Guest Blog: Babywearing
by Madeline, Sheen Slings
It takes a village! And in our Guest Blog series, Madeleine, a Trageschule UK Certified Babywearing Consultant, shares her wealth of experience with 'baby wearing'. If you have any more questions for Madeleine, or are interested in attending her Sling Library or Baby Wearing Workshops you can get in touch on Instagram, Facebook or at www.sheenslings.com
What is Babywearing?
It's a bit of a weird term isn't it?!! It always seems to conjure up different meanings to different people but despite such a clunky term it simply means any/all carrying a baby in a sling or a carrier. So whether you want to carry around the home or out and about, to help with crying and reflux or to help with bonding or because you have other children you need to care for to, or because you would like to have a free hand occasionally to make yourself a cup of tea, or literally any of the thousands of reasons there are to use a baby carrier it all counts!
There is so much choice - how do I know which one is best for me?
There is indeed so much choice! And it can be quite intimidating! The absolute key thing is to try them on! And the best way to do this is to find your nearest sling library and/or sling consultant who is fully trained, insurance and an absolute pro at listening to your requirements, your situation and finding the thing that fits you the best.
Often the first step is figuring out what type of carrier would suit you best - seeing them in action and getting to try for yourself - and then worrying about individual brands later. Broadly speaking there are 5 main types of sling, each with their own pros and cons
Stretchy wraps and Stretchy carriers (i.e. Caboo) Perfect for newborns and 4th trimester. Pros are - Easy to use, soft, akin to being swaddled to parent. Fit a very wide range of body types and are comfortable enough to use around the home for as long as you like. Cons - babies often grow out developmentally after a few months, roughly when they grow out of swaddling (although if this puts you off many sling libraries offer very cost-effective long-term loans to save you needing to buy your own).
Ring Slings Can be used from newborn to toddler. Ring slings are a bit like marmite... some people love them, some hate them. Pros are they are very fast and easy to use and they fold up very small to fit in a change bag. Perfect for quick up and downs. Cons are they are less supportive as one shoulder carry only and have the steepest learning curve - very easy to use once you have the knack but they are a little counter intuitive at first.
Woven Wraps Perfect for newborn all the way until you no longer wish to carry (preschooler or even beyond). Pros are these are the most versatile of all carriers, they are the one true one sling fits all carrier. Great for bad backs as you get a perfect fit every time. No limit on what you can do with them - front, hip and back carries… only your imagination! Cons - can sweep the ground if wrapping out and about. They are not as intuitive as a buckle carrier to learn, they can be just as easy once you've done it a few times.
Meh Dai (Mei Tai): Work best from 2-3 months old through till around 2-3 years old. Pros are - very versatile; offering front, hip and back carries. Half way house between wovens and buckle carriers … more intuitive like a buckle carrier but with the perfect fit each time of a woven wrap. Again a good choice for bad backs. Cons - sweep the ground when putting on out and about
Buckle carriers: These are most popular type of carrier on the high street. They are very intuitive to use, although like all of the above takes a couple of goes to really get the hang of adjusting optimally. This category has the biggest variation between brands! And the biggest fit issue, … because of how they are made, different buckle carriers will fit different bodies types better or worse. Carriers are like clothing! Just as you would try a pair of jeans on before purchasing, it's very important to try any carrier on... but buckles most of all - to check you have the best fit. The ‘best’ carrier is the one that fits you the best! While some work well with newborns (i.e. Izmi, Connecta, Ergo Adapt), many don’t work well with newborns, often requiring bulky infant inserts. In general Buckle carriers work best from 5-6 months when babies really fit without the need for an infant adaptation… all the way until around 2-3 years of age.
The second step after figuring out which type is to try several different brands of that type, and ensure your confident using them. Different brands fit different people - bit like a pair of jeans. And they tighten and adjust in different ways and some ways make sense to some people and bamboozle others. So it's absolutely key to give a few a go and see what clicks. I had 3 people all trying on the same carriers at the same time during sling library today and the really cool thing was when one said wow its so interesting how that one didn't fit me at all well but looks amazing on her, and when she tried on this one it didn't look right on her but it's so comfortable on me. And I just grinned because yes it is interesting, and not something you expect or can really appreciate till you see it. When it comes to finding the best carrier for you fit is absolutely everything - friends recommendations can be a great starting point but nothing beats trying it out for yourself and seeing how it works for you and your baby.
How soon after birth can I use a sling?
As soon as you feel able! I've known parents to carry right from the first day if they've felt well enough to do so. The important thing is to listen to your body - you've just given birth! So do take it easy on your body and give yourself time to heal but if you feel strong enough to give it a go. Go for it! Just ensure any carrier is high and tight so there is no pressure on your recovering pelvic floor
What if I had a cesarean birth?
Again same rules apply, when you feel strong enough give it ago! As long as the carry is high and tight and not putting any pressure on your scar and core there is no reason not to carry. I would avoid any carrier with a very heavy waist band at this point, but carriers such as the Caboo or stretchy wrap are absolutely perfect for these early days when you are still healing.
How long can I carry my baby for?
For as long as you are both comfortable! A well fitted, ergonomic carrier should hold baby in a developmentally perfect position so there's no reason not to carry for as long as you like! When my #2 was born I felt like she spent the first 3 months of her life in a sling! She'd be worn several hours at a time for most of the day coming out only for feeds, changes and the odd bit of tummy time and staring adoring at her brother.
Won't it hurt by back?
A well-adjusted well-fitting carrier should not hurt your back. If you are carrying your baby and it does start to hurt your back please please do seek help from a sling librarian or sling consultant. I can't tell you how many people have struggled on with an ill-fitting carrier for months before coming to the library and then being totally shocked to find that their baby could feel "almost weightless" just with a few tweaks to their existing carrier or with a carrier that gives them a better fit. So often parents are worried that their baby is "too heavy now" but those simple changes to get a better fit make all the difference and I know so many parents that thought their little one was too heavy around 6 months and have gone onto carry for at least another year. Everyone is different and you need to listen to your body but most parents find they can continue carrying until at least 2 in a well fitting carrier, and many far beyond this. Once in a blue moon ... like when he's fallen over and hurt himself, or has a bad cold... I still carry my 5 year old.
Support for special circumstances
While a baby carrier can be an amazing tool for anyone, it can make a really enormous difference when it comes to anyone facing the added challenges that come with special circumstances. I have helped parents find a carrier that works with premature babies, babies on oxygen, babies with low muscle tone, hip dysplasia, bilateral talipes, scoliosis, Down's syndrome and many other special circumstances. I've also helped parents who walk crutches, use a wheelchair, have scoliosis, have limited shoulder or arm mobility or are partially sighted find the right carrier for them. Sometimes people assume a particular circumstance might preclude babywearing but this is not usually the case. If you can carry your baby in arms then it should be possible to use a carrier to ease your load. You might need a specific type or we might need to go slightly off manual in how we use it, but there is almost always a solution.