October 10, 2012

Babywearing after Abdominal Surgery

Babywearing after Abdominal Surgery
by: Amanda Morin
Birth and Postpartum Doula

In my work as a postpartum doula I have been asked about the safety of wearing babies the first few weeks after a cesarean birth. I read, researched and later wound Moby wraps and Sleepy wraps firmly but gently around mothers’ abdomens, being very careful not to bunch fabric over the incision site and rechecking for comfort. I have fitted ladies with pouches and I have watched newborns nestle into their mothers' chests and seen the satisfied smiles of women who are happy that once they get the hang of it, they feel that they have been given a gift. The oft faithful Google was helpful as I scoured websites, blogs and forums seeking tips so that these mothers could safely wear their babies and yet take care of their own healing bodies. There was a wealth of information on baby wearing after cesarean, so when I searched a few years later for advice on baby wearing after other abdominal surgeries, with an older baby, I was disappointed. There was nothing.
I wore my older son from birth until almost three. We used slings, pouches, wraps, mei tei's and several brands of soft structured carriers. In a pinch he had occasionally been worn in shawls. Fabrics from all over the globe had kept my eldest close to me and it was important that I have the chance to bond with my new baby in a similar way. My journey to become his mother often felt like a struggle and I wanted the ability to hold him without extra hands to help in the event something happened or I was feeling weak.

The day of my son’s birth began with a small trickle of water.

I called my Doctor and Doula.

After a long and sometimes complicated journey to and through this pregnancy this was "it". I felt great.

Strong, confident, womanly - even graceful, though I didn't look it.


I laughed. I was joyful and proud,

Bursting with love.

Fully, no urge to push.

We waited, we laughed.

Finally, I roared.

My son arrived.

I cried, and laughed. "He's so pink, he's so pink!"

Familiar, yet unknown.

I kissed him over and over.

I wanted ice water, saag paneer, to pee and to shower. My loving doula held my son so I could get to the bathroom. I stood and a familiar and terrible heaviness pulled on my cervix. I remember dread and surrender as the blood poured.

Many medications, transfusions and procedures later I awoke in the ICU. Five days later I went home.

For weeks I bled, more trips to the ER, more meds, doctors, and tests.

Three months after giving birth I went into the hospital for a repeat D&C and Novasure ablation, knowing that other measures might be necessary. By this time I would have done anything to stop the bleeding so I could take care of my children and once again become active in my own life.

Due to "profuse uterine bleeding" during surgery and severe damage to my uterus they called in a second obstetrician and preformed a total abdominal hysterectomy.

My surgery was intertwined not just with how I saw myself as a woman but also my feelings of motherhood. For the first five months of my youngest son’s life I needed regular help in taking care of my family and household. I am forever grateful for the meals, the open hands and hearts that sustained us, but I needed to find my feet again as a mother and I thought that finding comfortable ways to wear him would be not only convenient but essential.

Making my transition easier was an incredible amount of carriers to try from my own collection and the KangaMamas lending library. Because there was so little information available online I asked Kristen, of KangaMamas, and my baby wearing friends for advice. I started by making sure I was cleared by my surgeon. I had to wait until 6 weeks after surgery to begin trying to wear him because of his size. Wearing my abdominal binder helped in the beginning. It ensured no fabric would irritate my incision that was still very tender and helped me to stand straighter, which made adjusting the carriers easier.

My pouches didn't fit right. I could get my son comfortably in a ring sling for a few minutes but I felt a lot of pressure around my incision. I also thought the sling was not a good fit for me at first because he was old enough to want to sit up and look around but it made me feel unsteady wearing him to the side. After birth he was not a fan of stretchy wraps but the first three weeks I could wear him after the hysterectomy he tolerated a Moby well enough that I was able to snuggle him through quite a few naps. Help from other people was very important when he started to wiggle and wanted out because I was still somewhat weak and at about 4 ½ months old he was already quite strong. Lifting him out was sometimes a strain on my abdomen and my husband became a pro at lifting him out without his feet hitting my still sore muscles.

I tried Ergos but the belt didn't fit comfortably. My incision site was very numb for an additional two months and the added pressure made it feel weird. A Boba worked better but I could only wear him for short periods of time until the numbness became pain. I wore him a little longer each day in the Boba and loved knowing he was secure and I could once again have two hands to help my older son. When I was able to wear him long enough to walk through our local zoo I felt like I had turned a corner and was healed enough to be like any other new mom.
All of the mei teis and woven wraps that I tried were very uncomfortable. I wrapped and wrapped and hoped it would work for us but I could not get the hang of it and his bum always slipped out. The wraps may not have been broken in enough, but having the material on my abdomen was very uncomfortable. I had wrapped my older child but never as an infant. I was out of practice and even the motions of tightening and bouncing was a bit painful in the beginning. 

Once he was old enough to go on my back and I was spry enough to get him there it all came back. He was comfortable and so was I.I could go to the grocery store, a walk or the park and didn't feel conspicuous. One day while wearing him on my back it just clicked. I felt the moment where it all fit into place and was right. That's what I had always felt before and I had needed to get to that place as a parent again.

