How to support your baby’s head and neck in a Stretchy Wrap

Stretchy wraps are amazing. They are super soft, snuggly and one of the best options for a newborn. However, often parents are worried that they don’t give baby enough head support or are worried about how they are ment to support baby’s head and neck. Instead parents often find themselves needing to hold baby’s head, or worse get so worried they lose confidence and stop using the stretchy.

But actually stretchies do have more than enough support built in! A couple of simple tweaks in how you are using the wrap can make all the difference in how much support baby’s neck has. There are 3 things to check, you can see talk through each of the 3 in the video or scroll down for each of the 3 described in detail below:

  1. Check how baby is sat in the sling. Ideally we want baby sat comfortably on their bottom, with their knees higher than their bum and their spine gentle curving bring their head to a gentle rest on your chest. However, babies can often end up a bit straightened up (with their knees lower than their bum and straighted spine) – particularly if they grumble and wiggle when going in. This isn’t dangerous but it is less comfortable for them (as their weight is on their inner thighs rather than their bottom) and more importantly because of the way the pelvis, spine and skull connect means that their head is much more likely to roll backwards away from you. If this happens its an easy fix – simply slip your hands into the wrap and gently tuck their bum towards you gently lifting the legs and allowing baby to settle onto their bottom. Finally readjust the fabric so both layers support baby all the way to the backs of the knee. Viola! Now, due to the way the pelvis, spine and skull attach and how the verterbra stack… baby’s head should gently rest on your chest and not be able to roll backwards dramatically.
  2. Pull the outer 3rd layer of the wrap up – right up to the back of babies neck. In fact ideally you want actually roll that top bit of the wrap so you have a couple of rolls sitting behind the back of baby’s neck to support their head and neck. Often parents simply don’t pull this layer up high enough. Often they leave most of the fabric near baby’s bottom to support their weight and “stop them falling out”, but actually it is the two straps crossing under baby’s bottom that supports their weight and stops them falling out. The outer/3rd layer is there to hold the top part of the crossing straps in place and to support the upper torso and head. And to do this is needs to be pulled up – all the way to the top of baby’s neck or base of their ear!
  3. Use a muslin to create a neck pillow for more support. In theory, provided your wrap is tight enough 1 and 2 should be enough to support baby’s head and neck and you shouldn’t need any other support. However, sometimes parents don’t feel it is enough and if that is the case then you can build in more support in one of two ways. The first way is to use one of the cross passes to cover the back of baby’s head. This is the way shown in most manuals. However, most baby’s hate this and certainly won’t tolerate it while awake (many won’t tollerate it while asleep either). Instead the second way is my preferred method – roll up a muslin and tuck it into the top of the outer/3rd layer to create a neck pillow. Providing lovely soft but robust head and neck support … and having the added side benefit of ensuring you have a muslin ready should you need one!

Voila! Nice, soft but securely supported neck!

As ever if you are struggling with your stretchy wrap, please do get in contact. A quick online consultation (or in person mini consult lockdown/tiers allowing) where you can receive real-time input and we can work together to get the root of the issue can make a huge difference! Clients are always suprised and releived to discover what difference just 20 minutes talking it through step by step can make! So please do get in touch if you’d like help with this or anything else.

-Madeleine

PS the wrap shown in the video is the Hana Baby Wrap and you can purchase your own here or do get in touch if you’d like to hire one – either to try before you buy or to hire for the whole fourth trimester period.

High Shoulder Carry with a Lightweight Buckle carrier

One of things that I love about being a carrying consultant is that I get to go off manual. I get to apply my knowledge of how carriers work, of infant positioning and development and I can use that to go off piste when needed.

A couple weeks ago I had a client come to me for help troubleshooting as her little one was really unsettled in their Ergobaby Embrace. She was following the manual to perfection, positioning was fab but baby was unhappy. So we put the carrier down and I asked her to show me how she held her little one when he was unsettled, how he liked being held in arms. She immediately popped him high on her shoulder.

This is such a common position for parents to hold their little ones when they are unsettled. I have so many photos of my husband and I carrying my son in this position when he was sad. We used to call it “the bouncy shoulder”. It pretty much never failed at calming him down and settling him!!

And so it got me thinking – there must be a way of facilitating this with her carrier. So while she calmed down her little one, I got a bit creative and worked out how to support a high shoulder, burp type position with an Ergobaby Embrace. And you know, it worked pretty well! Mum tried it and baby was instantly happier, instantly more settled.

Here is how to do it;

While I have shown it with the Ergo Embrace as this was the carrier my client had, this carry should work with any lightweight buckle. Particularly any that offers the option to wear the the carrier “apron style”. By this I mean that the panel hangs down from the waistband and then goes round baby’s bottom and back up (rather than one where the panel comes straight out the top of the waistband). Just because the apron style means you can sit babies bottom lower that the waistband, which is useful if like me you have boobs and thus are constrained in where you place the waistband to either above or below your boobs (for comfort reasons!). If you don’t have boobs and wouldn’t feel uncomfortable wearing the waistband slightly lower on your chest then essentially any carrier will work as you can simply place the waistband at the height you need to get baby where you want them on your shoulder. Other apron style lightweight carriers that do work well for this carry include the Kahu Baby carrier, the Izmi baby carrier, the Marsupi, and Meh Dai carriers (like the Hop-Tye and Didy-Tye) work really well for this too.

Being brutally honest, while this carry was more comfortable than I expected it to be, it isn’t the worlds most supportive position for a long period of time. The carry is very high so the weight it all on your upper back, so this will start to feel heavy quicker than compared to wearing the waistband at your waist and transferring more of the weight onto your pelvis.

