Friday, November 27, 2009

ECing in a Northern Climate

Where I live we spend more time in winter than any other season, so one of the things I’m frequently asked about is how to practise Elimination Communication (EC) when it gets chilly out. Many parents wonder if it makes sense to practise EC in this climate. Historically, infant pottying has been practised in climates more harsh and severe than where I currently live. Inuit mothers of northern Canada carried (still do!) their babies around a special babywearing jacket called an amauti, and early Europeans were surprised to find the mothers and babies quite dry. Children in Tibet and northern China are EC’d; mothers there have adapted methods and clothing to practise EC quite comfortably in the cold.

So how do we practise infant pottying when the weather gets chilly? A major concern is clothing, and how to make it practical and warm. If your baby is still in the “in arms” phase you can carry her skin to skin, and use your carrier and a cardigan or loose sweater to keep you both warm. Tibetan children and infants wear a type of split crotch pants that work wonderfully. Many mothers modify existing pants, or sew their own from patterns found online. Another option is to leave the bum bare when indoors and keep the baby warm by using a long warm sweater or dress on top and baby legwarmers, or even long socks on the bottom. There are a vast array of patterns to buy for your babe. This style of dress will allow for easy removal of a diaper, if you are using one. Loose waisted pants that are easy to pull up and down work well too. Most of the moms I know have found that as long as the torso and feet are warm, the rest of the baby is too.

Now that the baby is dressed, we can go out and EC while traveling in the winter. Both of my children have spent a lot of time traveling by car in the winter and we are used to making potty stops on the road. We often have a potty with us in the car, so that baby can pee in the warm and I can dump it out afterwards. (I keep a jar of scented baking soda handy to freshen the pot between washes.) A baby can also be pottied onto an already wet diaper from your wet bag. As a last resort in really cold weather we just pee outside. Sometimes I sit us in the car and just point the “peeing parts” out the door. If we are walking or hiking in the winter we usually use a pocket diaper as back up, unless I am carrying the baby and using a good babywearing jacket.

Public pottying in the winter can be a bit more of a hassle, as there is often so much more clothing (and possibly a diaper) to remove. This makes it especially important to pay attention to early signals and intuition when you are out and about. Not wanting my baby to be cold and wet in winter forced me to pay really close attention to her when we were away from home. This is how I discovered the feeling of Danica’s stomach muscles tightening against my back that signalled a need to pee. I also really noticed the squirmy on your lap/try to jump out of your arms signal too. I would often remove all of the clothing and leave it on the change table, while I peed my daughter, then return to the change table to replace everything. Even if I had missed the pee, I would still offer a peeing opportunity; just in case. This has been the start of quite a few EC conversations with curious strangers.

In the fall, I often hear from moms who tell me their baby who pottied fine all summer is suddenly refusing the potty. It can be hard to make the connection between a potty strike and the change of seasons when you are in the middle of it. So the first thing I ask moms with an October potty problem is about the temperature of their potty, or the house in general. Babe might just need some coaxing and patience to “warm up” to the idea of peeing when it’s not as warm as he’s grown used to. Or sometimes all the extra clothing and undressing, need to be adjusted to. Even my big kids need some time to adjust to seasonal clothing changes. A warm potty cover often works wonders to solve the problem of a warm tush on cold plastic. This is especially true if the baby is doing things like standing or back arching when placed on a cold pot. Many moms also find that they can keep their potty warm by resting it on the heat register when not in use.

The biggest tip I can think of for diaper free success in cool weather is to try and expose as little of your baby to the cold, but to also be slow calm and gentle about it. No one appreciates a sudden burst of cold on their body, especially upon waking. At night time we try to keep the potty as close to the sleeping area as possible. Our youngest liked to sleep nude in our bed on a sheepskin mat, so when she woke at night to pee, I would wrap her in a small blanket I had stashed nearby and pee her on the fleece covered potty which I placed on the bed. She would often fall asleep while peeing, and I would just tuck her back in, dump the pee into the diaper pail next to the bed, and go back to sleep myself.

