International Babywearing Week 2014

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It is time again for International Babywearing Week, an annual week of events designed to raise awareness of the benefits of babywearing. This year’s theme is “Share the Adventure” and Babywearing International of Chicagoland has a whole week of adventures planned. Officially, International Babywearing Week goes from October 5-11, 2014 but we are starting the celebrations a day early, on October 4th. Here’s an overview of what we have planned. You can get more information in our Facebook group.

Saturday, Oct 4

When: 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
What: Schaumburg Babywearing Meeting
Where: Schaumburg Township Library, 130 S Roselle Rd, Schaumburg, IL 60193
Fee: None

When: 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
What: Northbrook Babywearing Meeting
Where: New Mother New Baby, 3115 Dundee Rd, Northbrook, IL 60062
Fee: None

Sunday, Oct 5

When: 10:00 am
What: Babywearing Photos with MSV Photography
Where: Graue Mill, 3800 York Rd, Oak Brook, IL 60523
Fee: $20 ($5 to photographer, $15 to BWI of Chicagoland) per family for 3 edited shots. If they would like a few more, they can discuss with her on an additional fee.

Monday, Oct 6

When: 1:00 pm
What: Infant Massage with Baby Benefits Chicago
Where: Sod Room, 1454 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605
Fee: none for babies under 6 months, $5 for babies 6 months to 1 year
“Infant massage can help your baby sleep better, decrease gas and create a stronger bond with your baby. Join Baby Benefits Chicago for an informational class on all the benefits that infant massage may have for you and baby and also learn some of the massage strokes for baby. Babies under 1 year of age with their parent or caregiver are welcome.”

When: 5:30 pm
What: Babywearing Photos with Hy Photography
Where: Paulus Park, 200 S. Rand Road, Lake Zurich, IL 60047
Fee: $25 cash ($15 to BWI of Chicagoland, $10 to Hilary) and they will get 3 edited photos (including one group photo)

Tuesday, Oct 7

When: 9:45am – 11:00 am (Start time of 9:45 will allow time to get the babies and toddlers ready, settled, and in carriers to start dance instruction at 10:00 am)
What: Babywearing Ballet
Where: Trilogy School of Performing Arts, 490 E. Route 22, Lake Zurich, IL 60047
Fee: $5 per adult (children free) and all will be donated to BWI of Chicagoland
“Come meet other moms, bond with your little one, and enjoy an invigorating low-impact workout. Ballet strengthens muscles, increases flexibility and enhances posture. Babywearing Ballet does all of this while also providing a unique and soothing bonding activity for mom and baby. This class is offered with a relaxed atmosphere, allowing babies and moms of any age and ability to thrive.”

When: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
What: Berwyn Babywearing Meeting
Where: Berwyn Public Library, 2701 Harlem Ave, Berwyn, IL 60402
Fee: None

Wednesday, Oct 8

When: 3:00 pm
What: Kanga Cardio Class
Where: Hip Circle Studio, 709 Washington St, Evanston, IL 60202
Fee: none
NOTE: Class is already full. See our Facebook group page if an opening becomes available.
“KangaCardio™ is a fun way to get fit after baby – wear your baby and get a workout in for both of you! We’ll cycle through a variety of workouts, dance-fitness, circuit training, and cardio-boxing, all while wearing your baby! Bring gym/fitness shoes and the carrier of your choosing. There is a limit of 10 for this class.”

Friday, Oct 10

When: All Day – Specific meetup times at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm for the group
What: Lincoln Park Zoo Adventure
Where: Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
Fee: None

Saturday, Oct 11

When: Late Afternoon / Early Evening
What: Babywearing Photos with Julie of This Little Piggy Photography
Where: Montrose Harbor, 601 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
Fee: $40 for 3 photographs plus group photo

When: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
What: Baby Carrier Sale
Where: Evanston, Illinois (see Facebook group for address)
“Babywearing International of Chicagoland has some gently used carriers to sell. Come see us, buy a carrier for less than retail price, and support us all at the same time! All money raised will be put right back into our group to fund new carriers for our library!”

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Exciting New Additions to the Lending Library!

