Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mama Wears the baby on her back! Back-Wrap Tutorial

I get asked all the time about how I wear my babies, and where I got my wrap. Here's the secret: my wrap is just a plain piece of fabric! This wrap, my favorite, is 5 1/2 yards of fabric, 45 inches wide. It's a cotton batik print that I like. It would be more practical if it was a plain dark or neutral fabric rather than a brightly colored print. I didn't sew it or hem it, just kept the nice selvages as they came, and tuck the ends in when I think of it.
I wear the baby all the time, and often find wearing him on my back more practical than the front, and much more comfortable than a one-shoulder sling. I like this particular method of the back carry because:
-unlike some other carries, it doesn't press on anything sensitive, and doesn't give me mastitis
-this tie is pretty modest. It doesn't make anything separate and protrude in an obvious and unflattering way. Women who have tried many back wraps will know what I am talking about.

This is a trickier wrap to do, and I didn't really master it until baby numero dos, but we are oh so happy with it, it was worth the practice in front of the mirror.
1. I find the middle of my wrap.
2. Setting him down in front of me, with his back towards me, I put this part of the fabric over the center of his back. I run each side of the fabric under his arms. I can hold on to these in front of him, and they will fully support him. Now I will lift him up over my head.2. Lifting him up over my head, I set him on my shoulders, as if to give him a horsey ride. Most people I have met seem to find this the trickiest part of this carry. Holding him snugly by both my "handles", I flip his legs over my shoulders to the back. Now his whole self is behind me, and I'm holding onto him with the wrap in my hands. I usually lean forward at this point. It's also a good time to tug his sweater down.
3. In the above photo, you see I am holding the fabric above my shoulders. Now that he is on my back, I move the fabric down under my arms: I hold both tails in my right hand while I slip my left arm up through them so my arm is on top of the fabric strap, and then do the same on the other side. The baby rides high on the back. He often likes to look over my shoulder and I can see his head if I look back.4. Ok, baby is on the back, held securely by a strap across his back. This strap comes under my arms (right under the armpits) to the front, where I have one side in each hand. I cross these over my chest to opposite hands. (up over my chest, if you know what I mean.) Now I pull them towards the back again.5. Reaching behind myself, I draw the straps under his legs and cross them over his bottom, bringing each up over my opposite shoulder, to the front again.

6. Now the straps are crossed behind the baby's back, but don't really hold him securely in yet. I fix this by reaching behind me and spreading out the straps from side to side so that they cover the bulk of his body.
7. I spread the fabric strap closest to his body before the one on top of it. You can see me tugging with one hand; I pull the fabric as far over him as I can to the sides.. This picture also shows my hand straightening out the strap where it goes over my shoulder on the right (it was twisted). I do this on both sides and this makes the wrap more comfortable for me as well as helping the wrap to stay spread out in back. I take my time and do this well.

A Reassurance: This is the part of the back carry which I found most infuriating. Until I got the hang of it, I thought it was impossible and figured people I'd seen in pictures must have gotten help or been contortionists. Now I can do it "all my-byself". It just took practice. 8. Here I have spread out the other straps so that both together form a seat for the baby and will also hold him in securely against my back.

See how his legs are uneven? I didn't spread that first strap out quite enough. We both survived.

9. Sometimes I wear the shoulder straps just on the tops of my shoulders, other times I spread them out across my shoulders; even down over the tops of my arms. Whatever feels most comfortable.

10. When everything is all straight and good, I pull on the straps to make sure the baby is tight against my back. He should be very secure, and pretty high up on my back. If I feel like his is sagging down, riding low, or if there is any space between myself and him, I work the straps until he is nice and snug.

11. To secure the wrap, I draw one of my shoulder straps under the chest strap. This keeps the shoulder straps away from my neck. Again, make sure to draw everything snug and comfortably tight. As I wear the baby around, I find that my wrap stretches a bit and the baby gradually creeps lower; wrapping and tying it snugly keeps the baby in position and feels best on my back. If I find myself leaning forward, usually the wrap isn't tight enough or the baby is too low.
12. Tie a square knot in the two fabric straps. (that's right over left, then left over right, or vice-versa.) I like to tie the knot as close to the middle as possible, as I find that most comfortable.I like the back carry for working in the garden, in the kitchen, in the yard, hiking, and biking; anything where I need both hands, need to see my feet, or just need to not have the space in front of me occupied by another person who grabs at everything.

Please let me know if you find these instructions useful or would like more clarification of any point.

If my baby falls asleep on my back, as he is lulled by my motions, I may retie the wrap with one or both of the shoulder straps running over his head and shoulders. This way his head won't loll around.

I have only used this wrap with a baby who can sit up. When he is awake, he holds his own head up. As on inward-facing front wraps, he can tuck his head into me when he wants to disappear from the world. He also has a great view of where we are going if he is feeling adventuresome.

My baby is over 20 pounds now and this wrap is comfortable for long periods of time for us. My older child is 30 pounds and I only use this wrap for shorter periods of time with him, mostly because neither of us has wanted much longer. He is still a fan of wraps and slings and loves occasionally being worn. Most of the time however, he wants to walk all by himself.

I do not claim responsibility for the safety of anyone besides myself and my own baby. I have only the experience of wearing my own baby. Certainly every paired baby and babywearer should use their own judgement and follow the specific needs of their own bodies. In my totally non-expert opinion, I think this wrap is best for babywearing couples who are already comfortable with front wraps.

I have not had any trouble with my baby squirming out of this wrap, and I can always feel right where he is. I usually find wearing him on the back calming, but if he is very upset or seems uncomfortable, I take him down.
To do this, I:
- untie the knot,
-loosen the straps,
and either:
- lift him back up over my head,
-or unwrap him while I am leaning forward, pulling him to my front with one arm.

I found it very helpful to look in a mirror while I was learning this wrap.


amanda said...

A great tutorial!!! This should be printed as a pamphlet. I had a fabric-off-the-bolt wrap when my son was smaller, and then I splurged on a $100+ german wrap--wasted money! Although I used the german wrap for a few months before selling it for $85, so it all came out right in the end. Babywearing doesn't have to cost a lot. your wrap is beautiful and baby looks so cozy! You've written a wonderful how-to for moms and dads who are new at this.

mamabear said...

thanks! I know I scoured tutorials for ideas when I was figuring this stuff out.

Maria said...

Hi Libby,
I know that I'm respoinding to an ancient post, and therefore, no one will read it; but I have to say, Nova and I tried out the front carry again this month, just to see if we could do it. Sure enough! Even a four year old can be worn in a sling. She thought it was a hoot--but I'm glad she can walk nowadays.