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Safety Tips for Nursing in a Carrier

7 Aug

Another post in honor of World Breastfeeding Week!  Remember to keep baby Visible and Kissable (TM), especially when nursing baby in your carriers.

photos by hilary yankello 166

Visible and Kissable (TM): Nursing and Babywearing Safety Tips

1. Babywearing and nursing are independent skills, best established separately before combining.
   *Established nursing means nursing without positioning props, aids, etc. and latch is well-established.
   *Established carrier use is being able to use and adjust your carrier independently, safely, and confidently.
2. Babies nursing in a carrier must always be brought back to upright and tight positioning.
3. Baby’s face must always be visible in the carrier, even when nursing.

The High Back Carry in a Buckle Carrier (with Video Tutorial)

19 Jun

Recently, there’s been a bit of a surge in popularity in the online babywearing community of wearing SSCs and buckle carriers in a “high back carry.”  To be honest, I’m in the camp of “Use the structured waist of the ssc the way it was intended to be used…to distribute weight to the wearers hips (on short torsoed people, this may be higher but still around the waist), with the weight of the baby being taken off the shoulders by loosening the shoulder straps enough to allow baby’s weight to really fall down into that supportive structure of the waist.” (whew! that was a mouthful!)

There are definitely those who prefer the feel of the high back carry, and many older babies and toddlers like it, as they can see over their caregivers’ shoulders.  However, often, when I see buckle carriers with structured waists used to achieve this carry, we run into a couple of issues…

1. You’re losing all of the support that the structured waist is supposed to give (and that you pay for!) in those types of buckle carriers.

2. Since you’re not using the structured waist to distribute baby’s weight, the weight should be distributed by pulling baby in close.  Since you may not be able to cinch the straps in tight enough to really get that nice high and tight fit, you may be distributing all of baby’s weight from your shoulders!

2. In some SSCs (or on some body types) buckling that structured waist so far up creates a giant pocket of fabric and baby doesn’t fill the entire body of the carrier from top to bottom, but rather sits in a fold of fabric at the middle of the carrier body.  This means that the body panel may be too low on baby’s back and too loose (allowing baby or toddler to lean back and definitely not supportive for the wearer).

Now for the good news…

If you DO like the feel of a high and tight back carry, there are carriers perfectly suited for that! They are wraps, mei tais, and even buckle mei tais like the Catbird Baby Pikkolo!

Check out my newest video tutorial to show how I get a high back carry with my toddler in the buckle carrier I believe is really SUPER at the high back carry!



Tweak of the Week: Buckle Carrier Back Carry

15 Feb

Getting your baby onto your back is one of the most freeing moments in babywearing!  Not only is a back carry most ergonomic for you, once baby approaches the 20 lb. mark and beyond, but this is when you truly get to be “hands free.”

Safety Note: Generally speaking, back carrying in a buckle carrier or SSC is recommended when baby is old enough to sit up unassisted.  Also, at first, practice in front of a mirror, if possible, over a SOFT surface and WITH a spotter!  This will ensure everyone stays safe and happy.  If baby is not into it and is bucking and fighting, try again at another time. 🙂

Your first back carry can be a bit daunting.  In this video below, I am using my Catbird Baby Pikkolo carrier (though the method is similar for any buckle/SSC carrier, except with others you would buckle the structured waist belt around you with the structured waist sitting on top of your hip area and the body of the carrier flopping down from the top of the structured waist belt).  First, I show a classic back carry with the carrier hanging down from your back, baby is scooted around (using the “hip scoot” method) and the carrier is brought up from between her legs and over her back.  After that carry, I demonstrate a carry in which you bring baby AND the carrier around with you.  This method is better for the beginner, because you can secure baby as you bring the carrier around and there is less to worry about…though it does tend to move your clothes around with you as you move baby in the carrier from your hip to your back.


Catbird Baby Pikkolo – My top buckle carrier choice for newborns!

12 Jul

I have a lot of love for my Pikkolo!  It was my very first carrier purchase (from QuirkyBaby, no less) in 2009 when my first daughter was only 2 weeks old.