The surgery was a year ago now. I have worn him in pouches, ring slings, mei teis, wraps, and many brands of soft structured carriers. Baby wearing has allowed me to not only have free hands but more freedom as a parent. It has given be renewed confidence in my role as a mother. "

August 31, 2012

Guest Post: One Trick Pony

One Trick Pony
by: Leora C.
Here we are; 14 months into baby-life, and I’ve become a one-trick-pony mom.  This may sound self-disparaging, but it’s more of an exciting self-determination. I’ve settled on the one thing that solves most of our problems, my baby carrier. It is my go-to solution for any problem and I mean any problem. So much so, that if a pregnant mom asks me for parenting advice, they have pushed the button for my enthusiastic endorsement of a baby carrier as their solution for everything.

Frantic because friends are coming over in an hour, baby wants to be held, and you want to present some semblance of order in your home? Put her in the baby carrier.

Need to do errands around the house and baby is awake and active? Put her in the carrier.

Need to cook dinner at the same exact moment that you are entering the evening fuss? Put him in the carrier.

Baby is teething and would like to nurse constantly, but you can’t fathom sitting on your couch all day? Nurse while still moving around by putting him in the carrier.

Baby is waking more at night, and wakes up 5 minutes after you put her back in bed? Dim the lights and put her in the carrier.

Need to go to the supermarket and don’t recollect fondly your experience last time:baby was fine at first in the cart’s child seat, then wanted to be held, so you had to hold baby in one hand and push the cart with the other. And as everyone knows, you’ll have the cart with a plastic bag stuck in the wheel, making it veer sideways? Put her in the carrier.

Baby’s napping is off, and only lasts for 15 minutes at a time unless you hold him? Put him the carrier.

Going for a walk around the park and distinctly remembering that the sidewalk inexplicable switches from one side of the street to the other, followed by a muddy set of steep steps? Put him in the carrier.

Trying to type an important email for work and baby would like to help you by banging on the keyboard, potentially sabotaging your reputation? Put her in the carrier.

Baby needs to be walked to sleep and despite your attempt to turn baby weightlifting into your new gym routine, your arms are just tired? Put her in the carrier.

Baby has gas, hiccups or other discomfort that causes him to look into your soul with utter disbelief as you try to put him down to sleep on his back? Put him in the carrier.

Trying to handle two kids at once, and strangely, you still only have 2 arms despite your best wishes? Put one in the carrier (or 2 if you’re graduating to the “one-trick horse” big leagues, but I haven’t gotten there yet.)

This list could go on and on.  Our baby carrier collection includes a pouch sling and a ring sling for easy on off and quick things around the house, 2 buckle carriers – one in the car and one in the house - for an especially quick back carry,  and a woven wrap for ultimate support and sleep-inducing comfort. Any of these will do for the one-trick-pony approach.

I remember the first time I put my daughter in a pouch sling, my mom’s eyes lit up with memories of rebozos everywhere from her life in Mexico before she immigrated to the US. My neighbor insisted that I must be from Liberia, when she saw me with my daughter on my back. I’m not, but it was such a connection of recognition in one another – we did not have to delineate the reasons why having her there was such a wonderful feeling.  We knew.

There’s plenty of writing and research on the increased communication and connection by carrying your child in any of these carriers, but put simply, it can make you feel like a superhero in your little world of baby-life management and comfort. If you are nursing, it removes the “stuck-in-one place” factor and can get you on the move and enjoying the nursing relationship with your child. It builds confidence in both you and your child once you get really good at it, and there’s no wonder it’s done all over the world.

This one-trick-pony may not be hired for a solo show, but any babywearing parent certainly has a world of opportunities ahead. 

August 14, 2012

Learning the Lingo, part 1

There can be lots of lingo in everyday use and then you jump on the internet and it skyrockets. It can be hard to translate even if you know what they're talking about. So here is Kristen's Guide to Basic Babywearing Lingo, part 1:

Click to enlarge
Ring Slings (RS) - a nice basic yet very versatile carrier that is good for newborn to preschoolers. Comprised of one peice of fabric and two rings, the ring sling is an easy carrier to stash in your diaper bag. Popular brands include: Sakura Bloom (SB), Sleeping Baby Productions (SBP), Maya Wrap, Kalea and Comfy Joey. 

Some ring slings do come in sizes; the size of ring slings generally relate to the length of the tail. Each manufacturer has different size specifications and they can be found on their website. In my opinion the size if the sling will relate more to height than dress size and personal preference. Someone 5'4" or shorter might want a small; 5'5" to 5'9" a medium; and someone 5'10" or taller a large.

Here I have Brett (2 years, 30 pounds) in a Maya Wrap ring sling lightly padded, size medium. You can see that his knees are higher than his bum and the fabric is pulled up to his armpits. I wrapped the tail of the sling around the rings. The shoulder could be pulled more down my arm.
Here is the back view. The fabric is spread across my back; giving me nice support and it is more comfortable than having it twisted up.
Here is Brett (1 month, 11 pounds) in a Sakura Bloom, double layer silk. The shoulder is pulled nicely down my arm, the fabric is pulled up to his neck for support, Brett is tummy-to-tummy (and asleep), his head is close enough for me to kiss, and I can see his face to monitor his breathing.

Part 2 will concentrate on the basics of mei tais and soft structured carriers. For now, a fun video: