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An Introduction to Babywearing

Updated on October 25, 2014

Babies love to be held. Some babies, like mine, will cry hysterically every time you try to put them down. Babywearing allows you to have your baby close to you, and have your hands free to do other tasks like care for other children, cook, clean, or work on the computer. Babywearing is also convenient for people who do not want to deal with lugging clumsy strollers around.

Babywearing Stash Shot - a pile of woven wraps.
Babywearing Stash Shot - a pile of woven wraps.
Torticollis, tightening of the neck muscles, causes baby to tilt his head to one side at an awkward angle.
Torticollis, tightening of the neck muscles, causes baby to tilt his head to one side at an awkward angle.
Now that my son has started to walk, we still babywear in crowded places when I want to keep him close.  This back carry is called a ruck.
Now that my son has started to walk, we still babywear in crowded places when I want to keep him close. This back carry is called a ruck.

Why I Babywear

I first started babywearing because my baby would cry whenever I put him down. As women have babies older and older, you find that your body has a hard time keeping up with the physical demands of your baby. As a first time mother at the age of 38 my almost 10 lbs. at birth baby exhausted me and wore me out. While I tried to keep up with my baby's need for closeness & comfort, the muscles in my back and arms ached, and the joints in my arms became stiff and swollen. I worried that in a sleepless groggy state I might fumble and drop my baby. A friend had given me a Baby Bjorn and it wasn't long before I decided to give it a try. While thankful for this first carrier, I noticed that it dug into my shoulders which led me to begin researching more comfortable babywearing options.

Shortly after I started babywearing my son was diagnosed with torticollis. Torticollis is tightness of the neck muscles on one side. You can tell that his head is titled at an awkward angle. Torticollis prevented him from having a full range of motion when turning his head. The few times a day when my little one would lay down, since he wasn't able to turn his head, he began developing plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome. Even without torticollis, the number of cases of plagiocephaly has risen dramatically since the Back-to-Back SIDS prevention campaign began. As more and more babies spend time on their backs, the risk of flat head syndrome has skyrocketed. Through my research I found that babywearing is a wonderful addition to tummy time in strengthening baby's neck muscles. Babywearing throughout the day, rather than putting him down in a bouncer, swing or in the bassinet, kept him off the back of his head. Babywearing let me feel like I was being pro-active in trying to strengthen my son's neck muscles and minimize the effects of torticollis and plagiocephaly.

I am not a babywearing educator or expert. This article is meant to share some babywearing options with other mothers who might have just found out about babywearing. It's also meant to let mothers of babies with torticollis and plagiocephaly learn more about babywearing.

Diva Milano "Veneziano Diamante" Ring Sling
Diva Milano "Veneziano Diamante" Ring Sling

Pouches and Ring Slings

A Pouch is a long length of fabric that is folded in half and worn like a Miss America sash on one shoulder. The part that is folded in half forms a pocket where baby sits. Pouches can be dangerous due to asphyxiation. You need to make sure that baby's chin is not touching his chest, blocking airways. Also, that fabric is not covering baby's breathing passages. Beware of a pouch made by Infantino. Among babywearers it has been nicknamed the "bag of death" since several babies have died from it. DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT!

A Ring Sling (RS) is a long length of fabric secured to two rings. The other, loose end of fabric is called the tail. The tail gets threaded through the rings in the same way that you would wear a belt with rings. The fabric is pulled snugly to go around baby's back, under his bum, and to the back of his knees, creating a seat for him. Baby is secured against the wearer's chest. Ring slings are extremely popular to use for babywearing a newborn. With older babies you can also have them sit on your hip and then pull the ring sling around them.

Dads can Babywear Too
Dads can Babywear Too

Soft Structured Carriers

Soft Structured Carriers (SSC) are the types of carriers that you can typically find in Babies "R" Us or other baby stores. They have a buckled, adjustable waist that fits different size waists. The body of the carrier comes up from the waistband to around the back of baby's neck. Two shoulder straps get wrapped around your shoulders and buckle back into the body of the carrier. SSCs can be worn on the wearers front or back. Typically most babywearers will wear younger babies on their front before moving them to their back. When baby gets large, front wearing can become a hindrance.

