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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Using a Mei Tai with a Small Baby

Legs out from birth is the current recommendation for using baby carriers. This can be hard to do with a mei tai though, so I made a photo tutorial to teach people how it is done. I am using a doll and an old CatBird mei tai (the newer ones have a loop that can be used to cinch the MT).

STEP ONE:
Place your baby on top of your mei tai. Use a ribbon or string to cinch the mei tai. You want the fabric to extend from knee to knee.
 STEP TWO:
Tie the mei tai on. Tie it higher up on your body for a smaller baby.
You can fold down the waist band of the mei tai to make the body shorter with a small baby. Fold down before you tie it on.
STEP THREE:
Pick up your baby and place them in the carrier. Make sure the fabric extends from knee to knee, and baby's bum is lower than their knees. You can't see the bum lower than knees here because I used a doll.
STEP FOUR:
Cross the shoulder straps behind your back and bring them around over baby. Cross the straps over baby's bum, and tie in back. Make sure the cross is high so baby can't fall out the side.

If you don't have enough strap to tie in back, you can tie a knot in front. Some people suggest tying over baby's back, but that can push baby's back out of it's natural curve. Instead tie over or under baby's bum.
^^Over baby's bum..
˅˅Under baby's bum 
-it's hard to show with a doll, but the knot is really under the bum, and it cannot slide up.

You can also do a Lexi twist (wrapping term for twisting the straps a few times) to offer more support. Generally the twists would be higher up than in this photo, but I'm using a small doll.

Edited to add:
Rachel (a babywearing educator and awesome person!) made this video to showcase these instructions:
http://youtu.be/G-DlyAxI_uA
 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: KinderPack


This is my full review of the KinderPack soft structured carrier. KinderPacks are made by a work at home mom company (known as a WAHM company), called KinderCarry. I have a standard size (fits 8mo-3yo) with KoolNit (a breathable panel for warm weather). The straps are the standard size with perfect fit adjusters.

I love my KinderPack! I thought nothing could be comfier than an Ergo until I got this (shows you what I knew when I started wearing). I am going to go through each part of the carrier to tell you how the construction makes it a great carrier.

The Straps:
What I love, is the shoulder straps are adjustable at both ends of the buckle on the webbing. So, first you have the padded portion (with perfect fit adjusters it's more adjustable here too), and then webbing, then the first part of the buckle with ability to adjust webbing there, then the other half of the buckle with ability to adjust webbing there, then the rest of the webbing, and it attaches to the body of the carrier. It totally got rid of any under arm rub that I experienced in the Ergo. It makes it comfy, and you can adjust so everything hits you in the right spot! The waist band is padded, with two more adjustable straps that buckle together. The double adjust on the waistband makes it more comfortable for pregnant and plus sized women to wear because than it won't make the buckle sit in a uncomfortable spot.
The Perfect Fit Adjusters (PFAs) allow you to shorten the padded portion of the straps. PFAs are now standard on all KinderPacks, but if you buy used they may not be there. PFAs on plus size straps mean they can be shortened to standard length. PFAs on standard straps mean they can be tightened to be shorter than the petite length - because PFAs are now standard, she no longer makes petite straps. This all means that the same carrier can be shared between different sized wearers! So  a 6' 200lb man and a 5'5" 130lb woman, for example, can share the same carrier comfortably. KinderPacks are popular because they fit a wide range of body types, from thin and petite, to tall and plus sized.
The chest clip can be moved up and down so it is easier to snap together, and more comfortably placed. Both the shoulder and waist straps are well-padded. The padding on the newer carriers is thinner than the old padding, but no less supportive.

The Body:
I love the body of this carrier! This is the deepest seat I have ever seen in a SSC. Baby is definitely sitting in the carrier in the ideal knees above bum position. There is even padding at the edges to protect baby's legs from getting red marks. The way it is shaped to give you that seat, means that baby sits less tightly to you. This took some getting used to, but it was awesome in the hot summer. Most SSCs are built for a less tight hold anyway.
Some KinderPacks are made with a breathable panel to help keep baby from overheating in warm weather. She used to use SolarVeil, but recently switched to KoolNit. I used to own a KinderPack with SolarVeil, but now I have a Kool Nit one. I actually prefer the KoolNit because it is more durable, and won't sag over time. If you are planning to wear baby in weather over 75 degrees Fahrenheit, than I highly recommend getting a KinderPack with KoolNit (or SolarVeil). A carrier with a breathable panel can be used all year round, just dress baby appropriately for the weather and use a carrier cover in the winter.
 Most KinderPacks come with hoods (if you are buying used you may want to double check with the seller if this feature is important to you). The KinderPack has a small headrest at the top of the carrier, this unsnaps to reveal a pocket that stretches down the body of the carrier. The hood is turned inside out and tucked inside. You can reach in to pull out the hood, or tuck it away when not it use. Most hoods are aviator style with two pieces of fabric. The KoolNit hoods are flat - yes, the KoolNit carriers have KoolNit hoods!

Sizing:
KinderPacks are generously, and fairly accurately sized. The infant adjustable size is one of the only SSCs that is regularly recommended for newborn use, because it has an adjustable width so you always get the proper knee to knee coverage! It is the only adjustable KinderPack, because in their first year a baby triples in size. Something I find interesting, the Ergo is both shorter and skinnier than the infant sized KinderPack, yet Ergo claims it can be used until 3yo. I was only able to use the Ergo for months 6-14. Funny how manufacturers like to stretch the truth - Ergo isn't the only company who claims their carrier can be used like that. KinderPack sizing is honest. You can stretch it a bit, but you will get the best fit when you use the instructed size. Never buy too big, because your baby will swim in it - they are made big to last.

