Babywearing Resource Page

I simply love babywearing. I own 3 Moby Wraps, a Maya Wrap, a Baby K’tan, a mei tai, a Snuggli, and a couple more tucked away in a closet somewhere. Babywearing let me keep Dylan close when he was a newborn no matter what I was doing. And now that he’s older, I can hold him as much as he wants while not killing my muscles and while still getting stuff done. I never leave the house without a carrier in my truck, even if I don’t specifically plan to use it. When you first start looking at baby carriers, the variety can be intimidating, but don’t worry! It soon starts to make sense, and babywearing itself simply makes so much sense that you won’t regret giving it a try.

Reasons to Wear Your Baby

  • Babies who are carried cry less and have less stress. Non-carried babies have more stress hormones which can lead to more digestive problems and diaper rash.
  • Carried babies spend more time in the “passive alert” stage which helps them learn from the world around them and feel confident.
  • Babywearing promotes a strong attachment between parent and baby. Communication is stronger between the two and the baby is more emotionally secure.
  • Using a baby carrier lets you have a full and busy life while also keeping your baby close.

Types of Baby Carriers

This is where it gets complicated. There are so many types of carriers to choose from! Choice is a good thing, but it can also be overwhelming! First up, a simple description of which is which and where to see an example!

  • A wrap is simply a long piece of fabric that you use to tie your baby to you. They come in stretchy and non-stretchy (woven) fabric. I use a (stretchy) Moby Wrap almost exclusively to carry Dylan, and I wrote a review of it here.
  • A mei tai or Asian baby carrier (ABC) is a rectangle of fabric with straps at each corner that you use to tie your baby to you. You can see Dylan in a mei tai in this post about screening compost.
  • Front-pack style carriers are fully structured, padded, buckling carriers.  The Baby Bjorn is an example. I won’t be covering these carriers in this overview, because they  I don’t recommend that anyone buy these.
Most baby carriers fit into one of those 6 categories. Pouches/slings are limited in their versatility, difficult to size correctly, and are associated with some safety issues. If a pouch appeals to you, I recommend a ring sling instead. Front-pack style carriers are the least comfortable to wear, least anatomically appropriate for your baby, and least versatile. For the rest of this overview, I’ll only be talking about the other 4 carrier types, although links will include other types.

Choosing a Carrier

There are several different ways to judge a carrier. Finding one that’s right for you depends on your budget, your priorities, and your lifestyle. Here are some characteristics you might want to consider:

  • Learning Curve – Some carriers are easier to learn to use than others. All carriers take some getting used to, and all carriers are easy to use once you get some practice, so I wouldn’t prioritize the initial learning curve very highly. Other people are more intimidated by babywearing and want to start with something easy. Wraps are the hardest to learn initially. Soft-structured and mei tais are the easiest.
  • Age of Baby – Wraps are particularly suited for newborn babies. Mei tais and soft-structured carriers are usually preferred for toddlers.
  • Available Positions – A ring sling is ideal for hip carry positions and can also do a back position. A mei tai can do front, back, and side carries. Soft-structured carriers can be used for front and back carries, and some brands can do a side carry. A wrap can be used for front, back, and side carries, although stretchy wraps are mainly used for front carries.
  • Weight Distribution – Wraps have the best weight distribution, since they go evenly across your back and waist and over both shoulders. Mei tais and soft-structured carriers also have good weight distribution. A ring sling only goes over one shoulder.
  • Versatility – Wraps lead the way in versatility, hands down.
  • Price – Wraps are generally cheapest, and soft-structured carriers are generally the most expensive, but there are a wide range of prices across all the categories. You can buy secondhand to save some money since a quality carrier will last through many children. You can also make your own wrap, ring sling, or mei tai.
  • Ease of On-Off – Mei tais and soft-structured carriers go on quick, ring slings are also pretty quick, but a wrap takes a bit of work to get situated.