The most well known SSC is the Baby Bjorn. While the Bjorn brought babywearing into the mainstream, more experienced babywearers know that it is not an ideal or recommended baby carrier. The narrow seat in Bjorns give it the nickname "the crotch dangler" because baby hangs by it's crotch. This can lead to hip displaysia. SSC with a wider seat base, such as those made by Ergo or Beco support your baby in a sitting position. Also, the Bjorn promotes a forward facing out position. This places the baby's back against the wearer's stomach and pushes baby's spine into a convex instead of concave position.

Since the Ergo SSC is sold in Babies "R" Us it has become extremely popular with beginning babywearers who have moved away from a Baby Bjorn. Due to it's popularity, counterfeit Ergo baby carriers have flooded the market. If you decide to buy an Ergo make sure that you buy one from a certified Ergo dealer. Counterfeit Ergos have not gone through the safety testing and are not made in the same process as real Ergo baby carriers. You can read about Ergo counterfeits on Ergo's Website. Another alternative is the brand Beco. Beco makes two popular styles - the Beco Butterly II and the Beco Gemini. We have a Beco Gemini and keep it in the car for when we're out somewhere and need it.

My baby is in a Front Wrap Cross Carry.
My baby is in a Front Wrap Cross Carry.

Wraps

A wrap is a long piece of fabric that is wrapped around the body and knotted in such a way to allow you to securely and safely carry your baby. The wraps come in different sizes based on length and there are many different "carries" that you can use depending on the size wrap you are using. While wrapping yards of material around your body might not sound comfortable, it's actually one of the most comfortable forms of babywearing.

The Maya wrap, a stetchy wrap which can be found in Babies "R" Us, is a common first step into wrapping. Stretch wraps can be used from newborn until baby is 15 lbs.

Once a baby weighs more than 15 lbs. you will need to use a wrap that doesn't stretch. This is for your baby's safety. While you can make your own wrap by using linen fabric from a fabric store, woven wraps are a better, easier, and safer, albeit more expensive option. Woven wraps are wraps that were created through either a hand or machine loomed weaving process. They can be woven in different colors and patterns. The price of woven wraps can range from anywhere from $100 - $1,000. A good, supportive woven wrap can last a babywearer into their child's pre-school years.

A Wrap Conversion Mei Tai (WCMT) is a Mei Tai that was made from a Woven Wrap.
A Wrap Conversion Mei Tai (WCMT) is a Mei Tai that was made from a Woven Wrap.

Mei Tais

A Mei Tai (MT) is similar to soft structured carriers in construction, but instead of having buckles, you tie straps around your waist and around your shoulders. The shoulder straps are made long enough that you can wrap them up and over your shoulders, cross them on your back, go around your baby and then tie them back behind you. Also similar to a SSC, MTs can be worn on your back, and it is recommended that you do so when baby becomes big enough to block your view of the floor, and heavy enough that you have lost your center of balance. A common brand name of Mei Tai is Babyhawk.

My favorite baby carriers are Wrap Conversion Mei Tais. They are mei tais that started off as a woven wrap, but were cut and sewn into a mei tai. They are more comfortable than mei tais made out of cotton twill. WCMTs usually cost a few hundred dollars. You have to factor in the cost of the original woven wrap, and then the cost of making it into a mei tai. You will want to make sure that you use a legitimate mei tai maker who sews the straps deep enough into the body to prevent it from ripping apart. Unsafe, shoddy construction of a mei tai can result in it ripping and your baby falling out.

Which Type of Baby Carrier Are You Most Likely To Try?

Which Type of Baby Carrier Are You Most Likely to Try?

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Comments

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    • profile image

      Alison Meehan 

      4 years ago

      I love to nurse while wearing my baby in a sling. It makes me feels like I can do or go anywhere.

    • profile image

      Lift Me Up: Babywearing to Thrive 

      4 years ago

      We love this post about how you wear your son who has torticollis. Babywearing is SO beneficial to children with diagnoses like this! We're so glad that babywearing was so helpful to you and your little boy. At Lift Me Up: Babywearing to Thrive, our mission is to give ergonomic babywearing carriers to families who have children with special needs. We are so excited to be giving families the tool of babywearing, and we loved reading your story. Thank you!

      Lift Me Up: Babywearing to Thrive

      www.liftmeupbabywearing.org

      Twitter & Instagram @liftmeupbaby

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