March 22, 2011

Baby Carrier Bonanza

I have become obsessed with baby wearing and am becoming known as the girl with the baby on her back in some circles. While I am no expert, I do get a lot of questions from new and soon-to-be moms, so I thought I’d give a rundown on some of the common types of baby carriers. Please keep in mind that these are my personal opinions, I am not an expert, and I am not recommending any particular brands. Any details about brands/pricing are just to give you some reference points.

As a new mom with a deployed husband, baby wearing was a necessity. I literally could not have made life work without it. The hours and hours that H spent sleeping contentedly in her Moby Wrap were a blessing at the time and a sweet memory for me still. It’s something that’s grown with us, and I still wear her on a pretty regular basis. The benefits throughout her life for both H and I have been huge.


Fitted Slings
This is definitely the simplest option when it comes to baby carriers. It is literally a tube of fabric. You wear it like a Miss America sash. Baby can be cradled or sit up on the hip. The only problem with this one is that you have to have the right size. They are not adjustable. Sizing can be tricky and some brands have as many as nine sizes! I got one as a baby shower gift and it was great for the first three weeks. After that it just wasn’t the right size. I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you actually have the baby with you when you try it on.

These run around $40. Some brands include Peanut Shell and Seven Slings.

Ring Slings
This particular sling is made for going in the pool, but all ring slings work the same.

Much more versatile is the ring sling. This is also a Miss America style carrier. The difference is that ring slings are adjustable. The fabric is threaded through a set of double rings (like a belt). While ring slings also come in sizes (so you can choose how much of a tail you want to hang down), it’s more of a small, medium, or large menu. They come in a lot of different styles as far as how the shoulder is sewn—gathered, pleated, padded, etc. They are great for little babies because they’re very easy to use and they’re quick in and out. You can also nurse with these while baby is in the sling and you can use the tail as a cover. Even though H is bigger I like to use mine in the mornings when I need to make breakfast, but H is sleepy and wants to be held.

These start around $65. Ring slings abound from Maya Wrap, Storchenwiege, TaylorMade, and Comfy Joey, just to name a few.


Stretchy Wraps
 I love to kiss the sweet head!

A lot of you may have heard of the Moby Wrap. That is a stretchy wrap. It’s a long piece of fabric that you wrap around you and the baby. Stretchy wraps are usually made from a jersey type material and are, you guessed it, kind of stretchy. I started with a Moby and I loved it for the tiny stage. You can pre-tie it and pop the baby in and out because of the stretchy quality of the fabric. This is fantastic for trips to the grocery store and errand running. The shelf life on these is rather short. Once baby gets to be about 15 pounds they start to sag in the stretchy material, and it becomes hard on your back. That being said, they are also one of the least expensive options, starting at $40. This is a great way to get started if you’re not sure if baby wearing is for you. But once you try it, you’ll probably like it.

As mentioned above, these are around $40. The most well known is the Moby Wrap.

Woven Wraps

 Wraps work on front or back.

Once you like it, you’ll probably be looking at a woven wrap. These are also a really long piece of fabric, usually with tapered ends. The difference here is that the fabric is much sturdier. Think jeans instead of t-shirts. That being said, I have three different brands and they all wash up to be buttery soft and smooth. These are strong enough to support a baby into the 30 pound range.

If you’re only going to get one baby carrier for birth to toddlerhood, you want a woven wrap. You can use it for every carry position—front, back, and hip. Because you tie it around the wearer, you get a custom fit no matter who is using it. They do come in several sizes. Longer wraps give you more flexibility in the number of carries you can do. Most wrappers I know tend to go with shorter wraps as they get more experienced.
These are a bit pricey considering that you’re buying a piece of fabric. I cannot stress enough, however, that you are paying for fabric that is specially woven to hold babies. Please don’t go to the fabric store and buy a bolt of fabric thinking that you’re saving money. While you can make your own carriers, you have to make sure that you’re using the right fabric. You want something that is designed to be load bearing. Much safer to stick with letting the experts do the weaving. On the flip side, if you buy just one and use it for as many as 3 years (and/or multiple kids), you’re getting a really good deal.