But, what it is good for is those moments when you need it. When baby is really unsettled and unhappy in another other position, but your arms are knackered from the holding or you need your arms to get something done. Then when baby is more settled or has fallen asleep it is actually a simple job to loosen the straps and slide the baby and whole carrier back down to a more normal and more supportive carrying position. Or likewise once you’ve finished the thing you needed to do you can go sit down and rest! Either with baby still in the carrier or slipping it off and cuddling them as needed.

For my client, I viewed this carrying position as a “circuit breaker”. I see this regularly with so many parents; what happens is baby cries in the carrier (maybe they are tired, hungry, unsettled etc) and parent is worried they’ve done the carrier wrong or that baby doesn’t like the carrier so parent quite naturally and quite understandably becomes tense. Babies are amazing at reading their parents emotions and picks up on their parents tension and worry, and they don’t like seeing their parent tense so they cry. And then parent is more worried because baby is crying more now, and baby senses parent is more worried….. and on and on. It very quickly becomes a viscous circle. Then next time parent picks up the carrier they start feeling tense and worried baby won’t like it before they even put it on…. and so the viscous circle continues. Until we find something to break the cycle. In this case this high shoulder position – one baby is used to and loves and parent feels confident baby will like – was able to break the cycle, and I very much hope will later open up all the other positions to them too.

So many of my consultations are about working with parents to find the circuit breaker, the thing that breaks the cycle. For many it is simply going through their carrier in detail, step by step, allowing them to gain confidence using the sling and knowing that their baby is comfortable and supported and safe. For others its something else – each consultation is different, because we are all different!

If you’re feeling stuck please do reach out as I honestly, finding the solution that works is my absolute favourite part of this job!

-Madeleine

The Lowdown on Anti-Microbial Carriers

Two days before the second national Lockdown in the UK, Ergobaby announced the release of their first ever anti-microbial carrier. But what does this even mean? Should you get one? Is this something you need?

This is one of those rare moments where my past job collides with my current job. As many of you know before I had my son I was a scientist. Specifically, I have a MRes in Infection and Immunity and a PhD in Immunology. So it really is one of those moments where I am assessing this carrier not only with my Carrying Consultant hat on but also with my Immunologist hat on.

The first thing to consider is what does anti-microbial actually mean? Something that is anti-microbial is something that can kill or limit the growth of bacteria and fungi. Note kill or limit the growth of – not all anti-microbials kill bacteria and fungi, some simply stop or slow growth down. This means you can still get transmission or infection from something with this agent in it. You’re just less likely to because bacteria or yeast will grow much more slowly so there will be less present on that surface.

Anti-microbial IS NOT the same as anti-viral. Generally agents that are anti-microbial are not effective against viruses because viruses propagate in a totally different way to bacteria and fungi. Bacteria and fungi grow on surfaces, whereas viruses can not grow with out a host. For them it’s just about surviving in a transmittable form on a surface and not about growth. This is one of the reasons that, generally, surface transmission is less of an issue with viruses, few viruses truly transmit via surfaces. And the quality of the surface has a huge impact with viruses – shiny surfaces that can hold droplets are far far more effective for viral transmission than something that droplets soak into like fabrics. Fabric generally has extremely low viral transmission. Even if a virus can survive on the fabric, because of the way water soaks in and dries out on fabric, it is extremely difficult to catch a virus from touching fabric. Any fabric, not just specially designed fabrics, ANY FABRIC. Which is great news for baby carriers in general.

The second thing to consider is what the anti-microbial agent is and the mechanism by which is works. So for the Ergobaby carrier released last week, the agent is Silver ions. Silver has long been known to have anti-microbial properties. Bacteria can’t grow on its surface and its non toxic for humans (two reasons it’s popular for jewellery). Specifically it is the silver ions that are toxic for, and kill bacteria by binding to some of their essential cellular components preventing the bacteria from performing basic reactions required to live. Hence silver is used a lot in hospitals, from silver coated tubes and catheters to antibiotic creams used to treat burns. Silver ions are even added to plasters and bandages.

So potentially adding them to a baby carrier, may have certain advantages. If your carrier is prone to getting very smelly. If you use it frequently while working out with Carifit or someone, frequently spill stuff on it and don’t wash it – then silver ions may help keep bacteria from having a field day on your carrier. Although, I should say, the effectiveness will depend a lot on the concentration of the silver ions added to the carrier and on how long they remain in the carrier with washing etc. It’s worth noting that silver infused bandages are not washed and reused (but generally incinerated) so I have my reservations about the longevity of this protection. Likewise the Ergobaby anti-microbial carrier is the same price as the regular carrier, so this makes me a little suspicious about the concentration and how much silver ions have been added. There is no information about this, so it is difficult to tell how this compares with the amount added to bandages and plasters etc.

However, while this may potentially be a pro if you do find your carrier gets smelly very fast, my experience over the last 7 years working with parents tells me most parents don’t find this. In fact, I find most parents will wash a carrier long before it starts to smell. Certainly if it gets dirty or they spilt something on it. And for the parts of the carrier that get chewed on and possetted on there are simple solutions like suck pads to protect the chewed on parts of the carrier. Allowing you to regularly wash these while keeping the carrier clean and dry.

So ultimately when it comes to keeping bacteria at bay, most parents actually don’t find this a problem.

And when it comes to keeping viruses at bay – something that is on all of our minds at the moment in the middle of this global pandemic – silver ions have absolutely no effect on CoV-Sars-2 (the virus that causes Covid19) or any other virus because, as I mentioned above viruses replicate by an entirely different method to bacteria. And surface transmission plays a much smaller role compared to transmissions via droplets in the air.