Winter EC can be easily managed by making a few adjustments t your babies’ clothing and routine, but it is important to remember that having a diaper free baby shouldn’t fill your house with extra stress. So if you and you little one are having trouble finding your potty stride in the cold, relax, take a break, change a few diapers, and try again later. The most important thing is the relationship you build with your child.

Lee-Ann Grenier is an at home mom who also works as a lactation and parenting educator. She really enjoys talking to expecting and new parents about birth, breastfeeding, gentle parenting, babywearing and Elimination Communication.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tying a Torso Carry

Torso Carries are one of my favourites! It is the perfect carry for when you need complete range of motion in your arms & shoulders. I often use them for snowshoeing or hiking, as well as for indoor & outdoors chores. They are an advanced carry for experienced wrappers- you are responsible for your baby's safety!

Begin with your baby on your back & your wrap centred & spread out over your baby.

Pull the fabric tight around baby's body, bringing it under your arms & around to your front. Keep the fabric taught the entire time, with equal tension on across the entire wrap.

Cross the wrap at chest height...

And roll or fold the top rails together a few times, until they feel secure

Tighten the rails, keeping the fabric spread out over your chest. Bring them back around the baby's bum...

Cross the tails under the bum

Then bring them back around, placing the tails under your baby's legs...

Then finish by tying in the front! Push up gently on your baby's feet to seat him deeply in the wrap.

Photos By Trish Agrell-Smithh

Friday, October 30, 2009

Safe Positioning in Slings

Consumer Reports blog this week announces the heartrenching death of 6 day old Derrik Fowler in an Infantino Slingrider. He died of positional asphyxia- when a baby asphyxiates due to the airway being compressed by the weight of his own head.

This happens when babies are poorly positioned in all types of products: car seats, baby chairs & yes, baby carriers. When babies chins are touching their chests, their airway is compressed. They lack the muscular control to lift their heads to prevent asphyxiation, placing them in an extremely dangerous situation- one Derrik's parents must be devastated about.

I cannot imagine their feelings when they learn that his death was completely preventable. In 2006 & 2007, informal tests were done on the respiration rates & oxygen saturation rates of babies in Infantino Slingriders. They were performed by a former RN & babywearing educator. She sent her findings, along with supporting information, to Infantino & to the American Consumer Product Standards council. Further detail can be found at

While the Infantino sling is obviously a disaster waiting to strike again, poor positioning in any carrier places infants at risk. It is essential that babies faces are never covered by the fabric of a carrier & that their heads are angled back, keeping their chins well away from their chests. The photos on the Infantino product site are a good indicator of the unsafe positioning that must be avoided.

While some brands of carrier are designed in a way that does not allow the possibility of safe positioning, many excellent brands that do allow for it are used in a position that I no longer consider safe or biologically correct- the cradle hold.

There are a number of reasons I will no longer teach this position. In most photos of babies placed in the cradle position, the baby's chin is down at its chest. It is very difficult for most parents to safely position the baby while it is in the cradle hold.

Second, the cradle position does not place the baby in the position it expects to be in- vertically, between its mothers breasts. Dr Nils Bergman, a physician & researcher who has extensively studied the immensely beneficial practice of keeping babies in their habitat- vertically, between the mothers breasts, says: "The baby is in the right place and therefore has the right behaviour."

As a Lactation Educator (LE) & a Babywearing Educator, I often help parents resolve difficult breastfeeding problems by simply recommending Kangaroo care- ie, time spent skin to skin, vertically, between the mothers breasts.

When babies begin a nursing session in the vertical position (moving themselves over to actually nurse), they are best able to effectively coordinate their suck/swallow/breathe reflexes (for more information on these concepts, see the work of Dr Suzanne Coulson , Kittie Frantz, Dr Michel Odent as well as Dr Bergman)

If babies orient vertically, I believe placing them at an angle, or horizontally, can disorient them. In my experience, this can lead to, or exacerbate, breastfeeding difficulties.

The cradle position continues to be taught by manufacturers & educators, but I recommend you avoid using this positioning. It makes it difficult to position the baby safely & appears to contribute to breastfeeding problems.

