A huge thank you to everyone who came out to our April meetings! They were wonderfully busy and a special thanks to Hai who stopped by just to hang out and stayed to help. ❤ This month we’re diving into questions about wraps and narrow-based harness carriers, facing out and what to do when your baby seems to hate being worn.
We had a lot of questions about wearing newborns in wraps, namely which kind of wrap (woven or stretchy) is the best. It can be a difficult one to answer because each has pros and cons:
- Poppable: once you have it tied on you don’t have to untie it to get baby in or out of it– or repositioned (e.g. for nursing) which is very convenient when running errands, tie it on at home and leave it on.
- Forgiving: the stretch of a stretchy wrap means that there is more leeway with regards to tensioning the fabric and it is less likely to cause pressure points.
- Limited lifespan: once a baby is able to push away, arch, or reach out– or gets to a certain weight the carrier just isn’t going to be supportive enough for safe comfortable wearing. Plus, the fabric itself wears out and gets saggy (rather than stretchy) fairly quickly with normal use and washing.
- So much fabric: the majority of stretchy wraps are a one-size-fits-most length of around 19ft of material. This can be a pain while wrapping especially if you are petite and all that knitted material gets super warm in warm, humid weather. Come August in Iowa and you (and baby) have a high chance of swamp ass in a stretchy wrap.
- Supportive: whatever type of carry you want to achieve a woven wrap will be very supportive when properly tensioned and tied, whether hip, front, or back carries which will last you far beyond the newborn stage.
- Materials: woven wraps come in a wide variety of thicknesses (base on weave), fibers (silk, bamboo, Tencel, wool, etc.) which can be selected based on the weather to keep you and baby more comfortable.
- Sized: not all carries require meters and meters of fabric to achieve, woven wraps often come sized so you get as much fabric as you need for your body type and the carry you want to do.
- Not poppable: not only can you not get baby out without untying the wrap, you have to balance baby while you tie it on. This can be very tricky for front carries with a floppy newborn on your shoulder, unless you are naturally good at backbends.
- Learning curve: because the material doesn’t stretch, it won’t hug you and your baby’s curves, it will either dig in or sag unless you get the tensioning just right. Goldilocks style. (check out the video below for some tips)
- Purchasing: buying a wrap can be a bit nerve-wracking. They tend to be more expensive and harder to find than stretchy wraps, especially if you are used to buying baby gear at a big-box store. There are a lot of terms to learn and understand, as well as navigating around (or through, you do you) the world of the High End babywearer.
When Baby Hates Babywearing
What to do if you really want or need to babywear but every. single. time. you try your baby starts flipping out? You’ve check limb and clothes and there doesn’t seem to be anything causing pain or discomfort. Even more annoying: maybe your partner wears them and they have no problem. Whaaaaat is going on?
Are you breastfeeding?
Chances are if you are nursing AND your baby flips out whenever you try to wear them on your front its because they expect milkies and it is not forthcoming. They’re confused and frustrated. What to do? Change their expectations.
- Make sure they’ve nursed (no chance they are hungry or dehydrated) and then put them in the carrier and go do something novel (go for a walk or keep chipping away at their college fund via Target).
It may take a week or two but with regular exposure to the concept that being in the carrier = comfort but not necessarily milkies will help them enjoy it. Alternatively, the carrier may not smell right, especially if its new. To get the carrier to smell like you, try washing it with the same detergent used on baby’s clothes (if safe) and keeping on your body even when baby isn’t in it, or sleep with it.
When all else fails, and trust us, this pains us as babywearing nerds, try putting your baby down. It’s unusual but sometimes babies want a bit of “distal parenting”, typically associated with conventional western parenting in which babies are physically separated from their caregiver but tend to spend more time facing, or looking at, their caregiver. This desire for space may be a personality trait or even a sensory issue, a baby who is very far-sighted might be able to see faces better at a distance, for example.
Crotch Danglers and Front Facing Out
A member had a question about what consituted a “crotch dangler” or “starfish carrier” at the last meeting. The technical term for this style of carrier is a narrow-base harness carrier. It’s a hybrid of soft and hard carriers, enveloping the body of the baby and separating it from the body of the caregiver but with the proximity of a soft carrier. Check out our page on types of carriers for more info. Some would use the terms “crotch dangler” or “starfish carrier” in hushed tones or give us a lecture on not shaming people who use those carriers. We find the terms, all of them, very descriptive and kind of funny– and no shame is intended. We used crotch danglers. We welcome anyone who uses them to our group. The more the merrier. But clearly, people want to learn about these carriers and the carry and we’re here to teach.