So do I think you need an anti-microbial carrier? No, no I do not. For all the reasons above. Fabric is a lousy transmission surface for viruses and the chances of you or baby catching a virus off any fabric baby carrier is extremely small. You don’t need a special fabric to keep you safe.

For bacteria – if you don’t like washing your carrier ever and are prone to getting it wet, damp and filthy then maybe you would see a benefit, but if you are like most people and wash your stuff if it’s dirty then I doubt you’ll notice any difference buying an anti-microbial carrier versus buying a normal one. I would simply recommend buying a pair of suck pads instead!

My personal opinion with my both my immunology and babywearing hats on, is that this is all an example of clever marketing. Getting you to think that you need something that actually, for most people, won’t make a noticable difference. I do sell the regular material Ergo Omni 360, but I won’t be buying into this gimmick and retailing any of the silver ion ones.

If you don’t have a carrier yet and think silver ions are cool and would like to own a carrier containing silver ions, then please do be my guest and buy one. Do so with my total, unreserved blessing. However, this article is for the people who maybe already own a carrier then started reading the marketing and thought “OH NO! Did I make a mistake? Should I have bought this instead? Will my baby be safe?” Or for the people who were about to buy something else that they wanted more but the marketing made them pause and now they aren’t sure.

For all these people – you don’t need an anti-microbial carrier to keep your beautiful baby safe. Just carrying them close to your body in your carrier, or whatever carrier you choose that fits you both well, is keeping them so safe and so nurtured and so loved. And that is all that matters.

-Madeleine, MRes Infection and Immunity and PhD in Immunology

How to Wrap a Stretchy Wrap without Putting Baby Down First

While all stretchy wrap manuals and video tutorials always show tying the wrap first and then picking up baby, it is actually possible to tie a stretchy wrap without putting baby down first if they are already in your arms.

It is of course faster to just pop them down for a few seconds while you tie (and I am sure this is why all the manuals show this method!), but it can be really really inconvenient if say

  • Your baby has reflux and popping them down even for just a few seconds will cause a whole world of pain and discomfort for them
  • Your baby just fell asleep in your arms and you know the second you pop them down that will be game over for that nap
  • They are just really really sad and need the comfort of your arms right now

And I am sure a great many other reasons! Feeling like you might need to put baby down can be an real obstacle to using a carrier – leaving you sitting on the sofa while your baby snoozes for 90 minutes wishing you’d got the wrap on before they fell asleep so you could go to the toilet, get a cup of tea and do all those other things you quite wanted to do during this nap.

So know how to put a wrap on around a baby already in your arms is definitely a life skill! Here is how to do it;

The key is to take your time! It won’t be as fast as tying it without baby in your arms, so just relax and take the time you need to sway/bounce/rock baby as you gentle move the fabric and tighten it up around them. Then celebrate regaining your arms by making yourself a well deserved celebratory cup of tea!

-Madeleine

PS the Stretchy wrap shown in the video is the beautifully soft Izmi Baby Bamboo wrap which you can purchase through our webshop here.

But won’t they be walking by then?

I was reminded the other day of something that happened when my son was 2 years and 2 months old. Back then we lived in West Kensington close to the tube and my son and I been out for the day and we were coming back on the District line. As he was 2 he had been walking by himself for most of the day and was now sitting on his own seat on the tube. I had the changing bag and 2 bulky bags of shopping with me. We’d got on the tube with me carrying both big bags in one arm so I had a hand free to Tom’s hand. And it was all fine right upto the point, 2 stops away from West Ken Tom’s emotions and the long day over took him and a massive tantrum eschewed.

One of those humongous lie on the floor beating it with your fits while screaming at the top of your lungs tantrums. One of those tantrums where you are sure the entire world is looking at you and judging you accordingly screaming tantrums.

My first thought was fuck, we are getting off in 2 stops time, what am I going to do.

I think of this often when parents ask me how long a carrier might last and I say 2, 2.5 or 4 (depending on the carrier) and they look at me like that is crazy and say “oh well they will be walking long before then”.

And yes, yes they probably will be walking by then but that doesn’t mean they’ll be walking all the time, or in the direction you want. Or on the timescale you want.

You see, if I hadn’t had a baby carrier that fitted Tom in that moment on the tube 2 stops from home when tiredness and emotion had overwhelmed Tom…. really I’d have had 3 choices

  1. Wait for him to calm down and was ready to walk off the train with me, even though that would certainly have involved missing our stop by some margin and finding ourselves in Hammersmith or Chiswick somewhere miles from home
  2. Get off the train abandoning the shopping because I wouldn’t have been able to carry the shopping plus a boy in full tantrum
  3. Ask for help and hope someone is wilingl to help the woman the screaming toddler

But fortunately I did in fact have a carrier that did fit Tom and I was able to pop it on, and get him in and onto my back mid tantrum screaming and kicking me (using the secure hip scoot method!), then calmly pick up all my shopping and changing bag and walk off the train at the right stop.

And you know something miraculous happened, now securely on my back the sobs started to subside, Tom began to calm down, he was able to start to regulate his emotions again and by the time we were home he hopped happily out of the carrier like nothing had happened.

You see, that yes while children do generally start walking somewhere between 1 year and 18 months, and will be walking confidently by 2 ish, they do still have tiny legs. They do get tired. They do become overwhelmed. Sometimes they just simply want to walk in another direction. That direction might suddenly, inexplicably be into a busy road. Or maybe like in the photo above you want to walk over all the city walls in Dubrovnik pretending your in Games of Thrones and its simply too far for little legs! There are all kinds of reasons you might still want to carry beyond 2. If you do there are many baby carriers that will last to beyond 2 years of age, and many toddler and preschooler carriers that will go even further.

-Madeleine

When can I start carrying my baby outwards facing?

The answer to this question comes in two parts;

  1. When they are developmentally ready
  2. When they physically big enough to fit facing forward in the carrier you have for them

This can vary a lot from child to child so I will discuss both in depth below to enable you to judge for yourself when your baby is ready. Parents often ask me for an age, but because babies develop and grow at different rates there isn’t a magical age where all babies all suddenly overnight become ready to face outwards! For most babies this is somewhere between 4-5 months, but equally some babies won’t be ready until nearer 6 months. Better to know what we are looking for developmentally and in terms of physical fit and be led by your baby.

It is also worth considering the pros and cons of forward facing too, this position more than any other comes with distinct factors for consideration. You can read more about the facts surrounding carrying babies outward facing here.

Developmental Readiness

In terms of developmental readiness, what we are looking for here is primarily neck strength – they need to have excellent head control and upper body strength. The reason for this is simply because when forward facing the carrier is unable to provide any head support.  And because they are facing outwards their head and uppermost torso isn’t even supported by your body either. So they must be able to hold their heads up themselves for the full duration you will be wearing them outwards.

I often encourage parents to think about how they naturally hold babies in arms, and then see if a baby carrier can be used to emulate and replace their arms. But it worth realising that you can hold your baby in arms looking outward much earlier than you can use a sling. This is because you naturally will hold your arms in a way that supports their head if they need it. And your arms are responsive, so if baby starts to tire or starts to slump – your arms will automatically respond to this and adjust the support for baby or automatically turn them inwards. Next time you are holding baby like this, do think about how long you hold them facing outward. How long can they hold their own head for? How steady is their head? Do you use your arms or body to help stabilise?

It is important to realise that carrier can not be used to support their head while forward facing without risking impinging on their airway. So developmentally they need to have rock solid head control. I remember my daughter went through a distinct ‘nodding dog’ stage where she could mostly hold her own head but she looked a little bit like one of those nodding dogs.  I could quite happily hold her looking outwards in arms but she wasn’t strong enough to do this in a carrier. It was a few more weeks until she reached rock solid.

The other developmental sign to look for is time spent awake. As I mentioned this position relies on baby supporting their own head – which is something they need to be awake to do (even fully grown adults will lose tone and their head will loll if they fall asleep sitting up!). So if you are planning to go out for 30 minutes wearing your baby outward facing, you need to know that they will be happy to remain to stay awake that whole 30 minutes. Or be prepared to stop and change them to inward facing long before they start to get sleepy. Hence, ideally we are looking for babies who have reached an awake cycle of at least 2 hours to give you a decent 30 minutes or so within that awake cycle where they are the most awake and inquisitive to forward face.

Typically babies will reach these developmental considerations somewhere between 4 and 5 months. It is extremely rare a baby is genuinely ready before 4 months.

Ergo Baby 360

Physical Fit

As well as being developmentally ready, baby also needs to physically be large enough to fit forward facing in the carrier you have for them. Their head needs to be able to clear the top of the carrier (so they can breathe!) and they need to be able to do this without over extending their back. They need to be able to sit comfortably in the carrier, with their weight on their bottom, legs comfortably supported and not overly splayed out. When they are able to do this will depend on their size (primarily their torso height and inner leg length) and the carrier you have.

There is a HUGE variation between different carrier brands. Some like the Lillebaby Complete and Beco 8 are huge. Great if you have a child tracking on the upper centiles for weight and height because it will continue fitting them longer, but frustrating if you have a smaller framed baby as it could be at least 6 months (maybe more) before baby fits. Others, like the Izmi Baby carrier will fit much much sooner, even for babies who are right on the lowest centiles (I once got a great facing outward carrying on a 6 month old who was born early so while 6 months old and developmentally ready, was still the size of an average 2.5 month old!). The Beco Gemini is another good one for fitting babies slightly earlier if they are ready. Carriers like the Ergo Omni 360 and the Tula Explore are much more in the middle, most children will start fit well in these somewhere between 4-5 months.

Beco 8
Lillebaby Complete
Beco Gemini

But my baby really hates being held inward and wants to forward face already!!!

This the the really hard bit. The fact that most babies will hit what I call “nosy baby phase” long before they are ready to be carried outwards in a carrier. Generally, nosy baby phase starts right around the time the huge developmental leap that happens at the end of the fourth trimester. As baby transitions from a sleepy newborn into a much more awake, more alert and far more interested in the world baby. And as baby become more interested they will start to strain to see more and might start fighting a carrier if it is impairing their view. Typically this starts happening around 12 weeks or so.

And parents will start finding they hold baby looking outward in their arms and/or on their hip more and more. But for all the reasons above discussed above, baby is not yet ready to be carried forward facing in a baby carrier. I honestly understand why parents feel frustrated! So what are the options?

The first is to see if you can tweak the fit on your current baby carrier to give them a better view. For a stretchy wrap this might be twisting the straps near the shoulder to safely move the fabric further from baby’s face, giving them clearer sight lines. For a buckle carrier or meh dai this might be fitting it slightly differently so the panel doesn’t come up as high, or so a strap isn’t sitting across baby’s field of view.

