By Laura Vitanova
When my first son was born in April of 2015, I didn’t have any grand aspirations to be a “babywearer.” I scanned one of the available carriers at my local department store onto my baby shower registry and didn’t give it another thought until G arrived several months later. Those first few months as a new mom were a little rough. Despite the fact that I had read all the books and took all the classes, I was not prepared for the sheer exhaustion of breastfeeding around the clock, recovering from an emergency cesarean, or taking care of a high needs baby that did not want to ever, ever be put down. I was tired. I was overwhelmed. I was discouraged.
I remember the first time I tentatively tried to put my screaming two month old in the K’tan I received as a shower gift. I was so distraught that he just kept screaming while I fumbled around trying unsuccessfully to get him into it, that I put it back in its box for another two months before I made it into my first BWI meeting. By then I had given up on the K’tan and bought a Tula off of eBay. When I snuggled my then four months old in that canvas carrier, it was like magic. He nestled contentedly against my chest and fell asleep. No fussing, no crying — from him or from me. From that point forward my journey through motherhood changed dramatically. Wearing not only freed up my hands to do things like make a sandwich while my baby napped; it gave me a new way to bond with my baby.
When I finally made it to a meeting of my local chapter, I was opened up to the world of woven wraps. I wanted to try them but was once again intimidated so I continued to get comfortable with using my Tula. I even brought the K’tan back out and figured out how to use it, but my big boy was already sagging in the stretchy fabric. When G was just over five months old, I took home a woven wrap for the first time from my chapter’s library.
For the next several months I mastered many different carries with woven wraps and settled into a groove. I used soft structured carriers like Tula and Lenny Lamb for quick front carries at the grocery store and for lulling my reluctant napper to sleep. At home, I became more adventurous with backwraping as it offered more comfort and support. I had learned and tried various hip carries in the woven wraps, but I found the uneven weight distribution uncomfortable. We were content in this rhythm for awhile, until G hit a wearing strike at about 10 months old. G was an early walker and had inherited my fiercely independent spirit. My stash of carriers that I had tenderly cultivated over the past several months sat unused and unloved. That is until our family expanded!
My second son, T, was born just this December. But even before that, during my pregnancy, I enjoyed the benefits of belly wrapping. It gave me some relief from the back pain caused by my growing belly. Also as my belly grew, G kept getting faster on his feet while I kept getting slower! Babywearing once again became an absolute necessity. He still refused to be wrapped, so for a short while we managed to get by using a SSC in backcarries. I wore the waistband below my burgeoning bump for extra support and because wearing it above my belly just about crushed my lungs.
Eventually it came to a point where the waistband was so low on my hips, it just wouldn’t stay up, so I had to find another solution. We tried a buckle style onbuhimo, which put G up quickly and since there was no waistband, it did not bother my belly. I also revisited hip carries in wraps. I learned a few quick poppable hip carries and to my great surprise, this also seemed to please my reluctant wrapee. I was able to continue wearing my 26 pound 19 month old for brief shopping trips until about my 38th week of pregnancy.
At week 39, T was born via scheduled cesarean. Two days after he was born, I put him in a wrap for the first time at the hospital. Wrapping up a tiny, floppy newborn was an entirely new experience for me. The fabric seemed to swallow his 7-pound body up. In the following weeks, was able to try out multiple carriers that were available in our library, many of which I had never used before with G.
For the first few weeks, wrapping with my base size wrap took a lot of effort and I was winded by the time I got T settled into the passes. In the past month, I have found that shorter woven wraps and a meh dai to be some of the easiest and most comfortable options, especially since neither put pressure on my tender abdomen or incision. One of my favorite carries in those first few weeks was front reinforced torso sling. I also learned how to use a ring sling for the first time. I loved the fact that there wasn’t so much fabric to work with and it was certainly easier to keep a sling under my coat and pop him in and out while we trekked to all those early follow-up doctor’s appointments in the cold weather.
Now that I am 6 weeks post cesarean, I feel much stronger and have been able to wear T for longer periods of time. While running errands, we favor the front cross carry in a woven wrap. I tie it on before leaving the house, wear it under my coat, and pop him in and out rather than lugging his bulky car seat around. It is also easy to breastfeed in. I have even been able to tolerate wearing G as well for some much needed front snuggles in a SSC. The pain around my incision area has receded remarkably faster with this c-section, so even carriers with a stiff waistband do not seem to bother me.
Now that I have two little wearees, I can only imagine how my wearing needs will change in the coming year and I feel confident that there will be a carrier or a carry out there to suit those needs. I was intimidated by even the simplest carriers at first, but with some hands on help and the encouragement of a community of other caregivers, I have been able to find solutions that make being a parent easier and more enjoyable. I am even becoming a VBE for my local chapter.
So for those new babywearers who are intimidated by their Ergos and their Mobys, take heart. If I can do it, so can you! Looking back on my babywearing journey thus far, I have learned so much, and as I look forward to continuing to wear my two boys I realize there is still so much to learn. I will continue on this journey for as long as my children want to be worn and for as long as I am able to help others enjoy the experience of keeping their little ones close.