Category Archive Backwearing

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.

 

 

Backwearing – for all parents

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There has been a real change in the language around back carrying these past few years. It has now become normal to view it as dangerous and to be avoided until babies are at least six months old or are able to sit on their own.

It didn’t used to always be this way. And when I look at the overall history of babywearing, carrying your baby long term on the front is so rare, to the point where long-term front wearing is a modern invention. Backwearing is done successfully in many other cultures and babies start to be backcarried as young as 2-6 weeks of age on their mother’s back in various African nations, and in Asian cultures like Japan as of approximately four months of age.1

As Bisi Osundeko says in Joy and Joe’s Dear New Babywearer Book:
“The world is revolving, and many modern families live (in) areas where babywearing is not as dominant. I have heard several stories of people being accosted at car parks and shopping malls because they were attempting to do a back carry.”2

Brenda’s story here in Canada started much the same way:

“My back is so weak. I think I was ridden with guilt at wanting to back carry even though everything I read and everyone I spoke to said, “No way José.” I was supposed to want to front carry only so I could snuggle and love my small baby. Not want to shove him to the back and wear him like a backpack. But I wanted to take care of his needs and not be in pain. He needed to be held and I needed to not hate holding him because of the pain.”3

Parents who turn to backwearing in are often made to feel like:

  • They will kill their baby.
  • They are inferior parents.
  • They are not good enough, strong enough, or healthy enough to babywear.
  • Your baby’s needs are more important than yours – that of your body, of your living situation, of your life.
  • You do not have a normal family, and you don’t count.

Who exactly are we targeting with this language?

  • Solo parents, single parents.
  • Stay at home parents.
  • Parents with multiple children of varying ages.
  • Twin parents.
  • Parents of babies with disabilities.
  • Parents who are in pain.
  • Parents whose bodies are just a little bit different.

Shari’s story is a common one:

Stay-at-home mother“At around two months my big baby was now too heavy for the Moby and it hurt my back and it began to stretch out. So I began looking into other options, that’s how I found out about wraps, mei tai and eventually the woven ring sling. Of course soon he was much too long for a front carry, but then we just switched to a back carry and he could go anywhere with us. By the time I had my last baby, my middle was almost 2. My last baby seemed to be the neediest baby in the world and I was run ragged chasing a two year old around all day and nursing. This is where babywearing was a life saver! I was able to back carry my infant around the house while still being able to entertain a rambunctious toddler.”4

 

 

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Or how about this common parenting experience from Carolyn:

“As a sole parent to a clingy baby on the 98th percentile for weight, backwearing was the only way I could get things done. She was too heavy and bulky to wear on my front during chores, but on my back it was bearable. We indulged in front carries for short walks and bedtime cuddles.”5

Taking backwearing away as an option from parents based on fear is wrong.

 

What are the advantages of backwearing?

  • Safer footing for the parents. You can see where you are going and can avoid obstacles much more easily. Also, once the weather turns and you start having temperatures hit below zero. If you need to increase your traction, invest in some boot grips or retractable walking canes.
  • You can reach things more easily.
  • Protective of the parent’s back. The front part of your body is all soft tissue and does not have the advantage of the spine to help lock things into place. This means you are putting a lot of pressure on your shoulders, throwing your whole body out of alignment and aggravating injuries. I have seen women who would have abandoned babywearing had they not been able to backwear.
  • Can be used to accommodate almost any adult physiology as the baby can be worn high, on the mid or low back.
  • Enables parents to continue with proximal care.6
  • Allows parents to be responsive, active parents through what I like to call the communication loop – parents are able to hear, feel, respond do their baby’s needs because they are worn.
  • Easier to monitor your child when they are worn.
  • Improves and decreases stress and anxiety in both the parent and the child.
  • It is incredibly empowering.

Objections to babywearing are based on a lack of know-how and are not actually based on being able to accommodate baby’s physiological needs in a safe way.

As a babywearing educator, I feel it is my job to empower parents to backwear safely.

The argument that we frequently hear, that unless a baby is physiologically capable of holding up their own bodies, you should not backwear is utter claptrap. Because then what other choice are we left with? That babies should all be kept in some sort of basin and off the body. The only difference between wearing on the front versus the back is the “out of sight” aspect. Which can be accommodated for if taught properly.

What do you need to consider to backwear safely?

  • For a younger babe, a carrier should form and hug its body. It must hug its contours, leaving no gaps and be able to snugly hold the baby in place. This is to prevent the baby’s from collapsing forward.
  • You must be aware of your child and check in with them often. If you use a high back carry, this means having them against the skin at the base of your neck so you can feel their breath. It means stroking their feet taking advantage of the Babinski reflex.
  • The right kind of carrier or this stage of life. Carriers that work well for back wearing young babies form tightly to the body and include wraps (of all lengths), mei tais, onbuhimos, and podaegis.
  • Structured carriers as they are not easily customizable. Wait until your baby is tall enough.
  • Have someone experienced. Experience is defined in hands on hours and in years of helping parents with this skill.
  • Have a spotter.
  • Practice awareness. Quiet all the noise around you and focus on your child: Can you feel their body moving with their breath? Can you feel them moving? The more you practice, the better you will get.
  • Stroke the bottom of their feet. If they react, you are okay.
  • Take advantage of any reflective surface to check in regularly with your baby, or buy a retractable mirror to help you peek at your beautiful squish. Or use the selfie mode on your smartphone.

We, as a culture, are still learning to become babywearing masters and being new to babywearing makes it okay to be hesitant about backwearing your baby. But to say that it cannot be done, or should not be done is entirely false. Go to a babywearing group meeting, watch videos, get expert help.

 

webpic-brendalavallee1What did Brenda do, given her history of back injury?  “I wore my 4 month old on my back when he reached almost 20 lbs because I found a babywearing group leader that was willing to teach me how to do it safely and I remember crying in joy that in could still wear and be pain free.”

Let’s follow Bisi’s advice. She believes “that we as a community need to uphold each other at all times because some new babywearers need this the most.”

 

 

 

 

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Footnotes
1. The History of Onbuhimo, Masayo Sonoda, PhD
2. Joy and Joe’s book
3. Brenda Duke is a teacher on her maternity leave, she has two boys.
4. Shari Rozon is a stay-at-home mother, she has three boys.
5. Carolyn Moffat is a midwife and sole parent two girls. A sole parent is when there is only one parent in the family.
6. Proximal care is when parents chose to hold their babies a fair amount of time, and to respond immediately to their needs.