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Whither paternity leave? A father’s day lament.

Father’s day is a good time for us as Canadians to reflect on a couple of things. Like the importance of men in our children’s lives.

As women have expanded their careers and moved into the workforce, there has been a slow, but constant movement of dads increasing their roles at home. Dads, more than ever before, are involved in raising their kids and helping out around the house.

As Katherine Marshall indicates in a Statistics Canada report from 2011, “As women have increased their hours of paid work, men have steadily increased their share of household work.” Though huge gaps still remain between the amount of time spent on child care and household chores, the truth is that our men have been pitching in.1

Has our culture made space for men in childrearing, do we have policies that really support dads, to let them become nurturers and be involved in raising their children from the very first moment?

Only if you’re in Quebec.

Quebec opted out of the federal program and manages their own. They offer the best deal around when it comes to leave after a child is born. To start, they only require you earn $2,000 before you are eligible for leave. This means that 87.4% of new mothers in Quebec qualified for leave. How does that compare? If you were in the rest of Canada, only 71.9% qualified, leaving a significant gap.2 What else does Quebec do? They pay more overall, reaching 75% as opposed to our 55%. And Quebec has just announced it will be increasing their total amount before you hit the ceiling. Moreover, there are five weeks of paternity leave in Quebec. Yep, five weeks just for men. So what has this done for men? In Quebec, 78% of all men take leave in the first year to year and a half of their children’s lives. As opposed to 27% in the rest of Canada. Parents in Quebec also get to break up their leave as needed, and can opt into two plans: one at 52 weeks, or one at 70. (Taking the longer plan in Quebec means less money per week.) Other things the Quebec system does is accommodate self-employed individuals, and both parents can take leave at the same time.

Deliberate policy changes in Quebec to increase access to parental leave and to provide families with more support has worked.

What do Canadians in the rest of the country currently have?

  • Up to 55% of pay, to a maximum of $530 a week.
  • Fifteen weeks of leave for the mom, 35 of parental that can be shared.
  • Parents cannot take leave at the same time.
  • Support for self-employed if they opt into Employment Insurance.
  • Inability to split the time with work periods when on parental leave.
  • Strict rules on how much money can be earned in this time (on a $30,000 income at 55%, this matters).

So what did the federal government do for the rest of Canada?

  • Number of hours worked to qualify is still at 600 hours.
  • You can choose between a year’s leave at 55% or take 18 months at 33%.3

Be still my beating heart. How does this help families?

It is a known fact that first time parents on the current leave system rely on money in savings or on help from family members to bring them through. And they rely heavily on the income of their spouse during this time. The research is quite clear, you want to support families? Supporting childcare to allow parents to return to work is much more effective.

In an interview with Brian Russell, coordinator of Dad Central Ontario, he said:

“My big concern is that from a financial perspective, they’ve done nothing. Stretching it to 18 months with the same amount of benefits because people are losing money in the long-run and it’s a step backwards. This hurts low income marginalized families.”4

According to Jennifer Robson, in her report called Parental Benefits in Canada: Which way forward?, she outlines several important factors, which include:

  • The lack of coverage due to needing 600 hours to qualify.
  • Inadequate benefits paid to low income families (try surviving off 55% of a $30,000 income).
  • Rigid rules discouraging the sharing of leave, forcing the mother to leave all forms of paid work.5

But when we look at the current government’s proposal, do we see any support for increasing the number of parents who receive leave, to building something to support more families, and providing more income? The answer is clearly no.

And what about dad only leave? What about letting dad’s role in early childhood be recognized as important?

According to Robson, our focus shouldn’t be creating token leave for dads. She believes that dad only leave could exacerbate inequalities, making it harder for single parent families, particularly as most lone parents are still women.

Looking at the last budget though, we had line item after line item of policies structured to support the role and development of women in our country. And let me be clear, women are very much still needing the support as we are still paid less for one hour of work as compared to men. In Canada alone, women earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by men, and this is when they are working the same jobs. This is extremely problematic and cannot be ignored.6 But how are women supposed to advance if we do not allow men the space to enter in the places where we no longer want to be the only ones in charge? A mirroring has to occur.
Russell hates the word token:

“Token feels like that’s a nice thing to do, it doesn’t have substance. It might be a token thing at the beginning but behind that tokenism is something very real. And sustained by research. When dads spend time with their young kids, those kids do better. And dads do better. And families do better. What may look like tokenism at the beginning, ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road it is not a token thing. We’re not even having this discussion, it’s just a part of who we are.”

Russell goes on to say: “We have a cultural hangover that men don’t take that leave. I don’t think we should give dads more than what we give the moms. If we identify something for fathers, that encourages more father to take it. We’re trying to give dads a different opportunity than what they had in the past with their kids.”

Robson herself even states at one point:

“Previous reviews on the behavioural response of both fathers and employers to policy change suggests that, when  a  new  minimum  threshold  for  leave  is  introduced, individuals and organizations are  likely  to  respond  by  anchoring  their  behaviour  to  the  new  “normal” threshold (Robson 2010).”6

So why aren’t men talking about it?

Russell’s personal opinion is:

“From the men’s perspective, sometimes we are afraid to speak up because we are going to be seen as patriarchal and controlling. When men begin to ask for attention or to address their needs for relationship and care, the tendency is to think they are asserting their rights in demanding and patronizing ways. Attacking men like this is also very stereotypical. We treat them as emotionally immature, expecting them to “man up”, and therefore they are denied their right to their emotions.”

It could also be that men simply aren’t being asked. Brian Russell agreed to the interview because I was the first person to contact him to talk about these things.

It’s clear that the proposed changes to our parental leave system are simply good optics, nothing more:

  • It won’t help more Canadian parents access the leave. You still need your 600 hours to qualify, leaving part-time, low-income families out in the cold.
  • There isn’t more money being offered to families, leaving family to rely on other resources, provided they are available. Can you live on 33% for 18 months?
  • No true support for a national childcare policy. Pushing back leave to 18 months doesn’t address affordability. They want to encourage parents to return to work? Support daycare workers and subsidize daycare costs.
  • Lack of initiatives to support salary top-ups by companies.
  • What if you are low income, making less than $20,000 annually? There is no mention of coordinating benefits with existing social services to serve these families.

