The ultimate {according to me} babywearing resource post. (with links)

It has been a while since I wrote anything about babywearing. To be honest, I really miss picking out a carrier for the day and wearing one of my babies. The problem is that at 6 and 4.5 years old, they really are not babies anymore. The tables have turned and they are the ones doing any kind of baby doll/stuffie/dinosaur wearing around here lately, and to this I say, Huzzah!! My work here is done! I have spawned a new generation of babywearers! And since I am no longer in the business of selling baby carriers, I thought I would pull together some of my favourite and most trusted babywearing resources, retailers and information. All for you to bookmark for future reference, to forward to your expecting friends, and to peruse at your leisure.  Please know that none of this post is sponsored in any way and all of the information I am posting here is purely what I think is the best out there and these are my opinions and my favourites for reasons of quality, content, common sense and customer service.

I'll get the ball rolling with my own two very popular posts that cover a lot about what babywearing is and the myths that surround this wonderful parenting practice.

In Babywearing Myths and Misconceptions: Part 1, I debunk the myths about babies "not liking the Snugli", being to big to be worn in a carrier and babywearing creating "clingy" babies. In Babywearing Myths and Misconceptions: Part 2, I talk about safety and babywearing and how we are all turning into barefoot hippies! You can find all of my other babywearing posts here, including reviews of baby carriers, my views on FFO (front facing out) and other lovely tidbits from my babywearing days.

There are two babywearing manufacturers in particular whom I think are doing an incredible job not only with the design of their babycarriers, but also with the caliber of research and information that they share on their blogs, websites and via social media.

Onyababy has some incredible articles that you can access HERE. And you can read my review of the Onyababy carrier here.

The Boba website has an incredible series of research articles on their site that are my go to references for a lot of facts about babywearing and the incredible health benefits that it has for all babies (and care-givers too!). And yes, I did review a Boba 3G carrier too.

Videos. Tutorials. How EXACTLY do I get this baby ON me? 

I get these questions a lot and a general search for babywearing on Youtube can get pretty confusing if you don't know exactly what you should be looking for. Don't fret mamas, I have a couple of suggestions for where to start.

My friend Erin at Cosy Baby Happy Mommy has a pretty extensive babywearing tutorial video library on her Youtube channel and with a lot of practice, you'll get it, I promise.  I also really like the videos from Je Porte Mon Bebe (JPMBB). Although most of them are in French, you should be able to find the English versions or get the gist of them, and also the videos from Beth at Babyette Boutique are great for that ever elusive proper ring sling fit!

Now, since you can't actually buy anything from me anymore, where do you go to purchase your new baby carrier?

While I do think it is important to try out a few carriers if you can before you purchase one, I would like to give you a list of my favourite retailers (online and brick and mortar stores).

Tadpoles and Butterflies is a Canadian online retailer and probably has the most extensive selection of baby carriers you can find. These mamas have been doing babywearing for A LONG time and will be able to help most anyone find a carrier that works for them.

PAXbaby in the USA is a veritable online babywearing superstore and carries a wide array of amazing baby carriers to fit every taste and budget. They even have a rental program so you can try before you buy.

For those of you who are local to the Edmonton area, I highly recommend Birth Source Inc. as a starting place for your babywearing journey. The wonderful staff there are all experienced babywearers and will set you up with the right carrier for you and your baby.

I know that this is a lot of links and information, but I wanted to put it all in one place for you to have as a reference point.

And just remember, babywearing is not about having the newest, most expensive or most sought after print in this carrier or that wrap. It is about carrying your baby close to you, giving it the love and nurturing it needs and helping you get on with your day. Babywearing is about making things a bit easier for you and giving you a sense of security and confidence in your parenting as well.

Now, go forth and babywear my little grasshoppers!

Babywearing Grasshoppers

All my {babywearing}love,

Natasha~

 

Babywearing: Why I don't DO "FFO".