Buying:
KinderPacks are made by a work at home mom. She stocks her store every two weeks with new prints. Sometimes they sell out fast, other times they linger until she puts them on sale. Every few weeks there are preorders of certain prints. The best way to keep up with what is coming next is to join the Facebook or Yahoo group associated with the company. She previews her stockings beforehand on those sites, and answers questions posted there. Others will post pictures of their children in the carriers too, so you can get a sense of how your baby will fit.
If the cost seems prohibitive (they are so worth it though!),  look into buying one used. There is a Facebook group, http://www.facebook.com/KinderpackFSOT that has KinderPack for sale. Also take a look at babywearing swaps, such as the ones on The Babywearer forum, Baby Center groups, DiaperSwappers, and Facebook's Babywearing Swap group.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dear Nanny: Infant Positioning

*When I use the royal "we" in this post, I am often referring to the babywearing community.

Dear Nanny,

I was looking at baby carriers at Babies R Us, when a woman who was passing saw me holding a box for an Infantino carrier. She said not to buy that one because it is a "crotch dangler." What is a "crotch dangler" anyway? Are there really some carriers that are bad for baby? What kind of positioning should I be looking for?


Thanks for the help!


Concerned FTM


~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dear First Time Mom,


There are some carriers that are certainly not recommended, but only one type that I would categorically say to never use. I will talk about that type, the bag sling, farther down. The term "crotch dangler" refers to carriers that hold a baby with just a strip of fabric between their legs. Baby is hanging in the carrier with their legs dangling down. This puts pressure on baby's developing spine, hips, and pelvis. It is basically a not very nice term for front pack carriers, though some other types of carriers can have baby hang too. A carrier that a baby hangs in does not offer the ideal positioning. I say ideal because there has not been enough study done on baby carriers to say words like right and wrong in terms of positioning.  However, we do have enough research information to state that some positions have more benefits than others. I'd like to note that some people find the term "crotch dangler" to be offensive. It is better to use the term 'front pack' instead.


To understand what proper positioning is, we first must gain some knowledge of infant physiology. There are two main parts I am going to focus on: hips and spine.


The Infant's Spine:

Picture used without permission from here.
An infant is born with their spine curved in a C shape. This is so they can fit curled up in the womb. It takes more than a year for it to straighten out into an adult spine's S curve. To keep from from forcing baby's back out if it's natural curve, a baby carrier should support baby's back from all sides. Part of this comes from how baby's hips and legs are positioned. 
Zolowear Ring Sling

You can see in this photo how baby's spine is being supported in it's natural curve. Supporting a curved back doesn't mean the carrier should be loose however. Baby should be tight to the wearer so that they won't slump. Slumping can tuck baby's chin to their chest and reduce oxygen intake.

An Infant's Hips:

These two photos show the difference between how a baby's hips are supported in a carrier where baby's legs hang and in a carrier that provides support from knee to knee. In the first photo you can see how pressure is being applied to the hip joint. While this wouldn't really be an issue for an adult, a baby's bones are partially made up of cartilage. Cartilage is soft and flexible, pressure put on the soft cartilage in an infant's hip can cause hip problems. The second photo shows better hip alignment, thought the photo doesn't really illustrate the ideal position of knees higher than baby's bum. 

Research done in Germany, mainly by  Evelin Kirkilionis, points to the ideal positioning that is now used all over the world to teach babywearing. Ideal positioning has baby upright, tummy to tummy (really chest to chest, but it's called tummy to tummy), close enough to kiss, with baby's knees higher than his/her bum, in view at all times, with baby's chin at least two [of your] fingers width off of their chest, with baby tight to you, and baby's back well supported while preserving the curve of their spine. Baby should not be slumped, and baby's chin should not touch chest (to preserve oxygen intake).

This photo shows what the ideal positioning looks like for a newborn, 0-3 or 4 months (except baby should be higher, "close enough to kiss"):
Photo used without permission from here
This photo shows the ideal positioning for a baby 3 or 4+ months:
Photo used without permission from here
You can see in both pictures that the babies knees are well above their bums. They are supported from knee to knee. Their backs are rounded, yet they are tight to the wearer. Their chins are off their chests. Note that the newborn's legs are only spread as wide as their pelvis. Once they can naturally open up their pelvis, they can spread their legs more to embrace the wearer. I prefer to use wraps or ring slings with newborns, because they provide an easier, and often better, fit.

When babies are positioned like this, it is also more comfortable for the wearer. A baby that dangles throws off your center of balance, forcing you to compensate for the extra weight (think of how awkward you felt 9m pregnant). When a baby is positioned more ergonomically, they are stabilized by your center of balance. This takes pressure off of your shoulders and back. You can stand up straighter, carry heavier babies and you can carry for longer periods of time.

Most baby carriers offer ideal positioning, but the most popular ones that you often see in social media do not. Infantino does make some ergonomic carriers now. If you are on a budget, the ergonomic ones should be OK. There are better carriers out there, but those won't do any harm. 

Cradle Carries

The only carrier that can be said to be definitively bad is a bag style sling. zbag style slings have mostly been recalled due to infant death. They put baby in a cradle carry, which can force their chin to their chest and cause positional asphyxiation. Cradle carries are not a recommended position because of this. The only carrier that can do a safe cradle carry is a traditional, open-tailed ring sling. Bag style slings don't just tuck baby chin to chest. They also have elastic edges that close over baby's face restricting the amount of oxygen that gets to baby. They are also meant to be worn lower, so you can not keep a close eye on baby. These tend to resemble duffle bags.
Recalled Infantino SlingRider
You can see in the above picture how a bag sling tucks baby into a chin to chest position. Notice how she is actually using her hand to pull the bag open so you can see baby. A baby's face should always be in sight when in a carrier so that you can monitor their breathing and assess their comfort. Look at the difference between that and a proper cradle carry in a ring sling:
Sakura Bloom Ring Sling
Baby's face is clearly off of his chest - he has an open airway. He is being worn high and tight, so he is easily monitored and will not slump. I still would recommend an upright tummy to tummy in a ring sling, but a safe cradle carry is possible. Although pouch slings are safe to use in a hip carry for 6m+, I would not recommend using them for cradle carries. A baby can still easily be tucked chin to chest in a pouch sling.

