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Wednesday, May 4, 2011


The Butt Pat

The comment I hear most often from people who don't wear their babies is that they tried, but the baby hated being in a carrier. Usually, they say that baby hated facing in, and they had a sling or other carrier that didn't facilitate out-facing. So they resorted to the Baby Bjorn or gave up babywearing altogether.

I truly believe that all babies like being worn. I also believe that there are good and bad times to wear a baby. Not all babies like being worn in all situations. Some get bored, some are sensitive to certain pressure points, and others do like to face out. If you decide to only buy one baby carrier and you spend all your money on a ring sling but baby prefers to face out, you might be left with a carrier you get very little use out of. That's why being able to try out a carrier before you buy it--even rent it for a week--can make or break your babywearing situation.

I think the keys to making babywearing succeed for both you and your baby are:

  • patience
  • finding the right time to wear/practice wearing baby
  • finding the right position in which to wear baby
  • preventing boredom
  • butt pats
Patience when babywearing
Both of my kids loved being worn. That's not to say that they didn't cry in the carrier sometimes, though. Baby T would sleep for hours in my Gypsy Mama Bali Baby Stretch wrap, and then wake up screaming his head off. I would pretty much have to get him out of there immediately. And Little M goes on crying sprees where the only thing that does calm him is being worn in a wrap or ring sling. Now, when I first put him in there, he may cry for five to ten minutes. But with a little bouncing and some butt pats, he completely calms down. We'll talk more about the butt pats in a little bit.

You also need to remember that babies cry and get cranky whether they are being worn or not. Sometimes it takes you 20 minutes to settle baby down no matter what you try. So if baby is screaming in the carrier, it doesn't mean she doesn't like it. She's a baby. She might cry. You can try out different timing/positions, but baby might just need to cry for a few minutes. It's not necessarily our job as mothers to stop our babies from crying--sometimes they just need a release, or to communicate--but we can hold them to our hearts and give them love while they are crying, even if we can't stop it. I know listening to baby cry can be downright maddening (and saddening), and I can see it causing a lot of people to quit babywearing. Hearing a baby sob for just one minute feels like 100 minutes. The suggestions below might help troubleshoot the process, though.

Find the right time to wear baby
Baby is not always in the mood to be worn. Getting to know your baby is the best thing you can do to ensure babywearing success. If your baby is crankiest when he's tired, trying out the carrier for the first time when he's rubbing his eyes and yawning may not be ideal. If your baby doesn't like being restricted when wide awake and alert, then don't try babywearing when you would be better off playing with baby on the floor. My babies are both cranky when they're tired, but both needed to be held and rocked to sleep. They also were calmed by swaddling. The feeling of the baby carrier pressed against their backs and their chests pressed against mine soothed them right to sleep.

In fact, Little M could not stay awake in the carrier until recently. When he was awake, he would get a little cranky in it, so I mainly used it for naps. Now he's getting a little better at relaxing in the carrier in a state of curious alertness when he's not sleeping. With Baby T, I used the carrier to get him off his feet and "force" him to relax even when he wanted to play. And by "force," I mean gently urge. Let me explain: Baby T was/is a very energetic kid. He pretty much never stops moving. When he was about a year old, he wouldn't stop moving even when he was tired. And that would make him overstimulated and cranky. So wearing him gave him a chance to get off his feet and relax but still be able to watch everything around him.

Find the right position in which to wear baby
Some babies don't like having their heads covered. Others don't like their legs constricted. Some like their legs dangling, and others love being curled up in the froggy position. Some love snuggling against mom's chest, while others prefer looking out at the world. Some babies are more hot-natured and get warm in a baby wrap or baby carrier.

It's important to try out different positions to find out what works best for your baby. This also involves really getting to know your baby. Baby may like to watch the world, but an out-facing position can be scary and overstimulating. At the same time, baby may get bored if stuck in a front wrap cross carry position on your chest, with limited view to the sides. Knowing different variations and ways to use your baby carrier, or even trying out a different type of carrier, may be all you and baby need to have a great babywearing relationship.

Prevent Boredom
My babies get cranky when they're bored. Little M can only look at the same thing for about 20 minutes before telling me he needs a different outlook. This happens whether he's on the floor, in the jumperoo, in the bouncy chair, or in a baby carrier. Sometimes, watching me clean the kitchen from the wrap bores him. It would bore me too. When we're out and about, going in and out of different stores seeing all kinds of people, or walking in the park, he's in a much better mood, whether he's in the carrier or not.

Butt Pats
When my babies are cranky, there is one thing that always calms them down: bouncing on the exercise ball with a little butt pat added in. I can jump up and down, bounce on the couch, or do calf raises, but it's not the miracle calm that bouncing on the ball is.

A lot of people suggest going out and taking a walk if baby is cranky in a carrier, because the natural swaying motion of mom's walk is soothing to the baby. I say bounce and pat instead.

And here is a little demonstration that puts together all of the above suggestions:
(Now, before anyone says anything about stomach sleeping and Little M all wrapped up while napping, please know I am keeping my eye on him. He is not unattended.)

He was hanging out in the jumperoo while I cooked and cleaned a little. He started getting cranky, and I knew it was time for a nap, so I put him in the Maya Wrap. I can't really cook with him in there, so I decided to work on this blog post--sitting on the exercise ball, bouncing, and regularly typing one-handed so I could pat his butt. Well, he passed out. Then, since the Maya Wrap is great for the easy transfer, I just slipped out of it and set him in the cosleeper. Voila. Sleeping baby and no more crank.


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