These are all things from a gender equity perspective, a lower threshold to qualify, a higher salary replacement rate, more support for low income families would benefit everyone.

But if we’re truly looking to increase father involvement? We need to have a dad only leave. How will we change the culture around childrearing without it?

Why wouldn’t the federal government just take Quebec’s model and adopt in nationally? It’s proven to work better than the current system. I’d like the answer to that one myself.

I’d like to leave you with one last thought. Russell states:
“If it’s anybody’s rights [parental leave], it’s the kids’ rights. Kids have a right to have healthy parents.  The kids are the end users in this discussion for me. The dads aren’t. I don’t support father involvement for the good of the men. All this stuff is about what can I do for my child to have the best environment possible. I support father involvement for the good of the men the kids need them to be.”

Brian Russell spoke about Father Involvement at the Second Babywearing in Canada Conference. His session is available here.

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Footnotes
1. Katherine Marshall. 2011. “Generational change in paid and unpaid work”. Canadian Social Trendsno. 92. Statistics Canada. Catalogue no.11-008-X. (accessed July 27, 2011) Visit website here.
2. Taken from a Statistics Canada report called Families, living arrangments and unpaid work.
3. Globe and Mail article called Seven things to know about Canada’s new parental leave benefits.
4. Interview with Brian Russell, coordinator of Dad Central Ontario, April 11, 2017.
5. IRPP Study, No. 63, March 2017. Report can be accessed here. Things left unsolved by both systems: Uneven access to top-ups, and poor coordination with social services. There are families who earn less than the basic income on your tax statement and once you hit $17,000 annual income you are effectively unable to take any sort of leave.
6. Taken from Statistics Canada report called Women and paid work.
7. IRPP Study, No. 63, March 2017, Parental Benefits in Canada: Which Way Forward?, p 21. Robson continues: In some cases, this could actually lead to a reduction in the frequency or duration of leave relative to what would have happened in the absence of a policy change. I am not able to determine, from the EICS data, trends in leave-taking by fathers outside the EI system or the duration of the leave taken. But to have a large impact, a benefit reserved for fathers would have to be large enough to induce them to increase their rate of leave-taking significantly, relative to what would otherwise have occurred. One of the places we can do this is in our maternity and parental leave provisions. But if you look at the proposed changes by the federal government, not one mention of adding a paternity leave has been included.

2017 Award winners

You know what I realized during this whole process? Canadians really love and appreciate the support they’ve received from others in their community. First there was the nail biting vote for Canadian Babywearing Educator of the year, which came down to only a difference of a few votes for this year’s winner.

 

Canadian Babywearing Educator of 2017

Congratulations to Cindy Larrivée, this year’s recipient of this award. Cindy has won a manduca brown baby carrier from our GOLD sponsor.

Cindy was nominated by several people in her community for this award, and you could tell they really appreciated all they did for her.

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The award for best babywearing group brought out everyone. We received a total of over 19,088 votes. What I learned? Canadians love their babywearing groups and see them as an essential part of their parenting journey. To all those who volunteer to help parents, I would like to thank you.

Best Babywearing Group in Canada of 2017

Congratulations to the Renfrew Babywearing Group. You have won a manduca brown baby carrier from our GOLD sponsor for your learning library.

 

 

Diane Pepin – Presenter 2016 Babywearing in Canada Conference

Diane Pepin is from Windsor and has been working as a doula since 1998. Diane became a CAPPA trained lactation educator in 1999 and since then, has offered extensive post-partum support to parents, particularly focusing on maternal and parental confidence. This moved her to co-found the Windsor and Essex County Breastfeeding Coalition. Diane started providing babywearing instruction and support in 1999 and still offers the following today:

  • Wearing premature and vulnerable infants.
  • Down’s syndrome and other children with disabilities.
  • Parents with disabilities.
  • Babywearing and breastfeeding.
  • Post-partum support for the parents
  • The Mamatoto project
  • And much more.

Diane lives and works in Windsor and can be reached through her website, Mother’s Helper.

Diane was nominated for the Best Canadian Babywearing Educator Award in 2017. She also presented at the 2016 Babywearing in Canada Conference.

Session: Babywearing and Breastfeeding
By Diane Pepin and Débora Rodrigues

Using your baby carrier to keep baby close helps the breastfeeding relationship enormously. Reading your baby’s cues is much easier when the baby is held closer to the mother, and father. In this session, Diane and Débora will discuss proper positioning when nursing in a variety of baby carriers and they will discuss what the baby is capable of at different ages. This includes when to use a cradle carry, when to nurse tummy to tummy, and finally, tips and tricks to be an active babywearer and to keep it safe.

Official 2017 #BWICweek events

Babywearing in Canada week takes place from May 19, 2017, to May 27, 2017. Have you registered your official event? Fill out our form here!

These are the official events for 2017. Join our events page on facebook for all the latest news. 🙂

Event planners qualify entry into our giveaways – which include manduca carriers from our GOLD sponsor.

Gatineau QC
Event planner: Julie Caron
16 rue Bériault, Gatineau (J8X 1A3)
Date: May 19, 2017
Time: 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
Business: Les Mamatinées

Il vous sera donc possible de discuter entre mamans autour d’une collation, d’en apprendre plus sur le portage à travers des échanges avec les mamans, de magasiner un porte-bébé neuf ou de seconde main et même d’expérimenter un cours de Danse Portage! Une quinzaine de porte-bébés seront disponibles pour l’essaie. Entrée pour chaque adulte est $5.

(English translation: Come and snack with us while we talk babywearing! We will talk about how the various ways you can get a baby carrier trading, buying new, or even second-hand. Various carriers will be available for you to try to see what is best for you, and we’ll even try our hands at babywearing dance. Entry fee per adult is $5

Lien de l’événement (event link).

Ste-Thérèse QC
Event planner: Catherine de Montigny
Centre Culturel Thérèse de Blainville
Date: May 20, 2017
Time: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Business: Salon du Portage

3ième édition du salon du portage

Le Petit salon du portage is a group of 4 moms Who organise babywearing events twice a year.  Our events include classes with babywearing instructors, vendors (such as Chimparoo, Dahlia Wrap, and many more), rallye, photography, Zumba babywearing dance classes, a carrier swap, a baby carrier fasion show and more! All of this happens in just one day -be sure you don’t miss it.