Remember TICKS:
T: Tight. Baby should be tight to you to prevent slumping.
I: In view at all times. You should always be able to see your baby's face.
C: Close enough to kiss. Baby should be worn high on your body
K: Keep baby's chin off of their chest to prevent positional asphyxia, and keep baby's Knees above bum. Fabric should extend from knee to knee, and baby's knees should be higher than their bum.
S: Supported back. Baby's back should be supported in it's natural curve.

See my posts Types of Baby Carriers and When to Use Which Carrier for more information on baby carriers.

I hope this helps,
Katie

Resources and References:
http://www.babywearingschool.com/drkirkilionis.htm - Info from Ein Baby Will Getragen, by Dr. Kirkilionis
Babywearing Safely and Securely, by Beate Frome

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Has my Carrier Been Outgrown?

You can't necessarily go by what is on the box to tell if your baby carrier has been outgrown. Some manufacturers go by the average height and weight for a child, but most children aren't in the 50th percentile for everything. Some manufacturers stretch the truth about the usability of their carriers. So, I am going to tell you how you will know if your carrier has been outgrown.


Your soft structured carriers and Asian baby carriers have been outgrown if:
  • Baby no longer has knee to knee coverage. It's OK to stretch this one, but if you have two inches between baby's knee and the carrier, than it has definitely been outgrown
  • The back of the carrier doesn't come up to at least baby's shoulder blades. This is important because babies are top heavy. A baby can lean back and fall out of a carrier that doesn't support their upper back.
  • Baby has passed the weight limit for the carrier. Weight limits are calculated by how much the fabric can tolerate. Most SSCs and ABCs are outgrown by height well before weight.

Your frame backpack has been outgrown if:
  • The back of the carrier doesn't come up to at least baby's shoulder blades. This is important because babies are top heavy. A baby can lean back and fall out of a carrier that doesn't support their upper back.
  • Baby has passed the weight limit for the carrier. Weight limits are calculated by how much the fabric can tolerate.

Your sling has been outgrown if:
  • It becomes uncomfortable to wear. Even though the fabric might support a baby to 40lb, doesn't mean your one shoulder can handle the strain.
  • The fabric doesn't go from baby's belly button, under bum, up to at least baby's shoulder blades. This is the width of the fabric. It should support baby from belly button in front, under and up to baby's arm pits.
  • Baby has passed the weight limit for the carrier. Weight limits are calculated by how much the fabric can tolerate.

Your stretchy wrap has been outgrown if:
  • Baby's bottom sags past your belly button when you carry them. Depending how good you are at tightening, this is usually around 15lb. Way before the stated weight limit.
  • The fabric doesn't go from baby's belly button, under bum, up to at least baby's shoulder blades. This is the width of the fabric. It should support baby from belly button in front, under and up to baby's arm pits.
  • Baby has passed the weight limit for the carrier. Weight limits are calculated by how much the fabric can tolerate.

Your woven wrap has been outgrown if:
  • The fabric doesn't go from baby's belly button, under bum, up to at least baby's shoulder blades. This is the width of the fabric. It should support baby from belly button in front, under and up to baby's arm pits.
  • It becomes uncomfortable to wear. Woven wraps may be strong enough to tow a car, but some weaves and fabrics are not supportive enough for a toddler. You may just need to change the carry you are doing.

It is important to note that here I talk about outgrowing a carrier in size. A carrier that has been worn out is different, and should not be used, even if baby still fits in it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dear Nanny: Difference Between SSC and MT

Dear Nanny,

I was looking at reviews for a BabyHawk Mei Tai and the BabyHawk Oh Snap. They both have good reviews, but I was looking at the pictures and they basically look like the same carrier. What's the difference?

Thanks,
Confused in NY

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Confused in NY,

Mei Tais are a different type of carrier. They are (usually and traditionally) unstructured carriers. They have a square or rectangle of fabric with a strap coming out of each corner. It will hold baby in basically the same position as soft structured carriers (SSC) like the BabyHawk Oh Snap. Mei tais are meant to be worn at waist level, SSCs are meant to be worn at hip level usually. You can also do high back carries in MTs, but not usually in SSCs.

MTs are often not padded or have minimal padding. They are comfy, and I love them, but if I am going to be wearing for hours I choose my KinderPack (an amazing SSC) over the MT. MTs are easier to wear while pregnant. SSCs have more padding and structure, making them more comfy for long periods. The BabyHawk Oh Snap is a great SSC. It is very large, and is often used just as a toddler carrier. It doesn't fit newborns or small babies well.

I have a BabyHawk MT, two CatBird MTs, and a Kozy MT. I like the CatBird and Kozy ones much better than the BabyHawk. The CatBird and Kozy MTs have a little more padding in the shoulders, the straps don't get twisted like in a BabyHawk MT, they are built of a sturdier and stronger fabric, the CatBird has a hideaway hood where the BabyHawk has a headrest, and both the CatBirds and Kozy are wider and taller than the BabyHawk - meaning they can be used longer. This is pretty much personal preference however. BabyHawk MTs are undeniably well-made, and a favorite of many people.