The second, and arguably more successful thing to try is a Hip Carry. Hip carries can be a fantastic solution as they give exactly the same view outwards as carrying forward facing, but without any of the cons. Baby can safely fall asleep or get tired in this position because their head can be supported in this position – both by the carrier and because baby’s head will naturally rest against their parents body in this position. It also overcomes worries of overstimulation, as baby can turn their head away as they are starting to become tired. Even once baby is ready to forward face – this is a hugely useful position to know for those times when baby is tired but fighting sleep! And many of the carriers that offer forward facing, offer a hip carry too so you can use either depending on which one works for you and baby on any given day!

You can see how to do a Hip carry with a buckle carrier here.

Once Baby is ready – how do I carry them forward facing?

Once baby is ready, here is how to position them in an outward facing carry

-Madeleine

Summer Babywearing – Keeping Safe in the Hot Weather

As the weather warms up, understandably parents start to worry about whether their baby will be too hot in their baby carrier or sling. Undoubtedly the closeness does mean that it is warmer for both of you, however, there are some simple things you can think about to ensure you both stay safe and as cool as possible:

  1. Think about layers! Depending on the thickness – most carriers count as 1-2 layers (some like Caboo or stretchy wrap will even count at 3), so do think about the layers you and baby are wearing. Can you take any off? Thin loose layers – that cover and protect from the sun are ideal, or even just naked save for a nappy can work too.
  2. Protect extremities from the sun. Sun hats – particularly those with wide brims covering face and neck are great. Hoods on carriers can be a bit of a mixed blessing, as while most do protect from UV – covering the head and face can restrict airflow and actually make baby hotter so a hat can be a really ideal option for ensuring baby’s head is protected from the sun. You can check out our very own hat savers here to prevent the inevitable lost hat issues! Also think about arms and legs. Suncream if appropriate, or long loose clothing that covers arms and legs or even loosely tie a large muslin to provide some light coverage and sun protection.
  3. Stick to the shade were possible and try to avoid direct sun, and/or think about time of day and try to avoid the hottest parts of the day. And when it’s not possible to stay in the shade consider bringing your own shade with you – in the form of a large wide brimmed hat for yourself (wide enough to shade baby too) or even a parasol! Toddlers in particular love ‘helping’ hold a parasol… and they can be very helpful if you have a baby who refuses to wear a hat!
  4. Cooling aids such as a damp muslin between you and baby can be helpful in keeping you both cool. Likewise little fans for helping circulate air around you both. One trick I used to use a lot with my son was to dampen his hat. The damp cool hat on his head used to really help cool him down and allow him to settle! Likewise carrying water in a spray bottle so you and spritz you and baby can really help keep both of you cool.
  5. Stay hydrated – seems obvious but drinking plenty of water can really help your body’s ability to temperature regulate, which in turn will help your body regulate your baby’s temperature too. Likewise, your baby will need to feed/drink very regularly too – whether this is via more frequent breastfeeds (making it doubly important for you to stay hydrated) or ensuring you have extra feeds/ extra water in an appropriate bottle/cup for them to drink.
  6. Hip or back carries can feel cooler than tummy to tummy front carries. Even seated sideways or off centre can reduce the skin contact and feel cooler. So do think about if there is another way you can use your carrier that may help keep you cooler. This will of course dependent on the carrier or sling you have and dependent on the age and stage of your baby – but this is definitely something I can help advise on so please do get in contact if you’d like suggestions.
  7. Take regular breaks – if you and baby are starting to feel too warm, do take a break. Build in time to allow for getting baby out of the carrier in the shade and giving them time to kick around/wiggle, have a drink/feed and give both of you a break. There is a reason most humans feel lethargic on a hot day – it’s your body’s way of telling you to go slow and take breaks!

There are of course some carriers that are cooler than others, or some that naturally lend themselves better to being used in a cooler way than others. But in general, the hottest part of babywearing in the summer months is actually the baby (and for the baby – you!). And really while having a cooler carrier can help by not adding further warmth, it won’t magically make holding your baby any cooler! Not to mention that some of the carriers with mesh that claim to be cool yet have reams of heavy padding aren’t as cool as they claim to be! So if you have a carrier already, definitely consider all the advice above and see if any of it helps before investing in a new cooler carrier (unless you want to of course!). Because after-all the British Summer never lasts that long!!

-Madeleine

What Can I do with a Stretchy Wrap?

Stretchy wraps are amazing.  They are super soft, snuggly and one of the best options for a newborn.  They are amazingly versatile.  They fit all body shapes and sizes because you tie them to yourself and when you find the right carry will work for all newborns because you can adapt them to fit however baby most likes to be held.

But there is a catch…  most manuals only show one way to use them.  And consequently most parents only really feel confident using these really versatile carriers one way.  And sometimes that one way doesn’t work well for them, or baby or both.  Or more normally is fine sometimes but on some days baby won’t tolerate it.

In this article I will explore several different ways a Stretchy wrap can be used.  The videos demonstrate how the carry is done, while the descriptions of each carry discuss the pros and cons of each carry.  What that carry is best for and what its worst for.  It’s by no means meant to be an exhaustive list but rather a starting point to inspire you to explore further.  To empower you with a great grounding in what can be achieved so you can get much more out of your carrier, whether that’s finding some carries that suits your and baby better or simply adding in a couple to your repertoire that offer you more functionality and/or longevity from your sling.

 

#1 Pocket Wrap Cross Carry (AKA the normal one, Hug hold).

Pocket Wrap Cross Carry is the most commonly taught method for stretchy wraps.  It gives a lovely snuggly carry that is perfect for the 4th trimester period and is one of the easiest ties for a beginner because you tie it off first before putting baby in.  Once tied you can then can simply pop baby in and out as needed (without need to re-tie in between each time you take baby in and out).