We have about 5oo visitors on each édition.  This Will be the third 🙂

Petit salon de portage link

Grand Prairie AB
Event planner: Teresa Donnessey
Muskoseepi Park
Date: May 21, 2017
Time: starts at 12:00 pm
Business: Momma Luvz and Carry Me Mommy

Come join Teresa from Momma Luvz and Jessica from Carry Me Mommy for a Babywearing walk around Muskoseepi park to celebrate Babywearing Week in Canada! Bring your own carrier and let’s get to know each other. If you don’t have a carrier and would like to join please send Teresa at Momma Luvz or Jessica at Carry Me Mommy a message and we’ll provide as many as we can. The weather should be nice, hope to see you there, older children welcome! Meet us at the Pavillion at noon 🙂

Event link.

Ottawa ON
Event planner: Daniela Pueyo Grande
Lansdowne Park
Date: May 21, 2017
Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Business: Salsa Babies & BWIC Ottawa Babywearing Group

Join Salsa Babies Ottawa for its 2nd Annual Family dance and picnic at The Great Lawn in Lansdowne Park from 10 am to 12 pm. This year we are teaming up with Babywearing in Canada to celebrate the 6th annual Babywearing in Canada week too!! Come and meet other Salsa Babies Ottawa parents and BWIC Ottawa Babywearers and their kiddos, while enjoying the ourdoors and the beautiful tulips. Bring your blanket and snacks, we will bring carriers, the props and the music to play and dance! If you have never attended one of our classes, or gone to a BWIC babywearing group meeting this is your chance to learn more about what we do. Feel free to invite your family and friends, as this is a faily event open to anyone! See you there, Dani & Débora.

Event link.

Saskatoon SK
Event planner: Fred Berry
Kinsmen Park
Date: May 22, 2017
Time: 10:30 am – 1:00 pm
Group: Saskatoon Babywearers

Enjoy a great day of babywearing!

Saskatoon Babywearers is hosting an event to celebrate Babywearing In Canada Week. We will meet in the picnic area of Kinsmen Park at 10:30 am for a babywearing demonstration from Saskatoon Babywearer’s certified babywearing educators. There’s always something cool to learn at a demo, even for experienced wearers! A few minutes past 11, we will cross Spadina and walk eastbound on the beautiful Meewasin Trail. Walks are a fun way to talk with friends and meet other babywearers.
We will return to the park around 12 for a picnic lunch. Bring your lunch and picnic blanket! Stay as long as you’d like to have fun at the park with your family. Don’t forget your sunscreen, hat, and water! Strollers are also welcome. If your kids are past the wearing stage, just come on out for a walk and picnic with friends. We’d love to see you! If you have a specific babywearing question or concern you would like help with at the demo, or would like to borrow a carrier for the walk, please message the page to make arrangements.

Saskatoon Babywearers is a volunteer organization, independent of any commercial business.

Event link.

Richmond BC
Event planner: Rachel Pang
Private home (Claudia Chan)
Date: May 22, 2017
Time: 10:30 am – 1:00 pm

Small playdate to discuss new carries, wraps, and trying different things.

Thornhill ON
Event planner: Inna Chesnokova
Golden Line Gymnastics, 55 Glen Cameron Rd. unit 3 (L3T 1P1)
Date: May 23, 2017
Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Business: Dancing Mom and WithMyBaby.com

Celebrate it with us to our 2-hour event!

  • Mommy and Baby Barre Class: Put your little one in a sling and imagine you are a real ballerina! Babywearing Barre is a great workout that will wake up your muscles, make you feel great, and help you prepare your body for summer! Challenge your body, get ready to move, sweat like a dancer, and loose lots of calories.
  • Mommy and Baby Salsa Class: Enjoy great music and comfortable moves of Salsa that will bring your baby back to the time she spent in your belly. Combine a great time with your baby and your new amazing workout.
  • Babywearing Consultations and Chat: Whether you are a practicing babywearer or just a beginner, you are welcome to socialize with like-minded parents, chat about kids, try some slings, ask any questions.

Limited spaces, registration is required. Event link.

Rockland ON
Event planner: Erin Vanasse
Morris Village Park
Date: May 23, 2017
Time: 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Business: Salsa Babies & BWIC Ottawa Babywearing Group

Babywearing in Canada is hosting their “6th Annual Babywearing in Canada Week”, so what better time to host another babywearing meet-up!?! Super excited to host another Babywearing Meet-up in Rockland for all the local moms (and Dad’s!) to come out and chat about the benefits of babywearing! This event will be held at the Parc in Morris Village (weather depending). Bring your picnic blankets, little pop up tents, whatever you like! It will be a potluck, so please comment in the event to let us know what you would like to bring. People had a great time trying on different wraps and carriers at our last meet-up, so please bring whatever you think pepole might like to try out!

Event link.

Charlottetown PEI
Event planner: J.C. Martin
Charlottetown
Date: May 23, 2017
Time: 10:00 am
Group: PEI Babywearing

PEI babywearing play date. We’ll go for a walk, head to the playground and have a picnic if you want to hang out longer. The ice cream shop will be open. I’ll bring all the carriers so we can geek out. Prizes pending. Raindate May 24th

Event link

Grande Prairie AB
Event planner: Jessica Matwiiw
Muskoseepi Park
Date: May 25, 2017
Time: 10:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Group: Grande Prairie Lending Library

Grande Prairie Babywearing Lending Library will be hosting our 3rd Babywearing in Canada Week play date. Come out to Parent Link on May 5th from 10:00am-11:30am and join in on the fun. Grande Prairie Babywearing Lending Library will be giving away a year membership at our play date. Everyone is welcome to join us!
Come out and learn all about Babywearing. Try out all the carriers the library has to offer, get help with your personal carriers or just come out and meet new people.

Event link

Milton ON
Event planner: Cindy Black
Centennial Park, 50 Martin Street
Date: May 25, 2017
Time: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Business: Birdies Room

Come and celebrate Babywearing in Canada week by joining us for a social in the park followed by a walk along the pond and trails. We will meet at the gazebo off of Martin Street at 10am. Bring your blankets and partake in a casual social from 10am-11:30am where you can see, feel and try on Didymos carriers. We will then hit the trails around the pond at 11:30am-1pm. We hope to see you there!

