Pregnant babywearing: possible? Advisable? It depends

Babywearing while pregnant is on the minds of many mothers as their little babies grow into toddlers and their families start (or keep on) expanding. So what is the deal with babywearing while pregnant? To paraphrase the Ontario Lottery and Games Corporation: Know your limit, play within it.

The human race wouldn’t have made it this far if carrying our children while pregnant was to be avoided as a matter of fact. The human baby needs to be carried well past its ability to walk by itself. This is obvious to anyone who has ever seen an 8 month-old walk with purpose toward the closest danger. From fancy prams to wagons and every stroller in between, is there any argument that we may need to carry our toddlers on occasion, even when they can self-propel? 

Another biological argument in favour of pregnant babywearing is that we are biologically wired to have several children in our lifetime. Excluding extremes, most women are fertile from their early teens until their 50s. The imperative to limit our family’s size is a very new development in human history. Illness and accidents have always made it necessary, from a simple demographic standpoint, to have many children over several years.  While it’s in good taste nowadays to treat pregnant women like ticking time-bombs or china dolls, until the second half of the 20th century women were largely expected to perform their work — be it domestic or otherwise — throughout their pregnancies. And that usually involved more strenuous tasks than carrying a 25-30 lb toddler around. 

Well, you tell me, women and babies used to die a lot more than they do now. And this would be true. Better perinatal care has been very good to women and babies. How does this relate to babywearing? It means that babywearing has to be exercised with caution while pregnant. Listen to your body and your prenatal caregiver. Here are a few guidelines to consider when babywearing while pregnant. Please keep in mind that I am not your midwife or your doctor. This is not meant to replace your better judgement. 

1. As with many physical activities, pregnancy is not the time to start a new exercise regimen. We have all heard of mothers running marathons or playing tennis in their third trimesters but these mamas were already conditioned to that level of activity prior to conceiving. Moreover, if you are normally active but stop for 4 months while you throw your heart up, 20 weeks might not be the best time to pretend like it never happened. You are not weak, you are growing a human from scratch. Let your babywearing grow with your belly.

2. “No pain no gain” is no longer a thing. Now that you are expecting, think “Pain? No brain.” Don’t push through pain and discomfort: pregnancy will get a lot worst before it gets better. Stay healthy and on your feet. You’re in it for the long run. 

3. Try different things. If you stop by a babywearing group and ask “Which carrier is the best to use pregnant?” you’ll have as many answers as people answering. Don’t limit yourself to what people swear by. Different bodies and life experiences will create different imperatives. From the first weeks of my last pregnancy, any type of buckle carrier fastened under the belly would give me contractions. So I relied on wrap carries and ring slings that left my abdomen unbothered. Mothers with a bad back will have different requirements. 

4. If you are expecting multiples, you need to be extra cautious. Going on bed rest at 24 weeks might sound like a holiday but it’s terrifying. Everything changed when you saw two (or three) heartbeats on the ultrasound. It’s ok to take it easy while expecting multiples: believe me, you won’t rest much once they arrive. I know: you feel bad for your toddler because you can’t be the mother you would like to be. Trying to live your life as if twins were like 2 singletons is only going to drive you insane and rob you of the unique experience of having multiples.  Manage your expectations. Starting now. 

5. If it feels wrong, it probably is. On the other hand, if you feel good, don’t have unusual aches and pains, contractions or irregular bleeding, it’s probably fine. Trust your judgement, listen to your body and to your care provider. 

6. Woven wraps are great for pregnant women because they can be tied over or under the belly or across the chest. My favorite carry when I was expecting was the Reinforced Rear Rebozo Ruck with a candy cane chest belt. 

Not two bodies are the same and not two pregnancies are the same. I hashtagged all my babywearing pregnant pictures on Instagram as #babywearingpregnant, feel free to have a look at them! 

  

And just because…. 20 days laters, minutes old. It’s all worth it.

  

Review of Poe Wovens’ Herringbone Lake

Last January, I was lucky to receive a Poe Wovens tester wrap. I hosted the wrap for almost 2 weeks and had the chance to try it several times with my 10 month-old son. Damien is a normal-sized 10 month-old, probably north of 20 lbs by now.