That’s a lot of considerations, and there are more that I didn’t cover, like attractiveness/fashionableness of the carrier, ability to breastfeed while wearing, ease of washing, and ability to switch between different wearers. What carrier is right for you will be such a personal decision, and if you love babywearing, you may find that you want more than one carrier to meet your needs at different times.

Read more about each kind of carrier to get a more complete idea of the benefits of each style:

WrapMei TaiRing slingSoft-structured - Pros and cons on one page

Recommendations

After all the weighing and considering, what do I actually recommend for babywearing? I have my personal favorites, but I also have more general recommendations based on hearing gazillions of opinions from the wide world of babywearing. There are some clear choices in each category.

  • Wraps – If you want to snuggle a newborn closely, are concerned about price, want unlimited color/fashion options, and want the most versatility in age range and carry options, a wrap is the right choice. I swear by my Moby Wrap, but other people prefer woven wraps for older babies, toddlers, and back carries. For a woven wrap, I suggest going to Etsy for lots of great options in different prices.
  • Mei Tai – If you want a strong carrier for older children that also stores away compactly and is very quick to put on, a mei tai is a good choice. Don’t scrimp on price, because you’ll appreciate all the extra padding, strength, and details. My favorite in this category is the BabyHawk.
  • Ring Sling – A ring sling is a good choice if you want unlimited fabric options and a quick in-and-out option for any age of child. The Maya Wrap is a classic ring sling.
  • Soft-structured – If you want a strong, comfortable carrier for longer wearing periods with a customizable fit and all the bells and whistles PLUS you don’t mind the cost, then a soft-structured carrier is the way to go. The leader in this category is by far the Ergo.

And MORE…

Honestly, I was a little stuck on how to fill out this resource page. I could probably talk all day about the features of a particular carrier, but I found less to say as a general overview. Still, I can expand this page over time.

What other information about babywearing would you like to know or what other information would you add to this page?

Breastfeeding Resource Page

There are lots of great sites online about breastfeeding which is good news since there is so much information a breastfeeding mama might want to know! This page gives you a starting place for information about breastfeeding and points you towards a lot of other great resources so you can dive in and learn as much as you want. Let me know if there’s more information you’re looking for that I can include here!

La Leche League International is the #1 source for breastfeeding information. If you are looking for in-person assistance, you may also be able to find La Leche League meetings near you. In person meetings with other breastfeeding mothers can be enormously more valuable than online information, especially if you are new to breastfeeding, having any issues, needing some friendly support, or just want to be in company that understands you. Even if there are no meetings near you, the La Leche League Leaders listed on the meeting pages will all be happy to talk to you on the phone or through email if you need breastfeeding support.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

  • See this La Leche League page for many articles on the benefits of breastfeeding.
  • Breastmilk has just the right balance of ingredients, providing all the nutrients your growing baby needs.
  • It is easier to digest than formula.
  • Breastmilk contains hormones and antibodies that protect your baby from illness, which cannot be replicated by formula. Formula-fed babies have more ear infections and respiratory infections, among other illnesses, as well as more cases of SIDS.
  • It’s easier on you. There’s nothing to sterilize and nothing to prepare.
  • It’s cheaper. Formula supplies cost hundreds of dollars a year plus increased medical care costs.
  • The physical contact of breastfeeding provides emotional benefits to both mama and baby.
  • If you need more reasons to breastfeed this page lists 101 reasons to do it, everything from the nicer containers to reducing greenhouse gases!

Preparing for Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is “natural”, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily come naturally to you. In times past mothers would have had a lot more exposure to breastfeeding examples and information prior to doing it themselves. These days our relative social isolation means that we’re kind of starting from scratch with this essential skill. The information you need is available, but you have to do a little more work to access it. Here are some options to consider:
  • If there are La Leche League meetings near you, you can go even before you give birth. Just hearing other women talk about breastfeeding will give you confidence.
  • If you have relatives who breastfed, ask them to share their experiences with you. Guide them towards sharing positive stories with you, if you can. What did they like about breastfeeding? What tips can they offer you?
  • Your local hospitals/birthing centers may offer breastfeeding classes. Check with your health department about possible low-cost or free classes, too.
  • Add a good breastfeeding book to your shelf before you need it. There are lots of good options, but The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is the gold standard.
  • Consider what accessories might help you out, like a Boppy pillow, a nursing cover, or nursing bras.