Twice this past week the debate about wearing your baby in a front or forward-facing-out (FFO) position has come up in two separate babywearing Facebook groups that I belong to. I have weighed in on both of these discussions and felt that since it was coming up so much within these groups, that I should share this information and my thoughts on the whole topic with everyone! In case you are wondering what FFO is or what it looks like. This is what I am talking about. A baby being worn on your front, facing out and often is a stretchy wrap carrier or some version of a Baby Bjorn type carrier.

 

I have several opinions on this matter and I want to start with just that. What I am about to post here is MY OPINION. It is based on my experience as a babywearer and babywearing educator. It is based on what I know and what I have been taught about basic newborn, infant and adult physiology and it is what I BELIEVE  are best practices when it comes to babywearing. Some will disagree with me and say that because there is no hard and fast peer-reviewed research and evidence stating one thing or another, that we can not say what are or are not best practices in this situation. To those people, I will respectfully agree to disagree and have to go with my gut on this one!

I do not believe that carrying or wearing your baby in a front/forward facing out (FFO) position is a babywearing best practice for the following reasons:

1. HIPS!

Ok, I may be a bit over sensitive about hips in general, given that I have had not one, not two, but three hips surgeries, but this is important! When babies are born their hips are not fully ossified and the outer edges of the hip sockets are made of soft cartilage, much like the cartilage of your ears. According the the International Hip Dysplasia Institute,

"If the hips are forced into a stretched-out position too early, the ball is at risk of permanently deforming the edges of the cup-shaped socket (hip dysplasia) or gradually slipping out of the socket altogether (hip dislocation). Hip dysplasia or dislocation in babies is not painful so this may go undetected until walking age and may also result in painful arthritis during adulthood."

Most forward facing carries and carriers do not support a baby hips and do indeed have them 'dangling' in a legs-stretched out position. And while this may not seem like a big deal for the 20-30 minutes one can actually withstand this carrying position before your back and shoulders give out (more on that later), doing this for extended periods of time and over time can potentially cause harm.

Now you are saying to yourself, but Natasha, Baby Bjorns have been around FOREVER, they can't be that bad for babies. And I will chalk this one up to one of those "when we know better, we do better" kind of situations.  And you are right, they may not be necessarily BAD for babies, but there are so many other carriers that are BETTER!

2. It's not always ALL about the baby.

At no other time in your life will your pelvic floor be as weak as it is than after you have a baby. And just like any other muscle group, it needs work to strengthen it again postpartum to avoid the nasty effects of a weakened pelvic floor, you know, like...incontinence or worse...prolapse!

When you are wearing a baby in a FFO position, the weight of the baby tends to pull away from your body. This make you want to adjust your posture and lean back a bit to compensate for this. What happens next is that this position automatically makes you tilt your pelvis in a way that exerts direct pressure onto your {already weakened} pelvic floor. Not only this,  but your now adjusted posture also puts a fair bit of pressure on your back, shoulders and hips and really, it is no wonder that you don't want to do this for very long!

Using a baby carrier or carrying your baby in a position that keeps them closer to you and in a tummy-to-tummy position (or on the hip or back in similar position) keeps your centre of gravity, well... in the centre and allows  you to have better posture and keep excess pressure off your pelvic floor.

3. We are two pieces of an amazing little puzzle.

Think about this for a minute. We are women. We have breasts and bellies and curves and somehow, no matter what shape or size we are, right down the centre of us is this spot that is the exact square footage needed to fit a baby. Their tiny heads rest on our breastbone and listen to our hearts beating. Their arms and legs curl up and they try to regain the flexed position of warmth and security that reminds them of being in the womb. When you pick up a baby, they automatically pull up their legs into a nice fetal tuck. They are naturally adapted to being carried and just like a squishy little puzzle piece, they are looking to be placed right onto their special spot on your body!

Placing a baby in a FFO position is like trying to put a piece of the puzzle together, but one of the pieces is backwards!

4. Sometimes it is all just TOO MUCH!

Think about walking through a busy mall.