My first question — which seems to be shared by many — was: “How does it compare with Didymos’ Lisca series?” Lisca Pastell is permastash here, both for its neutral timeless look and for its wrapping quality, so the question was not far from my mind.

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At first glance, Herringbone Lake is a tighter weave than Lisca. Liscas are renowned (or reviled? Does that even exist??) for their bounce and certainly have the most stretch I have ever felt in a woven. Herringbone Lake is rock solid with no stretch. The tester I used was nearly new and was very grippy. That said, it was still easy to use and won’t require much breaking-in. If you like your wraps textured, this baby is for you.

What I liked most about Herringbone Lake was its classic look. I’m not a lover of fauna, landscapes and flora on my wraps. Motives don’t go with everything and while they look stunning flat, they often look puzzling wrapped. Didymos Fishies is about as much wildlife as I can handle and still, you can easily get a “dead fish” (upside down fishies?) wrap, which is sad. I’m fond of calling Lau Fish “toxic lake” … Green and blue fish? Gettit? Anyhow, back to Herringbone: classic timeless look in a colour that goes well with well-worn jeans, leather boots and a white cotton shirt, or with a pencil skirt and a power suit. Dress it up, dress it down, this wrap will take you from the park to a wedding in a heartbeat.

Herringbone Lake is also an affordable wrap. Currently sold out on the Poe Wovens website, it retailed at $150 USD and fetches retail or slightly below on resale. It compares favorably to similarly-priced wraps such as the Girasols, Storch and Hoppediz. It is a more affordable entry into the world of wovens than European brands such as Dydimos or Elleville. I have no qualms about recommending Poe to anyone who asks about them. Poe Woven’s Herringbone series will not dissapoint: it’s a solid wrap at a good price point. While it hasn’t been met with the same hype as other North American machine wovens — I’m thinking Pavo here — Herrigbone compares favorably with other more expensive offerings.

And finally, what everyone has been wondering, will this wrap upstage Lisca Pastell? Honestly, they are too different to compare straight-up. Herringbone is less expensive than a new Lisca but I expect a Dydimos to retain more of its value on the resale market. If you are looking for one wrap to last you from infant to toddler, Herringbone will probably be the best choice. It’s not as soft and cushy as Lisca but makes-up for it in uncompromising support.

I think that this wrap would also make an amazing ring sling and would not hesitate to add one to my collection. The Poe Precinct Facebook group is giving one away by the way….. So why don’t you go and add your name?

Whole30 accountability post

Hello Babywearing Readers! I have not been posting regularly since the fall because, well, we started homeschooling 4 kids and we moved. With a baby. And 3 year-old twins. It was a bit cray-cray.

A visit to one of my You Tube videos revealed that it had over 2,000 views and instead of rejoicing in this unexpectedly high number I almost cried. Why is that? Because I was about 60 lbs lighter than I am now. I receive so many comments asking me for more babywearing videos and believe me, I tried. I probably started a dozen new videos since Damien – our baby number 9 – was born. But I just can’t finish or post them. Why? Because I can’t stand to see myself looking the way I do. I have been struggling with poor self-image since my baby was born and I just can’t seem to accept this new normal.

I’ve always been able to lose most of my baby-weight slowly in between pregnancies. I never cared too much about my weight. I know that I can’t lose weight while breastfeeding. I’m one of those metabolisms. After the twins were born, I went on Weight Watcher to lose the last 20lbs and that’s when my health went pear-shaped. As soon as I restricted calories, I started gaining weight. That spurred me into more restriction, believing as I was told all my life that the only reason one gains weight is because more calories are going-in than coming out. So I cut back, and I gained weight. I ran longer distances, and I gained weight. I became anemic, and I gained weight. I counted how many carrots I ate with my tablespoon of hummus. I ate 10 instead of 5, I gained weight. I realized that an avocado was as many calories as a double chocolate chip muffin. I stopped eating avocados, I gained weight. I replaced sugar by Splenda in all my baking and I gained weight. And every week, the Weight Watcher app would tell me:

“Ooops, you gained. You’ll try harder next week.”

I tried some more and I gained some more. I had my thyroid checked. It was normal. (*** UPDATE: my thyroid is not normal, it’s completely screwed. My healthcare provider was simply poorly informed on what “normal” is and which tests to run. Message me if you want to know more.) I was discouraged and overwhelmed. I felt guilty every time I ate something I enjoyed.