Breastfeeding How To

If you give birth in a hospital or birthing center, there may be lactation consultants on hand to help you with your first steps into breastfeeding. Take advantage of them! They are there to help, and while it may seem awkward in those first couple of days, the assistance will be so valuable!

You will develop your own breastfeeding patterns as you and your baby learn together. Here are some of the basic steps to start off with:

  • Get comfortable. Support yourself with pillows if you want to, and have anything handy that you might want like your phone or a glass of water.
  • Support your baby’s head with one hand and your breast with the other. Bring your baby to your breast; don’t lean over to bring your breast to your baby.
  • Touch your baby’s lower lip with your nipple until your baby’s mouth opens up wide. You want your baby to get a big mouthful of areola.
  • If you feel pain past the first few seconds or something else seems off and you want to try to re-latch your baby, first break the suction by putting your finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth or by pressing down on your areola right next to your baby’s lips.
  • When you are starting out, feed your baby every two to three hours or whenever your baby seems hungry.
  • Here is a guide to breastfeeding that includes some sketches to help you visualize the process.
  • And here’s a guide to help you determine if you have a correct latch.
  • It can be extremely helpful for new mamas to see examples of breastfeeding. This site has several videos, including examples of different problems.

Common Breastfeeding Issues

There are some common issues that you might encounter while breastfeeding. Don’t let these problems deter you. There are only a handful of potential issues, and there are lots of strategies for avoiding and managing them.
  • Engorgement is when your breasts become overly full and swollen. This can happen in the beginning when your milk supply is first starting, if you go a long period without feeding, or if there’s a sudden change in your baby’s feeding habits.
  • Sore nipples can occur as a result of a bad latch.
  • A plugged duct is when your milk flow gets blocked by a buildup of skin cells and milk.
  • Overactive letdown is when your milk comes out too fast for your baby to manage, leading your baby to gag or refuse to feed.
There are many places online to get information on these issues and others. Try this link for more information on their causes, how to avoid them, and what to do when they occur all on a single page.

Pumping and Work

I haven’t pumped breastmilk or breastfed while working out of the home, so this is an area where I don’t know a lot. I’d like to grow this section over time, but I have more learning to do. Here are a couple of good pages I found:

I’d love to recommend products that help facilitate pumping. Can you recommend any that you found useful?

Nursing in Public (NIP)

In the US, you have the right to nurse your child in public, anywhere you are otherwise allowed to be, and you don’t have to be “discreet” or take any special steps on behalf of other people if you don’t want to. You can read more about the legal side of nursing or look up the specific laws in your state.

The Carnival of Nursing in Public is a wonderful resource for endless reading on this topic from multiple writers. The carnival posts are separated into five days and topics:

KellyMom

Along with La Leche League, the other stand-out online resource is KellyMom. KellyMom is a trustworthy site, well organized to address many different issues. You could spend all day reading about breastfeeding!

  • Getting Started Breastfeeding: What to expect, how to prepare, common concerns, etc.
  • Safety While Breastfeeding: Covers medications, herbs, vitamins, and illnesses.
  • Nursing the Older Baby: Common baby concerns like teething, and mama concerns like supply and fertility.
  • Breastfeeding Past a Year: Myths, facts, common concerns, and answering criticism.
  • Weaning: Extensive information on the end of the breastfeeding process.

And MORE…

This excellent 40+ page PDF is an overview of these and other topics and offers a helpline – 800-994-9662 – where you can talk to a breastfeeding peer counselor. Breastfeeding can seem like a big or complicated topic, but there is lots of help and information out there for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support when you need it.

Here is another comprehensive online guide to breastfeeding. Check it out if you want to see a lot of useful breastfeeding information presented in a clear, easily navigable form.

This resource page on breastfeeding will grow over time, as I find more useful information and links to add.

What other information about breastfeeding would you like to know or what other information would you add to this page?

Cosleeping Resource Page

Cosleeping has become a controversial practice these days, but I hope that doesn’t keep you from keeping your baby just as close as you want. Next to mama is the natural place for babies, regardless of the current fads in parenting. This page gives you an overview of information about cosleeping and points you towards a lot of other great resources so you can dive in and learn as much as you want. Let me know if there’s more information you’re looking for that I can include here!

Benefits of Cosleeping

  • Babies sleep better and enjoy going to sleep more.
  • Mothers sleep better.
  • Breastfeeding is easier, rates are higher, and duration is longer with cosleeping.
  • Cosleeping fosters independence in older babies and children.
  • Cosleeping has positive effects on the child’s overall emotional health.
  • Cosleeping is parenting. Many parents prefer to keep relating to their children during sleep.
  • For much more in-depth information on the benefits of cosleeping, read Seven Benefits of CoSleeping at peaceful parenting, Five Benefits to Cosleeping Past Infancy at Natural Parents Network, and Benefits of Co-Sleeping from PhD in Parenting.

How to Cosleep Safely

  • Don’t smoke or allow smoking in the house or go to bed wearing perfume or other scented products.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs/medications that might deepen sleep or inhibit waking. For the same reason, be mindful of exhaustion.
  • Make sure the person sleeping with the baby is in tune with the baby’s presence. The safest cosleeping partner is the breastfeeding mama.
  • Don’t have heavy or fluffy bedding near the baby, especially in the early months.
  • Don’t lay the baby on soft surfaces like squishy mattresses or waterbeds.
  • Watch out for spaces where the baby could fall and get stuck, like spaces between the mattress and the wall or headboard.
  • Don’t leave the baby alone in a bed.
  • Here’s a checklist of cosleeping safety suggestions from Elizabeth Pantley.

Cosleeping Inspiration from Mothering.com

  • Three in a Bed. - “Joseph and Alice were born in this bed and here they slept, filling the space with fluttering movements, infant squeaks, and an angelic aroma. They suckled me to sleep every night, stimulating my sleep hormones as they fed from my breast. For a while after each weaning, I wondered how I would ever get to sleep without them by my side.”
  • Bed of Roses - “Cosleeping is a skill that when mastered can minimize the inevitable exhaustion. As with any skill, it takes time and practice to get the hang of it, and talking to other masters in the field—that is, other parents with cosleeping experience—can give the tired parent creative ways around the common roadblocks to happy family bedding. I interviewed parents around the world to find out how they had overcome the nine most common obstacles.”
  • Cosleeping: Real Men Sleep with Their Kids - “My son is asleep downstairs, in my bed. He’s been sleeping in my bed every night for over two years. This is where he should sleep. This is where all my children will sleep. I can’t imagine it any other way.”

Research on Cosleeping

I’ve previously written (and will quote here) about the research of Dr James McKenna from the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at the University of Notre Dame. The Sleep Lab is a research and teaching laboratory that researches the safety, physiological, and psychological consequences of parent-child sleep choices. Digging into their published articles is a goldmine, but you can learn a lot just by checking out their website:

  • “Mother-infant cosleeping with breastfeeding is humankind’s oldest and most successful sleeping arrangement.” The Western practices of formula-feeding and moving sleeping babies away from their parents and off of their backs is responsible for the SIDS epidemic. Likewise, mothers suffocating their babies while sleeping is also a Western problem that requires more explanation than simply blaming bedsharing alone.
  • Infants require continual proximity and contact with a caregiver’s body for their nutritional needs (breastfeeding) and also to promote proper functioning of their body temperature, immune system, heart rate, breathing, organ development, and central nervous system as well as their psychological and emotional development. For older children, cosleeping contributes to their “independence, social competence, feeling of high self esteem, strong sexual identities, good comportment…in school, [and] ability to handle stress…”
  • “Sleeping through the night” is a completely emotionally, socially, and biologically inappropriate activity for babies. McKenna calls it “scientifically bogus”. Babies should wake frequently in the night to breastfeed, staying in the kind of “lighter sleep” for which they are designed.
  • A breastfeeding mother is more physiologically and mentally in tune to her baby’s movements and sounds than a formula-feeding mother, and the breastfeeding baby is more physiologically tuned to her. The baby and mother in a breastfeeding dyad spend more time in “lighter sleep” that makes them more responsive to one another. Almost all bedsharing deaths involve non-breastfeeding babies.
  • Bedsharing deaths are overwhelmingly associated with other independent risk factors, notably: baby placed on ou stomach in an adult bed with no supervision, lack of breastfeeding, baby placed on top of a pillow, maternal smoking, and drug and alcohol use. This was shown in the Milwaukee report, as well, where an average of four risk factors were present.