This tie will works well for many babies right from day 1 and continues to be amazing until they start to go through the developmental leap at around 3-4 months.  Not all babies will be developmentally ready to sit astride the cross (particularly those born early, lower birth weight or ones that are just very curled up), and there are positions below that work better in this case for the first few weeks until baby is ready for this position.  After 3-4 months, you might still enjoy this position for nap times, but often during more awake periods baby might fuss for more freedom and a better less enclosed view.  This position can also become less supportive for the parents back around this time.  Again there are alternative positions below that can often be a better option for older babies.

Finally, because Pocket Wrap Cross Carry is pre-tied this is a tie that works much better with a 2 way stretchy wrap than a one way stretchy wrap.  This is because there is a much greater window between too tight and too loose on a 2 way wrap than a 1 way (more on the differences here).  If you have a 1 way stretchy wrap you might struggle to get this tie perfect reliably, and again there are other options below that work better for 1 way stretchy wraps.

 

#2 Front Double Hammock Variation

 

The Front Double Hammock Variation is tied exactly the same way as Pocket Wrap Cross Carry (#1), but baby is placed inside the sling differently.  Rather than sitting astride the cross baby sits on the cross with no fabric dividing between the legs.  Instead the fabric rests just in the back of the knee pit, similar to how you would sit in a hammock.

This makes this carry ideal for babies who are not yet opening out their knees and spreading their legs around their parents when they are held simply in arms.  Babies vary a lot in terms of when they are ready to do this.  Some are born already fairly opened out, while others remain much more curled up for a few weeks.  This is particularly true of babies born prematurely or babies born at a lower birth weight.  By sitting on the cross rather than astride it, their natural position is respected and maintained, allowing them to open up naturally once they are ready to do so.

This can also be important for babies who have hypermobility (such as commonly see in Downs Syndrome) or another medical reason to avoid material between their legs that might over spread them.

Another advantage of this position is that is is easier to breastfeed in because without material between baby’s legs it is easier to adjust baby’s position to bring them to the breast.  However, without the material between the legs this is a position that can feel less secure with a more wiggly older baby.

Finally it is worth noting that, again because this carry is pre-tied this is a tie that is easier to do with a two-way stretchy wrap where you have a wider window between too tight and too loose compared to stretchy wraps with only one-way stretch.

 

#3 Front Wrap Cross Carry

In contrast to the two carries above, the wrap is not pre-tied for Front wrap cross carry.  Instead baby goes in at a much earlier stage and then the wrap is tightened and tied around baby.  This means that you don’t have to guess or measure how much space to leave for baby as you simply fit the wrap to baby and yourself exactly.  This means this tie is a great option for one-way stretchy wraps or for anyone who is having difficulty getting the tightness correct using the pre-tied Pocket Wrap Cross Carry method.  In fact this tie works better for one-way stretchy wraps than two-way ones because in general one-way stretchies are less stretchy than 2 ways and thus require less tightening using this method!

The downside of this method is simply that you tie it from scratch each time, so lose the convenience of simply popping baby in and out.  Although you do quickly become very speedy at tying!

Front Wrap Cross Carry is also the same method that is most commonly used for woven wraps so if you are thinking about trying a woven and not sure if you could do it or not you can give this a go with your stretchy wrap and see how you find it!

 

#4  Adjustable Pocket Wrap Cross Carry

In this variation of the standard carry, the wrap is pre-tied but it is pre-tied using an adjustable knot at the shoulder.  The knot is placed at the shoulder to make it easy to get to and using a slip knot means the wrap can very easily be tightened and loosened, without untying or taking the wrap on and off.

This makes this tie particularly great for;

  • breastfeeding in the sling (as easy to lower baby ready for a feed, then raising them back up after the feed without waking them)
  • for older babies – where the sling needs to be tighter to support their weight but getting it tight enough doesn’t leave you with enough space to get them in!
  • for one way stretchy wraps for anyone having difficulty getting the tightness correct using carry #1.

This carry does work just as well with a two-way stretchy wrap too, it can be a great option to have in your tool box, well worth giving a go!

 

#5 Seated Sideways (Pocket wrap cross carry variation).

In this position the wrap is tied exactly as for pocket wrap cross carry (#1), but this time baby is loaded in completely differently.  Instead of going “tummy to tummy” with the adult, baby sits upright, side on to the parent.

The advantage of this is the baby has no pressure on their tummy, so this is an excellent position for babies with reflux or any baby who is have a painful digestion day or currently struggling with a poo.  Or for any baby who has had to undergo chest or abdominal surgery.  It’s also fabulous for communication as baby can stare up at your and you can see each others faces much more easily than in the standard tummy to tummy position.  Some babies simply prefer being held this way.  Or enjoy it as a change.

When I work with new parents I always watch how parents hold babies in arms and often parents hold baby naturally like this and so are really excited to find that is a position that the sling can replicate.

The one thing to be aware of when using this position is the important to having baby sat upright in the sling.  As long as baby is upright their head will nicely stack onto their spine and should be easy to support by either tucking their head or using a muslin roll in the 3rd layer.  If baby is not upright there is a danger baby can slump into the pocket and there is a danger the fabric could cover them or place pressure on the head resulting in a chin on chest position that can restrict airflow.  So when using this position it is key to ensure the sling is tight enough and baby is upright so that you know they are safe and comfortable.

 

#6 Simple Hip Carry (pocket wrap cross carry variation)

Hip carries can be great for babies who have reached “nosy baby” phase.  This typically starts in earnest around 3 to 4 months (although sometimes a little earlier or later) and around this time you will notice baby starting to fuss and craning for a better view when awake in the stretchy wrap on your front.  A hip carry gives them that better view while still giving them a snuggly carry they can relax and fall asleep in if they wish.

