Babywearing Myths and Misconceptions: Part Two.

Wowza everyone! The response to Part One of Babywearing Myths and Misconceptions has been truly amazing! Thank you to everyone who has read it, shared it and gained some insight from it. I promised that I would get to Part Two this week and so without further ado, here it is.

Part Two of babywearing myth-busting is focused on the person wearing or carrying the baby and babywearing safety and these were the common themes that people submitted.

Jessica and Laura from Facebook both wrote:

Myth: [Babywearing] will hurt or ruin your back.

One of the most common things that I see with babywearing is mamas who continue to wear their big babies (>6 months, >20 lbs) on their fronts in either a stretchy wrap or in their bjorn or snugli-type carriers. They wonder why their backs are always hurting and figure that baby is just too big and can't be worn comfortably anymore. NOT SO Mamas!! This is usually the ideal time for your baby to move from being carried on your front to being carried on your back.

Wearing your baby on your back is perfect for this stage of baby's life for multiple reasons. Baby's usually get very curious about their surroundings at this age and by moving them to your back, they get to see things from a completely different perspective, yet they are still in a safe and secure position on mommy (or daddy). And having a baby on your back versus on your tummy frees up a good two feet in front of you to be able to actually DO things like, oh... see where you are going and drink your coffee without worrying about spilling it on anyone's head! Keep in mind that learning back carries is another babywearing skill that you must practice, practice, practice to get it just right. Seek out help from a babywearing educator or an experienced babywearer, or check out some of my top recommended YouTube videos for visual instructions.

Also remember that using a forward facing carrier or putting your baby in a forward facing position (and we already discussed in Part One why this is not optimal for baby) also puts undo amounts of stress on your back and your pelvic floor. In the short-term a weakened pelvic floor can simply mean back pain and strain for you and in the long-term this can lead to lovely things like stress incontinence, uterine prolapse (yup, that means falling out) and a less satisfying sex life because of weakened vaginal walls.

Why does this matter? The answer is quite simple. Your pelvic floor is the group of muscles and tissues that makes up the foundation of the core of your body. Have a good strong core and the likelihood of back pain diminishes significantly. Maintain good posture and use proper baby positioning and carrying techniques while babywearing and you also diminish the stress you are putting on your pelvic floor.

If you do have a history of back pain or injury, then having a baby carrier that supports the weight of your baby or toddler across your hips and distributes it evenly over both shoulders as well, will be the best way to practice babywearing. A mei tai carrier, a soft-structured carrier like a Pipa Pack or a Boba or a wraparound carrier can all accomplish this and ensure that babywearing is not only cosy for your baby, but is very comfortable for you too!

Emily from @joyfulabode also shared this:

Myth: [babywearing] is just for the hippies!

According to Wikipedia,

"...the words "hip" and "hep" came from black American culture and denote awareness. To say "I'm hip to the situation" means "I am aware of the situation." Thus the word "hippie" means "one who is aware", and expanded awareness was a goal of the movement."

If we accept this as the definition of a hippie, then by all mean YES, babywearing IS for the hippies! Those who choose to be aware of all of the amazing benefits that this practice confers not only to babies but also to the parents who are wearing said babies! It is absolutely ridiculous to think that just because someone has their baby in a sling or wrap carrier that they also own 14 pairs of tye-dyed socks, don't shave their armpits and only ever wear Birkenstocks sandals!

Babywearing is not about choosing a certain kind of parenting technique, nor is it about labeling people with different words like 'crunchy', 'granola', 'tree-hugging' or 'hippie'. Babywearing is simply about you and your baby, regardless of how you live your life. It is about fulfilling a child's need to be held and it is about making the lives of parents and caregivers easier and a lot more enjoyable. Babywearing is a fabulous practice for everyone regardless of parenting style or philosophy, and I for one, look forward to the day that it is considered a natural part of child-rearing and given the educational attention and focus that it needs both from a pre-natal and a postpartum perspective!

And finally, Kristen on Facebook wrote:

 Misconception: An older woman told me that she saw on TV that my baby could die in there.

Last year Health Canada and the U.S. CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission) recalled more than 1 million Infantino baby slings in the U.S. and 15,000 slings in Canada. Tragically, these bag-style slings were associated with baby deaths that were under investigation by federal regulators. In March of 2010 the CPSC included another warning message on their website regarding slings in general:

Slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies. In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles. The sling’s fabric can press against an infant’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and rapidly suffocating a baby within a minute or two. Additionally, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airways can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate.

This phenomenon is called positional asphyxia and is a danger that is not solely related to sling or baby carrier use. Any infant left unattended in a car seat, bouncy seat, swing or other similar device runs the risk of curling into the dangerous curled, chin-to-chest position and should NEVER be left unsupervised for long periods of time in any kind of container or carrier.

And it is for this reason that, as a babywearing educator, I no longer recommend a cradle carrying position for any baby carrier. I feel that it is too much of a slippery slope from a cradle position to one that puts baby into a position that compromises their airway.

The ideal and physiologically normal position to carry a baby in is upright on mommy (or daddy's) chest, oriented towards the wearer (tummy-to-tummy) and with wide-spread, flexed legs (knees higher than the bum in the "M" position) and with a slightly rounded back. This position fully supports a baby's head and full spine with the fabric of the carrier spread from knee-to knee and snug around the baby's body. In this position as well, baby's head should be turned to one side and the chin at least two finger widths distance from the chest to avoid any closure of the airway.  Never pull the fabric of any carrier completely over your baby's face, doing so can decrease fresh air flow to your baby and increase the risk of 'rebreathing' CO2 (a known risk factor for SIDS). And if you notice ANY of the following symptoms while carrying your infant; rapid or laboured breathing, grunting with every breath, 'snoring' or general restlessness, than please reposition your baby!