Instead, newborn babies should be positioned tummy to chest, with their legs in a frog position, knees higher than bum. The carrier should support them well enough that they are not slumping down in it, potentially compromising their airway.

Babywearing is a wonderful tool that gives babies the minimum they expect- to be carried by their mother. It is also a learned skill that requires a bit of background knowledge to safely perform. Please always be certain that your baby is safely carried.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How do I know which type of wrap to choose?

There are so many types of wrap to choose from! It can be overwhelming- this post will simplify your choice. Understanding the basic characteristics of the most commonly used wraps will help you decide which is best for you.

Stretchy Wraps

Cotton knit jersey wraps (Moby) are a popular choice for a first wrap. The cotton is easily washable & the wraps are straightforward to learn to use. They have both widthwise & lengthwise stretch. Although the suggested use period is from newborn to 35lbs, we recommend them only as a newborn carrier (birth to 12-15lbs). The fabric is simply too stretchy to support a baby's developing body. It is also for this reason that they should never be used for excercising with your baby . They are a great choice for skin to skin care and can be wrapped to look like mom is wearing a t-shirt. These wraps are for front & hip carries. They are one size fits all.

Cotton knit/spandex blend wraps (Sleepy Wrap) is another type of stretchy wrap loved by parents of new babies. The directions are superior, allowing the wrap to be tightened around the baby so the baby is better supported. You may continue to carry your baby with this wrap as long as you are both comfortable, but we recommend them as a newborn carrier, for babies under approximately 15lbs. They are best for front & hip carries and are one size fits all.

Fleece wraps (Calin Bleu) are a great choice for families practicing EC. They include an excellent instruction book. They behave somewhat like other stretchy wraps, but are also for use with heavier babies (up to 20-25lbs) because they have only a bit of lengthwise stretch. They are one-size fits all & can be used in front, hip & back (for experienced wrappers, with caution, as they are somewhat narrow).


Hybrid Stretch wraps (Gypsymama/Wrapsody) are in a category all by themselves! These wraps have virtually no lengthwise stretch, which makes them function like a hybrid between a stretchy & a woven. An instructional dvd is included. These are a great choice if you like the softness of a stretchy wrap but want to purchase a carrier that will be functional for years as opposed to months. They are one size fits all & are for front, hip & back carries.


Gauze wraps (Calin Bleu, Gypsymama/Wrapsody) are made of a thin, breathable cotton gauze woven fabric. They have virtually no stretch to them, making them a secure & supportive choice for babies of all ages. Many people use them well into toddlerhood. They can be one size fits all or come in lengths so you can customise the fit.

Traditional woven wraps (Ellaroo) are similar to the gauze wraps in feel & use. They have virtually no stretch to them, making them a secure & supportive choice for babies of all ages. They can be one size fits all or come in lengths so you can customise the fit.

European Style Wovens (Didymos, Storchenwiege, Girasol, Hoppediz, Nati, Ellevill, Neobulle, Bebina, Chimparoo) are made of custom-woven fabrics specifically designed to carry babies. They are a double twill weave, which means that they have no widthwise or lengthwise stretch, but have a diagonal stretch that perfectly supports the baby & the wrappers' body. If you can physically carry the child, you can carry them in a woven! I have personally wrapped a 70lb 7 year old in them on more than one occasion...
Woven wraps are ideal from birth- a woven can be the only carrier you ever need to own. They come in lengths that allow you to customise your wrap to your needs. Many of the fabrics are organic & all are Oko-tex certified to be free from dyes that may harm your child. Instructions can vary from none (Many companies are still creating their English translations) to an excellent book & DVD. Be sure to let the retailer know if you are a new wrapper needing detailed instruction!

Happy Wrapping!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Getting Your Baby Safely On Your Back

Back carrying is often considered an advanced babywearing skill, but it is actually very easy to master. Back carries are nearly always more comfortable for the wearer, since they best distribute the weight. Practice builds confidence!