We are pleased to announce some fun and exciting new additions to the lending library! These new carriers are the result of generous donations, giveaways, and discounts provided by some amazing companies!

The first carrier to highlight is a Size 5 Kokadi Hemp/Cotton Pirateland! A discount for this wrap was won in a contest held by Sweet Pea Boutique. Since we get a lot of requests for wraps of different blends, we are really excited about this new edition!

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Second, we received some amazing carriers from Onya Baby! One of them was donated and the other we were able to receive at a discounted price. These carriers can be used from birth through toddlerhood, and can even be used as a seat for your little one when you are out and about. The carriers we received are the Onya Baby NexStep and the Onya Baby Cruiser with infant insert. We are glad this amazing carrier will be able to reach more caregivers (we currently only have one for 7 monthly meetings). We also love that Onya Baby is a family owned company!

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The final carrier to highlight is an awesome Size 7 Swallowtail Dusk that was donated by Pavo Textiles. This is a highly sought after wrap that will make an amazing addition to the lending library. It is suitable from birth-toddlerhood and beyond! The one thing to note is that this wrap is very long, and while it is a great wrap, it is likely to be a bit long for some caregivers.

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Come to some meetings and enjoy playing with our new carriers!! And as always, let us know if there is a specific carrier you want to try so that we can make sure it will be at your meeting :)

New woven wrap from Cari Slings

We got a new addition to our lending library a couple of months back. It is a woven wrap by Cari Slings. They were generous enough to donate a wrap to our lending library for all of you to enjoy! The woven wrap is called Cardiidae Seaglass and it is 100% cotton. You can find out more information about them through their website and facebook page. Make sure to thank them for their generosity!

Thank you to our VBE Karen, for letting us use her son to try out the wrap, and thank you to our VBE Laura for modeling with him. They were so cute in their pictures that I couldn’t choose just one! If you click on the pictures it will open them up in a larger viewer for you.

 

Seasons of Change

The Early Days

As Colleen and I (Heather) retire and step down from BWI of Chicagoland, we’ve both been reflecting on what a phenomenal journey we’ve been on, from learning to use our first carriers, to learning to wear toddlers and preschoolers, to learning to spread the love, and meet so many new and veteran caregivers along the way.

I am forever grateful and appreciative of Colleen and Hyacynth (our other leader from Lake County, when I learned of the group).  I found them when I had a 2 year old and newborn.  Colleen and I both started using carriers around the same time (8 years ago, if you can believe that!!), but all I had experience with was my Baby Bjorn and an awesome ring sling.

Colleen learned about different carriers through our local La Leche League, before her first was even born!  She then found the local Lake County group through an online forum at thebabywearer.com .  Helping teach others was a calling for her.   When I met Colleen and Hyacynth, they were warm, welcoming leaders for the Lake County Babywearers, and had group gatherings I wanted to keep coming back to.  That was almost 6 years ago!  Colleen was my inspiration, and she pushed me beyond my comfort level.  “You want me to try this long piece of fabric?”  “Are you sure he’ll be ok on my back”  (remember I had only used a ring sling and Baby Bjorn before this…).  THANK YOU COLLEEN.

Back then, we were a small group, with around 30 attendees online (and maybe 10-15 adults total in person each month?).  It was a social group, and very much about wearing all the babies!  There weren’t nearly as many carriers or brands of carriers out on the market.  I will always think fondly of my early days learning from so many women I consider great friends to this day.

There has been SO MUCH growth and it is really exciting to see how many parents and caregivers are embracing different types of carriers and holding their babies close.  There has also been an explosion of education along the way, and an explosion of options.  If you’d like to learn more about our history along the way, this post has a lot of great information:

http://bwichicagoland.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/10-years-old-2000-strong/

FAST FORWARD

We’ve both grown as educators, parents, and friends.  The organizations have had tremendous growth as well over the last number of years.  But now, our kids are growing up, our lives and passions as parents have changed focus.  It’s time for us to find some new adventures!