When my older daughter was tiny, I tried using it with the base wide, like a mei tai, and with her legs “froggied” inside, but she really didn’t like that!  (Some babies do, some don’t.  My kiddos have been those who “don’t” lol!) So, I ended up using one of the best features of the Pikkolo from the get go – the adjustable base!  Unlike other buckle carriers that can be snapped to a narrow base position, the Pikkolo allows you to adjust the base to custom fit your baby’s spread-squat position.  As baby grows, you can continue to widen it, as needed, until baby is ready for the full width of the carrier.

With my new little squish, I had the opportunity to really try every carrier designed to “snap down” for newborns, and I can honestly say that the Pikkolo is my favorite choice.  To be honest, I typically carry daughter #2 in wraps and ring slings, as you can adjust them to the exact size and shape of any size newborn, baby, or older child.  However, if I’m going to use something quick and easy and want to grab a buckle carrier, I’m grabbing my Pikkolo!

2013-07-12 12.40.31

What I found when trying out the other buckle carriers in the “newborn” position, was that, though her legs were “out” of the carrier, they did not fully support her knees in the position we’re really striving for – knees above bum (think of an M shape).  In fact, as she is so tiny and that M-shape position is so important, I found that I was more likely to widen the bases on the other carriers and try to achieve that position with her legs still in the carriers, rather than snap them to the narrow position and allow her legs to dangle.   The Pikkolo, however, allowed me to adjust the base of the carrier to her exact knee to knee width.  Also, since it does not need the structured support belt until later on, it buckles on and forms a nice deep pocket for baby’s bum.  The scoop of that pocket, along with the custom width supporting her knees, allowed me to really get her in that “knees bent and higher than bum” position. (For reference, dd is 4 weeks old and a little over 8 lbs. in picture.)

2013-07-12 12.37.59

Another reason I generally choose wraps and ring slings for newborns with no head control is because buckle carriers and mei tais often create a curved opening at the top where baby’s head is. As long as I’m vigilant and make sure that baby’s head is not slumping forward in a chin to chest position, it’s fine, but not ideal.  However, with the Pikkolo, because of the wide memory-foam straps, I’m able to spread the shoulder straps out toward my arms and mold to the curve of my shoulders, which brings the top of the carrier in and holds her head much better against my chest. (see picture above)

Some other features I really love about the Pikkolo are the lack of the waist belt (until you want or need it for more support), which allows me wear the carrier high on my body, as well as sit down comfortably with nothing digging into my lap; the crossable shoulder straps to distribute weight across my back and shoulders; and the VERY easy-to-adjust dual adjustable buckles that make lowering little one down to nurse a breeze!

For all of these reasons (and, yes, maybe with a little bias since it WAS my first carrier), the Catbird Baby Pikkolo is my top choice for a buckle carrier to use during the newborn days…and beyond!

Tweak of the Week #4 – Woven Wraps

10 Apr

When doing a Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC), did ya ever have trouble tightening up that top rail? When you adjust the fabric, do you find that it gets caught or rubs tightly under your arms? Hopefully, this tweak of the week can help! 🙂

Breastfeeding & Babywearing: About nursing in a carrier…

4 Mar

breastfeeding in a carrier

Can I nurse in this carrier? Which carrier is best for breastfeeding? Can I be hands-free while nursing? These are very common questions I hear, so let’s tackle them…

Can I nurse in this carrier?

For sure, most baby carriers are absolutely able to be used for nursing. There is a caveat I always share, though. Anyone who has ever been a new nursing mama will admit that those first few days, weeks, maybe even the first couple months of nursing were a learning process for both mama and baby. Likewise, any babywearer can try to remember back to her first times using a baby carrier with a floppy baby…and it was also a learning process! Both of these are skills that take time and patience to develop, so I ALWAYS recommend feeling confident in each skill separately before trying to combine them. In fact, nursing the newborn in a carrier can be extra tricky because they have no head control, which can complicate things in terms of your ease and comfort, as well as safety. When breastfeeding the newborn, as well as when wearing the newborn in a baby carrier, mamas should be completely aware of baby’s comfort and breathing. This can be especially difficult when trying to do both at the same time. However, if both skills are worked on separately, when it’s finally time to combine them, baby is usually a bit older, with more head control, and mama and baby are both usually a bit more comfortable with the ins and outs of their breastfeeding relationship. This is a great time to work on nursing in your carrier. Another important consideration in terms of ease of nursing in a carrier is the clothing you’re wearing. Nursing clothing, or clothing that allows you to access your breast without pulling up your shirt (so v-neck, scoop-necks, etc., where you can just access the breast from the top) will make life so much easier.

