Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why, yes, Dr. Sears, I'd love some more of that delicious Kool-Aid

A review of baby carriers...and an excuse to post more photos.

Before Adriana was born, I was buying baby carriers. Actually, to go back a bit further, before Adriana was born I was researching baby carriers. When I lived in California, I was always seeing people with their babies in simple canvas slings. Then I moved to the DC area and noticed everyone with front pack carriers. I assumed I'd go with one of those, until I met my friend Tonjia and she introduced me to the world of silk ring slings, fleecy pouches, stretchy wraps, and fun mei tais. Actually, next time Brian starts making comments about my various carriers, remind me to just blame Tonjia. I think we were mostly pretty frugal in our preparations for Adriana's birth, but with carriers I didn't even bother trying to rationalize my purchases; I just clicked "submit my order" and waited for the next one to arrive. By the time the baby arrived, I had a ring sling, an adjustable pouch, a wrap, and a mei tai. I saw carriers as a great way to get around town with the baby. I take a lot of public transit, and I didn't want to deal with folding a stroller up every time I had to get on a bus. And I didn't want to lug the carseat into restaurants and the grocery store with me; that just looked painfully heavy. Now I take pride when a friend comments on how light we manage to travel with the baby, showing up with just a small diaper bag and the baby strapped to one of us in a sling of some sort.

I was right that the carriers are a great way to carry the baby and keep my hands free while I'm out and about, but I didn't know I would become so addicted to wearing my baby. Or that Brian would be too. Or that Adriana would be addicted to being worn. Brian dismissed my ring sling and mei tai as too girly, with their beautiful brocades (although he did discover that the mei tai can be worn inside out so it is a solid khaki, with the dragonfly-print silk hidden so no one will question his masculinity), but was fascinated by the wrap and pouch. When Adriana was about a week old and we had recovered from the shock of her birth (OMG, we have a BABY????) we started playing with the carriers. I was being overly careful at first, because my abdomen was still sore, but Brian was soon folding laundry with our daughter nestled against his chest in the wrap. Once I was feeling stronger, I was popping her in and out of the pouch, which was the simplest to learn how to use and taught me to love wearing my little girl.

Kangaroo Korner Adjustable Pouches

Our favorite sling at first was the adjustable fleece pouch from Kangaroo Korner. I was in the market for a pouch-style carrier, and Jennie praised this one enough that I decided I had to buy it. I had been considering getting the fleece Hotsling, which I've also heard good things about, but the size charts made me realize that the Kangaroo Korner one would fit both Brian and me. I bought a medium sized sling in elephant grey, and we wore it all winter. It was easy to learn to use: I successfully lowered Adriana into it in a tummy-to-tummy hold on the first try when she was about a week old. Brian also likes that hold, and once she got a little bigger, he masted the cradle carry, which keeps her more out of the way when we go out to dinner (although she still sometimes gets crumbs in her hair). We've worn her all over town in this pouch, and she spent an awful lot of time in it in the house too. The nice, snug fit is sort of like a swaddle, one that keeps her close to us. Putting her in the sling was one of the most reliable ways to calm her down the first couple of months, and usually a few minutes of walking around with her in the pouch lulled her to sleep.

Elizabeth with Adriana in the kangaroo pouch
The Kangaroo Korner pouch, keeping baby cozy.

The weather has gotten warmer, and even though we've gotten better at using other carriers, Brian and I still both love the simplicity of the pouch, so a couple of weeks ago I ordered another one from Kangaroo Korner, this one in a lightweight stretch cotton. This one is light blue with cream trim--I would have liked something prettier, but since I share this one with Brian, I knew it had to be something he would approve of. One thing about these pouches is that as we have become more comfortable with them, we've begun wearing them more snugly. I think we are more skilled at getting Adriana in and out, so we don't need as much extra room to do it in, and a tighter fit somehow distributes her weight on our backs a little better. So, I ordered our cotton one in a small, rather than a medium. The two smallest rows of snaps on the medium are the same as the two largest on the small, and since that's where Brian and I were wearing our medium, and I was thinking I might like it a little snugger. I'm glad I made that decision. The material of the cotton pouch stretches even more than the fleece, so a tighter fit is definitely necessary. I don't like the cotton one as much as the fleece one. I'm not sure if that's the sling itself, or whether I've simply gotten used to other carriers that do a better job of distributing the baby's weight. The cotton pouch is nice and small, so that I can roll it up and fit it into the diaper bag.

ZoloWear Silk Ring Sling

I laughed at a couple of my friends when they bought silk ring slings from ZoloWear to carry their babies in. I mean, serious, SILK? That has to be DRY CLEANED? To carry a baby who is going to spit up? Whatever. Except...they were so pretty. And then I got a positive pregnancy test, and I was so excited, and the blue one with the butterflies...that would be good for a boy or a girl. And there was only one left in size small. CLICK. Oops.

