Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Verdict on Carriers

I love babywearing for both practical and fluffy (er, "less practical") reasons. First of all, most obviously it lets babies and parents stay in close proximity while traveling or doing activities that require the use of parental hands. Also, it encourages social interaction for babies when they are carried since anybody the parent talks with tends to be close to eye-level for the baby. My Little always gets more conversation/attention from strangers we meet when he is being worn vs. when he is in his stroller*. Lastly, carriers of all varieties just make moms, dads, and babies look cuter! Observe: Jerry loves to wear Little when we go out because he gets a lot of attention. People approach just to tell him, "We love to see a dad with his baby." This pouch style sling was actually not a favorite when Little was...well, "little," because it tends to make his neck get pushed forward (is it apparent in this photo?). Recently a carrier of this style was recalled because a couple of newborns suffocated in it. Parents: don't plop your infant in a carrier of any kind and then forget about them! I always like to have my Little in sight while wearing him, because it feels safer, though when he gets a bit older I will probably wear him on my back.

Anyway, I digress: Until he could support his neck better, we actually avoided this pouch sling. But it became highly useful during approx. months 2-4, when we wore Little in an upright, sitting position in the sling. He appreciated being able to turn front-facing to watch whatever I was doing. After 5 months of age, I could still use it but the baby was sometimes leaning out too much and he had outgrown the weight limit. I don't use it much at all now by 6 months, but occasionally throw it on if we are just walking out to the mailbox. I do like how easy it is to put on/off. And if the baby fell asleep in it, I could just lift the sling over my head and he would usually stay asleep when he was at the age that he still slept through distractions (before about 4 months).

This carrier, while taking a few more moments than a sling to don, is what I recommend for a newborn. The Moby! I enjoyed how snug and tight this carrier held Little against my body. I could have tipped myself totally upside-down and he would not have slid out. He slept well in this carrier.
Regarding sleeping and babywearing, I have learned that for my baby at least, beyond about 3 -4months of age he simply needs dark, quiet, and no motion to sleep well. Wearing him tends to provide too many distractions, so that he resists falling asleep until he becomes overtired. I try not to have him fall asleep while being worn now; if I ever accidentally let him fall asleep while being worn, he generally wakes up cranky when I try to "un-wear" him. lol, what is the verb for taking a baby out of a carrier? Un-wear. Well anyway, moving on.
With the Moby, I could go on long walks or wear him for hours without feeling like it strained my back at all. I like how it is centered and the weight is spread around my waist, back, and shoulders combined.
Here is another carrier that distributes weight ergonomically. The Mei Tai is a traditional Chinese carrier, so obviously in our family we like this style. Jerry wore the baby frequently in our Mei Tai from birth on up til now, though I did not get the hang of it until our son was old enough to spread his legs around my belly (as shown in the pic). For younger babies that cannot spread their legs wide enough, the Mei Tai is generally worn like a pouch with baby curled inside/legs froggy-style. Like the Moby, this carrier distributes weight well across a variety of points on the body, and reminds me of a hiking backpack that attaches/buckles around the hips to make the legs bear more weight than the shoulders. I tend to not get tired as easily when wearing my heavy baby in this carrier. Though in this picture it looks like I am leaning a bit in my back, which makes me wonder if I need to be more aware of my posture while wearing the Mei Tai. Or maybe I was just standing funny during the picture taking.
This carrier is also reversible, so it can have different colors/patterns to match different outfits.
Not pictured, here are a few other carriers we tried: Baby Bjorn and African wrap. The latter is a back-style of baby wearing that I tried once and then freaked out about (for aforementioned reasons of wanting to see my baby!). I will probably try it again later, because it looks so cool (check out the link!) and would be useful for an emergency situation if all I had was a blanket/towel/strip of cloth but still needed to carry my baby somewhere. It seems like a part of provident living to be prepared for baby wearing in this way.
The Bjorn was nice for me to use between months 2-4 when I felt like using a centered carrier (which the sling is not) but when Little wasn't yet ready for wearing the Mei Tai with spread legs. The Bjorn we had was an older model and perhaps for that reason was not as comfortable on the shoulder straps--they were thin with no padding, so that made it get uncomfortable when worn for any longish time period. Also, we accidentally lost our Bjorn while in the airport a couple months ago so that is sad and we have been debating if we want to acquire another one.
I do like having a large variety of carriers to pick from, depending on my mood, activity, age of baby, mood of baby, developmental stage of baby, weight of baby, etc. And believe it or not, even with all the ones I have tried, there are still a couple others I really want to get! The classic ring sling and Ergo are carriers still on my list to try.
Any others out there I should know about?
*regarding strollers: I have used mine a handful of times, but mostly when I needed it to carry stuff, like when I walk to the grocery store with the baby and know I will be purchasing a gallon of milk that I would rather not carry home in my backpack. But strollers are bulky/difficult to maneuver in many shopping settings and furthermore decrease the amount of social interaction my baby gets (from me or other people) since he is so low down and relatively out of sight compared to when he is being worn.