There are other ways you can use your stretchy on your hip but this method is the simplest because you start by tying it exactly as you would for carrying baby on your front using the pocket wrap cross carry method.  There is just one change – once you have tied you work out which hip you’d like to carry baby on and then drop the strap on that side off your shoulder and bring it under your arm.  The tightness of the wrap will then need to be adjusted and then your ready to simply load your baby into the wrap on your side!

Because this method is pre-tied again this is a method that works best for a two-way stretchy wrap.  It is important to ensure it is snug before you start because as this is a one shouldered carry you will find it will put more strain on your back if it is loose.

 

#7 Robin’s Hip Carry

Robin’s Hip carry is a carry I often teach with a woven wrap, but it does work just as well with a stretchy wrap.  For this carry you start by creating a pouch that you then tighten around baby and then reinforce with additional cross passes.

Because this carry is tightened around baby, this is a carry that works just as well for one-way and two way stretchy wraps.  It’s also great for bigger babies, as you can allow enough space to get them in easily and still get it tight enough to support their growing weight.

It’s a fabulous option for nosy babies, and can be a more comfortable option than the simple hip carry because of the double layer on the shoulder and how the straps spread out around parent.  It is a few more steps, but can be worth it for that extra comfort.

 

#8 Double Hammock Back Carry

Of all the carries shown here, this is the one that I would say is quite advanced and needs good deal of practise and confidence.  Again this is a carry that is commonly used with woven wraps, and is one that many babywearing consultants choose not to teach with a stretchy wrap because it is that bit harder (compared to a woven) to really get as tight as you need to.   

However, it is possible.  Not with all stretchy wraps, but ones that are wider and stronger like the one shown in the video (a JPMBB Original) it is possible with practise and understanding.  While often when it comes to back carries there are other easier options (like buckle carriers or a woven wrap) it is something that some parents do want to have in their repertoire and it is a fun snuggly bouncy carry for an older baby.  If you would like to learn how to do this, I would highly recommend face to face support with a consultant as there are many methods for getting baby onto your back and getting the passes into place behind you and having input can really help flatten the learning curve and help you gain confidence with tightening.

This is definitely a carry where tightness is really important – you can see this at the end of the video when I ask my daughter if she can break out.  Funnily enough in our practise 5 minutes before she couldn’t get her arms out at all, but when I filmed it was a tiny bit looser and you can see how much further she can get! 

 

#9 Pregnancy Support

Did you know you can actually use your stretchy wrap before baby arrives?  Wrapping your bump, back and hips with a stretchy wrap can provide some short term support to your growing body.  It is worth noting that this is something I’d advise for short time periods in the later months of pregnancy only, as its important for your body and muscles to strengthen up as your bump grows.  But in those final months, on longer days, this can provide some very welcome short term relief to your back and hips!

Any stretchy wrap 1 way or 2 way will work equally well as a pregnancy support and that time spent wrapping your bump will translate into muscle memory and confidence using your wrap when it comes to actually wrapping baby.

 

#10 Carrying Twins (Pocket Wrap Cross Carry variation)

A stretchy wrap can also be used to carry newborn twins!  The simplest way to do this is tie the wrap just like in carry #1 – Pocket Wrap Cross Carry but instead of loading one baby into both sides of the cross, you load one baby each into either side of the cross.

This carry works really well right from newborn, and can be a lovely way to carry newborn twins as it gives them the comfort of each other (just as they had in the womb) and the comfort of being on their parents chest!  When they grow out of it varies a lot between twin pairs, depending on size and how early they arrived etc, but typically somewhere around 8 weeks (give or take!) they will start to feel like they fit less comfortably.  You can use this carry for as long as you still feel comfortable – even if that is a lot longer than 8 weeks!  While there are dedicated Twin carriers available, none work as well for these first few weeks as a Stretchy Wrap.  It can be a really lovely option to start with, and then decide if you want to invest in a twin sling or other options later once babies start to grow out of this, and once you know more about how you will want to carry them (whether singly or together).

In terms of which stretchy wrap are best for this carry – generally wraps that have a bit more width can be helpful when wearing twins in this way.  As are wraps that are fairly supportive and not too stretchy.  Again two way wraps can be easier as it is a pre-tied method but many stretchy wraps are very stretchy and that can be less helpful!  In particular the JPMBB Original wrap, Izmi Baby and even Kari Me wrap are among my top picks for twins as they are all two-way wraps but have have less stretch than many other 2 way wraps and are wide and strong!  A good quality strong one-way stretchy wrap like the Moby can also be a good bet, because while they are harder to get the pre-tie right, the additional support and strength can make up for this when it comes to wrapping 2!

 

#11 Kangaroo Carry

The Kangaroo carry is another option where there is no material between babies legs.  You start by creating a pouch on your front, slip baby in and then tighten the wrap around them creating a snug pocket which is then reinforced with 2 further layers of wrap across babies back.  For older, stronger and more wiggly babies you can then pass fabric between the legs and tie under bum, but for smaller babies you don’t need to bring any material between their legs at all.

This means this is a great option for premature babies, low birth weight babies or babies who are simply not opening out their legs yet.  Likewise babies with hypermobility (such a Downs Syndrome) or other medical reason to avoid pressure on their legs.  It’s also the option that of all the carries shown here give the biggest surface area between parent and baby and so can be great for skin to skin cuddles.  Again great winner for premature babies! But also any baby that’s feeling a bit under the weather and needs the extra comfort and temperature regulation.

