Saturday, April 7, 2007

Breastfeeding and Babywearing

I have been thinking about slings/carriers/wraps more than usual lately. I use them every day to carry around my baby, but it is such a part of my daily life, that I hadn't really given it much actual thought in a while. However, I am considering adding slings to my business inventory again so I have been on the hunt for the best slings.

I hope that babywearing will catch on in the Black community, because after all, our African sisters and ancestors have always carried their babies. In this Washington Post article from 1994, An Idea Still Looking for Traction in Kenya, Carol Mandi, editor of an East African Women's Magazine, EVE shares her thoughts on picking the good ancient traditions from the bad. A statement that has always struck me to my core, she says:

"But carrying on your back, well, that is just a wonderful custom that keeps the baby emotionally stable and lets the mother feel bonded. We can't stop being African women just because we are suddenly thrust into the modern world. What next? They will tell us to stop breast feeding in public? No way."

Yet, African-American women seem to want the biggest stroller, keep the baby in the carseat and never carry him/her and breastfeed in public? No way! For a people so often concerned with remembering and honoring our past, there are many basic nuggets of wisdom we have too quickly forgotten. Instead of worried about feeling bonded to our babies we are overly concerned with spoiling our precious little ones.

Babywearing often comes up with breastfeeding because a lot of breastfeeding mothers enjoy closeness with their baby and say that keeping the baby close helps them feed the baby quickly, easily and sometimes hands free. Not only that, the sling can act as a nursing cover or changing pad. For those of you unfamiliar with babywearing I thought I would share some basics from NINO (Nine In, Nine Out: A non-profit babywearing organization.

What is babywearing?
Babywearing is the practice of carrying your baby close to your body in a sling, pouch,wrap, or other baby carrier.

Why wear your baby?
Rest those tired arms
A baby carrier distributes baby’s weight across your body, making it much more comfortable than carrying a baby in arms. Many caregivers carry even older babies quite a lot. Most carriers are usable from birth up to 35 pounds (16kg).


Freedom of movement

Wearing baby frees you to take care of the house, run errands, eat out, and enjoy the outdoors without struggling with a stroller. The baby carrier is your stroller, portable crib, coverup, and more.

Free your hands to care for other children
Babywearing can help keep your baby content while making you more available for
other children.

Soothe fussiness, reflux, and colic
Some babies crave constant motion. Others spit up unless they remain upright. Some babies enjoy being swaddled. Others insist on being held constantly. A baby carrier allows you to address all of these issues with ease.

Share the load
Father, older siblings, grandparents, and other caregivers now have a powerful tool to comfort and bond with baby.

Slings promote bonding
Wearing baby fosters trust and attachment. A baby whose needs are met promptly now will be more secure later. Baby carriers are also a great way to bond with foster or adopted children.

Make frequent feeding easier
Newborns want to eat all the time, but new mamas sometimes feel tied down. Feed on the go — some moms even breastfeed with both hands free — in a baby carrier.

Carried babies tend to cry less
Research shows that carried babies cry 40-50% less. When your baby is close you will
become aware of his needs more quickly. Babywearing makes long-term carrying easy.

Carried babies tend to be more alert
Babies that are carried see the world from an adult point of view, and adults will tend to interact more with a baby whose face they can see. Babies are less likely to be bored and can learn more about their world when they are up higher.

Carried babies are safer
Protect your baby from unwanted touches of strangers by sharing your personal space – a great way to keep babies safe from germs during cold and flu season.

There are several different types of carriers. Most women and children carrying babies and children around the world use a simple scarf or long peice of fabric often referred to as a Wrap or scarf. Brand name wrap styles include Moby Wrap, Moby D, Didymos and Rebozo. Pouches are popular among first time moms, those new to babywearing and those who prefer the simplicity of a single piece of fabric. Pouches can be accented with padding on one or both rails, pockets and key rings. Pouches include the Urban Pouch, Hotslings and Mama's Milk. Ring slings come both padded and unpadded and are perhaps the most well known style of baby "sling". There are virtually hundreds in this style, from small SAHM manufactures like Soul Baby NYC who sell to friends, on their own websites or on EBAY to larger companies like Maya Wrap who use Guatemalan fabric for their signature vibrant colors. There are Asian-styled and inspired carriers such as the popular Mei Tie and Podegi and soft-structured carriers like the popular Ergo Carrier.

There are so many carriers (and I my listing is a mere nod to the thousands of styles and many many manufactures/designers out there) to choose from that every mom can find one that fits her fashion sense, lifestyle, budget and baby's personality. Slings now come in such beautiful fabrics and accessory choices, they are truly a fashion accessory for moms AND a way to carry baby and still have hands free. And, yes I do think a stroller still comes in handy sometimes...it is nice to have something to put the heavy diaper bag or packages in! Sometimes the stroller is a nice change of pace for a long stroll or extensive airport travel with an older (but still slow walking) child. Having traveled in airports and being a yard sale junkie - I can tell you there is nothing better than being able to keep baby close, protected from strangers and safe in a sling/carrier. If you have never tried a carrier and you have a child under 30-35 pounds, give it a try. You will wonder what took you so long! And beware, they can be as addicting as cute shoes...and as expensive too. But at least you and your baby will look good and be comfortable!

