Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Life Lessons: Baby carriers are life savers

When I was about eight months pregnant, I began dreaming delusional day dreams about what it would be like when G finally arrived; I dreamt I would rock and sing my precious little baby to sleep, gently lay him down in his crib and sneak out of his room while he peacefully dreamed baby dreams. I also thought he would lay mesmerized beneath a singing mobile while I went about doing chores like laundry and dishes. I envisioned he would calmly and contentedly watch me clean the house from the safety of his bouncer seat. I don't know why I thought G would be happy in a stationery position after his birth; he never ceased to squirm about in my belly. I should have known he was going to be a lively, curious baby who would not be content to chill in a bouncer.

I learned rather quickly after G was born that he desired to watch all of our daily happenings from the comfort and security of my arms rather than the lonely seat of the swing. I was content to spend the first two weeks holding and rocking my new baby as I healed from the delivery. But after all the family members left and John returned to work, I had to pick up the daily chores that made the household run smoothly. And I needed two hands to do those chores. Quickly, I discovered that I needed some sort of baby carrier so G could be snuggled close to me and watch while I did housework, walked down the street to do shopping or roamed the aisles at the grocery store.

As I began researching the world of baby carriers I found that not all carriers were made equally. I began my search at thebabywearer after one of my fellow babywearer friends told me about the site. After carefully reading about the different types of carriers, I was surprised to find that some of the popular carriers stocked on store shelves were not good for baby's development or mama's back.

Additionally, babies cry less when being worn in the carrier. As cited in Dr. William Sears' book The Baby Book, worn babies cried 43 percent less than their non-carried counterparts during a study conducted in 1986 my Montreal researchers. Of that's not enough to will a mama to find a good carrier, I'm not sure that any other facts could. But for the sake of it, I'll toss a few more of Dr. Sears' reasons out there: Carried babies learn more because they spend more time a quiet, alert state and carried babies are "humanized" quickly and are smarter because they are actively involved in the wearer's activities. I was smitten with the idea before I ever even tried a carrier, and now I'm sold on babywearing.

We decided our first carrier would be a mei tai. Mei tais allow mama to wear baby on her chest, back or hip. A mei tai is tied onto the parent and baby sits comfortably sandwiched in between mom or dad's body and the body of the carrier. We bought a Freehand Mei Tai. (See picture.) Many of the mamas at our local babywearing group have Baby Hawk Mei Tais, which are great for newborns who haven't developed neck control. Both are great, versatile carriers that can be used from infancy through toddlerhood.

The next carrier we bought was an Ergo, which functions like a mei tai except instead of tying on, it buckles. This carrier is very convenient and is daddy-friendly. Ergo makes an infant insert so tiny babies can be carried in it; it holds up to 35 pounds, so most toddlers can easily be carried as well. This carrier is one of the most comfortable carriers I've ever worn. John wears it nearly every day, too. I was sure to pick "man-friendly" colors for this reason. If we could only have one carrier, the Ergo would be it!

We have a Maya Wrap Ring Sling, and we use that when we need to do easy, quick in/out-type carries. This carrier is great for newborns. Heavy babies do put more pressure on the wearer's shoulder than a mei tai or Ergo, so we tend to only use this sling for an hour at a time. The ring sling is easy to transport, and G loves riding in it because he can easily look around.

Many moms I know enjoy using wraps with their babies. Two wraps that consistently get rave reviews are the Didymos and Storchenwiege. Wraps are easy to pack in a diaper bag and allow mama to carry baby in many different positions. Newborns, older babies and toddlers can easily be carried in a wrap. There is a learning curve with wraps, though mamas can master the art of wrapping with a little practice.

When deciding which carrier is best, it's always great to try a carrier. Sometimes that can be tricky as there are not stores everywhere that carry these products. Try finding a babywearing group that meets near your home by looking for one at the babywearer.

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