REFLECTIONS

Almost 2 years ago I won an educator award from BWI.  When I look back at the bio, I’m reminded of the passion to help others, and the empathy needed to help caregivers effectively.  I was asked to put together a BIO for the award page.  I think about these two quotes often:

“I love sharing what I’ve learned, and want and help others see how this great tool can help make parenting so much easier.  I wish I’d have found our group earlier in our lives as parents.  I don’t think it’s important for an educator to know everything; I think it’s more important for an educator to know what resources to look for to help with a difficult situation.  I also think it’s important to listen to parents, and figure out what they’re REALLY asking, so we can meet their needs.  I love the look on a caregivers face when they find something they like, or their baby quiets down and falls asleep, or is content to look around.”

“It’s easy to forget that it’s NOT about the special fancy carrier, it’s about using some fabric to help them and their babies.  The parents are the real carriers, the fabric just helps them do that effectively.  That’s really the heart of our organization.  Thanks for letting me be a part of it.”

BEST WISHES

Sometimes caregivers will thank us, but we really need to be thanking all of you!  It was all of YOU that kept us coming back meeting after meeting, month after month, and wanting to spread out more, and stretch ourselves as a group.  To meet more of you, and share what we’ve learned about wearing our babies close.  The years have flown by.

This volunteering journey and the people we’ve met have changed our lives, so thank you for that as well!

You ALL drive this group.  You help each other socially, through questions, and support on the off topic facebook chat group.  You help each other learn about carriers, carries, and support each other in the local BWI group, at meetings, and playdates.  The group will continue to thrive because of ALL OF YOU.  If you see a post that you can contribute to?  Share what you’ve learned with others.  That’s how all of our past and present leaders learned along the way.

We love how the current and future leadership team has such passion, excitement, and “fresh eyes” to share babywearing. Their ambition and passion will serve the Chicagoland chapter well, and I’m sure they will make great, positive changes in the future.  I’m looking forward to hearing about the things they accomplish that took a back seat during our tremendous growth.  They have drive and ambition, and they will make great improvements and changes for the group!

Hold those babies close.  They grow up WAY TOO FAST!  One day (believe it or not) they’ll get too big to want to be worn.  This weekend, we hope you all get a chance to use whatever carries at your disposal to enjoy time with family and friends!  Happy Independence Day!

(Here are some photos of us along the way.)

Changes to the Mundelein and Gurnee Meetings

Babywearing International of Chicagoland is undergoing a lot of changes right now. As we posted recently, McHenry county is now being served by Babywearing International of North Central Illinois. Some of those changes include losing some of our new and current leaders to focus on other counties in the area, as well as leadership changes within our group. We will be making some summertime changes that affect the Gurnee and Mundelein meetings as a result of those changes.

Some of our lovely leaders are stepping down to focus more on their family (and we will really miss them!) but until we get more leaders up and running, we don’t have anyone able to run those meetings. We have some leaders in training that should be able to help lead meetings soon and we can get those meetings back up and running once that happens. If you are interested in joining our leadership team, send a message to any of our current leaders!

In the meantime, Grayslake evening meetings will still be going on every month and we welcome the Mundelein and Gurnee regulars to check out that meeting! Stay tuned to our Facebook group though, because we will hopefully still have one or two meetings in Mundelein and/or Gurnee over the summer, but when is still to be determined. If you need to swap out carriers and cannot make the Grayslake meeting, then please send a message to Sara Stephenson. She lives in Grayslake and can easily set up a time for you to come swap at her house.

Additionally, we encourage everyone to host their own babywearing playdates. You can host them wherever you want but we do suggest making it an enclosed playground (or your own backyard if you want!) so that kids don’t wander too much. With warm weather coming, choose a local park, and invite everyone to come play! People can bring their own carriers and you can play with each other’s carriers a bit, or you can just watch your kids play and have a little time to chat with some adults. If you want to schedule a babywearing playdate, then just send an email or Facebook PM to any of the admins and we can set up the event for you.