Event link.

Orangeville ON
Event planner: Jill Bailey
Rotary Park
Date: May 26, 2017
Time: 9:00 – 11:00 am
Group: Orangeville and Area Babywearers

May meet up and hike. Event link.

Brighton ON
Event planner: Carrie Hutchinson
15494 County Road 2
Date: May 26, 2017
Time: 11:30 – 1:00 pm
Business: Eco Kids

Eco Kids Babywearing Picnic. Lets celebrate Babywearing In Canada Week by having a babywearing potluck picnic and enjoy the company of other fellow babywearers!

Event link.

Chatham ON
Event planner: Teresa Corso
36 Parkview Court N7M 6H9
Date: May 26, 2017
Time: 10:00 – 12:00 pm
Business: Bear Bums

It’s Babywearing Week!

Join Catherine O’Halloran of Mama Connection and Tamara Corso of Bear Bums for an informative introduction to babywearing. We will take you through different types of carriers and great options for various ages and stages.

Come on by to chat and connect with local mamas, and bring your carriers with you if you have questions about the size or fit. We are not babywearing educators, but we can guide you through the basic fit of ring slings, soft structured carriers, mei tais and wraps.

Take advantage of Bear Bums Babywearing Week in Canada Sale and get 15% OFF ALL CARRIERS! Tamara will have Tula, Chimparoo “Trek”, and Beco “Gemini”, “8” and ring slings available to try on or for purchase!

You won’t want to miss this!

Event link.

A different kind of mother’s day – Pregnancy and Infant Loss

Pregnancy and Infant Loss – today, tomorrow, forever

As Mother’s Day approaches, it is important to remember the mothers who are not able to hold and care for their children.  Although the majority of pregnancies end with the birth of a healthy baby, it is estimated that one in four pregnancies1 ends in miscarriage (loss up to 20 weeks of pregnancy), and approximately 7 in every 1,000 pregnancies end in stillbirth (loss after 20 weeks of pregnancy).2

With this level of frequency, it is very likely that either you or someone close to you have experienced this traumatic event in their lives.  Other families and individuals experience the devastating loss of a newborn.  Mothers come in all forms – the ones who are able to hold their children on earth and the ones who can only hold them in their hearts.

My husband Rob and I decided to start a family in 2013.  We experienced a miscarriage at 10 weeks with our first pregnancy.  This loss made me realize that becoming a mother happened the moment I found out I was pregnant. The plans, dreams and hopes for the future were dashed at our dating ultrasound when we were told that our baby had no heartbeat. We were fortunate to become pregnant again and I gave birth to a healthy, happy son named Gabriel in 2014.  In 2016, we decided to add again to our family. We passed the 12 week mark and I breathed a sigh of relief.  After a routine ultrasound at 19 weeks, we found out that our son Aaron had no kidneys and that there was no chance that he would survive after birth. We were devastated, but after hearing his strong heartbeat and seeing his profile that looked so much like Gabriel, we decided to continue the pregnancy.

Lorraine Rigby-Larocque spoke at the first Babywearing in Canada conference that took place May 2015. During her session “Losing a child: Coping today, tomorrow and forever,” Lorraine shared her personal experience with loss. Lorraine’s son Kevin was stillborn at 29 weeks gestation over 20 years ago, and she also experienced eight miscarriages and survived cervical cancer.   Lorraine experienced contractions early into her pregnancy with Kevin, who was her third child, and was in and out of the hospital.  At 29 weeks, Lorraine went to the hospital because she could not feel her baby moving.  Sitting in the ultrasound room alone, Lorraine heard the dreaded words, “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat.”  From the session, Lorraine said, “I needed to give this baby the same effort that I gave to my other babies.” So she decided to give birth to Kevin without medication as with her other babies.

Lorraine’s story of loss, though 20 years ago, is achingly familiar to anyone who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss.  The universality of loss really struck me as I listened to Lorraine’s story of loss from over 20 years ago.

When we decided to continue our pregnancy, we were referred to the Perinatal Hospice at Roger Neilson House.3  Like Lorraine, I wanted to give Aaron a similar experience that Gabriel had while I was pregnant and during his birth.  Lorraine’s words in the session are the words of a mother who knows the intertwining joy and sorrow that occurs during the birth and loss of a much-loved child.  It’s the loss of dreams for the future, when you find out that your baby has slipped away during pregnancy.  It’s a moment of such joy when you meet your baby, but also a moment of such sorrow when you know that the moment is fleeting.  It’s meeting your beautiful baby, counting their fingers and toes and trying to memorize every little detail.  The moment you meet your child is something that you never forget.

Our son, Aaron Isaiah Robert Peters Samulack was born four weeks early on Father’s Day, June 19th 2016. We spent 100 precious minutes with Aaron. It was sad and it was hard, but it was beautiful.  He was a beautiful little boy with strawberry blonde hair and lovely lips.  One of the things that Lorraine said in her presentation about after the birth of Kevin that really stuck out to me was “My body felt empty, and my arms felt empty, I just felt empty.”  Lorraine arranged a funeral service for Kevin, as we did for Aaron.  She described having to go to a music store to pick out just the perfect music for the service only a few days after birth.  Her breasts were leaking milk; her body was empty and longing for her baby.

I remember walking around the cemetery with my dad, only two days after I gave birth to Aaron, looking for a plot in the baby section.  It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the birds were singing in a tree that overlooks Aaron’s final resting place.  My breasts were swollen with milk and I still looked very pregnant.  On the inside, I felt so empty.  I look back at photos from the funeral and internment and I still don’t know how I am making it through the dark days that have followed Aaron’s birth and death.

Lorraine said that one of the things that helped her most after the loss of Kevin were cards and messages from friends that acknowledged the loss of Kevin and her subsequent pregnancy losses. Sending a card on a special date like Mother’s Day to acknowledge that our babies existed is sometimes the best thing that you can do to help heal our hearts.    There are no magic words that you can say that will make the pain go away.  However, acknowledging our losses is not going to make us sadder.  We have not forgotten about our losses and we hope that our friends haven’t either.  One of our biggest fears as bereaved mothers is that our babies will be forgotten.  Though their voices do not echo in our homes, our babies will live in our hearts forever.