Before you get started, please remember that you are responsible for your baby's safety. Use caution at all times. Have someone spot you while you are learning, keeping a hand on the baby. While you are putting your baby on your back, bend at the waist, keeping your back straight. Do not stand up until your baby is secure.

These methods are only for demonstrating the process of getting baby on your back & are not complete carries. Follow the directions specific to your carrier to secure it once your baby has been placed on your back.

The method that works best for you will depend on you & your baby's physicality, your baby's age & the carrier you are using. Here are a few methods to get you started!

The Wrist Twist

This method works well with woven wraps & mei tais. It can be done once your baby has good head & neck control.

Have your carrier in place around your waist so it is ready when you are. Hold your baby in front of you, or off to one side, with one hand firmly under their shoulder & one hand firmly over the other shoulder.

Bring your baby up over your head & onto your back, twisting your wrists as you go. Some prefer to do the opposite, crossing the arms while they baby is in front of them & uncrossing them as the baby is moved onto the back.

Slide your baby down your back until he is in a comfortable position in the hollow of your spine. Keep one hand on your baby until they are safely in place.
Spread their legs out into the frog legged position (legs on either side of your back, knees higher than bum)- this makes it difficult for them to roll accidentally. If you are wrapping, pick up the ends of the wrap, holding the top rail.

Pull the carrier quickly away from your back, then up & over the baby. Keep the top rail (or straps) tight the entire time. (The mistake I most commonly see is pictured on the left- by not pulling the carrier away from your back before bringing it up over baby, the fabric gets caught halfway up baby's back. This is clearly unsafe.)

Make sure the carrier is pulled tightly around the baby, keeping them in place.

The Security Blanket

This method works well for people who prefer an added "layer of security" while placing their baby on their back. It is recommended for babies yet to develop head & neck control. It works well with both mei tais & woven wraps.

Centre the wrap/mei tai around your baby's shoulders, supporting their neck with the carrier if need be. Hold them as for the Wrist Twist.

Bring your baby and the carrier up over your head & onto your back, twisting your wrists as you go. Again, some prefer to do the opposite, crossing the arms while the baby is in front of them & uncrossing them as the baby is moved onto the back. Keep hold of the fabric as you do this, keeping it taught around your baby as you bring the straps/rails over your shoulders.

Keep the carrier pulled tightly around your baby, keeping him in place on your back.

From The Ground Up

This method is another variation of the Wrist Twist for a toddler who can stand (some will use it with a sitting baby as well. It works well for mei tais, some soft structured carriers (SSCs) & woven wraps.

Lifting your baby up with one hand over & the other under his shoulders,

Twist him up & around on to your back, using your arm to support him if needed. Reach behind with your other hand to help get him in place.

Position his legs on either side of you (this keeps big kids from rolling too!)

Pull the carrier up to securely hold your baby!

The Hip Scoot

This method works best with SSCs & mei tais. It should be used only with babies with full neck control & is easiest with those who can sit independently.

Place your baby on your hip, with the opposite shoulder strap on & the waist belt secure.

Reach in between the carrier & your back, while bending forward at the waist.
Grab your baby's foot,

Holding it securely as you pull his leg through to the other side. Use your arm to push the baby over.

Centre the baby on your back.

And pull the rest of the carrier up to securely hold your baby!

Photography by Trish Agrell-Smith

Monday, October 19, 2009

What do I do with all this fabric? Choosing a wrap length

Once someone has decided to try a woven wrap, the most common question I am asked is "Which length do I need?" Length choice is an important factor, since many brands come only in select lengths. Most brands are priced by length, so it makes sense to not purchase more wrap than you need! Here are some more things to consider when choosing your length.

The wrap length you need is determined by which ties you want to do- not necessarily by your physical size!! I am nearly 5'5" & wear a size 8- average for a woman. Although I can use wraps ranging from 2.7m to 4.6m, depending on which carry I am using, I can tie most carries comfortably in a 3.7m wrap. While there are some specialty ties that eat up quite a bit of fabric, I rarely find they are needed so I rarely teach them. A good rule of thumb is that the longest tie most wrappers use is the FWCC so if you can tie this, even on the tails, you have the right length.