Types of Carriers

There are a lot of different types of carriers out there, and new ones are being created each day. If you are at one of our meetings, you will hear about the most common types of carriers: woven wraps, stretchy wraps, ring slings, mei tais, and soft structured carriers (SSCs). However, you may come across other types of carriers that you’ve never heard of, or seen. Most carriers fall into one of these categories:

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Amauti baby carrier coat

Rachel amauti

 

  • Babywearing Clothing: Throughout history, people from many cultures simply wrapped their clothing around themselves and their babies. The African Kanga, Japanese Obi, Welsh Shawl, and Mexican Rebozo are all examples. Many of these traditional clothing baby carriers are still available for retail. Some other types of babywearing clothing are hitting the market now too, kangaroo care shirts are an example of these. (Note. Not all traditional, cultural carriers are categorized as babywearing clothing. Cradle boards, for example, have their own category!)
    • Amauti Coat: (Amauti Baby) Traditional Inuit coat with a back carrier built in. Used with newborns and up. For use in winter or cold weather climates only. Beautiful, expensive, and custom made. These only do back carries.
    • Kangaroo Care Shirt (Nuroo, Vija Designs) A stretchy shirt with a built in baby carrier. Meant for kangaroo care with preemies and newborns. Holds baby similarly to a stretchy wrap. Not for older babies or toddlers
    • Rebozo: We see these sometimes at meetings. These are a traditional Mexican shawl that doubles a a hammock, baby carrier, backpack, or whatever is needed. A rectangle of woven fabric, when worn with a child this carrier is knotted over one shoulder to work as a sling. Some people purchase short woven wraps with the purpose of doing a Rebozo carry.
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Framed Hiking Backpack

 

  • Frame Backpacks: (Kelty, LittleLife, Deuter, Osprey) for the outdoorsy family, framed backpacks protect the baby from harm. They are comfortable for a day of hiking, and often sold at sporting goods stores. Use with older babies and toddlers. Interior frames (with the frame inside the material of the backpack) are becoming more popular than exterior frames. These tend to fit people with longer torsos better than people with shorter torsos.
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A Mei Tai being used in a front carry

  • Soft Unstructured / Asian Style Baby Carriers: A rectangle or square of fabric with ties that secure baby to you. These are unpadded and not structured traditionally, however western customization can make for more variations. Easily adjustable to different wearers. Mei Tai (pronounced “May Tie”) is popular, others include Hmong, Onbuhimo, Podaegi, Chunei, and Bei Bei.
    • Mei Tai: (Catbird Baby, BabyHawk, Kozy) an easy to use Chinese carrier for all different ages, comfortable for short or long term carries. An unpadded waist strap is a plus here, the bottom can be rolled up to make a smaller body size to fit a younger infant.
    • Podaegi: (FreeHand) A Korean carrier that is traditionally worn on the back. It is basically a blanket with a long strap over the top. The strap goes over the wearers shoulders and back under the baby’s bottom. It is used for newborns and up. Narrow blanket Pods have become more popular in the west because they tend to be airier.
    • Onbuhimo: (FreeHand) A Japanese carrier that is very similar to the Mei Tai, except, instead of  bottom straps it has two loops that the top straps are threaded through.
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An ergonomic SSC, KinderPack, being worn on the back

  • Soft Structured Carrier (SSC): Easy to use and position baby. Great for travel, can be used from birth until toddler depending on the carrier. Often padded for greater comfort. Usually uses buckles or snaps to secure baby safely. Easily adjusted between wearers.
    • Front pack: (Bjorn, Britax) A usually front only carrier that does not use an ergonomic seat. Better for short periods of wearing with smaller babies.
    • Structured Hip Carrier: (Scootababy, Mei Hip) A carrier for parents and babies who love hip carries. Structured with one shoulder strap. For babies 6mo+.  These can also be used on the front or back, but they do hip carries the best.
    • Ergonomic: (Ergo, Beco, Boba) A front/back carrier that hols baby in an ergonomic position. Best for older babies and toddlers, although can be used with younger infants with an insert). Comfortable for both baby and wearer, these can take the place of a framed backpack. Men tend to prefer these types of carriers because they work more like a backpack.
    • Half Buckle: A structured waist supports baby’s weight, and mei tai shoulder straps allow for easy adjustments
    • Reverse Half Buckle: Structured shoulder straps provide total comfort, while a tie waist allows you to place the waist wherever you want
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A traditional, open tail ring sling being used with a newborn

