I always tell everyone that my two favourite parenting tools (the ones I couldn't live without) are breastfeeding and babywearing. My son Xavier, who is now ten months old, has been carried in various carriers since his birth. This is the story of how my "stash" of baby carriers grew exponentially over the past year.
I have many carriers, but (as I tell my husband) I know I'll be able to resell all my carriers when we're done having babies. I see it as an investment... in our sanity! They really are invaluable parenting tools- even my husband agrees. He's actually become just as much of an advocate for baby carriers as I am. When people tell us we have such a happy, smiling baby, we credit babywearing. Babies are so much happier in our arms.
Of course, you don't need 15 carriers to carry your baby! I happen to like having a variety of tools in my arsenal, but I could definitely get by with just one or two carriers. Learning about the advantages and disadvantages of each type of carrier became a kind of pastime for me during my maternity leave. And I especially love being able to help other moms choose and use carriers, now that I've tried so many. I even took a two-day Babywearing Educator course so that I would feel even more comfortable helping other moms. Babywearing makes my life so much easier, and I know it can help others, too.
My First Contact with the "Babywearing World"
My first encounter with babywearing was more than four years ago. When the first of my friends had a baby, I accompanied her (and her newborn daughter) on a trip to Milkface to choose a carrier. She bought a stretchy wrap, but after looking at all the options, I secretly picked out an Ergobaby as my carrier of choice for my future baby.
I knew I would be a baby "wearer" just because it had always seemed more natural to me to hold a little baby in my arms rather than a big car seat or stroller. I always feel frustrated whenever I see new moms pushing strollers back and forth to try to calm a crying baby, or struggling to soothe a tiny baby fussing in a huge bucket car seat. Fast forward to my pregnancy. My mother, a certified Lactation Consultant who "wore" both me and my brother when we were babies, had been selling stretchy wraps through her business. She mentioned that she'd like to give me one as a shower gift, but I told her that wraps looked much too complicated and I didn't want that type of carrier. I already had my heart set on an Ergobaby and put the new Ergobaby Performance model on my baby shower wishlist. Luckily for me, a very kind and generous friend bought it for me. I thought I was all set!
I bought carrier #2 the day after giving birth. I bought it off Kijiji, with my iPhone, from my hospital bed. My natural, unmedicated birth with a midwife turned into a c-section... and so the day after Xavier's birth, sitting there in bed while my husband held our baby, it occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to wear the Ergobaby waist belt across my c-section scar. I needed another carrier!
I'm cheap... I mean, frugal; I love buying things used, so Kijiji was the place I turned to first. I didn't really know what other types of carriers existed besides buckle carriers like the Ergo and big, long stretchy wraps. I happened upon an ad for a pouch sling and thought that would be perfect: no waist band! I emailed the seller, who offered to deliver the sling to the hospital. (Another reason I love buying used! She actually showed up with a little plant as a baby gift, too!)
Pouch and Ring Slings
Little did I know that I wouldn't actually be doing any baby carrying for several weeks. It took me that long to recover from my surgery, and in any case, those first few weeks were spent sitting on the couch nursing and sleeping. My husband and my mom were the first to carry Xavier in a carrier. My husband put him in the Ergo when we ventured out for our first few walks. And my mom, who was a huge help those first few weeks (and still is!!), took a liking to the pouch sling and cooked and cleaned with my son in it. He fell asleep every time she put him in it, giving me a much-needed break. I thought the pouch sling was convenient, but hard to adjust around my baby. I went to Kijiji again and bought carrier #3, a soft cotton ring sling. So much easier to put on! And I loved that I didn't have to put down my baby to put it on; I could just slip it over both of us, then tighten. That's still, to me, one of the biggest advantages of ring slings.
Buckle Carriers and Mei Tais
As my baby got heavier, though, I started wishing I had a two-shouldered carrier. I could wear the Ergo at this point, but it felt huge around my son, and with all its buckles, it just wasn't the carrier I reached for when I wanted to snuggle my baby. Back to Kijiji I went, where I spotted carrier #4: a very inexpensive BabyHawk mei tai carrier. It was older, and well-loved, but still in great shape. I used my mei tai to put our son to sleep almost every night for the next three months.