Which carrier is best for breastfeeding?

Which carrier is best for wearing and/or breastfeeding really is a matter of personal preference. There are so many factors like the physical build of the wearer, age/stage of baby, and just one’s own preference for a “feel” of a carrier. Most carriers can be used for nursing, with the exception being carriers that have a panel between mama and baby, which might make nursing difficult. Many of us who have nursed our children find that we “learned” to breastfeed with baby in a cradle position in our arms. Wraps and ring slings can support this semi-reclined position, if desired, though one has to be a bit more cautious in that cradle position, making sure that fabric behind baby’s head is not forcing baby into a chin-to-chest position (which can interfere with baby’s breathing, whether breastfeeding or not) or forcing baby into the breast , AND remember to ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS monitor baby and return to an upright position when baby is done nursing. There has been so much development in the world of “baby” (specifically in Kangaroo Care and Breastfeeding) in the past few years, and we now know that most babies naturally orient themselves vertically, between the breasts…think biological nursing, laid back breastfeeding, the breast crawl, skin-to-skin kangaroo care, etc. So, MANY mamas (including myself) have found that we actually have more success breastfeeding baby in an upright position (added perk – it helps vary your nursing positions to work the less-used milk ducts in your breasts). This can be done in any carrier that allows upright, tummy-to-tummy positioning, and mei tais and buckle carriers can make it especially easy since you can just loosen up, lower baby down, and then re-tighten baby at breast level. When baby finishes, again, you need to return them to the higher, upright position.

I LIVED in my Catbird Baby Pikkolo when my daughter was a baby, because I loved how easy it was with the dual-adjusting buckles to lower her down and then tighten her back up again, not to mention the fact that I could use it without the structured waist belt meant that there was nothing digging into me if I were nursing in the Pikkolo while sitting down. Again, it’s still important to monitor baby while nursing him/her, and this position is best when baby has good head control. If you have particularly large breasts, any carrier might be tricky to nurse in, and you might prefer a stretchy or woven wrap where you can pop baby out for nursing, but use the “x” of the fabric to help with discretion, if that’s important to you.


A Note on Discretion While Nursing

Ring slings are often recommended for nursing b/c the tail allows for “discreet breastfeeding.” Besides my own opinion that we need to make nursing in public more socially acceptable and you shouldn’t feel the “need” to cover up for others, some mamas prefer to be discreet for their own comfort. When baby is new and you’re both learning to breastfeed, it makes more sense to NOT try and cover up. You really need to see what you and baby’s mouth and airway are doing. If discretion is important to you, it’s probably better to practice at this point in a private place, rather than try to cover up. If you’re a more competent/confident nursing mama, nursing in a carrier can be discreet but you still should NOT attempt to cover baby’s face while he/she is nursing. Many babies actually hate being covered up, but it can also prohibit good airflow, make for a hot, uncomfortable experience for both mom and baby, or hinder breathing. I hear ring sling tails often being described as “wonderful for covering up while breastfeeding.” For your own peace of mind and for baby’s safety, please do not cover baby’s face (while breastfeeding, or while wearing).

Alternatives for nursing discreetly in a carrier:

  • Pull up the edges of the carrier to cover up a bit.
  • You can use the tail of the ring sling or fabric from a wrap to cover over the top of the breast, but, again, not covering baby’s face.
  • Carriers with head rests can allow you to have some privacy, but still be able to look down and monitor baby.
  • Hoods used for discretion while nursing can be attached in a diagonal position, which will make you both a little cooler and allow for some airflow, as well as letting you see baby’s face and nursing position.


What about “hands-free” breastfeeding?

