Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Babywearing while pregnant, part 1: SSC & ring sling

breastfeedingcafecarnivalWelcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of the Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is another Wordless Wednesday! Let's see those babywearing photos! Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18-31!

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Here's a first installment of a new addition to my babywearing ebook: babywearing while pregnant!

It's a very unwordless Wordless Wednesday, but I'm totally down with that. I promise plenty of pictures, at least!

Babywearing During Pregnancy, Part 1

Today we'll look at how to use a soft structured carrier (SSC) (like an Ergo, Beco, or Boba) and then at how to use a ring sling (such as a Maya Wrap or Sakura Bloom).

In the next installment(s?), we'll look at woven wraps and mei tais, which can be even more versatile during pregnancy. Those tutorials would be up today, too, but I got behind in my photo editing, because we've had (lovely) nonstop visitors lately! C'est la summer. (That's French for "People visit Seattle during the only two sunny months.")

Babywearing During Pregnancy, How and Why

In case you weren't sure, it is totally possible to be safe and comfortable babywearing a little one while expecting the next little one. This is particularly beneficial when your babies are spaced closely together so the older sib still needs lots of carrying and on-the-go cuddles, but your arms, hips, and back could use some help.

Your best bet is a back or hip carry, and I'll get to demonstrate both today. The advantages of either are (a) that your tender and expanding tummy is left undisturbed and (b) that the weight of your growing older tot is either spread evenly across your strong back and shoulder muscles or resting on your (childbearing) hip in a very natural and supported position. This can help you babywear older babies and for longer periods, even while pregnant. Another plus to a back carry is counterbalancing the weight you're building up front.

If you're interested in breastfeeding while babywearing during pregnancy (you multi-tasker, you!), a hip carry will work best, though there's also nothing wrong with just plain old taking a break. (My book shows breastfeeding positions using all the carrier types, and I have an excerpted ring sling post here showing hip-style breastfeeding in action.)

Babywearing During Pregnancy, Safety First

A reminder: Nothing in this post is intended as medical advice. If you have any concerns about your pregnancy or the stability of your pregnant body, please consult a healthcare professional, such as your midwife, obstetrician, or chiropractor. I know it's possible to babywear while pregnant, but that doesn't mean you have to do it, or that it's advisable for all. For myself in this pregnancy, I've had a lot of hip, pelvic, and back issues that have kept me from carrying my three-year-old much at all. And that's fine if that's your situation, too — do what feels comfortable for you, and follow the advice of any medical professionals who know your particular circumstances. Stop or modify your babywearing if you feel pain or discomfort.

Keep your baby close enough to kiss!
Safety pointers: With any back carry, practice first over a low, soft surface and/or enlist a helper until you feel comfortable getting your child secure on your back (and off again). You can get your child on your back from a seated position on a sofa or from the trunk of a car. Reflective surfaces (mirrors, windows) are a big assist in making sure everything's looking right. Make sure your child is secure and airways are always clear. Babies' legs should be spread in a natural position against you, as if you had picked them up to carry, with hips sitting lower than the knees, the bum and thighs supported by the carrier fabric. Even expert babywearers have to adjust and sometimes start over if a carry's not working right — don't feel sheepish about trying again or trying a different type of carry.

Ok! Onward.

In these pictures, I'm 28 weeks pregnant (early into my third trimester, woot!) with my third child, and I'm demonstrating with my very willing and adorable second child, Alrik, who is a couple months over 3 years old. He weighs about 28 pounds and is a little over 3 feet tall. He was totally game to model. Get that boy a contract!

Back Carry in a Soft Structured Carrier During Pregnancy

You want to fasten the carrier with the flappy fabric part hanging down behind you, lining facing out for now. You have two options for buckling the waist belt: low on your hips below your belly, which can give a nice added belly support …

… or higher than your waist above your bump. Do what feels comfortable for you, and also (for practical reasons) what fits. I have one of the old-style Ergo baby carriers with a relatively short waist strap, so I can't currently do the hip dealio without the waist extender, which is … somewhere.

There are many ways to get a toddler onto your back. With my sturdy three-year-old, I'm going acro.


