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Some moms use baby slings for comfort and convenience

September 24, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • Heather McEndree of Chambersburg, Pa., uses a Moby Wrap to carry her 16-month-old son, Ian. She says that both she and her toddler love the carrier.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer,

It took a while for Heather McEndree to find a solution for a common Mommy conundrum: Baby wants to be close to Mommy. Mommy wants to be close to baby. Mommy also needs to get things done. Mommy needs both hands. But baby wants to be close to Mommy ...

"I thought, 'OK, I'll get a sling,'" said McEndree, a 32-year-old mother of two, who lives in Chambersburg, Pa.

Like a growing number of modern-day moms, McEndree is going back to what mothers were doing centuries ago - putting their children in baby slings. They say it makes them feel closer to their kids and gives them a sense of freedom.

"He gets to watch life happening instead of sitting in a bucket and not noticing it," said Kara Piper, a mother of five, who has used a homemade baby sling for years. She said she prefers slings over strollers.

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Today's slings can resemble reams of fabric and wrap baby and mom together like a trendy mom-baby kimono. Others look more like back packs that perch baby attentively at the front.

But picking the right sling is not as easy as running to the nearest store. Piper and McEndree tried several before finding carriers that they felt both were comfortable and, most importantly, were safe for their babies.

Here are a few things they say moms should consider:

Safety

In March, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning about baby sling carriers out of concern that certain types could smother young infants not yet able to support their own heads.

According to the Safety Commission, slings that place babies in a curled position risk cutting off their air supply because they bend the baby's chin toward the chest. Unable to cry for help, the infant would slowly suffocate. The Safety Commission also warned that suffocation could occur in a matter of minutes if the fabric completely covers an infant's face.

McEndree tried four baby carriers before finding the Moby Wrap she now uses for her 1-year-old son Ian. She said she immediately stopped using a banana-shaped sling because it completely covered Ian's head and face.

"It made me feel claustrophobic," McEndree said. "You can't see the baby."

Comfort for baby

McEndree said she had nearly given up on using wraps after she had trouble finding one comfortable for her first child, Connor, who's now 4. Her first experience with slings was with a harness-style sling that looked like a back pack.

"Most children probably love these," said McEndree. "Not mine."

She said that as a baby, Connor had wide legs, but the leg openings on the baby carrier were too small, which was uncomfortable for Connor.

McEndree also found the back-pack style wasn't very versatile. You could only position the baby on to the front or on the wearer's back.

She said she ended up re-gifting the carrier and didn't consider using baby carriers again until she had her second child, Ian.

At first, McEndree said she was intimidated by the Moby Wrap and thought it would share the same fate as the other four she had tried.

"It is one big piece of fabric," she said. "What in the world am I supposed to do with this?"

But after following Moby's illustrated instructions, she determined it was pretty fool proof. She practiced on a stuffed animal before wrapping up Ian.

Now, she's able to use it in a variety of ways.

"I loved it, he loved it. It worked for both of us," said McEndree.

Comfort for mommy

Keep in mind that the carrier must be comfortable for mommy, too.

Piper is 5 feet, 5 inches tall, with a small frame and she has problems with her back.

She decided to buy a baby sling in preparation for a trip to Ocean City, Md., and was anticipating narrow walkways inside shops along the boardwalk.

"I was concerned with the stroller, but I didn't want my arms to get tired," said Piper, 32, of East Waterford, Pa.

She had problems with harness-style carriers, which she said became too heavy after a while. Other slings have a built-in adjustable ring that is supposed to sit near the shoulder.

"It was a terrible one," Piper said. "I started to feel back pain"

In the end, Piper said her mother made her an Asian-style mei tai. The sling goes over both of her shoulders and positions the baby upright, which is better for baby's safety and helps with digestion.

Other considerations

The slings have helped preempt awkward social situations, Piper said.

Sometimes, mothers don't want people touching baby.

"People generally don't touch the baby because he's so close to me it would be like touching me," Piper said.

McEndree's Moby Wrap is teal and feels like a soft blanket. It offers some sun protection and is easily washable. It sells for between $40 and $50. McEndree said she wouldn't have it any other way.

"It was baby friendly and me friendly," McEndree said. "And you don't have to baby it."

Still, there are some other things moms will have to consider - like what happens when the infants grow more curious and want more independence. It should be easy to dismantle because they'll want to move around. This is the case with her son, Ian.

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