I don’t know about you… but, I was never able to be “hands-free” when nursing my daughter in my carrier. I always needed one hand to support the breast while she nursed. I’ve actually heard this from a lot of mamas, so I know I’m not alone. Being hands-free while nursing was a promise of baby carriers that was really appealing to mamas a few years back, but most people who have experience nursing in carriers and most babywearing educators will tell you that very few people are actually able to be completely hands-free. It’s completely normal if you are not able to magically breastfeed baby in the carrier and have both of your hands free for something else. One hand free is usually quite helpful, even if the other hand is helping to support breast or baby.  Also, again on a safety note, being “hands-free” or “one-hand-free” while nursing does not mean that you are free of monitoring baby while he/she nurses. It is always important to know how baby is doing and pay attention to his/her breathing and behavior when breastfeeding in the carrier.  If you’re still nursing your toddler in your carrier, you might actually get lucky and finally achieve “hands-free” nursing if he/she helps out a little by supporting the breast on his/her own!


Remember: Being able to breastfeed in your carrier is a fabulous perk of wearing your baby, and wearing your baby PROMOTES breastfeeding!  I hope the information I’ve shared helps moms and their babes do this comfortably and safely.

For more information and individualized help with breastfeeding and babywearing, try reaching out to your local babywearing educator, consultant, or babywearing group.

How was your experience breastfeeding in a baby carrier? Any stories or suggestions to share? Leave a comment! 🙂

Tweak of the Week #2 – Ring Slings

19 Feb

Have been fighting a monster of a cold for close to three weeks and finally got my voice back…yay! Next tweak of the week: Ring Slings. Hoping this video will help those with ring slings learn some tricks to getting the rings to stay in place, stop sliding down as you adjust, or ride up on your neck. Enjoy 🙂

Why Buy New ? (…when you’ve heard you can get such great bargains buying used)

6 Feb

There are some reasons why, as a baby carrier retailer AND a babywearing educator, I always steer a new babywearer to try to purchase a carrier new. It’s not just because I’m a retailer and I want a profit. Heck! I’ve sent babywearing parents to other retailers who carry products QuirkyBaby doesn’t. With the growing popularity of online baby carrier FSOTs (for sale or trades) and swaps, it seems like most people think, “Why should I buy that carrier new when I can buy it for less on one of these sites?” And, to be fair, I have gotten many carriers well-loved and recycled from other babywearing mamas. I love the FSOT and Swaps! Who doesn’t love finding that amazing deal on a baby carrier at a thrift shop, consignment sale, or craigslist? But, even when I find those “deals”, there is something of which I’m always aware – Caveat Emptor.

As an experienced babywearer, you might know what to look for when you pick up a used carrier. You might know the general age of the carrier, how to examine it and test it for flaws/defects/stresses to the fabric and seams that could cause tears, whether or not the directions the come with the used carrier are updated to the latest understandings of babywearing safety and standards (if it comes with directions at all!). But, many people don’t…especially those new to the babywearing world.

When you buy a used baby carrier, there’s a lot you don’t know (like age of the carrier, whether or not it’s been recalled in the past, how many times it’s been washed and whether or not the fabric has been weakened, etc.). There are no guarantees. When you purchase new, from an authorized retailer, there ARE guarantees:

1. Guaranteed Satisfaction – if you’re not happy with the carrier you choose, most retailers, like QuirkyBaby, have a return/exchange policy.
2. Guaranteed New In Box – carrier will come to you brand spankin’ new! No worries about past spit ups, accidents, fragrances, pet allergies, over-laundering, smoke smells (yes, there HAVE been mamas who bought from FSOT and gotten a carrier that smells of smoke…and if the seller denies it and refuses to refund you, there’s nothing you can do.)
3. Guaranteed Warranty – If something happens to your carrier, even if it’s your own fault (accidentally slam the buckle clasp in the car door and need a replacement, carrier tears in the wash), the manufacturer will usually send you a brand new replacement carrier (or replacement part) easy-peasy.
4. Guaranteed Fair Pricing – authorized retailers MUST price carriers at MSRP (or below for a sale). You’ll know that you are not getting ripped off or be the victim of price gouging. Just the other day there was a USED Wrapsody Hybrid Stretch on a very popular swap that was priced above retail. Several mamas replied with interest, and the wrap sold very quickly. If any of these mamas had done their research, they would find that they could have gotten the same wrap, NEW, with free shipping in most cases, AND all of the guarantees listed above for LESS than the price of that used wrap. Definitely use those FSOT/swaps for hunting for your “hard to find”/”desperately in search of” dream of a carrier that you can’t buy new anymore…but don’t shop on them without checking retailers, first. 😉

Loving my Wrapsody Stretch Hybrid Orca at SeaWorld! (bought new from Quirkybaby...before I was the owner, lol!)