Just like with our family, Lorraine has keepsakes that she treasures to this day: ultrasound photos, a clipping of hair, handprints and footprints tenderly captured by a compassionate nurse.  These are the things that transcend time, things that bring us closer to our babies. These items we can hold and cherish remind us over and over again that our babies were here if only for a moment.  In the Ottawa/Gatineau area, volunteer photographers from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) do an amazing job of capturing these moments for individuals/families facing the loss of their baby at birth.  Veronique Lalonde, the NILMDTS coordinator for Ottawa/Gatineau was contacted by the palliative care team at Roger Neilson House take photos when Aaron was born. She was so kind and compassionate and captured photos that mean the world to me.  I look at these photos often and they help me remember what Aaron looked like – his beautiful lips and his tiny feet that danced so often while I was pregnant.

It was important for Rob and to take our experience and use it to raise awareness of pregnancy and infant loss in our community when we learned out about The Butterfly Run. The Butterfly Run’s purpose is to remember our children, and for parents who experienced pregnancy and infant loss. It was created by three bereaved mothers in Quinte, Ontario, in 2016 to raise awareness and help other individuals/families who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. The Butterfly Run is growing; it has already taken place in Belleville and Peterborough this year, and will take place in Ottawa in October.

On Saturday, October 14th 2017, we will be walking or running to raise awareness for all types of pregnancy and infant loss at Aaron’s Butterfly Run Ottawa/Gatineau. There will be a 1 mile family walk/run and a 5 km walk/run. All proceeds from Aaron’s Butterfly Run will go to the Perinatal Loss programs at Roger Neilson House through the Ottawa Senators Foundation.  This run is for anyone who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss and for those who support them. Thank you to the women who have come before me like Lorraine who are bringing awareness to pregnancy and infant loss.  Our babies will not be forgotten.

 

Rachel Samulack, Aaron’s Butterfly Run Ottawa/Gatineau Organizer. All proceeds from Aaron’s Butterfly Run will go to Roger Neilson’s House.

Rachel would like to thank Débora Rodrigues and Babywearing in Canada for her support and her sponsorship of Aaron’s Butterfly Run.

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Footnotes
1. Bill-141 was passed in the Ontario legislature to provide $1 million dollars to train health care workers in bereavement loss, and conduct research. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. For more information on Bill 141, read this article
2. This article by Maclean’s illustrates how important grieving is to the parents as attachment begins in utero. Seven out of 1,000 babies born in Canada are stillborn. Read more here
3. Roger Neilson House is an eight-bed pediatric residential hospice which offers compassionate care and bereavement services in collaboration with the Children of Eastern Ontario’s (CHEO) palliative care team. This amazing facility is located on the grounds at CHEO and provides a home-like environment to children who have a significant risk of dying before reaching adulthood. Perinatal hospice is also offered to families or individuals whose babies are likely to die before, during, or shortly after birth. Individuals and families who receive the heartbreaking news that their baby may not survive very long after birth may choose to continue their pregnancy and celebrate their baby’s short life.  Specialized care and support at Roger Neilson House is offered that includes counselling and emotional support; assistance with making medical decisions about their pregnancy, delivery and their baby’s care; assisting with memory making (such as photographs) and ongoing bereavement care. Roger Neilson House also offers a Perinatal Loss Support group, which is for families and individuals who have lost a pregnancy over 20 weeks or a baby shortly after birth. Visit their website to learn more.

Vote Best Babywearing Group in Canada

In 2017, we held Canada’s very first Babywearing Educator Awards.

Best Babywearing Group – sponsored by manduca

***WINNER**

Renfrew County Babywearing Group

  • Meagan is so enthusiastic about babywearing, and shares her passion about babywearing, and her compassion for new parents with the community.
  • As a military spouse and new mom, Meghen started the Renfrew County Babywearing Group as a way to create connections between moms in the community (the military is one of the largest employers in the area), and give parents tools to comfort their baby, improve postpartum adjustment, and get things done.
  • The Renfrew County Group reaches out to baby wearing folks by showcasing where our online moms can meet and connect in person by pointing out events where folks are babywearing, and how great it is, or just to say “Hi! I see you.  You’re doing a good thing.”
  • This fosters a greater sense of community when the moms connect back and say “Hey I was there, that might have been me!” Through the Renfew County Babywearing Group, you can borrow  carriers which helps people find what works for them.  Meagan’s enthusiasm as group leader, and positivity about babywearing really shine through!

Link to facebook group.

 

Nominations also included:

Babywearing Calgary

  • There are at least two meetings a month, but often more. One in the south, and one in the north. As for accessibility, meetings are close to transit options. That said, we have pretty good public transit here, so there’s that. Big kids (siblings) are always welcome too, which is fantastic. An effort is made to make the meeting spaces kid/family friendly.
  • For me it’s the genuine community. I find it open, non judgemental, and full of great people with great resources happy to help.
  • No drama, no judgement, no guilt. That is pretty rare on Facebook, particularly mom groups. So this is a gem!
  • The lending library is free, there’s no cost. It’s one of the biggest and most diverse you’ll find. The ease of use and accessibility is nuts.

Link to facebook group.

Babywearing of Algoma

  • I’d like to nominate Babywearing of Algoma for Best Canadian Group. Although we are a smaller community, we do big things in our area.
  • One of their strengths is providing a way for moms to take their online connections and conversations enabling them to meet in person. Our group leaders run monthly ‘Carrier Connect’ meetings and get togethers, are always there to answer questions. The ‘Carrier Connect’ meetings allow for those new to babywearing to learn all about the options for wearing without having to purchase multiple carriers. This helps parents find the one that works best for them.
  • Our gatherings are very social and many new friendships are formed. Our leaders also step out into the community at other mom and baby events, hosting a table to connect with as many new moms and dads as possible.

Facebook page and link to facebook group.

