15 October 2015

31 Days - Carriers

I love baby wearing. It fits in fabulously with our lifestyle, and it's something I personally really enjoy doing. Before I had Abigail, this post probably would have contained some spiel about how baby wearing is essential for "drawing babies and mommies closer together" - but in my "about to have a third kid" wisdom, I know that baby wearing and great mother-child relationships can be totally mutually exclusive. This post is about my experience with different carriers and the new carrier purchase I made in preparation for baby #3.

December 2012 - Abigail was 19 months old.

The Moby Wrap
July 2012 - Abigail was 14 months old.
I bought a black Moby Wrap when I was pregnant with Abigail. They were/are really popular and I liked the "natural/organic" feel that the wraps have. I tried using it periodically throughout Abigail's first six months, but I never really got the hang of it. I had a hard time getting the fit right, the knots tight, and despite scores of Youtube videos and practicing in front of a mirror, I had a heck of a time getting it on. Just after that photo was taken, I gave up and sold the Moby to a resale kids shop.

The Non-Stretchy Wrap
I made one myself in early 2013, but only wore it a few times before trading it.
By the time Abigail was a year and a half, we were living in Chicago and I really wanted a carrier I could wear on my back (like a backpack). I heard that non-stretchy wraps worked well for back carries, so I bought some fabric and used the dimensions of a Moby Wrap to make my own. I have no idea what I was thinking since I never like the Moby. After a few tries wearing it, I traded it to a friend.

The B'jorn knock off
Matt rocking the Jeep in August 2012 - Abigail was 15 months old
In between the two wraps, I borrowed a B'jorn from a sister-in-law for a weekend and liked it enough to buy a knock off (a Jeep brand) at a used kid's store. But I found that it caused a decent amount of back pain during long-term wear and I couldn't wear it on my back, so I sold it back to the used kids' store after only a few months.

(I heard later about the hip controversy with B'jorn-style carriers and now I would not consider one for the hip issues alone).

The Pocket Sling
November 2012 - Abigail was 18 months old.
After the Moby Wrap, I decided to try out a pocket sling. I bought one of The Peanut Shell's super basic pocket slings off Craigslist for somewhere around $10 (I can't remember exactly how much it was). I LOVED it.

I just took this picture today! I couldn't find one of me wearing one of the girls in it.
I also can't remember exactly when I bought it - when Abigail was somewhere between 6-10 months, I think - but I remember she was old enough to hold up her own head and support her torso herself when I carried her.

I wore Abigail in the sling quite a bit, but found that the very basic nature of it (meaning no padding at all) made anything other than short-term wear painful for my shoulders and neck. I knew The Peanut Shell appeared on Zulily periodically, so I made a point to check them out daily until the sling of my dreams (the Heirloom line retailed for $90 a pop) made an appearance at 50% off.

November 2012 - Abigail was 18 months old.
February 2015 - Eleanor was 9 months old.
I retired the original pink sling to the trunk of my car to serve as an emergency carrier. My green Peanut Shell is very soft, has a much more comfortable strap, and has a small pocket for a cell phone or keys. I love the pocket sling for when I need to get the kids in-and-out often (like if we're clothes shopping), for when the kids are sick, when they're snuggly/tired/clingy but I need to get stuff done (I wore Eleanor a lot when I was making dinner before I got pregnant again), and if I will be sitting when I wear them.

A sick Abigail in November of 2012 - 18 months old. 
A sick Eleanor in February 2015 - 9 months old. 
When Eleanor was five months old and I had kidney surgery, we brought her with us to the hospital (so I could still breastfeed) and Matt wore her extensively in this sling. Strollers do not fit well in hospital settings and Eleanor way preferred to snuggle with a person than a car seat (she's a clingy girl). He said it was pretty helpful - he had two hands free, it was easy to sit with in the waiting room, and she could nap as desired.

October 2014 - Eleanor was 6 months old.
Despite my love of the sling, I had two issues with it: I could not wear it as a back carrier and all-day wear (like trips downtown in Chicago) still caused neck and shoulder pain.

The Ergo

A friend recommend the Ergo to me and I was most attracted to the back carry abilities of it. Ergos are a bit on the pricy side, but I really hated buying used carriers in the past. I wear mine extensively, I sweat in them, and the girls chew on the straps. I really prefer something no one else's germs have been on. When I was just in the sampling stage, buying used made a lot of sense, but once I found one I really liked, I would buy it new. I had a hard time finding used Ergos and I had a good feeling about it, so I bought one brand new without trying it out first. We were living in Chicago, and the Ergo really had a trial by fire. Spoiler alert: I fell in love with the Ergo too.

January 2015 - Eleanor is 8 months old.
Matt rocking the Ergo in April 2013 - Abigail is 23 months old.
August 2013 - Abigail is 2 years, 3 months old. I was pregnant with Eleanor, but did not yet know it!
I use the Ergo almost extensively for it's back carry abilities. I find it totally comfortable for all-day wear with both Eleanor and Abigail, and I've mastered the ability to load kids in a back carry, even if we're out and about.

