Babywearing While Pregnant
By Kristen DeRocha
Kristen (pre-pregnancy)with Zoie
I got pregnant with my second child while many cool things were happening. My daughter turned 2 and was becoming more and more independent, and my sling business really started picking up! I spent the first few weeks of my pregnancy wondering how the heck I was ever going to get off the couch and take care of business, home and family. But as soon as the morning sickness passed, life got interesting because as my biz picked up, baby carriers from other friendly WAHMs started landing on my doorstep thanks to exposure and the wonderful barter system!
My sling experience was mostly with ring slings and pouches up until this point. So this is an article with two perspectives in one - trying new carriers AND being pregnant at the same time. As a pregnant mama, I have tried most types of carriers by now including pouches, ring slings, ring sling/pouch hybrids, fleece pouches, Asian-style babycarriers (ABCs) and non-stretchy wraparound carriers (wraps).
Slinging while pregnant has many variables including (as much as my preggo brain can muster) the age of your sling-rider, the stage of your pregnancy and your weight gain/body shape change.
Age of sling-rider
Kristen (6 mths pregnant) with Zoie in a ring sling
The age or preference of your currently slung child can have a big impact on what you may choose. If you have a child that is younger or loves to be held for long periods, a carrier that you strap on your body - such as an ABC or wrap may be perfect for you. This child will not make you tie the thing on only to (in your exhausted state) make you take the whole thing off and repeat the performance in the parking lot of JoAnn Fabrics over and over again until the natural colored straps of your ABC are now tie-dyed with petroleum. You can put 'em on, leave 'em on and the weight will be distributed in a lovely way to counter-balance your new curves. An older child who is up and down a lot will probably be better served by a quicker carrier like a ring sling or a pouch. My daughter could be held perfectly for short periods of time (her choice) in a ring sling on my hip with her legs riding up above my belly.
Stage of your pregnancy
Kristen (6 mths pregnant) with Zoie in an ABC
Secondly, the stage of your pregnancy factors in here. Your pouch may be fantastic in the beginning as you impatiently look at your tiny tummy daily for evidence that something is actually in there. But wait! If you are the type of person that goes from underfed waif (me) to plus-size curvy goddess (me) you will probably need some adjustability along the way.
Also, my daughter developed this obsession with riding on my front - a la tummy to tummy - at age 2. This was fine in the beginning, but as the tummy grew, she had to learn to be displaced (I guess it's a good transition) from front and center to forgotten (kidding) somewhere on the back. This is when an ABC or the wrap really can come in handy. If your child will snuggle on your back and be satisfied with that, a two-shouldered carrier can be a perfect option. And a ring sling was necessary for me to both accommodate her need to be off and on quickly and my need for comfort.
Kristen (8.5 mths pregnant) and Mike, with Zoie in a wrap tied in the Rucksack Carry but with straps crossed at the front.
Body weight and shape changes
And lastly, as my body changed, slinging really changed along with it. The
first thing to happen was that my (still) beloved pouch became too small.
My daughter started complaining about it being too tight. I have the luxury
of making myself 18 pouches, but it's not good for business if I eat all
my inventory so I just chose my ring sling overall throughout to save the
hassle. Also, if you gain a lot of weight during pregnancy you may find that
any kind of carrying for any length of time becomes a challenge no matter
what miracle your carrier may promise.
Curvy Goddess with Zoie in a hybrid pouch/sling As of today, I have
gained 50+ pounds. Add my daughter's 32 lb self to that and yes, mamas, that's
80+ pounds on my underfed waif bone structure. So at the end of the pregnancy,
your carrier of choice should be the one that distributes the weight as evenly
as possible throughout your body. A wrap provides the most versatility at
this point, but I haven't become good enough at tying it on correctly the
first time, and by the tenth time, I have to lie down. I have only used the
rucksack carry (but with straps crossed at the front) and the Tibetan (links to these carries).
I think as a pregnant mom, you just have to experiment with different carries
until you find one mutually beneficial for both mom and baby.
The ABC is great for this stage - especially the high back carry where you
tie the straps above your boobs (links to instructions).
I think that may be my favorite ABC position and I could wear her the longest
that way. I was able to wear her on my front earlier in my pregnancy, but
as my belly got bigger, she had to go on the back. With the regular back
carry I was tying the wasit strap above my belly-if I tied them below, I
found that Zoie rode too low.
These days I just keep reaching for my old one-shouldered uneven weight distributing
default--the ring sling (for the easiest on and off).
Kristen (8.5 mths pregnant) with Zoie in a wrap tied Tibetan style I
have found in general that slinging while pregnant is no picnic. I have had
to set more boundaries, while at the same time finding my daughter's neediness
increasing a bit. So while I didn't feel physically capable of carrying my
daughter, the sling allowed me to do it for longer periods of time. And choice
of carrier will depend on many factors that are individual to your needs
and lifestyle, as well as the needs of your older child.
I am 3 weeks from my due date now and will never stop putting my older child
in a sling if I need it as a tool to keep her close. We definitely sling
less and less as she gets older, but that’s mostly her choice. We’ve mostly been slinging lately due to the novelty factor. She loves to get in new carriers. I think overall the closeness of slinging can make for a very gentle transition for an older child as you stay in tune with her needs, while teaching her that life is ever-changing.