Brantford Babywearers

  • Rachel has gone out of her way for five years to lead and educate new wearers in Brantford, Woodstock and Oakville.  She is an outstanding educator with no bias towards carriers or brands.  Brantford Babywearers made me feel confident in what I was doing. I enjoy having the support from other moms and being able to ask thoughts and experiences with different carriers. The meetings are fantastic and the lending library was a life saver.
  • I like how real everyone in this group is about their experiences with different carriers without pushing their bias at all. The meeting I was able to go to was really inclusive and relaxed. For me this is a big thing because I get easily intimidated. The online support is amazing, especially for the pictures when you can ask, “Hey does this look right and if something doesn’t there’s no judgement, just help and encouragement. It makes it easier to reach out and ask for help.
  • Personally I also appreciated that Brantford’s lending library was so diverse – it really allowed me to try a lot of different things before I bought. Given the size of the community, and that many of us have to use online venues for buy sell trade, I found this to be a valuable resource. It’s a lot of work to maintain the library.

Link to facebook group.

Honourable Mention

Windsor Babywearing group. This submission was received after the nominations closed, but the replies were so heartfelt for the work this group does in their community, I decided they deserved a shout-out here.

  • They’re are absolutely fantastic and provide so much knowledge and information regarding so many carriers. It’s incredible they take so much time out of their lives to run this group. When I joined, I quickly learned how inviting and generous this group is. Such a nice community.
  • They are so amazingly helpful and knowledgeable. They’ve brought together such a wonderful group of babywearing mom’s that feel like a second family. We are truly blessed here in Windsor to have such a great babywearing community.
  • This is such an amazing and supportive group. It is composed of a few experienced and passionate local moms who not only run babywearing play dates but run a lending library on their own time. The offer play dates where you can meet up with other like minded moms where you can try on various different carriers and learn the ins and outs of what may work best for you. If you can’t make a play date they open their homes for one on one learning sessions as well. In person, online, you name it they are there to answer any questions you may have! I am so thankful to have a local group that is so welcoming and not only passionate but knowledgeable as well. Thank you to these fabulous ladies (Danielle, Nikki, Georgina, and Sarah)

 

VOTE Canadian Babywearing Educator 2017

2017 we held Canada’s very first Babywearing Educator Awards.

Best Babywearing Educator – sponsored by manduca

We had over 20 nominations for best babywearing educator for the 2017 awards and choosing the best of them was a challenge! I was hoping to have three strong contenders and instead ended up with four – there are so many helpful people in Canada!

***WINNER***

Cindy Larrivée, Portage Double

  • Elle m’a apprit une multitude de choses et est toujours la quand j’ai besoin d’aide ou des questionnements. Merci pour ton grand cœur Cindy. She showed me many carrying options and was always available when I had questions or needed help. Thank you for your big heart, Cindy.
  • Cindy give us the real information and really addressed our needs.  Because of her I can carry my baby the way I always wished.
  • She helps both moms and crafters achieve a better safety in babywearing.

Meet the other 2017 nominees:

Diane Pepin, Mother’s Helper

  • Diane introduced me to babywearing. She taught me how to use several different slings, gave me a video, and printed information with web links. She trained me to help her at baby events with demonstrating and sharing information, as well as hooking me up to speak to a class on parenting and family at a high school.
  • This woman cares not only about what she does, but the women and men she is helping.  As she was helping us through our babywearing journey she would offered many solutions to suit our needs.
  • When ever I called her in a panic because my wrap wasn’t just right she would talk me through it in such a calming manner that was not only respectful but built me up.  It is because of her that I am such a big advocate for baby wearing.

Dr. Jill Bailey, member of Orangeville Babywearers

  • As a local birth doula I connected with Dr. Jill who reached out to me about helping to build a babywearing community in our town (Orangeville, ON).
  • Dr. Jill has been a local go-to resource for so many moms in our community and has been a guest at our “Mom & Baby Socials” multiple times.
  • She is encouraging towards all parents in her approach, is extremely knowledgeable, and is a passionate babywearing mom herself. It would be an honour to be able to celebrate her efforts in our small town.

Jennifer Wadleigh, Calgary Babywearers

  • Jen was a complete stranger to me and set me on a path to helping me survive motherhood. I was a nervous first-time mom to a very tiny and very vulnerable preemie and Jen came to my house to help me find the right kind of carrier and the right way to carry.
  • She was so generous with her time and her knowledge, which made me feel so comfortable and confident. My daughter was 8 weeks early and just over 4 pounds when she came home. She needed to be carried constantly – she was cold and so small and really needed the extra love. Babywearing helped me give that to her while giving me the freedom to do more than just sit and hold her for the first two months she was home.
  • The time Jen took with me helped me be totally confident in the way I was carrying her and I will be forever grateful. She gave me a huge gift in being able to meet my daughter’s needs and my own.

Honourable mention:

Corwyn Warwaruk, West of the 4th

  • Corwyn is one of the leaders in our community for safe Babywearing.  He helps anyone who asks, with no strings attached.
  • He is happy to teach anyone how to wear their baby in what they already own. He can make the best out of any carrier and help a parent use it properly, safely and comfortably first baby and caregiver.
  • He gives back to the community and is overall an amazing person, daddy and friend.

VOTE!

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
Start date 20-01-2015 03:59:19
End date 26-05-2017 23:59:59
Poll Results:
Who would you choose as the best Canadian Babywearing Educator 2017.

GOLD Sponsor – BWICweek 2017

Babywearing in Canada is very proud to announce that manduca1 is the GOLD sponsor for the 6th Annual Babywearing in Canada week which is from May 19 -27, 2017. Have you registered your event yet? Do it today – follow this link.

The company behind manduca was founded in 2002 and is located in Germany. From the very beginning manduca’s focus has been to inspire parents to wear their children by offering practical, beautiful products that parents enjoy using.2 manduca has always striven to be innovative in their carrier design. Starting with their first carrier, their original soft-structured carrier:

  • It allows babywearing right from birth because of the infant seat (baby insert).
  • The insert is thin and minimizes the amount of material between the baby and the parent’s body, increases the benefits of wearing. It is also easily rolled up and tucked away.
  • Their SSC has an innovative panel extension, allowing parents to have as long of a babywearing journey without needing to rely on upgrading as their child grows and changes in size. Easy to use, you simply unzip and voila! You have a larger carrier.
  • It was the first carrier to include so many features to adjust the carrier, from the dual adjustable straps on the bottom, the three way buckle at the waist, increased adjustability on the straps just above the panel to reduce or prevent stress on the parent’s body from babies who like to lean out.