Cosleeping Products

There are a lot of products sold to parents for positioning baby just so, but they are unnecessary and even potentially risky. There are a few other products you might consider, though.
  • One is the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper. Some parents are not confident about cosleeping safely and want an option to keep baby close while also keeping baby separate. The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper is the most highly recommended product for this purpose. Your baby can be right next to you and can be easily drawn closer for breastfeeding but also has a separate surface to sleep on.
  • Another item I strongly recommend is a waterproof mattress pad for your bed. Babies are messy. Really, liquid-ly messy in so many ways!
  • Since blankets are not recommended for babies, a sleep sack is an easy way to keep your baby securely at the right temperature.
One nice benefit of cosleeping is that it’s cheaper! There are a lot of products you don’t need to buy, like a crib, crib sheets, baby monitor, crib lights/toys, etc.

And MORE…

This resource page on cosleeping will grow over time, as I find more useful information and links to add.

What other information about cosleeping would you like to know or what other information would you add to this page?

Cloth Diapering Resource Page

I have really enjoyed using cloth diapers with Dylan, and I want to pass that love onto you. This page gives you an overview of information about cloth diapering and points you towards a lot of other great resources so you can dive in and learn as much as you want. Let me know if there’s more information you’re looking for that I can include here!

Reasons to Use Cloth Diapers

What kinds of cloth diapers are available today?

  • Flats: These are the seriously old-fashioned kind. It’s a single layer piece of cloth that’s folded and pinned (or Snappi’d).
  • Prefolds:  Still old-fashioned. Cloth that’s already been folded for extra layers in the middle. Mostly all you have to do is pin. Read more about the benefits of using prefolds.
  • Contours: Contour diapers have a little bit of tailoring such as elastic around the legs and wings that fold over. It’s a slight step up from prefolds. No pinning needed.
  • Fitteds: Fitteds are fully tailored diapers – elastic for the legs and waist, snaps or Velcro to close it. These go on your baby like a disposable, although they still need a cover to be waterproof.
  • Covers: Flats, prefolds, contours, and fitteds all need a cover to make them waterproof. The cover has no absorbency itself, it’s just a waterproof barrier. But if you remember the rubber pants of yore, don’t worry. Covers these days are as cute as the diapers and come in many easy-to-use styles.
  • All-In-Ones (AIOs): AIOs have absorbency and waterproof-ness in one piece. You put them on and they fit just like a disposable.
  • Pockets: Pockets are like a cover (and can be used as a cover for other diaper types) in that they are trim and waterproof, but they have a lining that wicks moisture away from baby’s skin and a pocket for stuffing inserts into. The inserts are the absorbent part.
  • All-in-Twos: (AI2s): AI2s are like AIOs except the extra absorbent middle part snaps in and out, making them easier to launder.
  • One-size (OS): Fitteds, AIOs, pockets, and AI2s come in different sizes, or you can find OS diapers that are adjustable to fit your child as ou grows.
  • For more descriptions of these, plus different materials and other related terms, check out this cloth diapering cheat sheet or this page on cloth diapering systems.