July 2014 - Two months postpartum! Abigail is 3 years, 2 months old.
The Ergo has a hood too, which you can use to block the rain or keep a kid's head in place when they're napping. I wore the Ergo a lot for traveling in Chicago with Abigail and I wore it almost daily with Eleanor between 2-5 months. She would take her morning nap in it every single day while I did the dishes and cleaned up the apartment.

December 2012 - Abigail was 19 months old.
The Ergo and the pocket sling are a perfectly complementary: the sling's downfalls and the Ergo's downsides are opposites. The Ergo is not ideal if you'll be taking kids in and out a lot (the sling is super easy!) and I find it very difficult to sit comfortably in (sitting with the sling is very easy). The sling is not ideal for long-term wear (the Ergo is!) and the sling can not do a back carry (the Ergo can).

* * * * *

What's missing?
While the sling technically says it can be used as an outward-facing front carrier, I was never able to master that carry.
The little cards that came with the heirloom sling.
The outward-facing front carry is also only good until 6 months, at which point, neither of my carriers can be outward-facing. I personally don't really care about outward facing - it's not a position I miss when I'm wearing, but I can imagine it would bother some.

I cannot double carry. I prefer the sling on my hip, so I can't comfortably wear the Ergo either in the front or the back. I've tried it, but I can't last very long before something starts hurting.
November 2014 - Abigail is 3 1/2 years old and Eleanor is 6 months old.
I would really like to be able to double carry Eleanor and this baby. Abigail doesn't really want to be carried (or pushed in the stroller) anymore, she much prefers to walk, but Eleanor often wants to be carried and prefers the carrier to the stroller. I haven't worn her much since getting pregnant and not at all since I hit the third trimester. I feel pretty guilty about that. Anyway, yes, the ability to double carry is desirable.

Newborn Carries
My mom gifted me with the Ergo's newborn insert when I was pregnant with Eleanor, which allows you to wear a newborn in the Ergo. I had no problem with it, but Eleanor hated the newborn snuggler.

May 2014 - Eleanor was 13 days old.
As I study the picture now, I realize that it fits around the baby much like a swaddle and Eleanor hated being swaddled. Maybe that's why she didn't like it? Either way, I did not get much use out of the Ergo until Eleanor was holding up her own head. The newborn insert came with a cushy block that went under the baby's bottom to hold them up high enough in the Ergo and we did use that regularly until she was big enough to peak out without it. She was totally fine with the Ergo as long as she wasn't in the snuggler.

While technically the pocket sling can be worn from birth, there are certain precautions you have to take and I never felt comfortable wearing a newborn Eleanor in a sling. I tried it a few times and she loved it, but I never felt confident she was safe, so we quickly abandoned it.
June 2014 - Eleanor was one month old.

The New Purchase

After much research (I found this website really helpful - I don't get credit for you clicking on the link, it's just a mom-to-mom tip), I decided I wanted to go with a ring sling in plum (the color in the picture). Apparently they are really nice for inward facing newborn carries (like the woman in the picture is doing). I definitely believe it because the thing that makes me most uncomfortable with a newborn in the pocket sling is my inability to tighten the loose fabric for a more secure fit. Plus, being able to do a front carry will allow me to do a back carry with the Ergo - thus letting me double carry. I just ordered it this past weekend and am very excited for its arrival!

I am also a big fan of this Kozy in the lovely pink and gray chevron:
It's front carry abilities and soft straps would allow me to double wear it with the Ergo. But it won't work for brand new babies, and I ultimately decided that I wanted the newborn feature of the ring sling. Maybe in the spring I might get the Kozy; on one hand, we plan to have more kids and I love baby wearing, so I know I'll get use out of it, but on the other hand, carriers are not exactly cheap, so there is wisdom in not turning them into collector's items.

Okay, so now I've got the carrier situation figured out, but I've never found a satisfactory solution to wintertime baby wearing. While this was a major problem in Chicago, I don't envision that being the same in Michigan. But either way, I'd like to be able to go outside while wearing a kid.

In the past, I've just put my coat and the baby's coat on separately and then inserted them into the carrier. This is not very comfortable, plus I can't take anyone's coat off when we are inside or on a warm train.

And my maternity coat is not bit enough to wear over the Ergo during a front carry. So this summer, I made this:

A hand-knit, over-sized shall. It has a large head opening to fit over both me and the baby. It's made holding three strands of yarn together - two of which are pure wool.

Cat and I starting the new project in April of 2015.
I would not be surprised if this shall could take the place of a winter coat.

I do have a lighter option too, one that I hadn't really planned on getting.

It's a maternity/nursing tunic shirt. It's very lightweight, soft, and definitely large enough with a deep enough zipper opening to accommodate a carrier. The problem is that it was very expensive, and I impulse/revenge bought it from Zulily the night the house I really wanted sold to someone else. I was mad at Matt and the Realtor and the homeowners and it was stupid and petty. I immediately regretted buying it and dreaded it's arrival, but it's not returnable. I actually do like it and am determined to get some use out of it so as to make up for its purchase.

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