People walking towards you and past you on all sides. Fountains and piped-in music and vendors and snippets of people's conversations all around. I don't know about you, but even for me a trip to the mall can be overwhelming. Now pretend  you are a tiny little baby in a FFO carrier trying to take all this in? It can be a lot for their little minds to process. I often see babies in FFO carriers exhibiting signs of stress and/or overstimulation. This can include balled fists, kicking legs or arms, lots of verbalization and straining to see/turn around to Mama or Daddy.

Babies need to feel secure and safe, especially in new or loud surroundings and often in a FFO position, they simply do not get that.

5. We don't want to lose them.

No, not the babies, the Mamas!

Most mainstream forward-facing carriers do not provide the wearer with proper support for their backs or shoulders. I see a lot of mamas wearing Baby Bjorns or Snuglis or even stretchy wraps with babies that are WAY too big for their carrier and every one of these mamas will tell me that their backs are killing them. I truly believe that these kinds of carriers and carries do more harm to babywearing as a whole than good. I have heard far too many times from mamas who feel that their 5 or 6 month old babies are "too big for babywearing" because they have used a carrier that causes them discomfort or they have not been educated about their options in the babywearing world.

This is a big part of why I am a babywearing advocate and educator. I feel very strongly that babywearing and all the incredible health and wellness benefits that go along with it need to be incorporated on a larger (public health?) scale into prenatal education. It is why I am so honoured to be part of great local prenatal programs like this one and beyond thrilled to see more and more soon-to-be-mamas attending workshops or requesting private consultations.

AND finally, if you look to nature and the way that all other primates carry their babies, you will never see an ape/orangutan/chimpanzee or any other monkey carrying their young in a FFO position!

Babies just FIT onto us tummy-to-tummy (or on our backs). It is why we are built the way we are and why they are born the way they are. Why fight nature?

Happy Babywearing Everyone!

Natasha~

 

full circle

This week is a bittersweet one for me. Sunday night at midnight I closed the Natural Urban Mamas online boutique.

It was a decision that was a long time coming and one that was and is the right thing for me to do for myself and for my family.

But that is not what I want to write about today. Today I want to tell you about this journey, this chapter in my life and what it has meant to me.

In the summer of 2007, I was a new mama with a six month old (adjusted premature age) baby boy and I was struggling.

He was SO tiny and I was so new to this. I kind of knew what I wanted to do and what I needed to do as a parent, but I had no idea where to go for advice and support from like-minded mamas. Yes, I belonged to a new moms group through my public health unit and I did connect with a few of the mamas there (and I am glad to say that we are still friends 5 years later), but there was a part of me that didn't quite fit in and I didn't know why that was.

I started cloth diapering on a whim one day (I called a diaper service and had them start me the next day) and all of a sudden I needed a lot more diapering supplies than what I had on hand. So I headed out to the only baby store that I knew of that catered to cloth diapering mamas. And a funny thing happened. I found a sanctuary of sorts at this tiny little hole in the wall shop. And I started going there often. To shop, to hang out, to just talk to another person who could answer my questions and in a somewhat odd way nurture the budding natural mama in me. I would stop there when Little C and I where out and about to breastfeed him in the owner's old rocker in the back room and hang out for a while (sometimes a LONG while).

And it was at this shop that I met the first of many women who have changed my life. She was the store manager at the time and her son was 6 months older than mine. We bonded over some pretty weird coincidences. Our kids names were one letter away from being exactly the same. Her son was also a preemie. And for some reason she just seemed to get me. She was the one who invited me to my first La Leche League meeting. She introduced me to an amazing group of attachment parenting mamas, and a world of parenting possibilities that I had only read about before (The Dr. Sears Baby Book was my bible during and after my pregnancy).

It wasn't long before I started working part-time at said baby store (often with a baby on my back). It was there that I became somewhat of a cloth diapering expert. And I become way more proficient and knowledgeable about babywearing too. Mamas started coming to the store and asking ME for advice! Which kind of reminded me of that time in my Calculus 101 class at university when everyone was cheating off of me during midterms, even though I was the only one in class with no Math 31 skills to back me up! (If you have ever met me, you will know that Math is SO not my strong suit!)

