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:

https://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.)

Babywearing in Summer!

Sara and her son Ronan in their Wrapsody Water Wrap

Babywearing is hot in general, but how do you combat extreme heat when you have literally tied a little space heater to your chest? In Chicago we see highs in the 90s to low 100s, and humidity levels that make the rainforest seem like a desert. Combine that with a sweaty, needy, hotbox and… Wait! Where are you going?

Overheating can be very dangerous for babies, especially for infants under 6 months, who lack the ability to regulate their own temperatures. Use common sense and go back inside when baby seems to be overheating. Take breaks from the sun when you can and make sure both baby and you stay well hydrated. Don’t feed a baby, less than 6 months old, water without your doctor’s permission, and don’t add excess water to their formula, or any water to expressed breastmilk. Use sunscreen according to the directions, and according to your pediatrician’s recommendations, to prevent burns. Take your baby out of the carrier if it seems to be causing them to overheat.

Carrier choice:

  • Soft structured carriers (SSC) are usually fairly cool. Any heavier fabric SSC may be a little more uncomfortable than one with a lighter fabric or a breathable panel, but just because you have a heavier SSC doesn’t mean you can’t use it comfortably in the summer. Infant inserts, on the other hand, can cause overheating. Use caution with infant inserts and speak to one of our VBEs if you have a younger baby and an SSC in the summer. There are often tricks to remaining cool that we can help you with, depending on the brand of carrier
  • Asian inspired baby carriers, such as meh dais and onbuhimos, tend to remain nicely cool in the summer. The exception being where they are made out of a heavy fabric or cover most of the body (as in a traditional wide blanket podaegi).
  • Woven wraps – depending on the weave and fiber content, woven wraps can be a cool choice but also can be extremely suffocating. If you have a warmer wrap, try one layer carries and use shorter wraps so there is less excess fabric. If you have only long wraps, still aim for one layer carries that eat up some of the length, like a Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC) with the passes bunched.
  • Stretchy wraps – Most stretchy wraps are very warm and don’t breathe well. However, there are some brands that are thinner and more airy, such as the bamboo blend ones I’ve seen out there. So check with us on your stretchy if you have questions. You have to have all three layers of fabric over baby with any stretchy wrap so choosing the right stretchy for summer wearing is important.
  • Ring slings are your summer friend! By their nature, ring slings have only one layer of fabric, and it is often a very breathable one, like linen or cotton.

Planning on hitting the pool or beach this summer? There are some great carriers specifically made for water usage you can find! Although you can often use regular carriers in the water, they will become heavy and the colors may fade or bleed in water. Additionally, chlorine can damage the sewing on a carrier making it structurally unsafe. The most common types of pool carriers are mesh or solarweave ring slings and wraps but there are other types as well.

***For safety reasons, use caution in the water, and don’t attempt to actually swim or go in deep water with a child tied to you. Nor should you wear a baby on a boat or anywhere else a safety device is needed that babywearing would interfere with.*** 

Remaining Cool:

You don’t need a special carrier for warm summer wearing. There are a few tips for staying cool in the heat no matter what your carrier is:

  • Dress for the weather. Remember that your carrier is another layer. It’s fine to dress baby in just a onesie and diaper, or just a diaper, when you’ll have another layer over them (watch for sun exposure though).
  • Dress yourself for the weather. Wear moisture wicking clothing and make sure you and baby aren’t skin to skin. When your skin meets you both get hotter. Wear a thin shirt with a higher neck to keep you both from sweating.
  • Dribble water on their heads, arms, legs, and any other part sticking out. Some people I know carry around a spray bottle to add a little mist, but letting a few drops drip from your water bottle works as well.
  • Cooling towels! These became popular a couple years ago and really hit the babywearing community last summer. You can find them in big box stores and online. Some name brands are Frogg Toggs and EnduraCool but you can find generic brands at the dollar store even! They are similar to a chamois – you get them wet, and the evaporation technology keeps them cool for hours (or even days!!). Lay them over baby’s legs, dab baby’s cheeks, and the back of baby’s neck. We just got back from the desert, and this is what helped the best to keep baby from overheating. Do not put the cooling towel between you and baby though. They work by evaporation and if the towel is between you two then it can’t evaporate so it will not work.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible. The sun is hot and it’s not great for the skin anyway. Keep baby in a hat to block the sun and put a light, breathable blanket over baby (but not over their face!)
  • Since sunscreen isn’t recommended in large amounts for infants under 6 months of age, try to keep younger babies in the shade as much as possible. This is easier said than done, especially if you have an older child to chase after. There are a few companies that make carrier covers that are 100% UVA/UVB. Monkey Pocket and Rain or Shine Kids makes them, and you can sometimes find old Peekaru ones that were discontinued. Bjorn makes a UVA/UVB cover that fits over their carriers too. Outfits that have sun protection are also recommended; rash guards and UV blocking clothing are fairly easy to find these days but we can help you search if need be! A light blanket as stated above can help too.

*A note about sunscreen: Sunscreen is going to be a necessity on any day for a baby older than 6m (and even under 6m according to the AAP), but it can stain your carriers. Follow the general guidelines for using sunscreen by applying 15 minutes before going out. That should be enough time to protect your carrier.

Shameless plug: Don’t forget about your local lending library! If you need to borrow a carrier for a vacation or want to use something lighter in the summer without actually buying a new carrier – check one out from the group! You can borrow one carrier a month for $30/year.

Happy wearing, and stay cool!