These narrow-based harness carriers are the black sheep of the babywearing world for a few reasons, some with more cause than others. The following is a short-ish list of reasons we aren’t fans of them, but before we get to that let me emphasize that the kind of use these carriers get in a given day are limited unless you’re some kind of masochist (again, you do you) but the amount of time a baby is going to spend in this kind of a carrier is not going to really amount to much– in other words, using them isn’t that big of a deal but it’s important to be aware that:
Crotch Dangler in general:
- Circulation: the arm and leg holes put pressure on femoral and humoral arteries in the baby, especially if they are sleeping and the wearer isn’t moving.
- Nursing: I once heard tale of a person who could breastfeed in a Bjorn but I couldn’t verify it. The harness blocks the chest of the wearer so it would be a feat to manage it. Think prehensile boobs.
- Thermoregulation: the polyester and foam of most harness carriers does not breath and happens to be surrounding the baby’s torso, blocking them from the wearer’s cooling sweat. Infants can easily overheat or develop a heat rash in this kind of carrier.
Forward Facing in particular:
- Impeded Breathing:
- Chin to chest: there is no head support in a front facing out position in a crotch dangler (tbh, it’s easier to type out), especially when worn by someone with breasts and a relatively flat stomach. The harness tips forward and an infant with less head control, or those who are sleeping, end up in a chin-to-chest position which can impede breathing if the wearer is not moving.
- Pressure on Diaphragm: while the majority of the baby’s weight is centered on their pelvic region, in forward facing the forward lean and dangling legs puts pressure on their diaphragm as they are shoved up against the harness forcing the infant to work harder to take full breaths.
- Risk from Falls– goes for forward facing in ANY carrier:
- Center of Gravity: the wearer’s normal center of gravity is approximately the center of their trunk, between belly button and sternum. Facing-in carries work to center the weight of the baby on that center of gravity and over the pelvis. Facing out carries, due to both the forward tilt of the harness and the pull of infant limbs away from the center of the wearer’s body throws off the center of gravity, which can lead to loss of balance, back or hip injuries, or just body aches for the wearer. This is worse for harness carriers that only have shoulder straps.
- Feild of Vision: infants have a C-curve to their spine. They want to curl forward and combined with the tendency for the harness to pitch forward the front forward facing position blocks the wearer’s field of vision more so than a facing-in carry even with the same carrier. … Which increases the risk of tripping or falling.
- Falls: If a fall were to happen in a facing-in position the wearer’s reflexes work with the infant’s reflexes, they curl into each other, the infant’s limbs around, or tucked into, the wearer. Facing out, the wearer’s and the baby’s limbs flail out, along with a forward pitched head, increases the risk for serious injury.
Notice that hip dysplasia wasn’t mentioned on the list of reasons to avoid starfish carriers. However, they will aggravate the condition if the child is born with it and it is not possible to wear an infant using a hip dysplasia brace in one. Check out our interview with Karen on the subject. A wide-base carrier is preferable for ergonomics and comfort.
Front forward facing is typically associated with crotch dangling, this concept that it is normal to see a baby stuck on the front of an adult, arms and legs dangling. But a crotch dangler isn’t required to crotch dangle. I have seen it done with wraps (stretchy and woven, think atomic wedgie with the former). However, due to consumer demand for forward facing “ergonomic” carriers, i.e. with a wide base, there are carriers, like the Ergo 360 that provide built-in modifications for facing baby out. This helps with a lot of the concerns associated with narrow-base harness carriers, however, the fall risks still stand.
Facing out is not a developmental phase.
With all these cons to facing out why do people still do it? Because a lot of people think that at a certain age their baby will need to face out. Facing out is not a developmental phase. It is just an option, albeit an option with a lot of drawbacks. But we get it: there are some curious babies out there. They want to see the world and don’t want to turn their heads to do it. What to do? We recommend hip or high back carries over facing out, and we’re not alone in this. Since the article was originally published in 2011, Ergo came out with their forward facing carriers and have peppered photos of forward facing throughout the article. (golf clap for Ergo, ladies and gentleman!)
And I know it looks like we’re picking on Ergo, and we kind of are, but it’s coming from a place of love. We love you Ergo, you provide quality, accessible carriers at a reasonable price point. And you own Tula, which thank gawd, the hype was getting to unbearable 90’s-Beanie-Baby levels before you stepped in. ANYWAY– a member brought in her Ergo 360 for some fine tuning. It was brand new, a bit crispy (a nail breaker to adjust), and it had a VELCRO waist. Velcro. Might as well set of firecrackers as attempt to remove that around a sleeping baby. Just getting it on snug enough was a huge hassle for four hands, let alone two. Have you used a velcro waistband Ergo before? How did you like it?
Our next meeting is going to be at the Iowa City Ped Mall, near the checkerboard, provided the weather holds out. And we are considering changing up our weekday meetings from Wednesdays to Tuesdays as Kelsey’s youngest is about to start preschool! Time flies.