive mistake if the wrong selection is made. Many parents ask friends and family for advice, and others have seen some of the patterned carriers advertised and are keen to try one of those. But, before we begin trying any carrier I like to use a check list to help me narrow down which, in my view, are their best options.

  • Structured or unstructured?
  • What will you be doing when you are baby wearing?
  • Crossed or Ruck straps preferred?
  • Are both parents going to wear or just one?
  • If both are the parents very different in size?
  • Is it a carrier that needs to grow with the child or will you be prepared to trade up as they get bigger?
  • Have parents any back problems that we need to think about?
  • Has baby any health problems?
  • Are they prepared to buy an additional insert for their newborn?
  • How do they feel about security buckles that are two handed openers?
  • Are they looking to buy new or second hand and is there a budget consideration?

Running through the questions above in our initial conversation will help me to select 2 or 3 carriers for the family to try, and of course we always include any carrier they have come asking to try in this selection. We can then decide which works best for them, and they can even then hire the carrier for a fortnight or month to check it really is the best fit choice.

Once we have discovered which carrier meets the family’s needs they can then be confident buying and making their fabric and pattern choices, knowing that they will have a carrier that not only do they love but is fit for purpose and will be regularly used.

 

 

 

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Babywearing and Adoption

Firstly congratulations on having been matched with a child and bringing them into your family if you are reading this as new adoptive parents. The adoption route to parenthood can take far longer than having birth children and be far more stressful. As instant parents you will be concerned about meeting your new child’s needs, and as they often arrive some time on from birth you have to be ready to hit the ground running. No doubt you will receive much advice- both helpful and unhelpful, and the early days and weeks with your new child may be a whirlwind of discovery. Other parents will talk about aspects of baby care that you may know nothing about – co-sleeping, attachment parenting, child led weaning, elimination control to name a few and you may begin to wonder what is essential to know and what isn’t.

Friends may mention babywearing, or you may see parents carrying their children in wraps and carriers. but as new adoptive parents you may be unsure how to go about doing it, what are its benefits and if you should actually be doing this with an adopted child who is no longer a newborn.

Babywearing is exactly what it sounds like: wearing your baby or toddler in a sling or other carrier so you’re in constant contact. It can be started at any age and because you didn’t have your child from birth it doesn’t mean you have missed the boat and can’t get started with this practice.

Babywearing has many benefits for all families. Many parents start to babywear for convenience. This convenience is essential for new adoptive parents. New parents will report how difficult it can be to get anything accomplished with a new child at home,this is especially so with an adoptd child when you are concerned with meeting their needs in a timely manner. Babywearing makes maintaining normal functions possible — you’re able to give your little one the contact they need whilst being able to get on with the laundry, do the shopping, prepare a meal or even take the dog for a walk.

But babywearing has many additional benefits. It has been documented that it can help with temperature adjustment, in establishing breast feeding and it helps colicky babies to name a few of these. Babywearing also increases the production of oxytocin in both natural and adoptive parents so perhaps the biggest additional benefit for adoptive parents is it fosters attachment and delivers physiological benefits to your child.

Oxytocin is the ‘love hormone’ and has positive effects on hurman social behaviour. Babywearing is a great way to promote bonding and attachment between you and your baby or toddler. Being in such close proximity and in constant contact fosters attachment – both love for your baby is fostered and their attachment to you is secured.

Wearing your baby also allows for natural movement that promotes positive development. Wearing your baby can help to develop their core strength. Pushchairs that face away from parents not only prevent interaction, but also subject your child to bumping and jarring, as do the car seat-style baby carriers. When in the pram your baby is also down at the level of exhaust fumes when you are walking in the town or city. If you are parenting a child that spent time in less than optimal care or had a hard start in life — even prenatally through drugs, alcohol or toxins — you want to remain proactive and provide the best care for them. Babywearing is a way to help you give your child the best possible next step in life.

Getting started can be bewildering. There are a variety of types and brands of carriers available to suit different ages and sizes of babies, as well as different size and shape of parents. Friends will advise different carriers and you will often find their views conflicting. If you can, a good place to go to to find out about your options is a Sling Library, or even better by booking an appointment with a sling consultant. They will listen to your story and suggest carriers which will fit your circumstances and body shape and life style.

