When I started having babies about 8 years ago, I knew all about the baby items everyone said you needed (turned out I didn’t use any of those at all) and nothing about the items that would actually be useful to me. After 5 babies, I can honestly say that there are very few things that are actual “must-haves.” And without a shadow of a doubt, a baby sling or baby carrier is one of them. It is normal for a newborn to want and need to be held all the time, and staying close to your body is the healthiest thing anyway. So, as I have evolved as a mother over these 8 years, so have my choices of slings. I found my needs and likes changing, as well as the fact that not one of my babies has been exactly like another.
My sling journey began with the Baby Bjorn. It must have been a well-meaning baby shower gift since I don’t remember buying it or even thinking that I would need or want a baby carrier. I do remember putting my tiny daughter in it, almost losing her in the depths of it as she was pretty small. Then, I read the directions which stated that the carrier couldn’t be used with infants under 7 lbs., which she was. That, and the fact that it was’t comfortable for me relegated the Baby Bjorn to a closet, where it wasn’t seen for the next two years and then was sold on Craigslist.
For better of for worse, my first wasn’t a really needy baby and so I wasn’t forced to find a sling solution. Not the most stellar introduction to a baby carrier; and if I had not searched further (or more importantly, really needed one with my next child) I may have remained sling-less. What a pity that would have been!
I wish I remembered how I found out about the Peekaboo Pouch. All I remember is my second baby (a boy this time) being fussy, and for sure not wanting me to put him down- for even a second. With a two year old as well, I was struggling. Somehow, I found Kate (owner/maker of Peekaboo Pouch) online. When she rushed me my sling, and I placed my three week old son in it, my life changed forever. This fleece pouch was the most remarkable thing; soft and cuddly, totally comfortable for me and baby as we entered another Chicago winter. In fact, being in fleece and close to my body, I was able to dress him really lightly and take him outside in it, all snuggled up and protected from the weather.
He took to it right away, falling asleep all stuffed in there, and able to nurse in it as well. I still have this sling, and for years we used it as a baby blanket and comfort object for him. A true “pouch” sling, this worked for me and baby boy for a while. In fact, I still love it for newborns, and bought one for my sister as well before the birth of her first. In many ways, it is and was an emotional attachment. I felt like this sling, in particular, saved my sanity and allowed me to revel and enjoy the fact that some babies need more closeness than others. This sling will always hold a special place in my heart; both for its “made with love” touch (thanks, Kate!), as well as the fact that I was able to be the mama I really wanted to be more effectively.
As funny as it sounds, this sling was my entrance into attentive mothering–I was able to feel and experience the closeness with my baby that I craved and he needed. (It seems that presently Kate has taken a hiatus, but her site is still up.)
The Peekaboo Pouch is hard to beat, but by the time baby number 3 was due to come, I started investigating the ever-growing sling options. With 2 little ones to chase, and with needing/wantting to take baby on my daily walks, I was looking for a little more stability. Most importantly, I had started attending homebirths with a midwife (as her assistant) and I really needed a sling that gave my hands more flexibility and freedom.
And so the search began. Probably for pretty strong cosmetic reasons, I decided on trying a mei-tai sling. These have straps that go over both shoulders, have a panel for baby and then also tie around the waist. I happened upon Baby Hawk, very excited. Not only did the sling seem versatile, but the closet designer in me was enticed by being able to pick a pattern and help design the sling. I thought long and hard about that part of it, and finally picked a purple star pattern (with black as the strap color) as my own.
Excited to try it once baby came, I headed to the Y (at several weeks postpartum, of course), sneakers on, and strapped her in. She wasn’t a fussy one at all, and seemed to really enjoy her ride around the track. I, however, was miserable. I couldn’t get the straps around my waist quite tight enough; after walking for just a few minutes, her weight would pull the bottom of the carrier down, throwing the whole thing out of whack. She’d start the walk with her head high enough that I could kiss it, but after just a few laps around she (and the carrier) had sort of dropped.
I think I gave it a few more tries after that, but the bigger and heavier she got, the more uncomfortable it became. I had thought the dual-shoulder straps would avoid the shoulder and back pain, but I was wrong about that too. Super-duper expensive mei-tais are not for me. In fact, I loaned it out a year or two ago during one of my sling demo classes and never got it back. Oh well, I hope whoever has it liked it more than I did! I’m not missing that carrier very much at all……
Baby #4. Feeling a tad discouraged with carriers after the Baby Hawk, but knowing I at least have one awesome sling. Always wanting to be in the know of new baby gear (and especially slings), I ventured out again. Still searching for the elusive carrier that would fit my needs this time. Turns out that fourth baby is a charm! (Although most of my babies have been really easy… my “joke” about why I keep having them:). This baby didn’t seem to need much of anything, except nursing here and there. But with 3 little kids other than him, I don’t think he was ever left sleeping peacefully, or that we let him take a nap anywhere other than the car or sling at all. I looked at many options, and stumbled upon Baby K’tan, which was not well-known (at least at the time).
I watched the How-to videos they had online, and was hooked. It was like a Moby in function, but a lot easier on the brain! I never “got” how to tie that thing (plus at 5 feet tall always felt like a mummy in all that fabric) but this looked so easy! With 2 loops of fabric, it seemed like the best of many slings. Secure, versatile and comfortable. I chose a fun blue tie-dye pattern, and when it arrived, got baby right in it. Easy as he was, he did not like to be horizontal, which ruled out my beloved Peekaboo. But because of the double fabric layers (which are wonderfully soft, by the way, like a cozy T-shirt), he could snuggle up vertically without falling out or being overly contained in any way. Perfect! Plus, being in Arizona meant that the lighter fabric and breathability were vital to our using this sling all the time.
Because it’s also so stretchy and because there are many different holding positions possible, I used this sling exclusively right up until the last month or so of my next pregnancy.
I still use the Ktan, at least partly, with newest baby #5. She was born in May (again, in AZ) and so for pool trips in the 100 degree weather, I opt for this lightweight sling still. However, with this babe my needs changed yet again. #4 is not yet a two-legged, and still very much needs to be carried or in a sling. In a lot of ways, it must be like having twins! So, I quickly discovered that the Ktan does not work so well for me in some everyday situations with 5 kids. Like grocery shopping. I cannot have the newborn in any precarious position; making most every sling I have virtually unusable.
Imagine not just 2 older kids, but a 3 year old (one likely to dart out into parking lot traffic), as well as a baby in a sling and a toddler that cannot walk himself into the store yet. And no empty grocery carts in sight. This means having the baby in the most perfect baby carrier imaginable, one that keeps the baby comfy but more than 100% secure as I bend in all positions to get the toddler our of his car seat AND onto my hip, while trying to hold the hands of the other 3. Whew. Who would have thought. 8 years ago, that my needs in a baby carrier could change so much! From soothing one fussy baby, to needing something virtually indestructible for a 5th child.
And then I found the Ergo baby carrier… (click on the link to read my review)