Tuesday, July 16, 2013

WEAR YOUR BABY!

When a baby is born, he* is not ‘spit’ out of an assembly line ready to be an independent little person; quite the opposite. He expects a continuum of the life he has been living for the past nine months. From the previous chapters we know he is fresh from a series of expectations and their fulfillments in the womb. The newborn is expectant, or more accurately, certain that his next requirements will also be met. Through tens of millions of generations, what happens is the momentous transfer from the entirely alive surrounding inside the mother’s body to a partly live one outside it. Though her all-giving body is there and her supporting arms as well, there is a great deal of lifeless, alien air touching the infant’s body. But he is ready for that too; his place in arms is the expected place, known to his inmost sense as his place, and what he experiences while he is in arms is acceptable to his continuum, fulfills his current needs and contributes correctly to his development. He cannot qualify his impression of how things are. Either they are right or not right.

(*For clarity sake alone, I will be referring to your baby as ‘he’ in this chapter and the mother as ‘she.’ This does not in any way infer that I prefer boy babies to girl babies. I love both equally!)

Requirements are strict at this early date. As we have seen, he cannot hope if he is uncomfortable now, that he will be comfortable later. He cannot reason that ‘mother will be right back’ when she leaves him [especially if she doesn’t answer his cries which are his only means of communicating with the universe.] The world has suddenly gone wrong, conditions are intolerable. He hears and accepts his own weeping but although his mother knows the sound and its meaning since time immemorial, and so does any child or adult who hears it, he does not. He  senses only  that it is a positive action toward setting things right, but if he is left to cry too long, if the response it is meant to elicit does not come, that feeling departs as well, giving way to utter bleakness without time or hope.
When his mother does come to him, he simply feels right, he is not aware that she had been away, nor does he remember having cried. He is reconnected to his lifeline and his environment now meets his expectations. When he is abandoned, put out of his continuum or correct experience, nothing is acceptable and nothing accepted. Want is all there is, there is nothing to use, to grow on, to fulfill the requirement for experience, for the experiences must be the expected ones and nothing in his evolving ancestors’ experience has prepared him to be left alone, asleep or awake, and even less to be left alone to cry. The feeling appropriate to an infant in arms is his feeling or rightness, or essential goodness.
Mammals, yes we humans included, were made in two groups: one are carriers, the other nesters. Deer and bears are in the nester group. They have their babies, hide them in a nest or den, lick off any odor and go off for hours to forage. Their milk, surprisingly, contains very high levels of fat, much more than human milk, so their babies can last longer, often up to 7 hours between feedings. Not so humans. Our babies need to eat every 2 - 3 hours or so. We often make them wait, though they try to tell us otherwise: they fret, fuss, cry, and scream. And we ignore them, listening instead to books or doctors and others who think they know.
Humans are actually carriers. Babies need to be with us. They are more helpless than other mammals. Have you ever wondered why? The reason is that, yes, we are the most intelligent species, but our babies are born unprepared for survival. Since our brains are so advanced, they grow faster in the first year (in utero included) than the brains of any other species. If we waited another 3 or more months to deliver our babies, their heads would be too big to fit our frames. So Nature had a toss-up: make mother’s hips and pelvises even bigger (horrors!) or have babies born sooner than they are in reality ready for. They are not as mature as other little mammals and do need us constantly for a longer period. Taken one step further, consider our foremother, Lucy, first discovered in 1974 and who currently resides at the Ethiopian National Museum in Addis Ababa, whose babies had to be carried, and in constant contact with her, 24 hours a day, day and night, for at least 2 years or until they could walk. Had she put them down, they would have been mauled or eaten. And we would not be here today.
My premise is that we are bringing stone age babies into a space age world.** Their needs have not changed in tens of thousands of years.  Their needs have not magically evolved over millennia.
But we treat them as if they have.

We are the only mammals who have devised an alternative feeding method from what Nature intended. We are also the only mammals who dress our baby mammals as soon as possible after they are born. Nowhere else than in our Western society does anyone ask, ‘what will I feed my baby?’ or ‘where will he sleep?’ Why have we so de-valued our instincts? Are we so afraid of them? After birth we put clothes back on ourselves, cover up and remain like that for most of their first year. Babies know, and try to tell us, that their right is to stay “in arms” until they feel secure enough to venture off into the wider world. We CAN trust them. They are closer and more in tune with what Nature has arranged than we are, with all of our learning.