With MTs, you can fold down the extra fabric before tying it to customize the height for your baby, say, for instance, that baby wants to ride arms out. You can also use a shoestring to customize the width of a MT so baby always has the proper knee to knee coverage. (See Using a Mei Tai for a Small Baby for more info).

SSCs are great for older babies and toddlers. They don't offer great positioning for newborns, but it technically can be done.  Sized SSCs will give you the best fit (like KinderPack, Tula, Kanga, Bamberoo, and Two Mamas Designs).Mei tais on the other hand can be used from birth, but you'd get better positioning in a wrap or ring sling for a tiny newborn. Mei tais are nice if you have different aged babies and different sized wearers too. They are nice if you want one carrier to use from birth through toddlerhood, and aren’t interested in wrapping.  A bigger MT can be used from birth, so go with a larger sized MT. Kozy and CatBird Baby both make excellent larger bodied MTs.


Hope this helps!
Katie

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dear Nanny: Why Not Face Out?

Dear Nanny,

I heard that facing out in a baby carrier is not good for babies. Is this true?

- Just Wondering

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Wondering,

A FFO (Front Facing Out) carry is not recommended for a few reasons:
  1. An overstimulated baby can't hide their face. Babies are learning and experiencing everything for the first time. It can be hard to take it all in sometimes (this is why toddlers often throw tantrums), so they get overwhelmed. When this happens they hide their face and close their eyes to calm down. A baby facing out has nowhere to go when they feel overwhelmed. It can be hard to tell if baby is getting overwhelmed while FFO – they won’t always cry or scream if this happens. 
  2. Babies take their cues for how to react by looking at their parents’ faces. If they can’t see your face they won’t know how to react, and they can’t get your reassurance. This is a critical learning technique. 
  3. *A FFO carry can not properly support a baby's rounded back or developing hips. Your baby’s spine won’t fully form into an S-shape until toddlerhood, and a rounded back cannot be supported by a facing out carry. Also baby’s hips are partly made of cartilage. Cartilage is elastic. If the legs and hips aren't properly supported, hip dysplasia can occur. Baby’s legs should be supported from knee to knee, with their knees higher than their bums.
  4. It's harder for the parent to assess baby's needs. When you can’t see your baby’s face, it can be harder to tell if they are getting tired, hungry, or restless. Harder, but not impossible. 
  5. It's harder on the parent's back than a FFI (facing in). A FFO position is not ergonomic for the wearer. Especially with a heavier baby. A baby facing in with a proper carry adds the weight to your center of gravity. While facing out, the baby’s weight throws off your center of gravity. 
  6. A newborn without complete head control should never face forward in a carrier, because of the stress on their neck and inability to keep their head upright. Not to mention that a newborn can't see more than a 8-12in in front of their face anyway.
*If you have a baby that is 3-6ish months old, you could use a ring sling and do a Kangaroo carry for a FFO carry that won’t strain baby’s developing body.

If you absolutely must do a FFO carry, get a carrier that offers good support. A CatBird Pikkolo or a Beco Gemini offer as much support as possible for a FFO in a SSC. Woven wraps can do FFO carries that support baby's hips too. FFO carries should only be done for a limited amount of time.

But my baby can't see well facing in!
Most babies won’t care. A baby who is used to facing out may have a harder time adjusting though. At about 6ish months you could do a hip carry in a ring sling, SSC, mei tai, or woven wrap. A hip carry gives baby plenty of things to look at. Another favorite is a high back carry with a mei tai, some SSCs, or a woven wrap. A high back carry allows baby to look over your shoulder, but they can still sleep or hide their face if they want. Young babies can be carried in high back carries in woven wraps, or burp carries in ring slings.

-Katie

For more information on safe infant positioning, see my Infant Positioning post.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Pinch Test

A picture from Britax

Loose harnesses in a carseat can be very serious. In a crash a child can be ejected from the seat if the harness is too loose. That is why I am going to talk about the pinch test, a simple way of telling if your carseat straps are too loose.


How to do a pinch test:
  1. Buckle your child into their carseat. The child should be wearing regular clothing, not bulky sweaters or jackets. In a crash your child's clothing will compress, and if the straps are not snug enough they may be ejected from the seat
  2. Pull up on the harness by your child's shoulders
  3. Try to pinch the straps as shown in the photo above. Some people prefer to use three fingers instead of one to pinch because it keeps them from tightening the straps too much
  4. If you can easily fold the strap in half, than it is too lose - proceed to the next step. If you can't easily pinch the straps, then you are good to go!
  5. Grab the straps by your child's stomach and pull them up to remove slack. If your seat tightens the straps from the bottom (not because the tightener is at the bottom of the seat, but because it pulls in slack from the bottom) then skip this step.
  6. Pull the harness adjuster strap and try pinching again. If it is snug you are good to go, if not keep tightening until it is snug.

How to tell if the straps are too tight:
  1. If you can't put a finger under the strap it is too tight
  2. If you can put a finger under, but your child can't take a deep breath, it is too tight
It is not unsafe to have a harness too tight, just uncomfortable for your child.

Note: the chest clip should be buckled at arm pit level - too low or high can cause severe injuries in a crash.

A quote I love that details how tight a child's harness should be is: "A [carseat] harness should be as tight as the band of a woman's bra, and loose harnesses are about a useful as loose bras."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dear Nanny: Why Rear-Facing Until age 2?

Dear Nanny,

I read that children should rear-face in carseats until age 2. Why did the recommendation change? I have also heard of people doing "extended rear-facing." What does that mean? Thanks for your help!