Because this carry is tied around baby it works really well with 1 way stretchy wraps, it works well with 2 way wraps too but can feel a bit easier with a 1 way.

Finally, while I have shown the tummy to tummy position here, this same carry can also be used with the Seated Sideways position.

A final note…

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that all the carries I have shown here show babies legs outside of the sling.  You can read more about why I generally only teach legs out here.  I am aware that this is in contrast to many manuals that suggest the legs in position should be used until baby is ready to sit astride across, however, legs in comes with its own challenges which are often not made clear in manuals.  Experience has taught me that alternatives such as the double hammock variation or even the Kangaroo carry can give the best of both worlds, allowing baby to sit comfortably on their bottom without being overspread while still having their legs and feet free to move naturally.

Hope these tutorials help inspire you!  Happy Wrapping!

-Madeleine

 

 

 

Knots or Buckles?

Something I hear over and over again from parents when investigating slings and carriers is that they feel safer with a buckle than tying a knot.  They are worried with a knot that they might do it wrong while a buckle just clicks in and then its safe and nothing can go wrong.

I totally understand this.  I hear this a lot and I genuinely understand this because I remember when I was starting out I felt exactly the same.

But 7 years of carrying my own children, 6 years of running a sling library and 5 years as a carrying consultant teaching and supporting over 1000 families has taught me that this one of those fallacies that gets repeated over and over again until it is so much in social consciousness that everyone just assumes its true.

So let me bust some myths;
  1. A knot can not be tied “wrong”.  If you’ve tied a double knot, it is secure.  There is no secret way special technique.  Even the sloppiest knot in the word, so long as its a double knot, can not undo spontaneously.  In fact, I actually dare you to try…. wiggle, pull on it, do your worst… it will not untie unless you actually purposefully look at it and untie it.  The only other way to get out of a double knot is to actually cut or tear the wrap.
  2. You can do a buckle up wrong.  A buckle requires you to line bits up, on some buckles its possible to get these misaligned and not immediately notice. If the buckle isn’t securely fastened it can undo.  It’s rare, and most people will notice but it can happen.
  3. The worst offenders are safety buckles.  Generally safety buckles require an extra bit to click in as well … a button and or specific prong… if the buckle is not all the way pushed in the safety bit won’t be down and actually the buckle is probably easier to now open than if it wasn’t a safety buckle at all.
  4. Buckles can break.  They are generally made from plastic and accidents involving stepping on them, slamming in car doors do happen.  This can render your carrier unusable until your are able to get a replacement buckle.  Again the safety buckles are often more sensitive to being stood on or other accidents than regular buckles. In the last 6 years I have had only 2 buckles break and both have been safety buckles.
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It is important to understand I am not saying that knots are necessarily better.  Buckle carriers can be hugely convenient.  And hugely comfortable.  And if you have tried both a buckle carrier and a tie on carrier (i.e stretchy wrap, woven, meh dai or half buckle) and you feel more comfortable and confident in the buckle carrier and it has the features you want … please please do go for it.  With my total and complete blessing.
I write this blog, really for the people with tiny newborns who want to use a stretchy, but are worried.  Are worried because they are worried they won’t do it right or because a relative has expressed doubts, because they’ve only seen buckle carriers.  So often I meet parents who have a buckle carrier for their baby but it doesn’t fit yet, and want something for the newborn period but knots scare them.  If this is you, please please do check out your local sling consultant or sling library and give it a go.  I hear over and over again, from parents once they have tried a wrap or tie on carrier “oh this isn’t difficult, oh it feels so secure” this is nothing like what I thought”.
It is always worth trying, because ultimately there is not “best” or “safest” sling… only what you personally find easy to use and are confident using.  And tying a knot and clicking a buckle in correctly both require the same amount of concentration!!!
-Madeleine.
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How to carry forward facing in an Ergo Omni 360

You can carry a baby facing outward in a suitable carrier once baby has a really strong neck and are tall enough to sit comfortably forward in the carrier you have for them with their head fully clear of the top of the carrier.  This differs from baby to baby and also carrier to carrier as some are bigger than others.  For the Ergo Omni this is typically somewhere around 4 to 5 months.  More info on how to tell if your baby is ready and the pros and cons of this position can be found here.

Here’s How to put them in:

Important things to note:

  • Check carrier is set up correctly for baby before you pick them up!  Both that the width setting is correct and that the siders or buttons are on the inward facing position (the narrower setting) before you pick baby up.  (If baby is already in the carrier, move the buttons or sliders to the forward facing position first, while baby is still inward facing before you swap baby to the front facing position)
  • Take your time getting the waist band in a comfortable position for you and snug.  Carrying your baby facing outwards puts more strain on your back than carrying them inward facing, so tiny differences in how well the carrier is fitted to your body will make a lot of difference to your overall comfort.  More so than inward facing.
  • When putting baby in, pause to get them in a comfortable sitting position before bringing the carrier panel up… so their weight will be on their bottom rather than sitting straddling the carrier with their weight on their inner thighs.  This will ensure their comfort.
  • Once carrier is done up (either crossed or ruck sack as per your personal preference), tighten around baby so that carrier is tight enough that their weight doesn’t pull away from you strongly if you lean forward but baby is comfortable and not flattened against you.
While shown for the Ergo Omni 360, much of this this also applies for many other forward facing carriers too.
As ever, if you are finding your experiencing pain while carrying or at all worried about baby or worried that is doesn’t feel right – please do get in touch with your local sling consultant or sling library and they’ll be really happy to give you face to face support which can make all the difference.