Studies have been done measuring mothers’ hormone levels after birth, and those who kept their babies very close or wore their babies actually experienced better levels of hormonal activity postpartum compared to mothers who followed a more Western or traditional mode of newborn care and had their babies spend time throughout the day in a crib or cradle. Nature, it appears, had not just our babies’ welfare in mind when She gave us such helpless infants but She also had a plan for a mother’s recovery in the weeks and months after birth. It would be interesting to study the occurrence of postpartum depression in mothers who practice an ‘in arms’ continuum style of mothering.

My dear friend and favorite English midwife, Carolyn Flint teaches in her childbirth education series that after baby is born, you should go home, if you aren’t there already, take off your clothes, and your baby’s clothes (nappies and diapers allowed) and go to bed with your baby mammal for 14 days. This will ensure the right amount of skin-to-skin contact (almost constant), establish a good milk supply by nursing on demand, gives you, Mom, time to rest and recover and bond with baby. In most other cultures – leave it to our Western culture to miss this one – a new mother will be cared for by her relatives and friends, making it her sole job to explore the early bonding cues between her and her baby. Once she is ready to get up and resume some of the running of the household, what happens to baby? Again, it is only in our modern world that we have either forgotten the important things here, or consciously chosen to listen to the “experts” while discounting our instincts, but whatever the cause, we think we are done meeting the needs of our newborns.
 They are assumed to be able at this point to wait longer to feed, and sleep longer, even through the night, and not need to feel close to another human being, though all these are still part of his right-ness, his continuum expectations.Wearing your baby will free your hands to cook or do chores and gives your baby the time he needs close to you in those early weeks and months. We know the earliest Native Americans carried babies in cradleboards, often hanging them in trees while they worked so that their littlest people could keep track of them.
In many countries around the world, babies are still carried or worn in slings or carriers not very different from those worn by their ancestors. It is only in countries that are determined to imitate if not outdo us in America that we see buggies, prams and strollers taking the place of the age-old custom of carrying small babies, often until they could walk.

Many baby supply stores have different kinds of baby carriers and wraps and often hold a “baby wearing clinic” where you can learn how to use the different kinds and try them out. Some clinics also hold classes on carriers. There are numerous websites that give instructions for sewing your own, how to wrap them, and where to order them. We used a Hmong baby carrier for all of our babies. They are worn in front from the first day until baby is big enough to enjoy watching the world over your shoulder. We were comfortable even when our babies were 2 or 3 years 
old and could walk.

We would carry them if we were hiking and they had tuckered out. I could nurse from inside the carrier when they were small and untie it without totally unwrapping them when they fell asleep and just lay them down in the carrier. The Hmong carriers were big enough to use as a floor blanket for our babies to scoot around on, and were decorated with yarn flowers and batik which was very fun for babies to look and pull at (above).

A Review of Baby Carriers
by Kathy Ireland
"What type of baby carrier is the most comfortable and practical for all-day wearing?"
This is a question we often receive at the Network, and one I needed an answer to when pregnant with my youngest daughter, born eleven months ago. I was looking for a carrier that could be worn on the front, side and back, was easy to use, and comfortable when worn all day.
What follows is my experience with and opinions of several styles of baby carriers: The New Native Baby Carrier, three brands of the two-ring style sling, a rebozo, the Baby Bundler, and a backpack. These carriers reflect my concern for my daughter's healthy spine development, which eliminated many of the brands found in department and baby
stores. I did not try any of the carriers that are strapless, tie on the chest, and put the baby in back because as a breastfeeding mother I didn't want to risk a breast infection due to a plugged duct with something tied tightly on my chest, and I don't think the back position is convenient with newborns.
While each of these carriers is a good product, each has its advantages and disadvantages. All come with complete instructions, and are machine washable. Other than the backpack, all allow you to discreetly nurse a baby while in the carrier. I do not think a perfect carrier exists, and what works best for me is to have several to choose from. My mood, my daughter's mood, and the activity we will be doing determines which I wear at a given time. This may sound extravagant, but the cost of four slings is cheaper than a crib, and much of the other paraphernalia parents often purchase. Let your friends give you a baby shower, and ask for several different styles or colors of carriers instead of a crib, stroller, playpen, swing, etc.