I have found with adopted babies it is best to start with a carrier that respects their personal space. A hip carry is a great way to start. This may be done using a ring sling, or woven tied as a hip carrier, a dedicated hip carrier such as the Scootababy, or a buckle carrier that can be used on the hip such as a Lillebaby. To begin with start with small periods in the carrier as it will build up their tolerance as well as your strength. Within a short time your baby will start to enjoy the closeness and then you will both be ready to continue with your babywearing journey.

When we talk about babywearing it is useful to remember that there are carriers for children up to school age but, if you adopt a child who is too big to “wear,” it is important to take the key principles of babywearing — physical proximity, staying attuned to the child and being in constant conversation – and apply them to your caring of your new child. The purpose behind babywearing remains important well beyond the years your child is small enough to wear.

“The single most important child rearing practice to be adopted for the development of emotional and social healthy infants and children is to carry the infant on the body of the caretaker all day long” James Prescott, 1996

[Prescott, J. ‘The Origins of Human Love and Violence’, Pre and perinatal psychology Journal, Spring 1996, Vol 10;3 p. 155]

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“What is that you are using?”

sling My grandson in my 1980’s Snugli

Have you heard this comment when out and about with your baby in a carrier? It is still surprising how many comments babywearers receive when shopping , on the bus or at the school gate. I suspect many of  you will have been stopped more than once by a passer by. Some who comment will wish that they had been able to carry their babies ,others will be suspicious and see it as a new fashion or trend and will be mistrustful and suspicious.

Strange though it may seem to those that comment, baby carriers are all based on designs that have been around for centuries. Until a relatively short time ago in man’s history using a baby carrier was the norm in Europe as well as America, Asia and Africa. The period of time in which European and American babies have not been worn, is really very short in the scheme of things. When baby carriages were invented in 1730 they were certainly not for ordinary people, the Duke of Devonshire commissioned the first one from William Kent and was a horse drawn affair. Silver Cross began production in 1877 of their carriage prams and their patented designs became the start of prams as we know them. Queen Victoria helped to make baby carraiges popular,  but they were very much used by the upper classes as they were still very expensive items.   By the 1900s the ‘pram’ was becoming more common place and carrying was on the decline.

When Maclaren brought out his lightweight, folding buggies mother’s were delighted with the sudden freedom this gave them. Women could get out and about with baby on public transport and in cars. Women who lived in flats didn’t have to bounce heavy prams up and down stairs. Easier though this new wave of strollers were, they were never going to be as convenient as baby carriers. Many families still craved greater convenience and flexibility and carriers such as the Snugli carrier and the Didymos wraps were launched in the late 60’s and early 70’s to meet this desire. The wheel had turned and mothers [and fathers] were once more carrying their babies. So in carrying babies today we are not doing something new, but returning to something both simple and functional.

But whilst babywearing is not new, it is not something that most of our grandparents knew anything about and indeed few of our mothers will have carried either.  Very few communities continued to do it through the early 1900’s. The Welsh carrying shawl being one of the few traditional carriers that survived in the UK during this time.

The world of babywearing is now changing rapidly with new carriers coming on the market regularly, but babywearing is still not second nature to us. In order for it to become this we would have had to be worn, or seen mothers all around us wearing their babies as we were growing up, or have even worn our younger siblings.  Today’s generation of parents is reclaiming an age old art. Sling libraries, sling consultants and friends who carry, are taking the place of the lost generations of parents who were not carriers, to instruct new parents in that art.

For the next generation it will be easier . They are are already wearing their baby dolls, and some of them are wearing their siblings. They see carrying as the norm. Hopefully the tide will gradually turn and babywearing will become what parents do instinctively, in order to provide good care and closeness for their babies.

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Lillebaby Love

One of the carriers I first bought for the library was a Lillebaby Complete. Since then the Complete has been upgraded and a version 2 is now available, and we have the Lillebaby Air, Lillebaby All Seasons based on the same design. Last year the Lillebaby Essentials and Lillebaby Carry on were added to the family, plus a great array of different prints for the carriers was introduced.

The Lillebaby carriers have been a great success in our library. Few carriers can boast 6 different carrying positions and work well with small as well as larger babies.At the last meet I fitted the very same carrier to a 12 pound baby and then a 12 kilo baby and it worked perfecly well for both of them.

One of the other advantage of the Lillebaby is that it is available in High Street shops. In the UK we do not have many specilist baby wearing shops so it is good to see that some of the High Street chains are embracing the need to provide good quality baby carriers.