- Carseat Confused

~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Carseat Confused,

There was a study done in 2007 that proved that children under 24mo are 5.23x safer rear-facing than forwards facing. This study, along with others caused the American Academy of Pediatrics to revise their previous stand of 'rear to a year' in carseats. Now the official recommendation is that children should be rear-facing to at least two years old, or when they outgrow their rear-facing seat.

The study was done with children aged 24mo and under, so we do not now the exact data for how much safer a child is rear-facing past 24mo. 24 months is not an exact number. It is not the magic age that makes children safer. We would all be safer rear-facing in a car - but that would make it difficult to drive ;). This is where extended rear-facing (ERF) comes in.

A young child's body is very different from the adult body. The head is significantly larger, which puts strain on a small neck, and the bones (in this case, specifically the spine) and muscles are not fully formed. When rear-facing the forces from a crash are spread out more evenly over a child's body, meaning that the child's body is under less strain. Also, a child's head is much better protected while rear-facing, so the pressure that would cause a forward facing child's neck to snap is much lessened.

In Sweden, children are rear-facing until four years old, and then moved directly into a booster seat (side note, it is much safer to have a 4yo harnessed forward facing than in a booster seat). They have significantly lower rates of death and injury to children under 4 in cars than we do in the US. Many families in the US are picking up on this trend of extended rear-facing. When they buy a rear-facing seat, they get one with high height and weight limits so they can rear-face longer. These families are rear-facing until 3, 4, 5, and even 6 years old. This is around the time that the ossification of the spine is complete, which is why parents are choosing to do ERF so long.

I would like to note that rear-facing is only safe in a carseat that fits your child and your car properly. Check the fit of your carseat by finding a CPS (child passenger safety) technician near you at www.seatcheck.org. Most carseats are installed incorrectly, so even if you think you did it right, have it checked.

Here is a link to the study: http://fcs.tamu.edu/safety/passenger_safety/certified-tech/rear-facing2.pdf
And a link to the AAP's policy statement: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/03/21/peds.2011-0213.full.pdf+html
And here is a link to a great video by thecarseatlady.com: http://vimeo.com/thecsl/2011aap

- Katie


Friday, August 24, 2012

Buying a Playard

Graco Element Pack N Play, Oasis
There are Two Types of Playards: Care Stations and Play Areas.

Care Station Playards
  • Playpens still come as low, netted beds used to keep babies safe from harm. However, many these days now come as care stations. 
  • Care Station Features: 
    • Bassinet feature 
    • Changing table 
    • Vibration and music settings 
    • Attached diaper stacker 
  • Since the AAP recommends keeping baby in the room with you for the first few months, many parents use the bassinet feature of the play yard for nighttime use, and the attached changing table saves you a few midnight trips to baby’s room. 
  • Play yards also make great travel beds, because they fold up to the size of a stroller (though, unfortunately, the changing table does not fold) 
  • Play yards are also a great thing to keep at the grandparent’s house so they have somewhere for baby to sleep and be changed when they visit 
  • People with limited space sometimes use play yards instead of cribs altogether. Though, play yards do not have to go through the same kind of testing that cribs have to.
Play Area Playard:
  • Play area types of play yards are used not for sleeping, but rather for keeping baby from harm. Usually from older siblings poking or the dog’s licking. 
  • Also used outside to keep baby off the ground, or a toddler out of the streets. 
  • These are brightly colored (not at all conducive to sleeping) and often feature toys attached.

Here is a piece of an article from PEDIATRICS regarding safety in using playards or bassinets for infant sleep:
"If a portable crib/play yard or bassinet is to be used, it should meet the following CPSC guidelines: (1) sturdy bottom and wide base; (2) smooth surfaces without protruding hardware; (3) legs with locks to prevent folding while in use; and (4) firm, snugly fitting mattress.121 In addition, other AAP guidelines for safe sleep, including supine positioning and avoidance of soft objects and loose bedding, should be followed. Mattresses should be firm and should maintain their shape even when the fitted sheet designated for that model is used, such that there are no gaps between the mattress and the side of the bassinet, playpen, portable crib, or play yard. Only mattresses designed for the specific product should be used. Pillows or cushions should not be used as substitutes for mattresses or in addition to a mattress. Any fabric on the sides or a canopy should be taut and firmly attached to the frame so as not to create a suffocation risk for the infant. Portable cribs, play yards, and bassinets with vertical sides made of air-permeable material may be preferable to those with air-impermeable sides.122 Finally, parents and caregivers should adhere to the manufacturer's guidelines regarding maximum weight of infants using these products.122,123 If the product is a combination product (eg, crib/toddler bed), the manual should be consulted when the mode of use is changed."

Published online October 17, 2011NEOREVIEWS Vol. 128 No. 5November 1, 2011
pp. e1341 -e1367
(doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-2285)


These are safety tips from HealthyChildren.org, their source is: TIPP—The Injury Prevention Program (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics, Updated 9/11)
  • Never leave the side of a mesh playpen lowered because a baby can become trapped and suffocate.
  • When your child is able to sit or get up on all fours (or when he reaches 5 months), remove any toys tied across the top of the playpen.
  • When your child can pull himself to standing, remove any large toys that could be used as steps.
  • Check the top rails for tears and holes because teething children often bite off chunks of the covering. If the tears are small, you can fix them with heavy-duty cloth tape. If the tears are large, you may need to replace the product.
  • Make sure that there are no tears, holes, or loose threads in the mesh and that openings are less than 1⁄4 inch across. Make sure the mesh is securely attached to the top rail and the floor plate. If staples are used, make sure they are not missing, loose, or exposed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bjorn Original Review

Baby Bjorn Original
This is my review of the Bjorn Original Baby Carrier from Amazon.com

I am going to preface this by saying that I actually did use this, and I do not find it practical for day to day babywearing needs.