Then I got pregnant. And I gained A LOT. A month after my baby was born, I weighted as much as I did when I was 38 weeks pregnant with twins. I went back on Weight Watchers when he was 7 months-old. I gained 11 lbs in 6 weeks. My husband, who is really the most supportive husband I know, told me: “There is something weird happening with your body.” Seeing myself in pictures at Christmas time made me cry. I lost sleep over my ballooning body. I’m always on my feet, I eat well, I’m making breast milk for two children, one of them exclusively breastfed. Then I saw my You Tube babywearing video, with my size 8 jeans, and I almost broke down. I told my husband: “I am almost 200 lbs! I just want to stop gaining! I know I won’t lose much while breastfeeding but the gain must stop!” I was no longer fitting in my pajamas. I had gone from a size 6-8 to a size 14 while watching my diet and the size 14 was getting snug.

It was clear to me that the problem was not “how much I ate” but “what I ate.” I didn’t eat too much; I knew that from years of food journaling. The story couldn’t only be about my caloric intake. I watched this video about the effect of sugar on our metabolism and I reduced my sugar intake. That’s when I stumbled upon a friend’s testimony about the Whole 30: 30 days of strict no added sugar, no grains, no legumes and no dairy. I thought: “No way!” but the idea kept nagging me. I knew that I couldn’t moderate my refined carbohydrate intake: I needed to punch my carb demon in the throat. The Whole 30 is not a lifetime commitment to never taste a brownie again, it’s a chance to reset your eating habits, to give more emphasis to good food and keep the less healthy stuff in proper proportion within your entire diet. It is not presented as a weight loss diet or a cleanse, but as a tabula rasa, a baseline from which to start eating well again.

I’m publishing this post three weeks into my Whole30. So far, here’s what I have experienced:
– I am much more alert during the day, especially when driving. I had to fight sleep at the wheel when I drove anywhere in the afternoon and it’s no longer the case. As someone who spends a fair amount of time driving young children on lonely country roads in winter, this is a welcome improvement.
– I am awake in the morning. My 5 youngest children hit the ground running at 6am sharp. It used to take me an hour or two to catch-up with them. Now I wake-up awake. I don’t want to get out of bed at 6:00am but I can.
– My night sleep, completely hammered by years of never sleeping more than 2h in a row is still crappy. I suffer from occasional bouts of insomnia and when I do sleep, it is always with one foot in in the real world. I am never deeply asleep. I was hoping that the Whole 30 would deal with this but so far it hasn’t.
– My sugar cravings are all but gone. I miss chocolate more than anything. Last weekend was a test of my willpower: friends were visiting, I made crepes for everyone (with whipped cream and maple syrup), our friends arrived heavily laden with all sorts of croissants and brownies and I DIDN’T HAVE ANY.
– I have discovered the natural sweetness of food. I find almond butter sweet. I find the taste of blueberries to be an explosion in my mouth. I really appreciate the food that I eat.
– I rediscovered the sense of smell. When my friend came over with her award-winning brownies, I found that having a deep smell of them was satisfying. The smell fills your nose and mouth and your brain gets a little kick, just enough to be able to walk past them without having to eat them at all cost. My husband thinks I have a problem sniffing croissants but I think it’s awesome.
– I don’t feel like the pastries in front of me are the last ones I will ever have. That’s a big one. I always indulged whenever something particularly good was in front of me because I felt like it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” Even though I knew rationally that it wasn’t, my cravings thought otherwise. I felt driven to indulge. And if I didn’t indulge, my mind would stay stuck on the food items. Now I feel in much better control of my eating.
– I don’t want to eat all the time. I can easily go between breakfast and lunch without a snack. I don’t even think about eating unless I am really hungry.
– When I am tired in the evening, I want to go to bed, not eat a gallon of ice cream. My body is better able to read its own signals without reverting to “EAT” automatically when it needs rest, exercise, fresh air, water or relaxation.
– Because I’m not always lusting after food or ravenously hungry, it’s easy to skip meals. That’s never a good thing when you are breastfeeding.
– And from the TMI files: I just had normal periods with no PMS. No PMS people! That’s something.
– I drink my coffee black and it no longer tastes like death warmed over.