I love the way my Zolo looks--the material is beautiful and I like the way the "tail" flows. My yoga teacher described it as glamorous, and really I have to agree. I had to have some help figuring out how to use it, but now I tuck Adriana into it with no problem. It doesn't adjust as easily as a cotton rings sling would, as the material is so heavy, but I haven't really found that to be a problem--I have it adjusted the way I like it, and I just don't mess with it. The problem comes when I try to wear her in it for longer carries: it's a one-shoulder carrier and the fabric across the back and over the shoulder is narrow compared to my pouches (and to other ring slings I've seen). I wore my Zolo when we went to see the cherry blossoms and after walking from the Smithsonian metro around Tidal Basin to the FDR memorial, my left shoulder was killing me. Still, it is my prettiest sling, and I still wear it when I'm not going to be using it for long, just because I like the way it looks

Adriana and Elizabeth under the cherry blossoms
Wearing the Zolo at Tidal Basin.

Moby Wrap

Brian was the first of us to try babywearing, and he decided to start with the Moby Wrap. I guess he thought it was more manly in appearance than some of the other carriers. He got Adriana into it in a cradle hold on the first try, when she wasn't quite a week old. He felt that she was secure there and went around the house with her sleeping like that. I didn't get up the nerve to try it until Adriana was about six weeks old, when I went to a NINO* meeting to find out how to use it. It was such a relief to have someone walk me through the steps, because this style of carrier is intimidating. It's basically a gigantic strip of material that you tie around your body to hold the baby against you. A friend said that you need a degree in fabric tying to be able to use it, and she's not too far off--it sometimes takes me two or three tries to get it tied in such a way that Adriana and I are both comfortable. Nevertheless, I do like this carrier, as it does the best job of any of them at distributing Adriana's weight. I spent several hours at the Air & Space museum with Adriana against me in a tummy-to-tummy hold, and my back felt fine. I would use this carrier much more often if I were able to get her in and out more easily. With other carriers I can pop Adriana in and out fairly easily for diaper changes and nursing, but I've found with the Moby that once I take her out, I have to re-wrap and re-tie the whole thing in order get her back in securely. Maybe with a wrap that was less stretchy that wouldn't be a problem--I think that taking her out stretches the material a bit too far so that it's too loose to hold her.

Brian with Adriana in the Moby Wrap
The proud new dad with baby in the Moby.

Adriana in the Moby Wrap at Mason Neck
Out for a nature walk in the Moby at Mason Neck State Park.

Divas 'N' Babes Mei Tai

Full disclosure: My friend Tonjia, the one who made me realize that the world of baby carriers was not limited to New Native slings and Baby Bjorns, runs Divas 'N' Babes.

I was more intimidated by my mei tai from Divas 'N' Babes than by wrap even. Something about the rectangle of fabric with ties coming out of each corner struck me as complicated, and it didn't look like it would be all that secure. Again, I learned how to use this one at the NINO meeting, and I was glad I did. It doesn't do quite as good a job at distributing the baby's weight as the wrap does, but it does get a substantial amount of her weight onto my waist, and it's easier to put on and to get right on the first try. This has become my carrier of choice these days (with the cotton pouch tucked into the diaper bag, just in case), as it's pretty and practical. I do find that Adriana slips down in it a little when she falls asleep, and the ties need to be tightened after awhile. I'm willing to tolerate those issues in exchange for having a comfortable, pretty carrier.

Adriana and Elizabeth at Laguna Beach
Hanging out in the mei tai in Laguna Beach.

The carriers hold Adriana close to our bodies, so she can share our body heat and relax with the vibrations of our voices. We have spent countless hours pacing our bedroom floor and dancing around our living room with her in one carrier or another, soothing her when she is fussy. She sleeps quietly against me when we go out to dinner, and looks around at people and places when I take her on errands with me. I think she recognizes the carriers now. After she's been fed, changed, and played with, she often gets fussy as she begins to tire out. But when I put her down for a moment so I can tie on the mei tai or wrap, or slip the pouch or ring sling over my head, she smiles at me, knowing what is coming. Sometimes she is instantly soothed when she goes into the carrier. Sometimes the carrier doesn't result in an instantly calm infant--she continues to fuss for a few minutes as I bounce and sing--but it allows me to free my arms up a little bit, and to not have to worry that if I put her down she will be instantly awake; instead she spends her whole nap close to me, and I can go about my business--folding laundry, paying bills, reading blogs, whatever--without worrying about listening for the baby.

*NINO is great. I've only been to one meeting, but I may go to another to try more carriers (shhhh....don't tell Brian). Basically, it was an informal meeting where everyone brought all their various baby carriers so that other could try them out, and people who knew how to use certain styles offered instruction in how to get your own carrier on.


Jennifer said...

fantastic post. I'm glad these work for you. And they are very stylish!

We're on the Ergo now, with the Kangaroo Corner still seeing a bit of use in a pinch. The Ergo has a few's hard to have the baby face out (I use the side position, but this requires all sorts of reshuffling of the straps and stuff...). It's also not stylish, and it's bulky.

How long do you think it's possible to wear them? Like, up to what weight?

Elizabeth said...

The Kangaroo Korner ones say they go up to 25 pounds, I think. But I would think that would KILL your shoulder. My friend still wears her 19-month-old in the mei tai--I think she mostly does back carries with him.

Have you tried or heard of the Sutemi? One of Brian's coworkers recommended it. He said it was comfortable for bigger babies and toddlers, but I think it's similar to the Ergo: it looks bulky and not very pretty. Even Brian didn't like the way it looked. I may still end up trying one out, as Adriana weighed in at 14 pounds 4 ounces this week.

Drea said...

love all the baby wearing pics! i have the same moby