March was finally, mercifully, plague-free for the Iowa City Babywearers and we were able to host both of our monthly meetings. We have lots to cover, so let’s jump right in!
The Beco Butterfly 2 is an SSC that included an inner harness which could be adjusted to boost shorter infants into position and provide a narrower seat within the carrier, basically a built-in infant insert. The inner harness (the “butterfly”) isn’t optional and was designed to lay flat against the body of the wearer. Infants worn in the carrier need to be in the harness to access the shaped seat portion of the carrier which clips to the shoulder straps (check out the video below). The idea was that parents would feel more secure having their child locked into the carrier, especially for transitioning to a back carry, check out this video for a demonstration. However, this harness could be a problem for a few reasons, including for parents who want to nurse in the carrier, parents who want to babywear skin-to-skin, and for infants who just didn’t like being sandwiched between the layers.
One of our lovely guests included a newborn baby who was in the hate-being-in-the-harness camp. We tried a few things, including putting the baby on top of the harness layer (against mom’s body) and just loosening the carrier so that it would fit around him, which made the seat panel very baggy. This was successful in making baby happier but unlikely to be a long-term solution in that carrier because the harness wasn’t designed to accommodate baby’s body. So we put the harness into the toddler size position, got out a handy burp cloth, folded into a firm cushion to act as an infant insert which boosted the baby into position, creating a narrower seat. There was still a layer of fabric between mum and baby but the LO seemed much more comfortable.
NOTE: Some models of the Beco Butterfly 2 were recalled in 2008. Please check this bulletin if you are using an older or hand-me-down carrier.
You don’t need to have babywearing questions to attend our meetings. This isn’t an invite to random internet creepers, rather, if you’ve attended a meeting in the past or are just curious about babywearing but don’t have kids– or are just a parent/caregiver looking for a supportive, kid-friendly place to hang out– you’re very welcome at our meetings. ICBW does not promote a particular parenting philosophy, we just think baby carriers are nifty and useful.
We are not affiliated with Babywearing International (BWI). Why? Iowa City Babywearers was formed before BWI and our mission was different from BWI’s, so it never really made sense to become a BWI chapter. Iowa City Babywearers is an independent babywearing group– not affiliated with any other group or brand. Which means we get to bring you information like the following:
Development vs. Fit
At our last meeting, we got a question via our live stream regarding when a baby can be carried in an SSC in a back carry. The common soundbite is “No back carries in an SSC until the baby is sitting independently.” There is nothing wrong with this advice, unless you really want to do a back carry and your baby isn’t sitting up independently, or if you aren’t sure what “sitting independently” means. What if your baby sits really well… until they tip over? What if your baby sits almost rigidly until they melt in your arms? What if your baby is actually approaching toddlerhood but has low tone? What if your baby is sitting independently but still is too small to sit in the SSC without a newborn modification?
In order to answer all of these questions, we need to break down what is behind the “No back carries in an SSC until a baby is sitting independently” rule. At its core, it’s about the fit of the carrier. Older styles of newborn inserts involved a pillow base with a duvet-like swaddle. The base boosted baby up in the carrier and provide a narrower seat; while the swaddle was there just as some sadistic gag… and to create a narrower body of the carrier. These additions would have been impossible to manage safely in a back carry (okay, maybe not impossible, but certainly more difficult than a brands’ legal team were comfortable with). And so, the baby needed to be big enough to fit the carrier without any inserts, which is generally around the time babies are learning to sit by themselves.
By boosting newborns up in the carrier, infant inserts put baby’s shoulders in line with the lower shoulder strap connection to the body of the carrier. This allows infants to be supported, snuggly against the body of the wearer so they can not slump which would risk compromised breathing. This fit in an SSC is far more important than the developmental milestones of the infant, front or back carry. It is also important to point out anatomical differences in the wearer will affect the fit of the carrier between front and back carries. Nearly all adults, regardless of body type or weight will have a hollow in their lower back, whereas most of us have either a flat or rounded out front (boobs or belleh or both). Once on the back, infants who fit the carrier in the front carry without modification might not fit in the back because there are no boobs or belly to take up the extra space. Again, this is more fit than infant development.
Whether baby is an independent sitter or not, if they aren’t fitting the carrier in a back carry, don’t do it. And if your not-yet-independent-sitter does fit the carrier (and you are comfortable with back carries) then try it.
Bonus fact: movement stimulates an infants breathing. Perhaps you’ve noticed infants in other cultures in back carries with no concern paid to neck support. In the U.S., people would panic about the baby’s airway being blocked by allowing baby’s head to flop too far forward or back. And, if you are among the panicked, you’re not wrong. Infants have very small windpipes, heavy heads, and very large tongues. Positional asphyxiation is a serious concern— if the baby is kept still, like in a car seat. But if a baby is in a state of constant jostling, such as on the body of a moving caregiver, they are constantly having breathing triggered and their body repositioned. Our culture’s insistence on head support, to the point of not letting a baby’s head move at all, makes positional asphyxiation more of a threat.
Babywearing with a Fever
Another great question from our live stream audience: Can I wear my baby if they have a fever? To this, we answer with an emphatic yes! Very young infants cannot thermoregulate as efficiently as adults. Babywearing, especially skin to skin, is not only analgesic (pain reducing) but thermoregulating for infants. This goes for when it’s hot outside too: your sweat will provide the same evaporative cooling effect for them as it does for you, provided you are using natural fibers or special wicking fibers in the carrier. By keeping your baby close when they have a fever helps you monitor them if they take a turn for the worse, the proximity will facilitate more frequent nursing (if you are nursing) and they might be able to sleep easier in an upright position in a carrier (especially with that skin to skin pain reduction) if they are congested. Bonus for those who are breastfeeding: whatever is ailing your baby (virus or bacteria) will get on you and, provided you are healthy, help you create antibodies for yourself and your little one (remember, newborns immune systems are not as capable of creating antibodies themselves, they get antibodies from the placenta during gestation and breastmilk after).
Kelsey’s advice on sizing up SSC’s
We had a query as to what size of carrier to get for children of differing ages. We discussed the merits of toddler carriers vs standard carriers. In our experience of wearing we tend to err towards the side of sticking with the standard even for an older child. Most standard carriers fit up to 35-45 lbs and knee-to-knee is not a concern once they reach toddlerhood. What is a concern, however, is transitioning a too small child into a too large carrier. Stretching their legs too far can cause pain and stress. You can easily fit the majority of 3-4-year-olds in a standard carrier for your regular wearing and really only need to invest in a toddler size if you intend on hiking or have a special needs child.
Donating to ICBW
If you have carriers that you would like to donate to ICBW for use in our lending library, we’d love to hear from you. We also accept carriers on-loan, for example, if you aren’t babywearing currently but intend to start again in a year or two, you can loan your carriers to our lending library. In this situation, borrowers will make out the deposit check (at the amount you specify) to you when they check out your carrier. When you’re ready to take them back, just get in touch with us so we can recall them from borrowers and have them ready for you to pick up.
Other ways to support our group are financial donations through paypal, our patreon page, or just cash or check at a meeting. You can also support us by sharing our posts on social media, tagging @icbabywearers in your babywearing photos, and word-of-mouth.
Thanks again to everyone who made it out and joined in our live stream! We’re so excited that spring is here– Our April meetings will be at Iowa City Public Library and Coralville Public Library. Hopefully, the weather will warm up by May so we can host some outdoor meetings.