Build:
The way that baby's legs hang down without support puts pressure on baby's developing spine and hips. Any product that supports baby thusly should only be used for very short periods of time. A baby carrier is usually used for long periods of time. A properly positioned baby in a carrier would have their legs supported from knee to knee, with a deep seat for their bottom. The carrier's back would come to at least their arm pits. A newborn can be worn legs out or in, if in legs should be froggied.

Comfort:
Horrible. One of the most uncomfortable things I have ever worn. Once baby hits about 15lb I can't stand to carry them for more than a few minutes. And this is coming from someone who can wear a ring sling for hours.

Positioning:
I already talked about how baby hangs, but this is addressing how baby faces. A newborn (0-3mo) should always face in for two reasons. 1) They do not have the requisite head control or neck strength to do this and 2)Due to underdeveloped nervous systems, babies can be easily over-stimulated with nowhere to hide when forward facing. A baby carried facing in can turn their head away if the world becomes to much for them. Note: A baby will not necessarily cry if they are over-stimulated. They may close their eyes, become irritable, tense up, or try to turn away. Older babies can be worn in high back carries, like those done in a woven wrap or mei tai to see over the wearers shoulder.

Ease of Use:
This is the only area that I can give props to Bjorn. These carriers are simple to use, which has probably contributed to their popularity.

What I Would Recommend:
What else is out there that is comfortable for baby and wearer?
  • Ergonomic Carriers: I love KinderPacks way more than ErgoBaby Carriers, but either is a good choice for proper knee to knee positioning
  • Mei Tais: These ancient Chinese baby carriers have survived centuries because they are comfortable for baby and wearer. A high back carry can be done in a MT. I personally adore my CatBird Baby MT, but others swear by BabyHawk.
  • Wraps: These have a learning curve, but once you get the hang of them they are wonderful! A stretchy wrap like the Moby can be used for newborns, and woven wraps can be used for all ages.

To learn more about the kind of carriers available, check out the forums at TheBabyWearer website. It is free to join, and the community is wonderful!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

When to use Which Carrier

So, I have been asked several times if I really need all the baby carriers I have. I have decided to answer it here to share my wisdom (or lack of it) here.

Well, no. Not technically, but it sure makes my life easier! Some carriers are better for long periods of time, and terrible for 'popping' baby in and out. Some carriers are great for newborns, but are terrible for toddlers. Some are perfect for most of the year, but give you heatstroke in the summer. I choose my carrier depending on the outing, the size of the child/ren I plan on carrying, and the weather. I may use a SSC in the morning, a mei tai in the afternoon, and a ring sling in the evening.

Here is my list of carriers and the outings/age of the child appropriate for them. (Click to view larger)

  • Amauti Coat: Strictly for very cold weather. Newborns to toddlers. May stress your back after awhile if you aren't used to it.
  • Frame Backpack: Hiking or all day trip. Older babies and toddlers. Any time of year if baby is dressed appropriately. 
  • Soft Unstructured/Asian Style: There are several kinds, but my experience so far has only been with MTs, so I am sticking with that. Podaegis and Onbuhimos are similar though.
    • Mei Tai: All year round, will need a cover in colder weather. Infants-toddlers. Great for running errands, going to park, etc. Depending on padding, can be used all day, but I prefer shorter jaunts
  • Soft Structured:
    • Ergonomic: I use this when I have a decent walk ahead of me. Once baby's in, I leave them there for a decent amount of time. Can be used in place of a frame backpack. Unless it has a mesh panel, it is no good for hot weather. Older babies and toddlers
  • Sling:
    • Pouch: 6mo+ is best IMHO. Short jaunts or frequent ups and downs. All year round except exceptionally hot weather
    • Ring: newborns - toddlers. Short jaunts or anytime with a newborn. Most of the year, may need a mesh or linen one for summer
  • Wrap:
    • Stretchy: newborns and young babies only (no matter what they claim the weight limit is), not for warm or hot weather. Can carry comfortably for hours.
    • Woven:  Newborns - preschool. Comfortable for long periods of time. Depending on weave and fabric, may not be comfortable in very hot weather
For more information on the types of baby carriers, see my post Types of Baby Carriers

Monday, August 6, 2012

On Your Right!

You may notice, that something has changed to the right of my posts. I have added a RSS feed of recent child related recalls, direct from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Those are not advertisements, they are safety notices. The CPSC receives incident reports from consumers, they inspect the claim, and issue recalls as needed to protect the public from harmful products. If you have an item that has posed a danger risk to your family, or if someone you know has been injured by a product, you can file an incident report with the CPSC.

How to Stay Safe:
I highly recommend joining the CPSC's e-mail list. You choose the categories that pertain to you, and when there is a recall the CPSC will send out a mass e-mail. They do not send anything other than recall e-mails. You can do this by visiting https://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx.

When buying a product second hand, check online to see if it has ever been recalled before using. The CPSC website will give you the information, but you can also just type in the name and the word 'recall' into a search engine too.

If you buy a product that includes a recall notification letter, then fill it out and send it in. They will inform you if the item is ever recalled.

Be safe, and spread the word! So many dangerous products are still out there...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tub Time!

Fisher Price Whale of a Tub

About:
  • Baby skin is very delicate. Everything you use during bath time should be fragrance, dyes, and alcohol free. 
  • If your baby hates baths, don’t force them unless you need to. They don’t get that dirty, sponge bathe them until they feel comfortable in the water. You can also try taking them in the bath or shower with you. 
  • Newborn babies should be sponge bathed until their umbilical card falls off. 
  • Keep the bathing room warm. At least half of baby’s body is going to be out of the water at any given point 
  • Wash baby’s head last. If baby’s head is cold, then the rest of them will get cold too.