Two-Ring Style Sling DESCRIPTION: Many companies make this style of sling, which is roughly a cigar-
shaped piece of cloth that has two rings at one end. The other end has a short tail that is long and narrow and loops through the rings, forming a pouch for the baby. The sling is worn on one shoulder. The difference between manufactures is in the shape of fabric, the sizes the sling is offered in, the type of material and padding, the number of fabric and color choices, cost, and other variations in style. I have tried three brands of this style: The Original Baby Sling by Nojo, the Sling-Ezee by Parenting Concepts, and the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder (OTSBH). The Sling-Ezee is by far the most narrow of the three, and I only wore it for about five minutes total, before giving it away. The OTSBH is my favorite as its fabric is wider and makes a much bigger pouch for my 11 month old. (I no longer feel safe wearing her in the Nojo.) The OTSBH has added advantages of a metal pin in the tail to prevent it from slipping through the rings if the sling is worn incorrectly, more padding on the sides, a drawstring gathering on the padded shoulder, and flame resistant batting.
ADVANTAGES: This is one of the most versatile in carrying positions, allowing you to carry the baby in front lying down or sitting up, on your hip, or on your back. The way it adjusts using the rings means you can wear a newborn snug and high on your chest, and a few minutes later a toddler on your hip. It is one of the easiest to learn how to use.
DISADVANTAGES: It can be uncomfortable to wear for very long periods because of the rings and the way the fabric bunches up around them. It is fine for short periods however. I don't feel safe wearing my child in back in this sling, although I know it is done with older babies. The instructions recommend keeping a hand on the baby when bending down or over. The only accident I've had is when Meg was 5 or 6 months old in the Nojo
sling, facing outward sitting cross-legged, and I grabbed quickly for something while squatting. I didn't put a hand around her, and she flipped out and landed right on her face on the kitchen floor. Luckily it was only a fall of a foot or two and she wasn't seriously hurt, but it scared both of us. I don't think she would have fallen out if I had been wearing the New Native sling, and the OTSBH with its deeper pocket might also have prevented the accident.
COMMENTS: Although I didn't find the OTSBH comfortable enough for the all day wearing of the in-arms phase, once my daughter became mobile (around 6 month) it became my carrier of choice. From about 5-1/2 months on I didn't carry her much in the house unless she was feeling sick, but did carry her when we went on walks or did errands. I found the versatility of the OTSBH wonderful for a baby who wants to be on the floor crawling or standing when I'm in a store. During the last 6 months I have mostly been wearing her on my hip, or in front of me sitting upright with her legs straight out, and this sling is wonderful for these positions. This carrier has been endorsed by Jean Liedloff.
New Native Baby Carrier
DESCRIPTION: The NNBC is a big pouch that you can put a baby in horizontally, inclined, or vertically, and is worn over one shoulder. The material and design is uniform so if a baby falls asleep vertically, you can just slide the sling around a bit so the child is horizontal, without needing to rearrange the sleeping child at all. It is like wearing a one piece kangaroo pouch. A very wide piece of fabric goes over your shoulder and across your back. It comes in 100% organic cotton and 100% cotton. The 100% cotton solid colors are beautiful (royal blue, teal, purple, navy). The sling comes in five sizes.
ADVANTAGES: Of all the styles I've tried, this is the easiest to learn how to use — you just put it on and drop the baby in! It is also the most comfortable for long periods of use. The wide fabric over your shoulder is easily changed so that different points on your shoulder and back feel the weight. Its symmetrical
design makes it easy to switch shoulders. When your baby is a newborn and immobile, it is fairly easy to swing him or her around onto your back for brief periods of time.
DISADVANTAGES: The design that makes it so comfortable to wear is also its only drawback. It is not quickly adjustable in size, so you cannot use if for a newborn and a few minutes later use it for a toddler. I have size medium which has worked fine from the time Megan was a newborn (7 lbs.) to eight months (21 lbs.). Even if I can't use it when she is two years old, it will have been well worth it for the many hours it has served us well. Included with each sling are instructions for taking in a seam and temporarily making it a size smaller, or you can receive a credit towards a larger carrier when your child grows.
COMMENTS: When Megan was a month old I got the New Native Baby Carrier, which is my favorite for the in-arms phase because of its comfort. We moved when she was 2-1/2 months old and I literally wore her all day, except for diaper changes and a few nursings outside of the sling. I hardly even noticed she was there, and felt no soreness the next day. This carrier has been endorsed by Jean Liedloff.