Some popular cloth brands:

How to Wash Cloth Diapers:

  • As they occur, put the dirty diapers in a diaper pail or bag. If your baby is eating food, dump solid waste into the toilet first. For babies exclusively breastfeeding, you can wash everything. How long you wait between washings depends on your schedule and how many diapers you have.
  • Dump the contents of the pail or bag into your washing machine. Run a cold water rinse cycle to rinse away waste.
  • Wash diapers on hot using detergent. Run an extra rinse if you like.
  • Don’t use chlorine bleach, fabric softener, or pure soaps.
  • Dry on low or line dry. Don’t use dryer sheets.
  • If you have stains you want to remove, lay the diapers out in the sun. Stains magically disappear!

Other washing resources:

Cloth on a Budget:

 And MORE…

This resource page on cloth diapering will grow over time, as I find more useful information and links to add.

What other information about cloth diapering would you like to know or what other information would you add to this page?

Mama, I’m Scared

With a newborn, I can so peacefully drift in and out of the baby’s needs and routines that there’s never any room to be irritated or upset with the baby. Dylan is 8 months old, which means he’s still such a tiny little person. But every day he gets a little more independent, and every day I see him a little more as a separate person from me. As Dylan grows and starts to develop interests and desires that diverge further from my own, my ability to be upset with him creeps in.

As he gets bigger and heavier, his desire to be connected to my body strains on me differently than when he only weighed 10 pounds.

As he gets more vocal, his voice frequently takes on that high-pitched lilt that I want to call “whining”.

As he gets more mobile, he bonks and bangs into things, and then he cries.

As he gets more dexterous, he also gets himself stuck and frustrated more often, and then he cries.

It would be so easy to resent him. It would be so easy to be bothered by how much attention he wants. It would be so easy to get frustrated when he won’t let me set him down without him whining. It would be so easy to get irritated at how often he needs to be helped getting around or getting into things.

But I know that it must be hard to be a baby. It must be hard to have all these new skills falling into place so rapidly, so that each day is bigger than the last. It must be hard to need so much and to need someone else to provide it with such limited tools to help make that happen.

When Dylan whines or cries, I can interpret those sounds in all sorts of ways. I can assign them negative meanings like demanding, manipulative, clingy, needy, pushy. Those meanings arise in my own mind, where I have thoughts, feelings, and baggage that get in the way of real communication with my child. If I stop for a moment and try to imagine the meaning that originates from Dylan’s own mind, I arrive at something different.

As the tiny person that he is, Dylan has a very limited range of emotion. His emotions are new, young, sharp. His whining or crying usually expresses one of two simple feelings. One is the angry confusion of not being able to physically do something. Dylan has been enjoying opening cabinets and drawers, and when he encounters one that’s stuck he gets upset at his inability to do a physical action that he expected to be able to do. When I try to view the huge world from his perspective, I find myself having great compassion for Dylan’s experience and a great capacity to want to help him navigate it.

The second main emotion arises when I set Dylan down or walk away from him when he doesn’t want me to. There are lots of times where he plays for long periods completely separate from me. But there are other times when he wants to be very close. If I set him down or move too far away, he starts to protest. When I get out of my own mind, where unhelpful words like “clingy” originate, I see that what Dylan is expressing is fear. He needs me. Literally and completely needs me for his survival. I am his food and his warmth and his protector. It’s true that he’s getting bigger and smarter, and he moves away from me more often than he used to. It’s also true that he still needs me, and there are some times, maybe when he’s tired or hungry or hurt or overstimulated or confused, when that need is sharper than other times. When he tries to express that need, it comes out in a sound that’s not always pleasant to my ears. So instead, I translate it. I imagine that he’s saying, “Mama, I’m scared. Please stay closer.” Instead of responding to a child who’s “whining”, I respond to a child who is afraid. I find that it’s more pleasant on my heart and more pleasant on our relationship.

There will be a time in the future when Dylan doesn’t really need me much at all. There will be times in the future where he doesn’t have much to say to me at all. Right now, when he needs me so much and when what he has to say is so important, it’s really important that I listen. And when I listen, it’s important that I hear what he’s really saying.