The good ones are all around $100. They do become an obsession, and I have three of them now. (And believe me, that is not a lot compared to some!) Brands include Storchenwiege, Girasol, Neobulle, Ellevill, Didymos, and BBslen.

These are also known as Asian-style carriers. They’re an oblong of fabric with waist and shoulder ties, and they look kind of like an apron. You tie it around your waist, baby has the fabric oblong along her back, and the shoulder straps get criss-crossed.  I find this to be a compromise between wrapping and more backpack-style, soft structured carriers. These can be used front or back.

Now this is one that you can make yourself. I have one that a friend made me. I will stress—do not attempt this as your first sewing project, please! There are good and reputable patterns available online. This is for experienced sewers who know how to choose the right fabrics and to reinforce everything properly. Our local baby carrying guru checked mine out and marked it approved.

It’s a little faster than a wrap and not quite as bulky to carry around as either a wrap or a soft structured. They also tend to come in super cute patterns. They sometimes also have nice features like a sleeping hood or reversible fabric. Mine has a masculine side and a feminine side.

These are around $80. Both Mei Tai Baby and Baby Hawk allow you to build your own, so you can customize the colors/patterns.

Soft Structured Carriers
Out with some other baby wearing moms.

These are more backpack, buckle type carriers. There’s a buckle at the waist, backpack style straps, and a chest buckle. I personally have an Ergo, so I’ll talk about that style. The pluses are that it’s very fast and easy to use. You don’t have to have any special knowledge. It’s one of the more masculine options, so dads sometimes prefer it. There’s no sizing involved. They do sell a strap extender for the waist in case your hubby is a big guy. You can use them front or back and they have a sleeping hood and a zippered pocket.

I love the Ergo for the airport. I was flying alone to see my in-laws when H was about nine months. They had a stroller and car seat waiting for me. I had a backpack full of our diaper bag stuff on my back and H on the front in her Ergo. I tucked my cell phone, wallet, and boarding pass in the pocket and we were ready for anything. It made life much easier as far as getting through the airport, not having to worry about finding the elevators, and having hands free. My Ergo lives in my car and I use it quite often for grocery shopping and errand running. H has only recently gotten to an age where she’ll sit in the grocery cart, and I’m kind of sad about it. I miss that little warm body on my back.

These start around $100. The Ergo and the Beco are the best known brands.


No matter what carrier you want to go with, I highly recommend trying it on. Do a web search and see if there is a baby wearing group near you. Most have carriers for loan, and baby wearing moms are usually pretty willing to let you try different carriers out. If you don’t have a group like this locally, then make sure you check the return policy.
Happy baby wearing!

March 15, 2011

Potty Training - The Ugly

We went to a park with some friends today. I knew that H had yet to poop, so I was a bit nervous about what we would do if she decided that she wanted to go at the park. Not being one to be locked in the house, I threw an extra diaper in the bag and set out. We’re doing pretty well with potty training, but the idea of going someplace other than our house has not caught on. She wants to go, but she seems to have developed a preference for the little potty. Attempts at the big potty produce anxiety and tears. Any suggestions are welcome.

In the middle of a rousing game of chase Mommy, H gets that look and announces she needs to go. I ask frantically of the other moms, “Is there a bathroom?! Where is it?” They point, I scoop her up, and we walk very quickly to the bathroom.

This is a county park set up, so it’s an outdoor-type bathroom. The mirrors are actually shiny stainless steel sheets screwed into the wall. It’s clean enough, and there’s a changing station in the handicap stall. We head in. The toilet is also stainless steel with no seat. It reminds me of the type that might be installed in prison. I can already tell that this will not go well.