With working at the store, attending my monthly LLL meetings and hanging out with my new group of crunchy friends, an amazing thing happened. I started to truly find my mama groove.

In December of 2008 after looking at my very long list of bookmarked parenting sites and natural products that I had on my computer, I had a stroke of brilliance. I approached my friend and asked her if she wanted to start a website with me. It was something we had kind of tossed around in the past, but this time I was serious. And so was she.

The original vision that we had for Natural Urban Mamas was that of a 'Mama Hub'. A central place on the internet that mamas could go to for information, support, and recommendations for products that we loved. And then even before our site went live, our vision grew to include our little Natural Urban Marketplace with natural parenting products that we just couldn't find anywhere else.

We started doing small trade shows and local events. I remember our first event, it was Earth day at Hawrelak Park, in April and it was -20 degrees Celsius that day. We toughed it out for 6 hours with my partners six month old strapped in a baby carrier and wrapped in a warm fleece babywearing poncho on one or the other of us the whole time! The Mayor even stopped by to check us out!

The Natural Urban Mamas Version 1.0 website had a LOT of information in it. Lists of the best places to shop for mama and baby in and around Edmonton, all the La Leche League meeting times, info on lactation consultants (that was a small list, and unfortunately still is), and contact info for every doula and midwife we could find!

And slowly but surely, our list of hard to find and unique products grew as well. We were the first store in Edmonton (online or otherwise) to carry baltic amber teething necklaces, we had the amazing Wisey Playmat Bag that is just plain brilliant if you ask me. We sourced out some pretty unique baby carriers as well, and helped popularize the awesome Canadian-made Pipa Pack soft-structured baby carrier! We found Annie Marie Padorie (AMP) cloth diapers and instantly fell in love, sold off all our own personal diaper stashes in favor of these amazing diapers and refused to carry anything else!

We started to get some press as well. Natural Urban Mamas has been featured on the cover of our local Edmonton 24 hours magazine a grand total of 3 times and in the Edmonton Sun and Journal as well. We were getting busy and noticed and it was starting to be a lot of work. But work that my partner and I loved and work that did not take us away from our families.

We hosted Natural Urban Mamas Park Days {holla, if you attended one of these early gatherings!} and would have big play dates at local playgrounds in and around the city. We would talk about all things cloth diapering and babywearing and breastfeeding and it was wonderful. We were doing what we wanted to do. Creating a community for open sharing, for learning and yes, for growing our budding small business.

All seemed to be going so well...

And then in October of 2009, something changed. I think it was primarily for me that things changed. I started to feel like the division of labour between my partner and I was not equal. We had originally incorporated Natural Urban Mamas Inc. as 50/50 shareholders. And in hindsight, and after reading MUCH about being in business with partners, I now realize that this was our first and perhaps our fatal mistake. There may be exceptions out there, but in general, in business someone always has to be 'the boss'. The one with the final decision-making power. The chair{wo}man of the board so to speak.

I don't want to bore you with all the legal details of all of this, let's just say that I wanted a 51/49 split and she did not. Neither of us would budge and in the end I ended up buying her out of her shares in Natural Urban Mamas. We tried to salvage our friendship afterwards, but it was never the same. We both went our separate ways and continued on our paths and I have always wished her the best for herself and her family.

In February of 2010 it became official and I was now the sole owner and Chief Executive Mama of Natural Urban Mamas Inc. I had our logo redesigned to reflect the change and started the process of upgrading the website to Natural Urban Mamas Version 2.0. By this time it had become a full-blown specialty online babywearing boutique and I was continuing to find amazing North American small mama-run businesses and manufacturers to support and bring to market.

It was also around this time that I started to meet some other strong, amazing women and would like to give them a shout out for helping make me and Natural Urban Mamas the success that it is.

To Connie Peters, the founder of Modern Mama. Thank you for including me in your first Pregnancy Awareness Month event and opening doors for me to meet so many others! And a HUMONGOUS thank you for dragging me to my first Tweet-up, where I met the likes of Erica Ehm, Tanis Miller and Tamara Plant just to name a few!