Rebozo
DESCRIPTION: A rebozo is a large shawl traditionally used by Mexican women to carry their children and parcels, in addition to many other uses. It is worn over one shoulder. The four weaves offered by the Rebozo Way Project (RWP) are 28" to 31" wide and 94" to 104" long. You can also make your own rebozo.
ADVANTAGES: The fabric is wonderful!! The baby can actually see through the fabric, (opaque to everyone else) and it is incredibly soft yet strong. It is very thin, taking up little room when folded. I would love to have a hammock out of this material! The sling fits newborns and older children, and can be used in practically any position. Another advantage is that the sling conforms completely to your child, so it always fits easily no matter what position the child is in, or the size of the child. The New Native and two-ring carriers require you to fit the child to the sling somewhat. For this reason the rebozo feels very secure and safe, and is the only sling I use on my back. When Megan falls asleep in my arms in a stretched-out position, it is easy to wrap the rebozo around her and fasten her to me, instead of putting her in one of the other carriers. I've also used it to fasten her to me when she wants to be on my lap but can't sit up yet, and I'm using my hands (e.g., when working at the computer.) The fabric goes around both our waists, leaving her arms and legs free to wave around.
The rebozo is useful to have in our diaper bag for when my three year old gets tired of walking — I can wear her on my hip or back in the rebozo. (This is particularly useful on vacations when the four of us are sightseeing, we make sure we have two carriers with us.) The rebozo doubles as a shawl, so it is useful even when your child has grown. It can also be used as a blanket, beach wrap, table liner, belly binder for exercising while pregnant. 
DISADVANTAGES: Knowing that this carrier has been used for centuries by women and children in Central America, it seems strange listing any disadvantages at all. But as a mother in our western culture without other adults or older children around to help during the day, who didn't grow up seeing rebozos used daily, I found it had a long learning curve.
I didn't enjoy tying and retying the knot often, and used the same knot and position as long as I could. However, to get a snug fit when wearing a baby in different positions (e.g. horizontal, sitting upright), requires retying of the knot to take up more fabric. (Note: Some women wear rebozos without using knots, but I haven't tried that yet.) If you have another adult in the house or an older child, it will be much easier tying the baby on in various positions, and I heartily recommend you get a rebozo. It is more comfortable that the two-ring style, but not as comfortable as the New Native for all-day carrying during the in-arms phase. If the knot works its way onto the top of your shoulder it can hurt and needs to be readjusted so it's in front of or behind your shoulder. COMMENTS: I didn't buy my rebozo (from RWP) until Megan was five months old. Perhaps if I had bought it earlier, before I was so used 
to my NNBC and two-ring carrier, the learning curve would have seemed shorter. When I received it, Megan was at the age where she was just starting to ride on my hip, but needed to be fastened tightly to me as she couldn't sit up yet, and the rebozo is very good for that position!
The Rebozo Way Project offers four weaves for adult rebozos; rebozos for kids are also available. All are woven in Mexico. They also sell many useful brochures and a great documentary video that among other things, demonstrates how to tie eight different positions from newborn through toddler (including a newborn who decides to nurse during the demonstration!) I have watched the 25 minute video probably six times now for the sheer pleasure of seeing people to whom wearing a baby comes naturally.