Safety:

  • Never, ever leave baby alone near or in water. A baby or toddler can drown in less than ONE INCH of water. 
  • Never fill a tub higher than baby’s waist, and even that’s high. 
  • Put everything you need right next to the tub before starting bath time. If you realize you forgot something, go without or take baby out of the tub and with you to retrieve it. 
  • Empty the tub immediately after you are done with it. Once baby is mobile, or has an older sibling, that left over water becomes a death trap 
  • Adjust your water heater so that the hottest it can go is no more than 100-120°F. Any hotter can scald baby. Keep it at this preset until your child is a teenager. Children can turn the faucet easily. 
  • The water temperature should be about body temperature. Stick your arm in (your forearm is best for testing temperatures), if the water feels hot on your skin, than it is too hot for baby. If it feels cold on your skin, then it is too cold for baby. You should hardly be able to tell there is water on you, or it could be just slightly warm.
  • A tub thermometer is worthless, your arm is fine. You should not rely on them, always check the water before putting baby in.
Baby Tubs:
  • You don’t necessarily need a baby tub. It is easy to do without, but some people find bathing babies hard or nerve-racking. 
  • For newborns you can lay baby on a fluffy towel on the counter to sponge bathe them until their umbilical cord falls off 
  • 0-6mo: My mom used to lay us in the regular tub and fill it with a little water to about our ears. This gave us room to kick and splash and turn our heads to lap a little water. 
  • 6-12mo: Many people are fond of kitchen sink baths. I really like these once baby can sit up unassisted. I put a bath sponge or washcloth underneath baby to keep them from sliding around, and turn the faucet away so they can’t bump their heads. You do have to remember to clean out the sink before to remove food particles. 
  • I happen to like baby tubs because I hate bending over the big tub. It strains your back and hurts your knees. I put the tub on the bathroom or kitchen counter to wash baby. 
  • I do not like the tubs with slings for infants, but some people swear by them. In my experience they loosen, and baby’s back is hitting the hump in the middle. Plus, baby is cold because s/he is suspended out of the water. Not to mention that tub slings get mildewy.
Tubs I Like:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review: CatBird Mei Tai


UPDATED REVIEW: 12/1/2012
I have decided to update this review since I have been using this mei tai for several months, and I believe it deserves a proper review.

For those who don't know, a mei tai (pronounced "may tie") is a traditional Chinese baby carrier. It is a square (or rectangle) of fabric with a strap coming from each corner. Mei tais are awesome carriers because they can be customized to fit any size or shape wearer. You tie them on, so it is easy to fit it to each person. Mei tais are also great for different sized babies. MTs can have the waist rolled (folded) down to adjust the height of the carrier, and the waist can be cinched with a string or ribbon to customize the width so baby will always have the proper knee to knee coverage! What this really means, is that a bigger MT will last you longer than a small one.

I was in search of a CatBird Mei Tai for months before two suddenly came up at a great price. The first I got was an older cotton version, with a cute pattern known as Loteria. The second is a new version organic canvas color block (same as the one pictured above). The older version lacks some of the features in the newer version. So this review is aimed at the organic color block mei tai. Both mei tais are made in the USA.

Body:
The CatBird Mei Tai is generously sized. It measures 20.5in high, by 15.5in wide. It fit baby perfectly at 16mo, with the waist rolled twice for arms out. Now she is 21mo, not quite knee to knee, but she can still be arms in or out. The fabric is sturdy, supportive, and sewn together well. It is cool enough for hot weather, but over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, I prefer the cotton over the canvas. The CBB is a flat style mei tai - no seat darts or shaping.

The CatBird has a hideaway hood that is big enough for use with a toddler! It ties on to loops on the shoulder straps. When not in use it can be tucked into the body of the carrier. This pocket can be used to carry a diaper, wallet, or other small essentials. You could also fold up a washcloth and stick it in there to create a headrest for baby. 

This carrier also has a loop sewn onto the base of the carrier. It can be used to cinch the carrier's width. According to the manual, this is supposed to be used to make the carrier narrower for a front facing out carry. I do not recommend carrying a baby facing out for several reasons (see my, 'Why Not Face Out?' post here). Instead, this can be used to cinch the width for newborn use. The current recommendation is for babies to be legs out from birth, so rather than froggying babies legs in the mei tai, you could do a legs out carry. Just be sure that you have the fabric supporting baby from knee to knee, with their bum lower than their knees. See my 'Infant Positioning' post for more info.

Straps:
The CatBird Baby MT has lightly padded shoulder straps and an unpadded waist. I like the unpadded waist because it is more customizable as far as where you can put it, and you can roll it up for a smaller baby. The padding on the shoulder straps is just enough to make it comfortable with a bigger baby, yet, not with so much bulk that it still doesn't fold up small. The top straps measure about 72in. This isn't extremely long, but the average sized woman should be able to do the instructed tie offs. If you are plus sized, planning to tie Tibetan, or do other ties that require more fabric, it may be a better idea to find a mei tai with longer straps. Even a fluffy mom can use it comfortably tied under bum though.

For reference, I am a size 14 with a DDD chest, and I can just do this tie: front carry, straps crossed in back, crossed over baby's bum, and tied in back - with a toddler. I can do ruck straps easily, TUB (tie under bum), and carry a newborn. I can not do Tibetan straps.

There is a padded waist strap available as a separate purchase. I have just ordered one, and will comment on it's comfort once I have used it more.