Everyone loves a bargain and I have absolutely been known to try out some carriers after buying used from other WONDERFUL babywearing mamas. But, as an educator, I believe that new babywearers are best served by buying a fabulous and safe carrier new from a trusted, authorized retailer. Plus, as Rachel the babywearer (not Rachel the babywearing retailer), I know that when I do buy new from other babywearing retailers, I’m helping this industry that I love so much! We really do need to support babywearing retailers…they make the multitude of carrier options available to all of us. Not just QuirkyBaby, but all of the mom-owned, small-business, babywearing vendors. We’re small and we’re definitely not doing it for the big bucks. We’re doing it because we love babywearing, and want others to love it, too!

Introducing Tweak of the Week!

29 Jan

It’s been in the works for a while, and I finally got my new webcam to replace my broken one… so now here it is! The idea behind “tweak of the week” comes from the most common troubleshooting topics I encounter when helping parents with their carriers as well as my own experience finding ways to make my carriers work better for me. So, without further adieu, here’s my first tweak for buckle carriers/SSCs complete with baby bump:

Forward Facing Out (FFO), Hips, and Safety – a hot topic in babywearing!

10 Jan

At some point in your babywearing experience, you’re going to come into this discussion. As a babywearing educator and a leader of my local babywearing group, this topic comes up a lot – is forward facing out safe? Do harness carriers (the most popular types you see around in the mainstream market, bjorn, etc.) cause hip dysplasia due to their narrow seat base? Many people will chime in with their opinions, others will quote evidence from certain babywearing schools or a certain institute involved in education about hip dysplasia. So, I’d like to chime in…

Let’s start with the discussion of babywearing safety. Statistically speaking, a baby in a baby carrier or a baby in arms is always safer than in any other piece of nursery equipment. Though there have been tragedies, far more tragedies have occurred in other nursery products. Not only is baby safest in your arms, but you and your baby will reap all of the social-emotional, cognitive, and physiological benefits of babywearing. Car seats that snap in and out of cars and into swings and strollers, used as sleeping devices outside of the car, etc. are becoming quite the norm…as is positional plagiocephaly/brachycephal, from mild to severe cases, directly related to babies spending too much time in those infant car seats and swings which have a sloping back and place pressure right at the neck and base of the skull. In addition to cases of plagiocephaly, there are articles readily accessible through a simple search on the AAP and JAMA websites stating that, from a medical perspective, car seats should be used only in the car.  Studies have shown that, even in healthy, full-term infants, oxygen saturation rates have dropped to an alarming rate when babies spend too much time in a car seat and other inclined infant seating devices.  Hypoxia is a real concern and can be alleviated with proper positioning in baby carrier or in a caregiver’s arms. There’s nothing wrong with these products, and many babies love them, parents need to put baby down sometimes. But, in the end, the more time babies spend out of these containers and in parents’ arms or in a baby carrier…the better! And that means ANY baby carrier – even a harness carrier.

When we talk about babywearing safety, we’re usually talking about 2 things. One is keeping baby from falling from the carrier. The other is being careful to avoid positional asphyxiation, where baby simply cannot breathe properly or at all due to being forced into a chin-to-chest position. When we use the term “safe” we should be speaking in terms of avoiding danger. After we move past the most important issue of life -or-death safety, we can talk about “ideal.”