And presto. With younger children or ones who don't dig being swung around like a sack of potatoes (I assure you, Alrik lurves it), or if you don't feel comfortable risking shoulder dislocation (but why?), you can also do the thing where you hold them on your hip and then gradually scootch them under your arm and around to the back. Or, you can start seated and have a (standing) child climb onto your back that way, then stand.

Bend forward so your back is flat or flattish. With younger babies, the flatter the better (well, as much as you can fold in half with another baby taking up so much space in front, at any rate), and keep a supportive arm behind you as you get the carrier in place. (Remember, asking another adult to help is not cheating!) Older kidlets such as Alrik here can be coached to hold on.

Grab the top of the carrier (which is at the bottom currently — does that make sense?), and smooth the fabric up and over your little one's back.

Pull on the shoulder straps. Adjust the tightness as needed. Make sure the bum ends up nice and snug in the pocket that you're making.

Buckle your chest clip in front.

Ta-da! Make sure everything feels secure and that the fabric is high enough on your baby's back, and give a little test bounce to make sure your baby feels nicely attached to you. Since you're preggo, also make sure nothing's binding or squishing you, and that the weight feels evenly distributed across your back and shoulders.

By the way, that's not static electricity in Alrik's hair — that's how it always looks!

Getting Down From a Soft Structured Carrier During Pregnancy

Now to reverse the steps!

Undo the chest clip and slip off the shoulder straps, but leave on the waist clip (even if you don't have a waist anymore…). Keep a supportive arm under your child's bum or over your younger baby's back to keep your little one pressed to your back as you loosen the top of the carrier. Now you can once again scootch your little one into a hip carry, pulling one arm over, or …

Grab those little hands …

… and swing to the ground. Whee!

By the way, there's no point in shaming me for my shocking whiteness mid-summer. I'm so used to it by now. I have this scientific theory that my legs actually repel sunlight. It's the only explanation that makes sense.

Hip Carry in a Ring Sling During Pregnancy

A hip carry is a nice option for a quick ride. It might not be as supportive as a back carry, particularly for larger tots or longer carries, but it's a very poppable carry, making it a good choice for a little one who can't decide: up? down! up again? no, down.

I've got my WAHM-made ring sling off eBay here. Loop yours over one shoulder, with the rings at corsage height. You should have a little pocket of fabric in front — that's where your baby will eventually sit.

Loosen 'er up (that just sounded weird) by pulling the rings.

Pick up your behbeh …

… and heave to shoulder height.

Tuck those leetle feet and legs through the ring sling …

… then spread one continuous layer of fabric from the top of the back, over the bum, and down to the knees.

Tighten the rails of fabric at the rings — pull on several parts of the tail of the sling until you can feel each portion of the sling growing snug: behind your baby's back, under the bum, and under the knees. Note that your little one should be sitting with the bum quite low into the pouch of fabric, knees angled up higher and the fabric underneath and supporting the thighs. The back of the fabric can go as high as needed for back and neck support — higher for little and sleeping babies, lower for agile toddlers.

You'll see that during pregnancy, your baby will be sitting quite high, bum on your hip but leg above your belly for comfort. Adjust the positioning till it feels right for you.

Getting Down From a Ring Sling During Pregnancy

Loosen up the rings again, keeping a supportive arm under your little one's patootie. I am not a natural model, by the by. All the pictures of me loosening up the rings were that grimace-extra-chins face.

When the sling is loose enough, lift your baby up and out, or down and under.

And off to play!

More Random Cuteness

Of course Mikko had to get in on the photo shoot action.

Unsolicited hug — this boy is super snuggly, too.

I love these three sweet kids! Hug sandwich!

You can find The Natural Parent's Guide to Babywearing ebook at Amazon or as a PDF from my site. It contains many more picture tutorials for how to safely and comfortably wear your baby or toddler, as well as troubleshooting tips for special circumstances like pregnancy, babywearing multiples, breastfeeding while babywearing, and more!

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Suzanne said...

This looks like all really good information but I had to stop at the part of getting them on your back by their hands/wrists. That doesn't look safe & I've never seen it done/recommended that way. I always thought you held them by their sides under their armpits? Couldn't you pull something out of joint otherwise?

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