It was because of that brunch with Erica that I got to go to Toronto in June of 2010 and film a babywearing segment for YummyMummyClub.ca. And it was because of Connie that I really took notice of my twitter account and the possibilities that this social media platform presented for me!

To Carol McBee, the president and founder of Mommy Connections and the Bossy Mama network. Thank you for having me as part of your initial Mommy Connections groups. Getting to meet so many new mamas and introduce them to the world of babywearing was and is the driving force behind all that I do. You gave me a willing and open audience to educate and engage and I can never thank you enough for that.

It was also at a Bossy Mama event, that I once again got to hang out with the infamous Redneck Mommy, the one and only Tanis Miller. And on the other side of her sat this smart, sassy, and fast as lightning tweeter, one Jennifer Banks. You might know her better as @jenbanksYEG. Jen took pity on me and my lack of SEO knowledge and decided to make my little website her pet project. I can not ever thank her enough for all that she has taught me about the interwebs and done for me and I am so incredibly glad to now call her a dear, dear friend.

To Tamara Plant, the woman behind MOM Magazine and the new You Are Fierce website. We may not always see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I give credit where credit is due and it was you who first referred to me as a Lipstick Crunchy Mama. Little did I know at the time how much I would end up identifying with these words and I now carry them with me as a badge of honour and I am proud to call myself thus. Thank you for that.

To Erin Heard, the creative genius and super mama behind the Cosy Baby Happy Mommy baby carrier brand. We first met at the 2010 Mom, Pop and Tots show in Edmonton, me doing my first BIG trade show as a solo-preneur and you with a 2 week old baby R snuggled in a CBHM stretchy wrap. Who would have thought that two 'competing' babywearing businesses could have forged such an amazing synergistic relationship over the last few years. I appreciate so much about you. Your giving spirit, your incredible creativity and talent and your amazing ability to pull it all off with your three beautiful girls in tow! I look forward to many more years of great collaborations and friendship!

Seriously people, this list could go on and on and on and on and... let's just say that I know some pretty darn amazing people. Most of whom I call friends.

Running Natural Urban Mamas and becoming THE Natural Urban Mama has been the best 'career change' I have had to date. Being an entrepreneur has taught me so much. About business, about life, and most importantly about myself. Without it I wouldn't have found my writing 'voice' and discovered this passion within myself. I wouldn't have gotten to meet so many of my customers over the years and snuggled all their beautiful babies and shared my love of babywearing with them. I wouldn't have travelled to my first big blogging conference and met even more amazing women and truly discovered what I want for my future and the future of Natural Urban Mamas.

So here is the deal Mamas.

THIS is what I want. I want to write. I want to share. I want to educate and inform and advocate for the things that I believe in. I want to make you laugh and cry and know that you are ALL wonderful and amazing women and mothers. I want what my partner and I had first dreamt of years ago. A hub, a gathering place, a wonderful site to go to for information, resources, advice, to commiserate and yes, even to laugh (even if it is at me!).

This is the NEW Natural Urban Mamas blog. It is still a bit of a work in progress as I get everything sorted out and added, but this is my new home on the interwebs! I hope you like it. I hope you will stay awhile, subscribe, visit me on Twitter and Facebook, PIN things you like and recommend the site to your friends. The information lists will be up soon for local doulas, midwives and lactation support, as well as my top recommended places to shop (online and IRL) for babywearing gear and cloth diapering supplies.

Have a peek around and let me know if you have any suggestions for improvement.

Welcome to my new virtual Natural Urban Home... (the real Natural Urban Home is still about 6 weeks away from being done!)

... make yourselves comfy!

Much Love,

Natasha~

P.S. Even though the store is now closed, I am still available for group and private babywearing consultations and will continue to work as a Professional Babywearing Consultant for groups and retailers. More details on this will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, if you need my services please feel free to contact me at natasha{at}naturalurbanmamas{dot}com.