For more information on babywearing visit thebabywearer.com and mamatoto.org

Here's where I need your help. What is your favorite carrier? I would like to carry two - three different styles so moms have plenty to choose from. Maybe a pouch for beginners, a ring sling and a wrap. I would love your recommendations and raves. If you make or sell them, feel free to boast about it too! Just leave a comment with your babywearing experiences!

10 comments:

tracy81 said...

I have a 1 year old boy and as a baby shower gift recived a baby sling i havent stoped using it and recomend it to any new family. also as for breast feeding i demand fed my son for 10.5 mths and would have kept going but he weaned himself to my shock it was so easy from the first moment to the last, but i had plenty of people encouraging me to give it up and put him on the bottle , this i didn't understand. We were going great some people just give up on you too soon.

Micky said...

What kind of sling did you get? I am so glad you liked and use it alot!
Way to go for breastfeeding despite the naysayers!

Micky

Angela said...

I love this post Micky - very informative and interesting!

I used the Nojo sling (Dr. Sears) and found it very helpful for a newborn but not so great for an older child. Then I sewed a Maya wrap from the free pattern for my second child and liked that as well but it's harder to get the shoulder portion positioned properly to distribute the weight correctly. Next time I'd like to try a ringless sling or other type of carrier.

I've found moms at La Leche League meetings to be particularly helpful on babywearing. It's a good place to try out someone else's sling before buying.

Colleen said...

I love Mei Tais. They work well from infant to toddler so you get the most for your money. Pouches are too size specific for me and ring slings have a higher learning curve (imo). If I have to recommend a sling it would be from http://www.tranquilslings.com/
Because they have decorative edging to help you quickly know which side to adjust. Again, Mai Tai’s are my favorite. Hope that helps a little! Great blog!

Amber said...

I read this blog earlier today. I did not comment, I just went on about my daily errands and tasks. One task involved shopping for some needed supplies. I went to the Wal-Mart for these items and lo and behold- I noticed an african-american woman wearing her baby. The baby looked to be younger than 6 months, and I do believe was enjoying a little snack at the breast as mommy was getting the purchases into the car. I decided I should commit this scene to memory (not because I saw a boobie or anything (which I didn't), but because there is at least one mama in the boro doing her thing for a healthy happy baby today.

Doulala said...

There is a great instructional video that a friend/client of mine produced. It's called Tummy 2 Tummy
http://www.tummy2tummy.com/

I've given a couple of these as baby shower gifts.

Cairo Mama said...

I love the soft-structured carriers like the Beco (http://www.ecobabies.com) and the Ergo. I have both and have used them extensively in daily life (navigating the crazy streets of Cairo) and traveling throughout Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and most recently, JFK airport.

I tried a ring sling, but couldn't get it positioned properly so it didn't hurt my shoulders. I made a pouch sling, wich was better, but my son likes to be upright unless he is eating and would only tolerate the Kangaroo carry. He tried to stand up in the pouch and it just wasn't secure. I didn't have anyone to help me, though, and you will be able to hel your clients. I know rings and pouches do work for a lot pf people. I put my stroller together by myself when I was 8.5 months pregnant but couldn't get the ring sling to work.

The soft, structured cariers are very easy to use, there is no learning curve. It is fast to get your baby in and out, to switch from back to front carry position (or hip carry). I like the two-shouldered carriers because they are easier on your body. You can nurse in them--I climbed a mountain the Black Desert in Egypt last week while nursing my son in the Ergo. If your baby squirms, he will still be secure in the carrier.

Between the two, the Beco is lighter, cooler and comes in fun, limited edition prints. The Ergo is made from cotton canvas and is bulkier and comes in only a few solid colors and one print. The Ergo is cheaper at $92 compared to the Beco at $125 (some are more, some are less but most are abut $125 when you add shipping).

Renata said...

I use a Mei Tai. I use the type that folds into a bag so the straps aren't hanging everywhere (and you're not keeping track of a separate bag). The wrap is appealing to me because it folds flat but I haven't tried that yet. My daughter is approaching 9 months so I don't know if I'll try. I would like something that is quicker to get her in and out of for short term uses. I'd also like to get something I could nurse her in. So I think a pouch or ring sling will probably do that. I know you can nurse with a mei tai but it is just too akward for me.

Vivi said...

I love this article. I am trying to get more latinos to try babywearing as well. Much like African-American Culture, babywearing is a strong part of parenting in our culture but some how gets lost along the way. Thanks for such a great blog.

Leslie said...

I absolutely love wearing my baby!

So, I kind of went nuts and bought
quite a lot of carriers.

I also teach babywearing (which I pretend makes it ok to spend the money).

Here's what I've found helpful to stock:

-pouch style sling (emphasize correct fit with these!)
-SPOC (simple piece of cloth) or wrap
-Onbuhimo (Japanese carrier like mei tai, but with two rings at the bottom)
-mei tai
-Chunei (korean buckle pod . . . hosausa.com for examples)
-Other SSC's

I put them in order of most likely to sell to least. It also happens to be in cost order, lowest to highest.

As for specific brands, I couldn't tell you much. Hotslings are great pouch slings.

Look for Kangas or Selendangs for SPOC's, and for wraps, there are a lot of options.

I hope this helps!