Overall Support:
I find this carrier to be very comfortable! I have used it on zoo trips, walks to the park, beach days, etc. If I am going to be carrying for hours straight, I prefer an SSC with an older baby or toddler. If I am going to be carrying for long walks, need my hands free, or want to go shopping, I choose my mei tai. This is a five star mei tai!



ORIGINAL REVIEW: 7/29/2012
I was in search of a CatBird Mei Tai for months before two suddenly came up at a great price. The first I got was an older cotton version, with a cute pattern known as Loteria. The second is a new version organic canvas color block.

For those who don't know, a mei tai (pronounced "may tie") is a traditional Chinese baby carrier. It is a square of fabric with a strap coming from each corner. 

I love these!
  • The shoulder straps are wide and lightly padded - super comfortable
  • Perfect length on the straps to get a nice, secure carry
  • The newer version's larger body is awesome
  • Hideaway hood is large enough for a toddler!
  • Cool enough for summer weather,  but over 80F I prefer the cotton over the canvas.
  • Bottom is unpadded, so you can adjust body size to different size babies. The 16 month old I watch needs it rolled once for arms out. She has plenty of room to grow!
  • The base is adjustable for a facing out carry. I do not recommend this carry, but it is possible.
  • Made in USA

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Recent Recalls

Recalled Peg Perego Pliko-P3 Stroller
223,000 Peg Perego Strollers and 5,600 Kolcraft strollers were recently recalled. This is on top of 485, 690 Chicco high chairs, 15,400 folding children's beach chairs, and 37,800 Old Navy water shoes, 105,400 Flexible Flyer Swing Sets, and more that were also recalled in the past month.

Addressing the strollers issue...
The Peg Perego strollers were recalled because of a death and near death of two babies. The baby died from strangulation because he was not buckled into the stroller, and slid down to be caught between the seat and tray. The second baby nearly died from the same thing.

It is important to note that all children riding in strollers should always be buckled in. This is not the first time that a baby has died in a stroller when the were not buckled in.

The Kolcraft strollers recalled are the Contours Options LT Tandem strollers sold between February and July of this year. No deaths or injuries have been reported. They are being recalled because the wheels can break. Consumers should call Kolcraft for a free replacement wheels.

I would like to applaud Kolcraft and the CPSC for making such a quick recall. They kept children from being injured or killed by recalling the strollers quickly. The Peg Perego strollers are only being recalled now, eight years after that baby died. This puts other children at risk, including the second baby who nearly died two years after the first baby did. I will note that the PP strollers were no longer sold after 2007, but could still be used.

To find out more about these recalls, visit http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prereljul12.html

How to Keep your Family Safe:

Seeing the amount of recalled items a year is overwhelming. So many products, from so many trusted companies have the ability to hurt your family. What can you do to keep your family safe?

  1. Check all second hand items you get to see if they have been recalled. www.cpsc.gov has a search engine, or you can type the name of the product and the word "recalled" into Google or Yahoo.
  2. Send in the recall card that comes with many safety important pieces of gear to be notified of a recall. Baby carriers, strollers, and cribs often have these.
  3. Sign up for recall e-mails from the CPSC. You can decide which categories to receive information from. They will not send you any e-mails except for recalls.  https://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx
  4. If you notice a problem with a product you have, report it to the CPSC via their website.
  5. Spread the word. If you hear about a recall, tell people. Tell your friends and neighbors. Tweet and post it. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Perfect Stroller

I recently wrote in one of my buying guides what my perfect stroller would be. Here is what I came up with:

"In a perfect world (where the laws of physics are nonexistent) you would be able to have a stroller that weighs 1lb, is full featured, has reversible seats, holds child at parent height, and fits on public transit. This is not possible, so some compromise will have to be given."

I had to laugh when I realized I already own that stroller, in fact I own several different types...
  1. Weighs 1lb - mine all weigh less!
  2. Full featured - some are, some aren't
  3. Reversible seating - baby can face the world or me
  4. Child at parent height - check
  5. Fits on public transit - barely takes up more room than the baby
Well, what is this magic stroller called? A Baby Carrier! Yes, my wraps, mei tais, SSCs, and ring slings certainly do all of the above, and at much less the cost than what that magic stroller would cost.

So, if you are looking for the perfect stroller, maybe it's time to check out my 'Types of Baby Carriers' post.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dear Nanny - Crib Climber



Dear Nanny,

My 18 month old recently learned how to climb out of his crib. How do I get him to stay in bed?

Climber's Mama

~~~~~~

Dear Climber's Mama,

Congratulations on your toddler! Many communities suggest moving your little one into a "big kid bed" once they begin climbing out of the crib, but what do you do if you feel like your child is too young to be in a real bed? There are many safe ways to help deal with this.

Do:

  • Remove 'steps' from the crib. Is your child using a crib bumper, stuffed animals, or something else to boost themselves up? I might be a good plan to take out their improvisational steps. As long as your child's lovey doesn't disappear, they should be fine.
  • Ask your child to stop. Say, "You need to stay in your crib until mommy (or daddy, nanny, grandma, etc) comes to get you." Some children this actually works for. Some it doesn't.
  • Use a sleep sack at night to keep your son in bed. A sleep sack is cozy and will keep them from being able to spread their legs far enough to climb out. Just make sure you do not overheat your child.
  • Put their crib mattress on the floor until they are mature enough for a real bed. This way if they fall out, they won't get hurt. 
Don't:
  • Buy a crib tent. I have been saying it for years, crib tents are dangerous! 330,00 crib tents were recently recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, "CPSC is warning parents and caregivers who own these products that infants and toddlers are at risk of serious injury or death due to strangulation and entrapment hazards presented by these products."
Toddler sized sleep sacks:
Katie