NessaAnn said...

I am jealous of your mei tai! I've totally wanted one.

I will say, though, we are hard core Ergo fans. It is the only baby carrier my husband really likes after the first few months (when he wears my bright pink pouch to church... boy oh boy does that turn heads, what a man!) I really love that ergo, it was worth every pennyt! Mostly because I can easily wear my baby on my back myself. I find wearing baby on the front really hard on my back, stomach, and knees once baby gets bigger. I LOVE having baby on my back, she loves it too. Just coos and giggles and talks to me the whole time. I miss being able to see her, but when I'm shopping I love being able to forget she's there :) I know, it makes me a bad mom. But even she seems to prefer the back, it's less stimulating and milky.

Last week, my s-i-l and friend and I went to the little nature preserve nearby. On our backs we had my skinny 9mo on my back, a fat 10mo on his mommy's front, and a 3yo on her mom's back! All happily cozied up in their ergo. Imho, you just can't beat that kind of functionality for such an age range!

The only one I've heard of might be the Babyhawk - though you have to buy a Babyhawk AND a Toddlerhawk to get such long term use, which doesn't appeal to me. But it is prettier and easier to transport. I'd like to try one out some time.

Oh dear, I will end my book here. I just love a fellow babywearer!

Valerie said...

Little looks pretty cute, being worn!

Morgan said...

Don't ditch that sling carrier just yet! It's great for older babies on fast trips since they are so easy to pop on and off. Just use it to keep Lo sitting on your hip hands free! The ring style is a little better for this, but I've still had great success with my non-adjustable style one. It's my favorite right now since I can't wear Alaina on my front and be 7 months pregnant at the same time. I do love wearing her on my back though! It takes some getting used to (the not seeing the baby fear factor thing), but it makes doing things so much easier not to have that baby bulk in front, and I can wear her longer that way. With hiking season coming up, she'll be spending lots of time either on Daddy's shoulders or Mommy's back!

As for the Babyhawks, I model my mei tais after them (shhh! Don't tell!) and you don't HAVE to have a Toddlerhawk too; the regular one will work just fine with a newborn or a three-year-old.

The African style of babywearing was my favorite before I discovered the mei tai. I need to try it with a different fabric though (it might climb back into first place if I do) since the one I'd used previously would tend to require lots of adjusting on long hikes or if I was twisting and turning a lot (like gardening or something). It sure is a handy one, though, since you can use so many kinds of things to wear Baby that way!

Jocelyn said...

oh I love my sling and homemade moby wrap. Nicholas loves it too He sleeps almost the entire time. I haven't tried Brock in it only because he is so active and would rather walk or be in the stroller He loves his stroller and is a good companion on shopping trips (for the most part) Although I haven't seen any difference in interaction with the babies weather he's being worn or placed in the stroller. We get comments everywhere we go. half the time they don't even realize I'm wearing Nicholas in the wrap until I pop head out to check on him. I am thinking about trying out the piggy back hold with Brock, but then again he's really into pulling hair right now, so maybe not!