– Generalized pain: I have been struggling with generalized pain all my life. Tests performed in childhood and as an adult were always inconclusive and the pain remained. The Whole 30 helped a lot with pain but didn’t make it go away completely. A food intolerance panel ordered by a NaPro doctor who was investigating my thyroid dysfunction revealed that I had an intolerance to eggs and corn (among other things). Cutting the right foods from my diet has made a huge difference in my generalized pain. I saw a physician specialized in body mechanics (a physiatrist) who told me that while there was little scientific evidence linking generalized pain with diet, she saw it all the time in her practice. Especially as it concerns dairy and gluten.
– And the big question: did I lose weight? I don’t know yet. The Whole 30 authors don’t recommend weighting yourself during the month because failure to lose weight might discourage you and blind you to the other many benefits of cleaning-up your diet. If my clothes are any indication, I didn’t lose much weight. I’m still firmly a size 14, can’t even squeeze into a size 12. So I may lose 2-5 lbs (which is within the parameters of a healthy weight loss while breastfeeding: 1 lb /week) but certainly not the 10-15lbs and more that some people have reported. *** UPDATE: I lost 12 lbs doing the Whole 30, which is certainly not the 20-30 lbs that some people lose. I think that it was due to the fact that I was already eating very well, in other words, I was hanging to some pretty pernicious weight. Nowadays, I eat Paleo about 90% of the time and an elimination diet has revealed several food intolerance that were allowed by the Whole 30 such as eggs and several nuts. After eliminating the foods that I was intolerant to, I lost another 12 lbs over 6 months. I went from almost 200lbs to 175lbs, and I am now at a plateau where I gain and lose the same 5 pounds over and over again depending on my hormonal cycle. I’m still ways away from my personal “normal” of 135-140lbs but honestly I have accepted the fact that I have done everything I humanly could to lose this wretched weight.
You can follow my clean eating-babywearing-homeschooling adventure on Instagram where I am @fearless_family_life

That's the before picture, maybe 4 weeks pregnant with our baby number 9

That’s the before picture, maybe 4 weeks pregnant with our baby number 9

And that's the after picture, me 9 months post-partum, weighting about the same as I did the day before baby was born.

And that’s the after picture, me 9 months post-partum, weighting over 190lbs, the same as I did the day before baby was born. Just before I started my Whole30.

Whole 30 Before and After. I only lost 12 lbs between the two pictures, going from 190lbs to 178lbs. Still a long long way from my "normal" or "usual" weight of 135-140 lbs.

Whole 30 Before and After. I only lost 12 lbs between the two pictures, going from 190lbs to 178lbs. Still a long long way from my “normal” or “usual” weight of 135-140 lbs.

Safe buying and trading in the babywearing world

Have you ever been burned in an online transaction? Babywearing items, usually wraps and ring slings, are often bought, sold and traded online through Facebook groups and forums. Our local babywearing communities are often too small to support babywearing lust and we are drawn to bigger and better pools, often involving thousand of members from all over the world. How are we to navigate this international market with our wallet and our sanity intact?

I was almost burned twice in an online transaction. The first one was in a trade, the second in a purchase. Even seasoned babywearing addicts can get caught in a bad deal, so where does it leave new babywearers as they dip a tentative toe in the ebb and flow of babywearing FSOT (for sale or trade)?

There is no sure fire way to avoid being burned in a transaction but a few best practices can ensure that you won’t get scammed by an amateur.

1) When joining a FSOT group online, take some time to get familiar with the group. Who are the administrators? What are the rules? Who is posting regularly? Are items moving quickly or slowly? Unscrupulous buyers and sellers count on people making snap decisions without thinking. Familiarity with a group’s dynamic will help to highlight the misfits and the shady dealers. For instance, I am a member of a FSOT group on Facebook where a certain seller has several very attractive wraps for sale but nobody is interested. The dead silence around her items for sale is making my spider sense tingle. Her wraps may be simply overpriced but members might be weary of her. Either way, I prefer keeping my money.