  • Sling: a piece of fabric that is looped around the body, usually over one shoulder. Strains shoulder if worn for extended periods of time
    • Pouch Sling: (Hotslings, Slinglings) A loop of fabric folded to create a pouch. Easy to use, but sized by the wearer, so they cannot be shared between caregivers unless everyone is the same size. Not great for newborns.
    • Adjustable Pouch: (Zolowear, Mama’s Milk) A pouch sling with some adjustability in length to help get the right fit. Not nearly as adjustable as a ring sling
    • Bag Style Pouch: (Premaxx, SlingRider) NEVER USE with babies – babies have died in this type of carrier, giving all carriers a bad name. These carriers are non-adjustable pouch slings with elastic edges and a deep pouch. They lay very low on the wearer’s body, certainly not keeping baby “close enough to kiss.” The deep pouch curls baby’s body into an unsafe position, and the elastic edges close over baby’s head to prevent fresh air from entering the carrier.
    • Ring Sling: (Maya Wrap, Sakura Bloom) Easily adjustable to different wearers, features a ring over the shoulder, which material is threaded through. Works well for newborns through toddlers. AKA traditional or open tail ring sling.
    • Close Tail Ring Sling (Hava, Sling EZee): Similar to an adjustable pouch, this is a ring sling with a strap to adjust instead of the rest of the fabric. Does not adjust evenly like an open tail ring sling, and can be tricky to use with a newborn because of that. Some (like Balboa Baby) have extra padding and elastic edges that can create more slack.
    • X-Sling (Cashmere Cuddles, Michiko Baby): These are not very common in the US. This carrier has a loop over each shoulder, and is sewn together in the middle. This makes an X on the wearer’s front and back. Baby is slipped in to the X for an easy two shoulder carry. Usually not adjustable.
    • Stretchy X-Sling: (K’tan, Blue Celery, Caboo) Like a X-sling, except that the material is stretchy. These can be used to hold one or two babies. Holds baby like a stretchy wrap without the tying. Great for newborns, generally too stretchy for older babies and toddlers. Most brands are not adjustable.
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A woven wrap back carry

  • Wrap/Wraparound: a long piece of fabric that is wrapped and tied around the wearers body. Baby is slipped into the fabric for a secure hold. Distributes weight evenly for long carrying. From birth until 40lb +. Easily adjusted for different wearers. Can carry two babies at once.
    • Stretchy: (Moby, Boba) A carrier made of a length of 4 way stretchy fabric. These ones are popular and easy to adjust, great for newborns. They tend not supportive enough for older babies and are hot in warm weather. Front and hip carries only.
    • Hybrid Stretchy: (Wrapsody) A stretchy wrap with 2 way stretch. Tends to be more supportive than a normal stretchy, and can do back carries. These can be slightly diggy though and require more precise wrapping.
    • Simple Piece of Cloth: Exactly what it sounds like, a sheet, blanket, shawl, or length of fabric wrapped around wearer. As long as you test the seams and body, then it is perfectly safe for baby.
    •  DIY Wraps: Pieces of fabric, often Jersey, Osnaburg, and cotton jacquard, that are cut and hemmed to a babywearing wrap size.
    • Woven: (Didymos, Storchenwiege) If you were going to have only one carrier, this would be it. Woven carriers are stronger than stretchy ones, meaning no need to adjust tying during the day. Can be used from a newborn to as long as you feel like wearing. These have a steeper learning curve than other common carriers but they are the most versatile. Woven wraps come in sizes for a variety of carries.
    • Mesh/Gauze Wraps: (Wrapsody, BabyEtte) Somewhat stretchy and cool for summer. Many prefer to use a lightweight woven wrap when it gets hot. The mesh ones are often used in water. Less supportive for heavier babies.
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A wrap conversion SSC in a front carry

  • Wrap Conversions: (Didy Tai, Two Mommas Designs) These aren’t really a different type of carrier. Wrap conversions just use woven wraps as the fabric to make other carriers. Most commonly you will see unstructured carriers, soft structured carriers, and ring slings made as wrap conversions. Since these are usually custom made, wrap conversions often have many options for additional padding, different sizing, and different strap styles.