Front carries, which are normally done only with smaller babies, use up more length than back carries, as a general rule.

Tying on the tails: Most woven wraps have tapered tails, which makes it easy to tie a smaller knot with them. You don't need a lot of fabric for your knot. Most woven fabrics are grippy enough to safely hold a knot with only an inch or two of fabric left hanging. This is called tying on the tails!

If you have too much fabric left over at the end of a tie, you can use it up with some knotting variations like the Tibetan tie in the picture to the left, or you can simply wrap the extra fabric around your middle.

As you gain experience with wrapping, your tightening will improve & you will get more length left in the tails once you have finished your tie. This is another reason to err on the side of a shorter wrap.

The Kangaroo Carries, aka the Ruck , the Kangaroo Front Carry & the Kangaroo Hip carry, all use minimal fabric length. They are also the most supportive of baby & wearer due to the ease of perfectly tightening one layered carries.

It is important to know that manufacturers have never claimed that their sizing is perfectly accurate! The advertised length is normally considered a minimum, as opposed to a guarantee. North American wrappers are often surprised to discover (when they measure their wraps themselves) that their wraps are a significantly different size from what they expected. Many factors can affect the actual length- time since the last washing, strength with which the wrap gets pulled, thread count, fibre content, etc.

While many wrappers do like to have a collection to choose from, most have just one wrap that can do everything. For most people, 3.7-4.1m is plenty of length for that purpose. I hope this post helps you in your decision making process, whether you are choosing your first wrap or your 5th!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cloth Diapering 101

Parents love cloth diapering! Cloth diapers are ecologically friendly, healthy, inexpensive and in many cases, fun! There are lots of options available & most parents have a few questions before getting started. Here are the ones most frequently asked.

How many cloth diapers do I need?

This depends on how frequently you want to do laundry! Count on 8-12 diaper changes per day. 24 diapers would mean washing every 2 days or so, 18 diapers a bit more frequently than that, 30 a bit less often. Most families who cloth diaper full time (or nearly that) use between 24 & 36 diapers.

How should I wash them?

Washing cloth diapers is simple. Each brand will have specific instructions, which we recommend you follow, but there are a few rules that usually apply. They should not be soaked in water while waiting to be laundered; using a dry pail or a hanging bag is recommended . Soiled diapers can be shaken out into the toilet before being put in the laundry bag.
Detergents with optical brighteners, scents, bleaches & other additives can damage cloth diapers so should be avoided. We like Country Save detergent, available inexpensively at London Drugs.
Most importantly, a very small amount of detergent should be used- 1/4 to 1/2 of the amount recommended on the box.

Tell me about the different types of diaper?

Prefold (aka flat) diapers are typically inexpensive & easy to use. Made of natural fibres, they no longer requiring pinning thanks to Snappi diaper fasteners. They are ideal for practicing elimination communication or for potty learning, as the baby feels wet when they pee. They are usually used with a waterproof cover.

Fitted diapers come in a range of natural & man made fibres and vary greatly in price. They are shaped diapers designed to fit your baby's body. They have either snap or velcro closures. Velcro is ideal for speed, snaps have better longevity. They are usually used with a waterproof cover as well.

All In One diapers include the absorbent fabric & the cover together in one piece. This makes a one step process that is easy for outings, fast changes or for caregivers who aren't familiar with cloth diapering.

Pocket diapers have quickly become most people's favourite! They consist of an outer cover/soft inner layer sewn together into a pocket that is then stuffed with an absorbent insert.
The absorbency of the diaper can be adjusted by adding inserts, or using a different type of inserts.
The layer next to baby's skin is usally water resistant, meaning that the liquid is absorbed through to the insert, where it stays, leaving the baby's skin dry even when the diaper is wet!

Do I have to choose just one kind?

Not at all! While some families like to load up on one diapering system & stick with it, others like to create a collection of different types and brands to be used at different times. We recommend trying a few (6 is good) of each kind if you aren't sure what might work best for you.

