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Every Sunday morning this winter, I drove down to South San Francisco.  I knocked on Joe’s door and waited to hear the high-pitched squeal of excitement from Jack.  Sometimes he threw himself at me when the door opened and sometimes he stood at the top of the stairs and announced something like, “OF COURSE it’s my mom!”  He would then spend 10 minutes or so showing off his most recent toy or Lego creation before shoving me out the door while declaring, “It’s time to go now!”

After pick-up, we drove down to Peet’s where Jack ordered “kid coffee” (aka hot cocoa) and I get the real stuff.  This has become our Sunday ritual and Jack totally knows the drill now.  He gets up on his tip toes to peer over the counter and orders for himself, “I want kid coffee please!  And pumpkin bread!”  The cashier gets clarification from me on what kid coffee means after chuckling.  Then Jack leads me to a table where he stuffs over-sized bites of pumpkin bread in his mouth while I sip my mocha.

Joe’s work schedule changes again this week, so there will be no more Sunday pick-ups.  Instead Jack and I will spend every weekend together until September.  We’ll come up with a new ritual, like homemade hot cocoa and waffles or a walk to the donut shop on Saturday mornings.  Who knows.

I enjoyed similar rituals with my mom growing up and it’s one of only a few things about my childhood that I am choosing to recreate for Jack.  Before becoming a parent, I dreamed of sitting down with my child, focusing on his company, hearing about his latest adventures, and reconnecting with him.  These are the moments when time stands still and I completely revel in being a mom.

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Kangaroo Care and Babywearing

When I was pregnant and going through the onerous task of registering for baby gear, I asked Joe if he had any special requests. He had no desire to be part of the gear registry for the most part but, to my astonishment, he did ask for a Baby Bjorn. I had no idea he even knew what that was! I added it to the registry and our good friend Sabrina ended up buying it for us.

We also received a Snugli as an off-the-registry gift from a family friend. We decided that the BB would be Joe’s and the Snugli would be mine; that way, we wouldn’t have to worry about readjusting the straps all the time (as Joe is 8″ taller than me and weighs twice what I do). This turned out to be a very good decision, as adjusting the Snugli was a major pain in the ass. There are a million straps, it seems.

Parents of premature or children with low birth weight are often advised to practice kangaroo care (or skin-to-skin contact) as it has been shown to help regulate heart rate, temperature, and breathing. Kangaroo care has also been known to improve the breastfeeding relationship, infant sleep, weight gain, and overall mood. Having read about the benefits of kangaroo care prior to giving birth, I made sure to mention it in my birth plan wishes. When Jack was born blue, with his umbilical cord wrapped around him three times, he was placed naked against my chest while receiving oxygen and quickly regained his color and his breathing recovered. Joe also practiced skin-to-skin in the hospital when Jack’s body temperature tanked after a bath, and we have used the method at home many times. Kangaroo care is not just for preemies!

After seeing first hand how kangaroo care can help in caring for newborns, we were even more excited about babywearing. Since Jack was so big (8 lbs 10 oz) when he was born and had such great head control, he was able to go into the carriers within a week (at which point he weighed 9.5 lbs). As most people with newborns know, babies like to be held a lot.  I’m sure most parents have numerous photos of their newborns sleeping on their chests.  In Jack’s case, he simply would not stand for sleeping more than 5 minutes anywhere but in our arms.  We tried the swing, the Pack N Play bassinet, the bouncer and he would have none of it. This is one of the reasons we started co-sleeping at night. During the day, we made good use of the baby carrier.

Joe is a hiker, so in his pre-baby daydreams, he saw himself exploring nature with Jack. This has worked really well because when everything else fails to soothe Jack to sleep, a nice long walk works almost every single time.

I did a lot of babywearing, as well. The carriers have enabled me to get out of the house while preventing Jack from having a meltdown. Additionally, I really enjoy having my boy zonked out while snuggling up to my chest.  Since Jack gained weight so rapidly, though, the Snugli didn’t work well for us – it soon became a huge burden on my shoulders and back (a common complaint with both the Snugli and the Baby Bjorn). I had heard good things about the Ergo, as it had been touted as being more comfortable and healthier for the developing child’s hips and spine, and I got the chance to try one when I visited my friend Jen in Oregon. Soon after that trip, my sister asked if there was anything we needed and graciously bought us the Ergo as a gift. It was an immediately improvement over the Snugli for me, as Jack’s weight was distributed more evenly with the pull being more on the hips, and the stress was removed from my back. My center of gravity was corrected! Also, the Ergo has less buckles than the Snugli and there was nothing sitting between Jack and my chest, which meant I could nurse with it on. Yay!

Joe stuck with the Baby Bjorn until Jack reached 22 lbs. and outgrew it. Bonus of the Ergo: it lasts until 40 lbs!

Jack’s daycare provider in Humboldt used the Ergo, as well. Jack has been pretty good at daycare but she said she noticed a huge improvement in fussiness when she started wearing him. Not only that, but he was always extremely happy to go to daycare and I believe this is because he was getting the closeness that he desired even when the daycare provider had to focus on the other children in her care.

Needless to say, I’m a huge proponent of kangaroo care and babywearing. I especially love it as a great way for the baby to bond with the non-breastfeeding parent. I know there are many times when Joe has felt frustration at not being able to calm Jack with breastfeeding as I do, and the baby carrier is a nice substitute. Plus, when my magical breasts do not do the trick, Joe can strap Jack into the Ergo and take a walk, giving me a little space!

I highly recommend that every parent utilize the benefits of kangaroo care and baby wearing and get a baby carrier. You may have to try a few different types to see what works for you and your baby. Some parents prefer slings over a backpack-type carrier, for instance, and there are certainly benefits to having a variety of carriers to choose from in any situation. If you need more information to help you decide which carrier is right for you, check out The Babble Out’s baby carrier guide.

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