10 Years Old – 2,000 Members Strong!

Happy 10th Birthday to us! We’ve grown to 2,000 members strong on our Facebook group!!!

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To celebrate we want to give you a little history of babywearing in Chicago. Pay attention because there will be a quiz! (kidding!) People have been babywearing in various ways for centuries, but it is unusual to see carriers in modern western culture. Strollers came into fashion and babywearing went out. Now we are seeing a rise in babywearing love, and it is fantastic!

Many, many years ago, not long after the invention of the Ergo, a group of plucky mothers decided to defy the norms of their time. The Midwest was a peaceful place of good manners, fried food and strollers. Caregivers of all kinds lived happily. It was a simpler time. Giant Graco strollers fought for room amongst a sea of running toddlers. If you needed to carry your baby, by God, you used your arms. Young children were tied to a line and marched from place to place. That is, until these fearless women paraded in with their spit up covered peasant tops, and against all odds, fought for the right to #wearallthebabies.

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A City Slingers Meeting, 2007

Ok, it probably wasn’t that dramatic. There were baby carriers commonly in use in 2004 – pouch/bag slings, front packs, and framed hiking carriers probably being the most popular. You just didn’t see them much. The women mentioned above started the City Slingers back in 2004, and their group was small. They spread the love though! They got the word out and the message grew.

By 2007, peasant tops were out of style, but babywearing was in! Lake County Babywearers was born as more Northsiders wanted to experience meetings but did not want to have to drive into the city for them.

2008 was a big year for the City Slingers – they organized themselves, trained their leaders and joined Babywearing International! Now with liability insurance, Babywearing International of Chicago became the first area BWI group and one of the first BWI chapters.

Within a few years, both Lake County Babywearers and BWI Chicago were overloaded with requests all over the near Northside for meetings. The two groups had friendly leaders and an awesome idea. Why not merge (they were so close together after all) and have more leaders, a larger library, and the ability to serve more people. In 2011, BWI of Chicago and Lake County Babywearers merged and adopted the name name to BWI of Chicagoland.

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Though the Northside was taken care of, the Southside suffered. They wanted to wear, too! But to wander into Cubs territory? No way! Think of the children! It’s a long hike from the far south suburbs to the Northside for a meeting, so Babywearing South Chicago and Kankakee Area Babywearers were both born in 2012. It’s pretty incredible; they both have several hundred members now in just two years!

Babywearing everywhere was growing by leaps and bounds. Where Babywearing International had only a dozen or so chapters a few years ago, they were quickly gaining to almost 50! Non-affiliated groups were popping up everywhere too. BWI of Chicagoland was now so large that it encompassed the city, north suburbs to WI, and they wanted to move west as well. It was a huge area and difficult for the leaders (who were spread out themselves), to accommodate so many eager people. A few of the leaders broke off in 2013 to form Babywearing International of North Central Illinois to meet the growing needs of the area. It just didn’t make sense to try to cover such a huge area with only one group. North Central Illinois was able to pick up where the Chicago group left off and expand further to support more people.

In May 2013, Babywearing International of Chicagoland had 845 members, a large amount that had quickly grown. Now, exactly one year later we are 2,000 members strong! Babywearing took off in this city in the past year, and we are in the process of training more leaders and adding more locations to accommodate our growing group. We couldn’t be happier with how fast and the group has grown – it’s more than doubled in just one year!

Babywearing South Chicago is looking into becoming BWI affiliated as well, so soon we may have 3 BWI groups and 2 non-afilliated groups in the area! Altogether, we are serving more than 3,000 families! Keep spreading the babywearing love!

Wondering which of the five Chicagoland babywearing groups is closest to you? Take a look at the map: http://tinyurl.com/illinoisbabywearing

Babywearing International of Chicagoland – Cook & Lake County

Babywearing South Chicago – Will, S Cook (below I-55), Lake IN, & Porter IN counties

Babywearing International of North Central IL – McHenry, Boone, Kendall, Kane, Winnebago, DeKalb counties

Dupage Slingers – DuPage County

Kankakee Area Babywearers – Kankakee County