Soft Structured Carrier Sizing

Purchasing a carrier is a huge investment and there are many things to take into consideration. Soft Structured Carriers (SSC) offer convenience, support and are easily accessible. Many SSC brands offer different sizes, some offer Infant, while most offer Standard and Toddler, which provide appropriate sized panel width and height.

Sizing is incredibly important with SSC’s, a carrier that is too large for the child can over-extend baby’s knees, not allowing for the “M” position. (knees above bum and carrier only going to the back of the knee) Hyper extending a child’s knees in a carrier that is too large can be incredibly painful for the child, as their weight is resting on their legs instead of their bottom.

Often we are asked “what is the best SSC”, or “I was told I NEED a such and such SSC carrier” SSC’s fit different body styles differently, what one person finds comfortable, another may not. There is a large number of SSC brands and we highly recommend trying on several carriers to see which is the most comfortable for you. There are several stores where you can try on carriers, or you can attend one of our ten monthly meetings. We would be happy to help you find a soft structured carrier that fit both individual carrying and the individual being carried appropriately.
Below we have placed a large toddler in each different soft structured carrier. The toddler’s stats are 31lbs, 38” and wears 4T clothing comfortably, she has both a long torso and long legs.

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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.

City Slingers

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.

BWIC old

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

Update: Since this post, both Babywearing South Chicago and Dupage Slingers have joined Babywearing International. So, they are now known as Babywearing International of South Chicagoland and Babywearing International of Dupage County.

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!

March Madness and Carrier Giveaways!

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Following in the footsteps of our ancestors

One of my favorite aspects of babywearing is the connection I feel to my ancestors. I know that my ancient mothers must have worn their babies as it’s such a logical way to deal with that fact that there is much to do and babies like to be held. I just have to load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, spend 20 minutes cooking dinner, throw a load of laundry in the washer and vacuum. I can only imagine what our foremothers had to do without the modern conveniences.

We all know that the Asians wear their babies.

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Photo: Little Seouls Boutique

We know that Central and South Americans wear their babies.

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Photo: Corbis image

We know that Africans wear their babies.

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Photo: Corbis images

THOSE people wear their babies.

But, believe it or not, people from the Northern Hemisphere have a tradition of wearing their babies.

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On a favorite blog about cleaning up clutter, I found a link to Celtic Babywearing. A woman from England captures old images of Europeans wearing their babies. And some are very interesting.

And interesting enough, I found a link to Welsh shawls, which are wool and used to wear babies. Here’s a link to a Welsh shop: The Great English Outdoors. It is very tempting to try one because I bet it also doubles as a cozy blanket for the couch.

I also thought it was neat that she had a link to her local babywearing group in England: White Rose Babywearers.

Enjoy exploring her blog. On her blog I also found a link to a blog post about the cultural history of babywearing.

My mother, grandmothers and apparently great-grandmothers did not wear their babies.  But it’s quite possible that going back a few more generations and there were probably babywearing mamas. What about your family? What’d you think of the Celtic Baby blog?

Babywearing while traveling

My toddler just took his ninth flight on an airplane, which means ultimately, that I’ve been on nine flights with him.
And babywearing has been fabulous during traveling. As a little baby, I wore him in a mei tai through the airport. As a toddler, I wore him in a different mei tai, one with padding, through the airport. Each time it has worked fabulously. When he was a baby and slept most of the time we were in transit, I didn’t need a stroller. Now that he’s a toddler, I take a little umbrella stroller to help carry the carry-on luggage or him if he gets too heavy to wear. But I would not trade my carrier for a stroller ever if I were forced to choose. Because I’ve used all-cloth carriers, I do not have take my son out of the carrier when going through security. Wearing him through security frees my hands to take care of unloading everything under the sun onto the security belt. And while I’m wearing my toddler, he cannot escape or be stolen, which helps me to focus on the security process of separting liquids and electronics from our other stuff while also taking off our shoes, collapsing the stroller and removing anything that could be metal from our bodies.
I also love wearing my son onto the airplane because of the tight aisles we must squeeze through. With him on my back, instead of being carried on my hip, we make it much through more comfortably.
And did I mention the calming effect babywearing has even on a toddler. He is much less likely to put up a fuss or get cranky while being worn than while not being worn.
My personal favorites:
Tiny babies — a pouch (like a Hotsling or Slingling)
Heavier babies and toddlers — a padded mei tai like a Bamberoo or Kindercarry.

What I would avoid:
Any carrier with metal or buckles, because you will have to remove it while going through security.
Wraps because I, personally, like having an easy, quick, in-and-out carrier for the just in case times — especially, now that my son is potty learning.

Happy travels.

How I learned about babywearing

When I was a mom-to-be four years ago and pregnant with my son Jensen, lots of women had advice and stories about caring for babies and raising children. People talked about sleep training, how breastfeeding didn’t work out, encouraged me to “take the epidural!” and how life would never be the same.

One seasoned mom handed me a stack of books, which included Attachment Parenting by Dr. Sears. It’s a small book and as I read it, the concepts made sense in a way I couldn’t explain. So I set out to be an attached parent.

Breastfeeding — Check
Bedding close to baby — Check
Belief in Value of Baby’s Cry — Check
Beware of Baby Trainers — Check (I prepared my arguments against it.)
Birth Bonding — Check (I hoped)
Babywearing — Um, let’s go to Babys R Us

When I was pregnant with Jensen, Baby Bjorn was all the rage. All the cool people were wearing them. I wanted to be cool. But $80 plus seemed like a lot of money at that time. In retrospect, it was good I couldn’t afford it. I learned later that there are so many different types of carriers that are more comfortable and better for the baby’s spine.

One Sunday, we were visiting our friends in Madison and after enjoying breakfast at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner, we walked to Happy Bambino. I went there with the intent of buying a Kangaroo Korner fleece pouch. I found a pretty yellow one, and put Jensen in it (he was a little more than one month old). He HATED it and cried until I took him out. So I tried a Maya Wrap ring sling. We both loved it!

Babywearing — Check! I completed the Attachment Parenting checklist!

Me and Jensen

After working all day at my job, I cooked dinner, did laundry, vacuumed and picked up clutter. Jensen sat on my hip, strapped to me with the Maya Wrap. He was peaceful and content. He didn’t want to be anywhere else and it felt nice to be close. My nanny wore him a few times, though the Maya Wrap didn’t seem to fit her perfectly. Now as an experienced mom who better understand the benefit of babywearing, I would have bought her a carrier that worked for her.

Anna was born in March 2008, and after her birth, I expanded my babywearing repertoire as I discovered local stores that sell carriers and our babywearing group. I’ve used a Moby Wrap, Catbird Baby Mei Tai and found the Ergo love. Both the mei tai and the Ergo give me the ability to have both hands available and wear her on my back. I love being able to keep her happy and get housework done! The mei tai is handy and I can easily tie her on. The Ergo is the most comfortable carrier if I’m going to wear Anna for more than an hour.

I’m happy to say that I still satisfy the requirements of Dr. Sear’s Attachment Parenting checklist:

Breastfeeding — Check
Bedding close to baby — Check
Belief in Value of Baby’s Cry — Check
Beware of Baby Trainers — Check
Birth Bonding — Check
Babywearing — Check

I look forward to seeing where my babywearing journey goes and exploring wraps.