The Baby Bundler
DESCRIPTION: This is an unique carrier that is worn on both shoulders at the same time. It is a long piece of cloth made from soft 100% cotton in great colors (light blue, teal, grape and black.) While holding baby against you, the cloth is wrapped around you both several times creating a secure bond, then tied in the back. Babies can be worn in front horizontally or vertically, or on back (with someone's help) vertically. 
It can be used with newborns through toddlers. Although it looks complicated to tie on, it is really very easy and I was able to do it on the first try.
ADVANTAGES: For anyone with back or shoulder problems, this carrier could be a lifesaver! Since it is worn on both shoulders, you don't need to remember to alternate shoulders to balance the stress on your body, as is needed with the previous three styles.
DISADVANTAGES: When my baby fell asleep vertically, it took a lot of adjusting to switch her to a horizontal position, which often woke her up. In the horizontal position, the baby's head can poke through the wrappings of fabric, so you need to be careful how you tie it and it may need readjusting after being worn for awhile. Although this style is great for the wearer's back, the vertical position is not good for a young baby's back. Chiropractor Rochelle Casses recommends babies not be worn in the Bundler in the vertical position until they can stand. (With my daughters this was around 7 months old.) Wearing baby on the back in the Bundler requires another person's help.
COMMENTS: Whether or not you will like this carrier depends a lot on personal preference. While I am not particularly fond of it, other Network members have said they love it and wore their babies throughout the in-arms phase in it.

Backpack
DESCRIPTION: By "backpack" I mean a carrier that has a metal frame, not an all-cloth back carrier, since all of the previous carriers can be worn on your back. There are many inexpensive backpacks available, but they often don't provide good support for the child and are uncomfortable when worn for long periods. I bought our backpack at a camping/outdoor store, and it is constructed using the same principles as mountaineering backpacks. It distributes the weight of my 30 lb. daughter very well; I only feel it on my hips, with no weight at all on my shoulders or back. Look for a backpack that is well padded (for you and child), has a high back for the child, has a foot rest, is easy to put on by yourself, and has adjustable straps to ensure a good fit for you and child. Our model has a sun shade that attaches to the top, which has prevented sunburn many a time. It also has a pouch under the child's seat, which holds as much as a diaper bag. A backpack is definitely not a necessity, but is nice to have when your child is older. I started using our when my eldest daughter was a little
over a year old: she was walking, but was too young to keep up with us when we were walking for exercise, or sightseeing when traveling.
ADVANTAGES: When a child is old enough to walk but doesn't have the endurance to walk as long as you do, a backpack has several advantages over a stroller. You can take an adult's long stride without hitting the stroller axle, you can go over rough terrain, the child gets a much better view, and you can feel safe in crowds knowing the child is connected to you.
DISADVANTAGES: Although it's no problem if you are with another adult, if you are by yourself it's tough to attend to little needs like putting on a hat, wiping a nose, etc. since the child is behind you. I followed a friend's advice and carry a small mirror so I can check on her. It is also not the most comfortable position to sleep in — by sure to carry a towel or small blanket to cushion a sleeping head.
COMMENTS: Good ones are expensive, anywhere from $70 to $150. Ours is made by Tough Traveler and cost around $120 with a sun shade. It makes a great baby shower present from a relative who wants to buy a crib, automatic swing or playpen!
Summary
When purchasing a carrier, ask the following:
Can a baby be worn in front, on the side, and in back?
Will the carrier accommodate the child from birth through toddlerhood?
Can a child be transferred from one wearer to another without being taken out of the sling?
If a baby falls asleep vertically, can he easily be moved to a horizontal position without being taken out of the carrier? Can a baby be put into all carrying positions by the wearer, or is another person's help necessary?
Is it possible to easily adjust the carrier so that different points on your body feel the weight?
Does the carrier let the baby be worn in many different positions? For example, horizontal facing toward wearer, horizontal facing up, inclined with legs stretched out, inclined with legs folded underneath, vertical facing outwards with legs folded underneath or in front, vertical facing outwards with legs stretched out, etc. A carrier with limited positions won't meet a baby's changing needs and desires.
Other excellent resources:
1. SlingRings at http://www.slingrings.com/PO Box 27
Laveen, AZ 85339
888-369-3509 for making your own sling kind of carrier
2. http://www.tccmaven.com/resources/sling.html

With permission: Copyright ©1998 by The Liedloff Society for the Continuum Concept,  www.continuum-concept.org

Stay Tuned: This and other stories will be appearing in the book, Stone Age Babies in a Space Age World:** Babies and Bonding in the 21st Century© pending by Stephanie Sorensen

**This phrase was first coined by Dr. James McKenna, used here with permission and gratitude for his work. A world-renowned expert on infant sleep – in particular the practice of bed sharing, he is studying SIDS and co-sleeping at his mother-infant sleep lab at Notre Dame University. He is the author of “Sleeping With Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Co-sleeping,” 2007, Platypus Media, Washington, D.C.


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