My only problem with people buying from the High Street is that parents may not meet an assistant who can offer them the same advice as they would receive at a library session.They may still be steered towards a carrier that does not allow the baby to be in a good ergonomic position, or just a carrier that does not suit them and their baby. I was therefore delighted to hear that Lillebaby Ambassadors were being introduced in the UK so that all the stores that stocked Lillebaby carriers would receive training.

I applied for one of the positions , was successful and last week I  attended a day’s training to enable me to be one of the first ambassadors.  I  amnow really looking forward to going into stores and spreading the Lillebaby Love.

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It’s A Wrap

A few of our members particularly enjoy wraps and wrapping. We are therefore pleased to be holding a monthly get together for wrappers.These sessions will be at Middle Wallop Community Centre on a Friday morning.The first is on April 8th 2016.

At the session there will be an opportunity to find out more about the world of wrapping as well as just to have time to chill and talk to parents with similar interests.

As an extension the library now has a Wrap Club which you can join in order to sample a range of wraps. Membership is at three levels: bronze, silver and gold and costs from just £10.

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My Baby Doesn’t Like Being In A Carrier…

One of the things that often happen when we put a baby in a carrier for the first time is that they cry. For some parents this is enough to make them not want to continue, but it doesn’t have to mean that babywearing isn’t for you.

It is very common for babies to fuss and wriggle when they first go in a carrier, it is a new experience and they are programmed to reject the unfamiliar. Very quickly if you start to talk to them, and move around they will be soothed and settle and then begin to enjoy the closeness.

If you are anxious or unsure how to use the carrier they will pick up your anxiety and respond to it. It helps if you are really familiar with your carrier before you use it with your baby.

  • Check you know how to adjust and fit it by reading the instructions carefully and watching some Youtube videos. Of course you can also come to a library meet for us to check fit and positioning.
  • Practice first with a doll or teddy so you are confident with holding the baby in the right position.
  • Use it at home to start with, so you are in familiar surroundings and not phased by having to do it in public with others watching.
  • Start with short carries and build up the length of time your baby is in the sling.
  • Make sure they are not hungry, have a dirty nappy or are overtired when you first use it.

With a gentle introduction your baby will soon learn to love the closeness of being carried and indeed as they get older will even seek out the experience. This article from Sheffield Sling Library is well worth a read if you are starting off on your carrying journey or have a baby who seems not to enjoy it.

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You Are All My Favourites

I am often asked what is my favourite carrier, or which one do I recommend? Both are really hard questions, but the later is easier than the first one to answer. Once I have chatted to parents and established their history and reasons for carrying  it becomes easier to narrow down the choices.

Back in the day the choice of carriers was minimal. I used a Snugli carrier that I bought through the NCT for my third and final child. I loved the freedom, and the free hands it brought me, and could never bear to part with it even when my children were grown. It was a great delight to try my first grandchild in it. BUT going back to it, I realised how far carriers have come in the last 35 years and that there were now many ones that were far better than my beloved Snugli available.

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I have loved having the grandchildren, my real life demo dolls, to enable me to enjoy using a small selection of the carriers that are now being made.

Our favourites have been:

a Hanababy wrap

a Rose and Rebellion ssc

a Connecta

a toddler Tula

a Buzzidil

a Simple Meitai custom make

a Wrapamore muslin ring sling

a Oscha wrap

yes, basically any we have tried at a certain point and have worked well for us at that time!

With such an abundance of carriers on the market it is a joy to be able to listen to a parent’s story, assess the baby’s needs and suggest the most appropriate carrier for them to try. It is the beauty of sling libraries that parents can now be guided by experts and try out carriers before they invest.

Many come to the library asking to try a certain carrier but fall in love with something entirely different. By all means listen to your friends and take onboard what they suggest, having a starting point in your mind is a good place to begin the dialogue, but do try to get to a library and find the carrier that best suits you and your baby.

New libraries are starting up all the time. If you want to find the closest to where you live then visit The Sling Pages for more information.

 

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A Connecta Diary by Bryony

Day 1
Clunk Click. Yay! It is so good to be back with a buckle sling after carrying Juno in a wrap sling for the first 4 months. I love how secure the sling feels. And after we have properly adjusted the straps and got Juno into the right position, she has a bit of a wriggle, does an enormous belch and goes to sleep. Bliss!