When Xavier was two months old, my husband went back to work... in St. John's. (He travels a lot for his work, several weeks at a time.) We decided that since I was on maternity leave, I would travel with him, living out of a modest hotel room. My son and I have taken over a dozen flights back and forth to St. John's (and elsewhere) now. I can't imagine not having a carrier in the airport! And having a carrier also meant that I could put my son to sleep anywhere. (This is still useful when we go over to our friends' or parents' houses, too!) The other thing that I love most about traveling with my baby in the mai tei or the Ergo was that I could nurse easily and discreetly anywhere.
Getting Out and About
I started trying back carries with the mei tai while I was in that hotel room in St. John's with nothing else to do. There was a big mirror by the bed, so I could stand over the bed while practicing. Back carries were so comfortable! Both my son and I were happy with him in the mei tai on my back. I could get laundry done, go for a walk, have breakfast, all while he could look around, over my shoulder, or nap if he wanted to. I practiced back carries with my Ergo, too, until I was comfortable moving my baby around from front to back and back to front in both the mei tai and the Ergo. When we were out and about, I mostly used the Ergo, because the straps of the mei tai dragged on the ground. At home, I preferred the mei tai because of the comfort of cotton, and because there are so many different ways to tie it (one-shouldered, straps crossed, etc.).
My First Wrap
Since I didn't really have much to do at the hotel, I decided that I would finally try out the one carrier that I hadn't tried yet, the one that I thought looked so complicated: a wrap. I walked over to the nearest fabric store and picked out a fabric that didn't need to be hemmed. (It would actually have been less expensive to buy a ready-made baby wrap, but there weren't any babywearing stores within walking distance of my hotel!) When I tied on my stretchy wrap (after watching a few Youtube videos), I finally understood why people love wraps so much. My stretchy wrap (carrier #5) was, by far, the most comfortable carrier I had ever worn! I still didn't love that it took a minute or two to put on, but it was definitely worth it in snuggle-factor and weight distribution once it was on. If I didn't have any other carriers, I think I would just tie my wrap on in the morning and keep it on, popping baby in and out as needed.
Discovering the Ottawa Babywearing Group
With all the traveling I was doing, I started wishing I had a smaller, more portable version of my Ergo. I started researching and looking at other buckle carriers. When I saw the new Ergo Stowaway on sale, I bought carrier #6. (I keep the Stowaway in the car now, or toss it under the stroller on the rare occasions that I do lug it out.) During my research, I also read about the Beco Gemini, and how it was supposedly a better fit for smaller women, so I decided to look for a used one to try. I found one on Kijiji, and although I didn't end up liking it very much (and re-sold it), that purchase turned out to be well worth it if only because the seller turned out to be OBG admin Ariane! When I admitted that the Beco would be carrier #7, she told me she had more than 10 carriers! I wanted to run out to the car and tell my husband, "see, I'm not the only crazy one!" Then she told me about the Ottawa Babywearing Group on Facebook. I have to thank Ariane for introducing me to this great network of knowledgeable babywearers! And I also have Ariane to credit for really getting me interested in woven wraps: that evening, she answered the door wearing her toddler on her back in a beautiful wrap, tied in what I now know was probably a double hammock with saltwater finish. When I commented on the wrap and how I had always thought they looked too complicated, she told me about "shorties." Hmm. A shorter wrap? Now that idea I liked!
Finding the Woven Wrap Love
Through the OBG, I bought the least expensive wrap (carrier #8) that I could find... but it was much too long. I didn't like it at all. It wasn't very soft, and I still just found it to be too much fabric. But I remembered Ariane's suggestion, so I borrowed the shortest wrap that I could from the library (a size 2). I practiced with that wrap for two weeks, in front of the mirror. Finally, I found the woven wrap love! It was definitely more comfortable, AND more snuggly than any of my other carriers. It's hard to explain what makes a wrap different from other carriers. I love that I can wrap it around my baby while I hold him (no need to put him down). But best of all, when I wear him in a wrap (in a front carry, especially), I feel like we are snuggled in a blanket together! I bought my own size 2 wrap (carrier #9, for those keeping track!) shortly after returning the library's wrap.