As with anything when it comes to the safety and well-being of little babies, please use your common sense and make sure that you are monitoring your baby regularly to ensure that they are comfortable and secure in their baby carrier.

Phew! Myth-busting is hard work, and I didn't even blow anything up! (My nod to the real MythBusters!!)

I hope I have been able to give you even more solid reasons to get out there, get informed and go and find a great baby carrier for you and your baby.

Happy {and safe} Babywearing Everyone!!

Natasha~

References used and for more information please see: 1. Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) Position Paper 2. Upright Babywearing positioning. Strollers, Baby Carriers & Infant Stress. Elizabeth Antunovic (2008 NAP, INc.)

Babywearing Myths and Misconceptions - Part One.

Last week I sent out a tweet on the TweetyBox and a Facebook status on the Natural Urban Mamas page for all the myths and misconceptions that people have heard about babywearing. The response was amazing! And here I am to set the record straight on a few recurring themes and comments that came my way! Thank you to everyone who posted and tweeted with me about this.

From Twitter, @knikkicharles wrote,

Misconception: "my baby didn't like the snugli, so they don't like being carried..."

There is a very good explanation why most babies do not or have not liked being carried in snuglis, bjorns or any other kind of similar carrier that does not place them in an ergonomically and therefore comfortable position to be carried in. Being carried in these kinds of carriers does not support babies legs properly and can put a fair amount of pressure on their immature spines and necks. These carriers, which also often recommend outward or forward-facing positions put baby in a non-physiological position that places pressure on the inner thighs of baby and the lower spine (the least developed part of your infants spinal column) and can be very stressful for babies. Hence, "my baby did not like the snugli."

Wearing your infant in a soft fabric carrier such as a wrap, mei tai or sling and keeping them oriented to the wearer in a tummy-to-tummy position is the solution here. Ideally the fabric of any baby carrier should extend from the back of one of baby's knees all the way to the other one, making a deep 'seat' for the baby to sit in. This position fully supports the legs and in turn positions the pelvis properly and optimally supports the spine and creates a comfortable place for babies to be!

And @hugabub also tweeted:

Myth: That wraps are too complicated/difficult/time-consuming to tie.

"Babywearing is a skill that you learn and master and is not the result of a product that you buy."

I read this the other day and could not think of a better way to describe it.  That being said, there is skill involved in a lot of things about parenting. It takes some skill to put together a crib, install a car seat, figure out your stroller and assemble all the other gear and gadgets that come along with having a baby. A wrap carrier may look a little intimidating at first pass, but with a little bit of practice you will GET it and trust me, your babywearing efforts will be rewarded 10 fold!  When I first brought home my little 4 pound preemie from the hospital four and a half years ago, I had a stretchy wrap and he lived in that thing. And every day for that first two weeks we were home with him, I would go and look at the online instructions on how to tie the wrap on me and then get him in it. Yes, it took some practice and yes, it took a bit more time, but it was so worth it. So please Mamas, don't just dismiss something because it looks like it is too hard. Try it, PRACTICE, seek out some professional babywearing education if you can and see for yourself. And believe me when I tell you that you (and your sweet little baby) will not be disappointed that you did!

Another lovely babywearing and blogging mama, @joyfulabode, wrote this:

Myth: "Babywearing creates clingy, needy children."

This is actually one of the biggest misconceptions about babywearing and attachment or instinctive parenting as a whole. We are conditioned in our western culture to think that holding a child will spoil them and make them into clingy, demanding little human beings. While in fact the exact opposite is true. Research has shown us that the physical closeness and physiological benefits of babywearing actually encourages children to be more independent and to feel more secure and content. They develop a better sense of self-esteem and are more able to be AT the centre of activity versus being THE centre of attention and that in and of itself promotes and stimulates brain development and cognitive learning. So wear your babies Mamas, and do it often. Give them a safe, secure and rich learning environment and know that a baby has no sense of entitlement, does not know what being spoiled means and only wants to be held close so that their most important needs can be met. Food, touch, warmth and love!

And finally, Josline from Facebook wrote:

Misconception: "That {babywearing} is just for babies!"

Ah yes, because as we all know, babies are the only ones who want to be picked up and carried and held. NOT! Imagine this: you are walking through the mall with your toddler happy as a clam in the stroller, and then suddenly, NOT at ALL and all she wants is for you to pick her up and carry her. The problem is, you kind of need two hands to steer the stroller through the mall and juggle the shopping bags and fish in your purse for your wallet, and....well, you're getting the picture right? We have all been there and gotten the looks from everyone passing by as our toddler is having a scream-at-the-top-of-his-lungs tantrum because we just don't have enough arms to do it all! Babywearing can be a life and sanity saver in this moment and many others like it!

I think this misconception exists because a lot of the carriers like the snuglis and bjorns of the world have a pretty low weight limit on them and once a baby has outgrown these kinds of carriers, parents believe that they can no longer carry them in any kind of baby carrier. Having a good, proper baby carrier that can support both you and your growing baby in a variety of different carrying positions is key to keeping your babywearing relationship going with your child for as long as you both need! And again, having someone to teach or show you the different baby carriers and to explain which is best for all stages and ages is important too. Do a bit of research and find a baby carrier that is safe for carrying your older baby or toddler, will be comfortable for both of you and by all means, keep enjoying all of the amazing benefits that babywearing has to offer!

Stay tuned later this week for Part Two of the Myths & Misconceptions of Babywearing. I still have a whole page full of them to dispell!!

Happy Babywearing Everyone.

Natasha~

References:
1. Strollers, baby carriers and infant stress. by Elizabeth Antunovic (©2008 NAP, Inc.)
2. InstinctiveParenting.com. Benefits of babywearing.
3. AskDrSears.com. Attachment Parenting Research.