Ideally, baby should be in an ergonomic position for both him/her and you, the wearer. Forward facing “in” with hips in a spread-squat position is really the most appropriate carry for a young baby, especially a newborn. Besides the importance of preserving and supporting the infants natural C-shaped spine and spinal development, facing inward allows the wearer to really tune in to the needs of baby, and for baby to get all of the social-emotional learning benefits from being in the caregivers’ arms. In fact, even studies of strollers have shown more positive interactions and social-emotional growth in babies who are in strollers that allow the seat to face the caregiver pushing the stroller. Once baby is older and wants to see more of the world, the hip carry position becomes very popular, as well as the back carry (usually when baby can sit unassisted). After 20 lbs. or so, the back carry really is the most ergonomic carry for you, the wearer, and a forward facing out carry, whether you prefer the position or not, is just not comfortable or ergonomic for long periods of time. The benefit of the back carry is a truly hands-free experience, as well!

I’m not a fan of the FFO position, personally, especially for long periods of wear, mostly because of how much it throws off YOUR center of balance, as the wearer. By the time baby is old enough to be in the FFO position (babies without total head control should not be placed in a forward facing position), their weight is usually a bit prohibitive of long-term comfort in this position. However, if your carrier allows the FFO and you find that you’re in a position where you want to be able to turn baby around and show him/her something (i.e. you’re viewing a puppet show, a performance at the park, etc.), I understand parents using this function of the carrier to do the same thing you might do if you were holding baby in your arms. When you go back to walking around, though, it’s best to turn baby around, not only to return baby to a more ergonomic position, but also to avoid overstimulation and provide him/her with the comfort of being able to take a break from everything “coming at him/her” as you make your way on your journey.

There is still no evidence that this FFO positioning causes hip dysplasia, though it certainly isn’t a hip/spine healthy position, especially with younger babies.  I do want to add that the linked page and image from the Hip Dysplasia Institute have been taken out of context and manipulated at times to make the claim of causation, and it’s just not there. If you visit the IHDI yourself, you will read that the narrow-based carriers are merely not recommended, as the goal of the organization is to promote hip healthy practice in all situations.  And, if you actually go on to read the text on that page and others, you will find that hip dysplasia is understood to be a developmental condition linked to positioning in the womb, family history, and other conditions. It is NEVER said that you can cause hip dysplasia from wearing the wrong type of carrier. If, however, your baby has risk factors or shows symptoms of hip problems, then those carriers are not recommended.

There is no evidence that any particular type of carrier will cause hips to dislocate.  Some older research does exist where hip dysplasia rates were investigated among a few communities around the world.  Communities that carried babies in positions where legs were spread and hips abducted had lower incidences of hip dysplasia, where others that used tight swaddling of the body and legs had slightly higher rates.  However, there is still a genetic component and/or predisposition based on other factors that must be considered.

Moving beyond the whisper-down-the-lane hearsay that has been passed, with much hostility, around babywearing circles as gospel truth that FFO positioning can directly lead to hip dislocation and hip dysplasia, I’d like to point out that what is often left out is that hip-healthy advocates are advocates for life-long hip health and are not interested in fear mongering.  Beware of those who will cry “crotch dangler” and threaten hip dislocation without a broader knowledge base when it comes to the subject.  My training with Babywearing Institute has brought up the important issue of considering, not just the hips of the baby, but preserving the hips of the adult and aging person, as well.  The goal is not to vilify parents who use carriers that allow for forward facing out, but to strive for ideal positioning from early on when the hips are still developing (even if we don’t always achieve it) with the best intention of having far fewer people – babies, children, adults, and elderly persons – suffering through hip conditions.

So, in conclusion, many parents will choose to never use a forward facing position, while others will.  Hopefully, parents are making those decisions by following the cues of their babes.  I think it’s incumbent upon us, as babywearers and parents, to cease the judgments when it comes to this topic. Remember that one of the primary reasons we choose to carry our children is to communicate with them, to learn their cues, and to build a trusting relationship.  To those who feel that they wish to forward face their children at times, I would just offer this – remember that it’s natural for a baby to want to view the outside world, but it’s also natural and important to their social-emotional development to be able to turn away from it and turn into you and your comfort. The ability to read your face and hear your words is the most important thing to your baby’s cognitive and social emotional development when they are infants. Despite what society and the marketing world tell us, we, their parents, are their first teachers. Tons of extra stimulation doesn’t make your child “smarter” or better off in the world. There are just those that want you to believe that so that you buy more of their “stimulating” products. When your baby is young, you are all the stimulation he/she needs! 🙂