2) Check feedback! All reputable FSOT groups require members to post feedback. Don’t accept a sob story about absent feedback. Take note of who has written feedback. If you have headed rule # 1 above, you should expect to see familiar names on someone’s feedback link. Many new babywearers are tempted to accept any sob story about missing feedback, especially if they don’t have feedback themselves. Start building your feedback by joining a local babywearing community and ask people who know you in real life to vouch for you. My first feed-backers were friends from whom I had borrowed wraps and people who had attended my babywearing meet-ups. I also left feedback for people who had hosted a traveling wrap and returned it promptly and well looked after. When I conduct a transaction, I offer my partner to leave feedback on other groups we are both members of and on TBW. There are ways to build feedback even if you don’t have a long B/S/T (buy/sell/trade) history. If your transaction partners have not figured this out, maybe you shouldn’t be dealing with them. Scammers are looking for a quick buck. Feedback is a hurdle. Don’t clear it for them.

3) When you are selling, don’t offer or accept payment plans. In my experience, payment plans gone bad are the source of 90% of the problems with BST. Either someone gets a carrier and never finishes paying for it, or someone pays for a carrier and never receives it. If you need to save your money before buying a wrap, why save it in someone else’s account? If you accept a payment plan, make sure you receive all that is owed to you before sending the carrier. Don’t get caught in the hype: if the wrap you want-but-can’t-afford sells before you can save for it, other wraps will do just fine. If you can’t sell a carrier unless you offer a payment plan, maybe you overpriced it.

4) If you are dealing locally, use cash. If you are not, use PayPal. Bite the service charge and do not pay “friends and family” (also known as “gifted”). The PayPal fees are your protection: if you pay for an item and don’t receive it, you can contest the charge and PayPal almost always errs on the side of refunding money.

5) As a seller, always request a receipt from the Post Office with a tracking number. Purchase delivery insurance, especially if you are dealing with someone unknown or with no feedback. Unscrupulous buyers often pretend that the wrap never arrived and file a dispute with PayPal, knowing that PayPal almost always errs on the side of refunding money. Be prepared with proof that the wrap was duly shipped and preferably received as well.

6) If a dispute arises in a FSOT group, notify the administrators as soon as possible. I am an FSOT admin on Facebook and there is not much we can do: we can only ban the offending member and warn others to use caution. I once had to warn a member to complete a transaction — she had a carrier she had not finished paying for. When she received my message, she left the group and blocked me. At that point, I had exhausted my range of interventions.

7) When you sell a carrier, disclose everything and make sure that you take pictures of the carrier before sending it off. In my first international transaction, the buyer sent me a message stating that the carrier was badly stained. I knew that it was in perfect condition when I shipped it but I had no way to prove it. I asked her to send me pictures of the stains and added that I would get the FSOT admins involved to determine proper compensation. I also offered to refund the carrier if she returned it to me at cost. I never received the pictures and never heard from her again.

8) Keep your head on. Don’t make snap decisions. The hype surrounding highly sought after carriers can get the best of your better judgement. Trust your instinct, especially if you are new and hesitant. I, for instance, tend to mistrust people who can’t spell. I’m a bit of a snob that way. And I’m not talking about typos, I’m talking about “imma locking for I dunno a wrap I can wear or a sling. I donut have a budget maybe $100 appreciate” type of posts. Or the sellers who can’t spell the name of their wrap: “Garusol wrap, rainbow colour for sale…” I don’t trust people who can’t use their spell-checker with knowing how to use PayPal and a post office. We all have our limits. Other carriers will come up for sale. Don’t worry.

What are your babywearing FSOT best practices? Share them in the comments!

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Why I don’t spank or “The day my daughter slayed me.”

I published this article on my main blog. I thought I would share it here too.

Vie de Cirque

Yesterday, I was advised to spank my children for getting out of bed after bedtime. I was venting about our bedtime routine, gone wild with the longer summer days and the end of napping for the twins. Our twins are 2-and-a-half and our daughter is 5. All three have a hard time stopping long enough to let sleep overcome them. After sharing with friends everything we had tried, one of them suggested spanking them if they got out of bed. I was taken aback, a little speechless, and blurted out: “They would have no idea why I’m hitting them.” I would have liked to be able to say: “I never spank my children.”