Stay tuned for Cloth Diapering 201, with more detail about sizing, diapering accesories & more! Send me your questions for inclusion in our FAQ.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Babywearing & Exercising

One of the major reasons parents love to babywear is because it allows them to continue their active lives! Hiking, cross-country skiing, Nordic walking, even a walk around the block, can all easily be done with your baby (s) along for the ride. Any low-impact activity can be done while babywearing- high impact sports, like running, cause too much jarring to be safe or comfortable.

Fitness instructors have caught on & there are now many fitness & dance classes offered to new parents, designed for you to participate while wearing your baby. I think these are wonderful, because they recognise a baby's need to not be separated from his mother, as well as the mother's need to get out & exercise.

It is essential, when doing any physical activity, to be sure that the carrier you are using is appropriately supportive for you & your baby, and that your baby is properly positioned. This applies to all situations- the walk around the block, or the mom & baby exercise class.

FAQ about babywearing while exercising:

How should I position my baby?
The photo on the right shows a well positioned, properly
supported baby:
*baby is facing inwards (a back carry is also fine!)
*rounded spine
*knees higher than bum, in the frog position
*legs out
*baby is high on the wearers' body (close enough to kiss)
*fabric is carefully tightened around baby, spread from one knee to the other
*baby's head is tilted back, face uncovered, to ensure that there is no risk of the airway becoming blocked

Everyone in my class faces their baby out-
why shouldn't I?
I always recommend against wearing your baby forward facing, for many reasons.
Firstly, the above guidelines for positioning cannot be met- they are important because babies rely on the frogged legs & rounded spine to properly support & distribute the weight of their head & upper body. This is especially important when you are moving around.
Secondly, when a baby is facing away from you, their weight is hanging off your body, as opposed to cuddling in to it- this causes strain on your lower back, shoulders & especially your pelvic floor (which can lead to incontinence, particularly after pregnancy/birth).
Lastly, many babies exhibit signs of stress while facing out- flailing their arms & legs, splayed fingers, or balled up fists (relaxed babies have relaxed hands), loud vocalisations, etc.

How can I keep myself comfortable?
When your baby is properly supported in the right carrier, you should feel comfortable while wearing them. Muscle strain is a sign that something is not right. Some tips to keep in mind:
-Maintain your own posture- contract your stomach muscles & keep your core stabilised
-Use only 2 shouldered carriers, with the straps properly centred on the balls of your shoulders, never your neck
-Wear your baby high on your body- in either a high back carry, or close enough to kiss in a front carry
-If you are wearing for a longer period of time, re-tie your carrier every so often to distribute the weight to different muscle groups
-Remember that babywearing is weight bearing exercise- you will be using more energy to do less work than if you were not carrying!

Which carriers do you recommend?
-A woven wrap is most appropriate, providing the most support & flexibility
-A mei tai or SSC (soft structured carrier) can work well also, paying special attention to the baby's spine being rounded & the fabric supporting the baby from one knee to the other.

*I recommend avoiding using stretchy wraps- they do not provide the support that a baby needs to maintain a safe position while you are exercising. I am especially concerned with positional asphyxia- this is caused by the collapse/closure of a baby's airway due to the weight of their head. This can happen when a baby's head is tilted down, with the chin against their chest.

There are 2 exceptions to this rule- the Gypsymama/Wrapsody Stretch & the Calin Bleu Fleece
both of which have widthwise stretch, but very little lengthwise stretch. They allow for proper tightening & will not sag with use. They are not considered true stretch wraps as such- most people refer to them as hybrid wraps.

How long can I wear my baby for?

This questions has 2 answers! If you mean per day, the answer is, as many hours per day as you & your baby feel comfortable. If you mean for how many years, the answer is that many babywearers continue to wear well into childhood. I always bring a wrap or 2 when hiking with my kids, now ages 7, 4.5 & 2.5. The little ones like to take breaks on my back when we go for longer distances. A wrap is also my backup safety plan- if someone injures them self, they can be easily carried out.