Parents choose manduca because they also want a baby carrier made of organic fibres.  Sustainability, organic materials and fair production continue to take priority in everything they make. Nearly everyone who works at manduca is a parent, they are mums and dads, too. They know exactly how important it is to master the challenges parents face every day, all while keeping your hands and minds free of worry. Safe babywearing is their ultimate priority, as is peace of mind. manduca products are designed with all this without sacrificing beauty, comfort, or the environment.

The manduca baby carrier enables parents to keep their hands free, is made sustainable, offers ergonomic positioning for the parent and child, is extremely comfortable and versatile without sacrificing style.

 

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Footnotes
1. Visit the manduca website to see more of their collection. And like their Facebook page!
2. More information on manduca can be found here on their blog.

Multinational babywearing support – Ergo Hipseat

We live in a multicultural country and one of the things that is guaranteed, for as long as there has been Canada Post, there have been relatives sending gifts internationally. Gifts that represent their love and their support for family members that they cannot see often due to the cost and the distance.

I myself was the recipient of these sorts of gifts when I was a kid, sweaters that would get here off season and wouldn’t fit by the time winter came, things you wouldn’t be caught dead in but that you had to put on and have a picture taken as “proof” that you loved it, and that the family appreciated the thought and effort behind it (and thank goodness there was no facebook, and that after that one pic, you could toss it into the donate pile without a second thought!). And later, cheap dollar store crap you could get at the shop down the street from where I lived, but was sent to you with love (and that was usually half-broken by the time it arrived).

That is why it is important to learn about baby carriers that are not sold in North America and to suspend your judgment when helping people out. My most recent introduction to a foreign carrier was when interviewing Sunmi Cha this past fall. Sumni is from Korea and her family had thoughtfully sent her a gift for her to use to show their love and for her to connect with her baby, an Ergo hip seat.

 

           

My first few thoughts on seeing it?

  • Hey, it’s like a Hippychick that’s been punked!
  • OMG this does not fall in-line with the hip safety marketing Ergo likes to use everywhere else. M-position, what?
  • Ooooooh, let’s play!

And that last one is what stuck with me, because it is exactly what I did.

What’s the first thing you do when you see a carrier like this? Pull from your experience. I’ve been around a long time, so the base was exactly like a Hippychick I still have cached in my basement.1 Then it’s like Ergo put on some romantic music, sent it on a blind date with a Playtex Hip Hammock and these two carriers made a baby! Or maybe they just took a style that was already popular in Asian and spun their own version of it out there (not as much fun, but likely the truth as Lillebaby has one too, Three in One and Pognae for example).2

                    

What if you haven’t been around for as long as babywearing dinosaurs have roamed the earth? Read the label. Yeah, I know, your Korean is likely as good as mine, but thankfully this one was fully bilingual English / Korean. What if the label is unreadable and not in script you can handily copy into your computer browser? Reach out to your international babywearing peeps and start asking questions (I got some good resources with that one – thanks Heather and Theresa!)3

The important thing to focus on here from the label is the BABY FALLING OUT warning: Infants can fall out through a wide opening or out of the hip seat. Essentially, is the baby TOO small for the carrier and the carrier base?

 

 

This fall warning is very important, especially since if you know your babywearing history, you’ll know that Baby Bjorn had to issue a recall of their front pack carriers for this exact reason.4 It lead to them making a small, but critical change to their carriers. They added a small loop and button to narrow the leg opening to prevent smaller babies from falling out of them. Yep, some babies will fall out through the leg openings if they are too wide.

Unfortunately, Ergo has not made any changes or adjustments to this carrier to provide a similar feature. And let’s not point fingers exclusively at one company, none of the others seem to have something in place either. So, Ergo, baby – let’s talk!! I’d really like to see all the companies who sell this thing make a modification to prevent what is a known fall hazard, moreover, one that from my perspective is a modification to the design that is relatively easy to do. So uh, hop hop, let’s get moving, am I right?

The other important warning is the SUFFOCATION hazard. If the baby is too low in the carrier and their face is pressed against the parent’s body or clothing, they might die.

The other parts of this warning label are just ridiculous. Essentially, if you follow them to the letter, you are basically asking that only trees, street lamps on poles and other inflexible objects wear the baby. And given they ask all the zippers be closed, essentially they are inadvertently saying that the base never be used separately from the rest of the carrier. It’s all rather incoherent and this is where you need to step in to intepret and explain this to your client. Once again, the important thing is to use your judgment as a babywearing consultant and have the parent put the child in the carrier. Assess:

  • The size of the child. If the child is too small, then this carrier cannot be used until they are older.
  • The stability of the carrier: Can it adjust tightly to the wearers waist? Important to look at since the hipseat is inflexible and hard plus not everyone is really good at attaching velcro waists securely enough.
  • What happens when the parent moves or bends over with the baby in the carrier? Is the carrier nice and tight around the child, does the baby slip around? If the answer is yes to any of those, and this is the ONLY carrier the parents own, emphasize the part on the label that states you should put an arm around the baby. Otherwise, if they have the means, or another carrier, talk about waiting until the baby can grow into it.

Is this a carrier I would choose for myself? No, probably not. But that’s not the point of being a babywearing consultant – it’s not about what I would chose. Your first goal should always be about supporting parents to babywear as safely as possible with what they have. The only real dangers are:

  • Baby too small and will fall through the leg openings.
  • Baby too short and is not visible.
  • Baby is improperly supported and if you are inattentive, the back and neck will slump and the baby’s airway will compress. And let’s face it, we get busy as parents and distracted. So airway compression is important.

After an assessment, if the carrier is truly dangerous – at this point, you need to be compassionate, listen to their story, and tell them the truth.

“It’s really nice to have gotten a great gift from your parents so that you know your baby is cared both by them and by you. But you can’t use this (right now /ever) because your baby is (choose one of the above).”

 

    

Débora Rodrigues has been teaching babywearing since August 2008. The Hippychick is part of her rental collection which is available to those living her hometown of Ottawa, Ontario.

Sunmi and I originally met October 15, 2016, and we spoke for about four hours. The first article is called Growing up Korean which was followed by Babywearing Redux. The next article about Sunmi’s journey is called Becoming Canadian, where she shares how she moved to Canada and then stayed.