I used to spank but I don’t anymore. When my four older children were young, I believed that spanking was part of any parent’s discipline toolbox. I believed, as I had been told by other parents, that…

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Back-wrapping infants in their fourth trimester: a good idea?

DSC_0116In my role as one of the admins of the Ottawa Babywearing Group, I host babywearing meet-ups where parents have a chance to try carriers, get troubleshooting help and meet like-minded parents in their community. On any given occasion, a parent will ask for help back-wrapping their newborn.

The birth of my ninth child has given me a chance to explore my thoughts on back wrapping tiny infants. I discovered wrapping when my twins were 6 months old. As a lover of art and baby cuddles, the weird and crazy world of woven wraps was a match made in heaven. I quickly became proficient at wrapping and yet I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with back wrapping newborns.

When I host babywearing meet-ups, parents come eager to learn. Some have always known they would “wear” their infants; others are led to it by circumstances such as a fussy baby or a busy toddler. All parents are thrilled and relieved by the freedom that babywearing affords. Suddenly, their hands are free, their babies are content, and their toddlers are safe. We take that new-found freedom and run with it. Eventually, our hands are not as free as we would like them to be; our toddlers are still running amok; that squishy bump on our chest is getting bulky. I tried amending my herb garden with a shovel and a bag of sheep manure and a baby strapped to my chest. I didn’t feel the freedom.

But while back wrapping is an age-old practice in many cultures, it doesn’t come to us naturally. Most of us born and raised in North America did not grow-up with the benefit of seeing worn babies, of watching our mothers, aunts and cousins wrap their infants, of helping in the running of the household by wearing our infant siblings and cousins. We do not have the muscle memory of feeling what a good seat is, of making sure that our babies are breathing properly. We were raised and cultivated in a society where objects do this for us: the stroller, the car seat, the monitor. We also walk in communities where babywearing, especially back wearing, is seen as an oddity. Well-meaning strangers would not be able to correct a falling seat or a constricting piece of wrap. Not only wouldn’t they know how, but we are more likely to get upset when strangers express concerns about babywearing than concerned about our baby. We talk a good talk about “it takes a village…” but every week in our Facebook Groups, someone is bound to vent about strangers wanting to see our touch our babies or expressing concern about babywearing safety. We want the village without the villagers.

When I see parents learn to back wrap their infants, I see babies sunk too low into a wrap, with fabric over their heads, I see slouched positioning with the chin pressed against the chest, I see a ton of loose wrap unintentionally built into the seat and shoulders, waiting to work itself downward as gravity acts on mom and baby. And I wonder what will happen when baby is wrapped at home, without a spotter and without the benefit of a dozen avid babywearers on the lookout for mistakes.

The Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) recommends that babies be “Visible and kissable” at all time. A baby carrier should assist parents in the job of holding their babies. The safest place for an infant is in her parents’ arms and that’s why the safest position in a baby carrier is one that replicates the position of a baby in his parents’ arms. How many times have I told my husband of our demanding infant son: “I wish I could just put him back there and forget about him!”? But that’s exactly the problem with back-wrapping: vulnerable newborns require constant supervision in their early months of life. Visible and kissable is where they should be: in the way. Carrying our newborns against our breast acknowledges their great vulnerability and our irreplaceable role as the safe keepers of that vulnerability. It’s only normal that this momentous task should cramp our style a little.

If you decide that back wrapping your newborn is for you, make sure to do it safely. Ask for the help of a spotter. Do it while sitting on a bed or a couch. Use mirrors, windows and reflective surfaces liberally to make sure that your newborn is still positioned properly. If you are unsure about your ability to back wrap your newborn, continue developing your wrapping skills with front carries. Your baby will only be that small once; don’t rush him out of sight. As for me and my little dude, I will keep him visible and kissable at least for his first 4 months. In the way, where he should be.

It’s a boy!

And it looks like I may have to change my blog’s sub-title to “adventures in babywearing with toddler twins and a newborn.” Our baby boy was born 10 days ago at home. It was a beautiful and peaceful birth on a gorgeous sunny afternoon (between breakfast and lunch, I highly recommend it).

Here is a picture of our oldest and our youngest together.

So much gorgeous! I made those two from scratch.

So much gorgeous! I made those two from scratch.

Faire part Damien