How do we handle inclement weather?
We are Canadian- we handle inclement weather for most of the year! Luckily, there are many innovative products designed to keep you & your baby warm & dry while babywearing. We have sourced our favourites for baby & parents , from legwarmers to babywearing jackets. These all make babywearing practical & fun all year round!

I hope this helps you to feel confident in heading out to have fun & keep fit with your baby! We would love to hear your favourite activities to do with your little ones :)

Second photo by Trish Agrell-Smith

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Perfect Every Time Cross Carry

The Cross Carry (usually abbreviated fwcc, for front wrap cross carry), is a great first carry to learn. It works well from newborn on up. As with all babywearing, your baby's safety is your own responsibility- wrap carefully!

This is a teaching wrap- notice the opposite coloured rails, which can help you maintain awareness of which rail you are working with. Here, the top rail is lightly coloured.

Most woven wraps have a middle marker- find it (or the middle of the wrap) & you are ready to get started! Place the centred wrap over your chest...

& bring the wrap around your back, twisting your wrists to keep the wrap from twisting on your back. Bring the tails back over your shoulders.

Take a minute to straighten & snug up the cross you have made on your back.

Place your baby over one shoulder...

& settle him down into the pocket.

Adjust the wrap around him, seating him in it & helping him into the frog legged position, with knees higher than bum.

Notice the top rail- it matches with the fabric nearest your neck. This tells you the fabric isn't twisted.

Grab the top rail & pull straight up to tighten each half of the cross on your back.

Maintain tension on each tail once you have tightened.

To make sure the wrap perfectly supports your baby's spine in a rounded position, tighten each tail strand by strand, working from one edge of the wrap to the next. Tuck one tail between your knees while you work on the other.

When you are finished, bring both tails out in front of you,

cross them underneath baby's bum and bring the tails around your back.

Tie in the back.

Before you're ready to go, adjust your wrap if needed. The baby's legs should be spread at a 30-45 degree angle (this demo doll's very short legs make that difficult, resulting in the odd leg positioning in this pic!), with the bum lower than the knees. It helps to push gently up on the baby's feet to seat them deeply in the wrap & make sure the spine is rounded. Keep the rails at the sides of your baby's body.
Ready to go!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Instructions for using a Nursing Shawl

This is the most special carrier in my collection- a nursing shawl dating from the last quarter of the 19th century (it's around 125 years old). It is a twill weave, made of 100% undyed wool. It came from the Ceredigion region of Wales. The fringes are 9 inches long, which was standard for Welsh nursing shawls, and hand twisted.

Modern babywearers usually call these Welsh shawls (siol fagu in Welsh). Wales seems to have the strongest cultural memory surrounding the use of nursing shawls (in Welsh, the term used for carrying in a shawl is to cwtch, pronounced kootch, which translates roughly as cuddle), although they were in common use in Ireland, Britain & Northern Europe throughout the last several centuries. It is likely that they have been in use for as long as craftspeople in these areas have been weaving wool garments. They remained more or less in use until well into the 20th century- a Scottish man I know remembers his mother carrying him in one! Shawls were the traditional & common woman's garment, it goes to say that babies would be wrapped & carried in them to keep them safe, warm & fed.

There are very few online resources to access information on using a nursing shawl- as part of our International Babywearing Week celebration, we decided to create our own! In these photos, I am using a 10lb demo doll, although I have carried babies ranging from 2-6 months in it. The traditional carry shown here leaves one arm free for the wearer & allows for partial use of the second hand.

Fold the shawl in half, making a triangle

Wrap it around your shoulders

Place the baby high & offcentered...

& wrap the corner of the shawl around the baby...

bringing the baby back in towards you.

Take the other side of the shawl,

bring it under your arm, keeping it taught

& bring the point of the shawl across the baby

& tuck the point of the triangle around the baby. The weight of the baby pulling down on the fabric holds it together- there is no tying or knotting.

Done! The baby rests in the crook of your arm while you go about your day.

Photography by Trish Agrell-Smith

Nursing Shawl purchased from Jane Beck