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Footnotes:
1. Hippychicks are still available for sale in the U.K. and can be seen on their website. I scored mine at a community garage sale here in town.
2. Here is a Korean blog discussing the major hipseat brands available there. I always find it interesting to see how these things are sold in other countries, using marketing that just wouldn’t work for a Canadian or Western market. If you scroll down, you too can also have a giggle at their claims of how a hard seat with narrow leg openings supports the M-position. The MATH is just wrong people.
3. Check out the KOREAN Lillebaby website, Pognae’s website and the Ergo Baby website. You will need to use a translation tool to understand it.
4. Baby Bjorn carriers were recalled in 1999. Recall is archived here on Health Canada’s website.

Babywearing Redux – Sunmi Cha

pod 6

Sunmi Cha is a Canadian originally from Korea. I was privileged enough to be invited into her home and hear her story. She wore her siblings growing up, to read about it click here.

What is it like to start babywearing again?

I was actually surprised that there’s a school of people that invest themselves in all these wraps. I did not know much about it.

I have watched a Korean documentary called Secret of traditional parenting.1 It was talking about how good it is to wear their baby. So the baby can observe the environment, learn social interaction from you, from being on your back all the time and it gives you lots of mobility. And you know babywearing, we all know how many benefits it offers. So it talks all about it. And the documentary was talking about how popular the podaegi is in Europe right now. How a lot of moms are looking into podaegi. After watching the documentary, I thought it is the best carrier in the world that’s why other people are looking into it.

In Korea sometimes there is propaganda happening. They try. By telling you that this part of our culture is the best, we are smart people, what we have is blah-blah-blah.

I think the podaegi is genius. It’s very practical. You took a blanket and put a strap on it. It is practical because it offers torso support instead of relying on the strength of the shoulders.

This comes in different length. There is a shorter one, this is a medium length one. Because every woman is of different height. Because some women are pretty petite.

It’s the height of it, I didn’t know, oh what I am learning!

It hides your figure, mothers feel more comfortable they don’t have to worry about what they are wearing underneath. And traditionally, Asian women they don’t wear revealing clothes, they are very conservative. For that it really helps, you don’t have to worry about what’s showing, about what’s not showing.

But the thing is, it’s pretty thick, but I was using it in summer time, I was carrying him in the front and lights outthis doesn’t stick to your skin, and somehow it felt really breezy and cool.

So you found it insulated against the hot weather?

Yeah, so he loved it. He was falling asleep in it. I couldn’t use the other, the Boba wrap. It [the podaegi] was so easy, put it on and wrap tight, that’s it.

Now there are many different versions, you can attach the strap on an angle and wrap it around your shoulders.

The thing is that these are really cheap. I paid $35.

That’s really affordable. So you came to Ottawa, set up your practice and started your family. So he’s four months old?

Yes, he’s four and a half, he’s 20 weeks.

When I got pregnant, my sisterhip seat from gmarket website wanted to give me a gift, what could it be? So I told her to send me a baby carrier. I saw my sister carrying the baby all the time, she used the Ergo hip seat. My sister was using it and she found it very useful for a toddler especially because the hip seat part is so convenient. So I searched Amazon and they didn’t sel lthis specific one here and I read that they only released this in Korea.

I didn’t know Ergo made them, it must be only for Asia. They have products that are not available here.

Only for Korea. I thought, “Is it because it is less safe?” Is this why they don’t release in Canada?2

It’s perception. It’s a different market.

But the podaegi isn’t expensive, so why so few use it?

It’s the fashionable perspective. I was wondering why don’t they use better looking fabric?

When I was looking to buy podaegi. I searched hard to find something neutral, no bears or dots, or super colourful. Like bright blue, or bright pink I didn’t like it. I still couldn’t get rid of the monkey, but this is acceptable. I didn’t like the ones that are made of so infantile looking fabric, I chose this one because of that.

 

damn monkey1

I sometimes write on Korean online community. I asked there why people don’t use podaegi much. People said that it is partly because of the look and some said they found that structured carriers are easier to use. There were lots of new carriers were on the market that I wasn’t aware.

So people use more of their structured carrier. Ergo is very popular.

Ergo is everywhere. What about wraps?

That was another thing versus a wrap. Wraps are so beautiful, they use different colours. A lot of moms collect the wraps because of its beauty.

I got the woven wrap, the purple one. I was surprised at the price! It was over $200 for a long strand of fabric. I sew, so I tried to make it on my own and went to a fabric store. I tried to search for fabric that was similar to what I saw. I read online that I am supposed to look for jacquard woven and diamond woven. I asked the people at the store but they had no idea. Every fabric is woven was what they said!

Every fabric is woven. Except for knit. Exactly.

It wasn’t very helpful, but they had lots of items in the sales stash, rayon, 100% cotton. It was summertime and I had a Boba wrap, it was too hot. I was looking for something that was lighter fabric for the wrap and also that it breathes. I was looking at pillowrayon, though I realized that rayon is synthetic, even though it is made from natural pulp. Okay so no rayon.

I wanted to buy something with a one way stretch like Wrapsody hybrid. So I bought 5 meters of fabric with a one way stretch. I made half of it into a ring sling and then I tried to wrap him with the other half. This fabric was too slippery and wasn’t easy to pull, it was awkward to put it on. It wasn’t as soft as a woven wrap, it was bulky, so I made the rest of the fabric into a pillow cover.

Oh that looks beautiful!

I also got this carrier cover from my sister.

Oh whoa – look at that! It’s got ears on the hood! It’s so cute, I love it. It’s got little pockets for your hands.

This attracts good attention when I put this on him and go out. It’s a whole set with ergo hip seat. I use the cover all the time.

 

carrier cover

Sunmi and I originally met October 15, 2016, and we spoke for about four hours. This article is a condensed and edited version of our interview. Her story, like many, was so interesting it became a three part series. The first is called Growing up Korean. The next article is called A journey to Canadian, where she shares how she moved to Canada and then stayed.

Sunmi Cha is a full trained and license naturopathic doctor in Ottawa. Visit her website here.

Footnotes
1. The first installment of the documentary of The Secret of Traditional Parenting can be found here. Here is the link to the second and third installment.
2. The Ergo hip seat is available for sale on Gmarket in Korea.