Regardless, I decide to give it the old college try. I pull down pants, strip off diaper, line the seat with tissue, and set her up there. After several attempts, it is clear that H wants no part of this strange metal potty. I can’t really blame her. But she does really want to finish her business. What a bizarre fix to be in—the best option is actually to tell her to just go in her diaper. Not that she understood me when I told her that. She understands a lot, but given these esoteric elimination options, her response is crying.

Finally I set her on the floor to set up the changing table. I feel that things might have gone better had I not been so supremely frustrated at that moment. Nothing to be done for it now—I set her down, half-turned, and she promptly tripped over the pants around her ankles and sat down, bare-assed on the county park, public bathroom floor. (Full body shiver of disgust.) My child is probably now infertile because of the germs on that floor. Goodbye grandchildren.

I scooped her up and wiped her quite thoroughly. She also got a good washing with nice hot water when we got home. The whole thing unnerved her enough that she didn’t finish her business until hours later—in her diaper.

I can only hope that in addition to completely traumatizing me, I have also traumatized my daughter and set back our potty training. In sum—I hate public restrooms.

March 12, 2011

Springing Forward

I’m going to take a moment to reminisce. Every spring in college the honors program took a day trip to New York City. People from home thought that I zipped into the City every weekend, considering that I went to school in New York state. They failed to figure in the fact that I was four hours from New York, about the same as if I were at home in Virginia. New York is a really big state. The yearly trip was, therefore, a big deal.

It inevitably fell on the day before the time change. Every year we’d arrive back in Ithaca at 2am only to discover that it was really 3am. So, when this time rolls around I find myself thinking about those trips.

There was room for 40 or so people (there were only about 120 people in the program in the whole school) on the charter bus. It filled up fast, but one year there was enough room that I snuck a good friend and music student on board. We left early and got passes to an art museum and tickets to a show. We didn’t really have to do the museum, but it was our heads if we missed the show and therefore the bus back.

Of course, I love art museums, especially when that museum is the Metropolitan Museum of Art—large enough to satisfy any art lover for several days. At least that year, I did indeed spend quite a bit of time at the museum. Other years at other museums, not so much. I remember an Andy Warhol exhibit that I really hated. What I did always make time for was Central Park.

It’s an amazing oasis in the middle of this huge city. There is so much going on inside the park itself that it should actually qualify for its own zip code. There are street performers playing strange Asian instruments, dancing, juggling, the works. Just walking through the park is an event. My favorite memory by far, however, is when my best friend, Kim, and I went to the zoo. I can honestly tell you that the only exhibit at the Central Park Zoo that I remember with absolute clarity is the penguin exhibit.

Kim is quite the penguin enthusiast. We entered a darkened corridor and the penguins were behind floor to ceiling glass. They dove in and out of the water, nudged each other for position, and waddled about. Penguins almost shouldn’t be classified as flightless birds, because they truly fly when they hit the water. It was amazing to see the way they'd shoot through the water as if they had jet packs and explode back onto land. The best part of the exhibit, though, was how excited Kim was watching those penguins. I hope she doesn’t disown me for saying so, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that happy. Just pure, simple happiness. It’s because of that trip that I so want to take H to the zoo before we leave the east coast. I think she’ll love the penguins just as much as her Aunt Kim.

While I may not have always been faithful to the museum portion of the itinerary, I never missed the show. Every year we got ridiculously good tickets to something amazing. Freshman year it was Rent, in the Orchestra, like row G. One year is was Tosca at Lincoln Center. One year it was Urine Town, surprisingly good—much better than the title implies. But one year, it was Cabaret. Cabaret is one of my all time favorites. I actually begged our director, Hugh, to take us when I found out it was one of the options. If you’ve seen the movie version—forget it. Wipe it from your memory forever. It holds not even half a candle to the real thing, at Studio 54, in (wait for it) the front row. Yes, you read right, that year I somehow got front row tickets. I will never again have seats that good. Never again will I have attractive orchestra members sit on the stage and flirt with us as part of the pre-show ambience. Never again will I have no one (in my shortness) to peer around.