Day 2

This morning and I was able to take my toddler to his preschool with him in a buggy and with Juno in her sling. I had tried this with a wrap sling but it just didn’t feel as secure pushing it, but today I was whizzing along. Juno was looking out and having a right old nosey at all the people and traffic. Every now and then she would look up at me beaming. And Jax enjoyed having a buggy to relax in before his busy morning ahead. And then of course I could just leave the buggy in the buggy store and stroll home, just me and my girl. Slings are wonderful!Day 3
And did I mention that this is a liberty print sling by Connecta? I couldn’t believe it! I have always had a thing about the Strawberry thief design and now I have a sling in it. Wow! This will make me change out of my tracky bums before leaving the house for sure – I had become rather slack at dressing of late but my sling has bought a touch of glamour back to my life!
IMG_20150301_143851377Day 4
I like the way the sling has a band to pull it in for smaller babies. I am sure it makes it more comfy for Juno. I am still getting used to positing the back straps correctly and then fastening them. Not always easy with a toddler yapping at my heels! But certainly easier than arranging the lengths on my old wrap sling.Day 5
What was that I was saying about the band? Juno was grumpy at about 4pm and I was trying to get Jax’s dinner ready so I quickly popped her in the sling. She wouldn’t settle and was hollering at me. Finally I realised the band was all tangled and she can’t have been comfortable at all!

Day 6
A family trip to the park. Juno stayed asleep as I transferred her from the car seat to the sling and slept for most of our walk. Also I was able to help my boy out of the muddy puddles he has a habit of falling in to. The sling makes me feel totally hands free.

Day 7
Had to dash out quickly and Juno was taking a nap in her cot. But again she stayed asleep as I transferred her to the sling. Marvellous!

Day 8
I have to make sure I fold the ends of the sleepy hood in before I roll other wise they do bother little Juno!

Day 9
Juno needs a new all in one! The snow suit is just too warm when she is in the sling. So something all encompassing but more light weight is what I am after. And of course it would be nice if it coordinated with the sling fabric! Trip to Libertys needed perhaps……

Day 10
I needed to put a letter in the post box before the last collection. I was able to just clunk click Juno into her sling and take Jax by the hand and we could stroll round the corner to do our posting. It gives us such freedom!

Day 11
I do prefer taking Jax to the park with the baby in the sling not the buggy. No muddy wheels, no baby feeling left out in the buggy. But I can’t say I have mastered lifting a chunky two year old in and out of the swing with a little one in the sling!

Day 12
I didn’t get my straps right at all today and the sling felt heavy and uncomfortable. So important to get it right first time before rushing out with coats and scarves and bags that make it hard to readjust.

Day 13
Saw a woman with her baby in a sling then a snood draped around her neck and then across the sling. Looked lovely. Must try out the look!

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Can I Feed In It?

One question that often crops up when mothers come to a session to select a carrier is, ‘Will I be able to feed in it?’ Indeed, it can be the answer to this question that determines which carrier is selected. Basically yes, feeding is possible in many of our carriers, from either breast or bottle, but the big question is I think, ‘Why do you want to feed in a carrier?’

Learning to use a carrier and learning to feed your baby are two different skills. Both can take time to get right. When you have practised both and they become automatic, yes by all means combine them if you need to or want to, but in the beginning I would suggest it is better to estalish both independently. When you are happy in doing each safely, and if your life style means that being able to feed on the go is important then yes you will be able to do so whilst baby is in a carrier.

However, before you do embark on this please think carefully about the safety issues.

 The TICKS guidelines and the ABC reminders are always important to follow when using a carrier. When feeding in carriers it is also important that we  protect the baby’s airway and ensure their breathing is unobstructed.

Babies tend to be nasal breathers. It is why they can feed for long periods without having to break off to breathe. Nose breathing is what babies do, and indeed some would say that for health reasons we should encourage our children to continue to do so. It is therefore paramount that their noses are un-obstructed whilst feeding. It is important for the carrier/feeder to be consciously aware of any potential obstruction, be it external (from sling material, breast tissue, or clothing ) or internal (e.g.baby’s neck being bent over too far). The baby should not be led in a cradle position and allowed to feed unobserved. When you are feeding your baby in a carrier you need to be vigilant and alert, so that you can quickly make any adjustments if necessary.

So yes you can feed in a carrier if that is what you want to do, but you do need to be following all of the recommended safety advice. For more information please read this article from Sheffield Sling Surgery.

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