Cabaret was hands down one of the most fabulous shows I’ve ever seen. It’s got everything—Nazis, smut, war—you name it. And it has some really catchy tunes too. You also get mooned by the Emcee with a swastika painted on his ass. Now, who doesn’t want to see that?

Those trips made me feel cosmopolitan (I’m sheltered, I know). We found a tiny, hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant that was so good we went there two years in a row. We ate chocolate covered strawberries sitting on the fountain in Lincoln Center. It was, to me, just what college should be, a care-free way to see the world.

And every year we’d arrive back at school, in a complete stupor, only to discover that a precious hour of sleep had been stolen by modern time keeping conventions. So this year, as I get ready to set my clocks ahead and climb in bed, I raise a glass of warm milk (sadly, I’m not kidding), and toast to long spring days in New York.

March 7, 2011

To Kill a Mockingbird

I’ve been lost in a mire of freelance work of late. I love being employed, but it does leave one with very little free time. As I am happily unemployed again, you’ll start hearing a bit more from me.

So far, this is probably my favorite. I know that many people were shocked that I had escaped school without reading To Kill a Mockingbird, but it was just never on the agenda. I am glad that I’ve caught up now.

This is basically the story of how the narrator’s (Scout’s) older brother broke his elbow. Weaved into that basic idea is a story about growing up during the Depression, in the Deep South. Scout is a tom boy and her older brother, Jem, is her idol. They run around and cause trouble with their friend, Dill. They are seriously obsessed with the hermit on the corner (Boo Radley) and endow him with all manner of mystical qualities. Scout and Jem’s dad is a defense lawyer in town, and the real story is about the case he defends. A black man is accused of raping a white girl. Despite the fact that the circumstantial evidence is very sketchy, the family in question is of extremely dubious moral character, the black man in question is maimed, and all evidence points to the father at the least beating his daughter, the jury convicts the black man. The father feels that the defense humiliated him by showing the town what a horrible excuse for a human being he is and decides to go after Scout’s dad. Things get touch and go there, but the hermit on the corner saves the day and Scout learns the moral of not judging a book by its cover. Oh, and Jem break’s his elbow.

Other thoughts:
  • I had a certain amount of amusement reading this because in my mind over the years To Kill a Mockingbird had somehow become conflated with The Color Purple and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I was actually pretty surprised when the narrator turned out to be white. You have my full permission to make fun of me. Somehow I had it in my head that it was a story about blacks in the south. I knew there weren’t crazy people (wrong there too, sorta), but the two bird titles mingled in my brain somewhere.
  • Once I got myself straightened out, it was a very enjoyable read. I really like reading books that are narrated by children. You get quite a different take on things. The fact that it’s written by an adult adds to it because you get that extra layer of understanding; kind of like the adult jokes in a children’s cartoon.
  • On the other hand, despite the fact that it was narrated by a child, there was a no holds bar, no sugar coated truth in the story. This was especially true when it came to the trial. There wasn’t any glossing over hard, sad, or disgusting facts. That added quite a bit to the substantiality of the story. Maycomb became a real place you could step into.
  • The back of my book did not help my already confused notions. It said that Harper Lee considered the book a simple love story. Consequently, I expected a love story the whole time. Not really in evidence, unless you really stretch the idea of love story.
  • I also expected Jem to break his arm on every page. It was one of those books where it doesn’t all come together until the very end. I love seeing it come together, but sometimes it is frustrating getting there. This is why I’m glad I’ve already read One Hundred Years of Solitude (an amazing book, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense until the last page). To Kill a Mockingbird is not nearly so bad. It was a great read, as previously stated, but I really expected the elbow to break by page 50.

The next book on the list is the Bible. I can’t really sit down and tackle that one like a novel. You can expect to see a series of postings on it interspersed among my other readings. For those of you reading along at home, that makes the next novel (or in this case, series) His Dark Materials. You may be more familiar with it as the Golden Compass trilogy.

Also, to make it easier to keep track of everything, I’ve created a new page with just the list. You can get to it from the main page of the blog.

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