Babywearing educators are a wonderful asset to the babywearing community. Their experience, knowledge and passion for babywearing can help caregivers overcome challenges and gain confidence in wearing their baby. We appreciate the role that babywearing educators play in our community and we are excited to celebrate their role through this series of babywearing educator spotlights.
Our next Babywearing Educator spotlight is on an active and long time educator, in both public and private consultations, from Washington. We asked Ricki Franklin, of Babywearing Boss, to answer some questions about herself and her role as an educator.
Tell us about your business.
As a Center for Babywearing Studies trained consultant I work with families and organizations serving families to promote child carrying. I focus on principals of Kangaroo Care and the benefits of hands-free carrying provided by babywearing. I meet with families, in their space, to assess babywearing goals and we work together to reach those goals, often in about 90 minutes. My nanny services almost always include babywearing as well. Whether I’m carrying a baby to give a postpartum family a break or a busy toddler who needs to recenter, babywearing always comes to the rescue. I am excited to announce, I’ll be partnering with a local Baby Tula retailer to offer in-store carrier fit adjustments and consultations.
How did you get involved with babywearing?
Researching online, I found out babywearing might help me reach my breastfeeding goals. I got a carrier, studied how to use it, but was very intimidated because of my plus size body: I was worried I wasn’t supposed to babywear as a fat person. One day, when my baby was fussy and couldn’t settle, my mom said, “Tie that baby on me!” I wrapped her in a Pocket Wrap Cross Carry with a stretchy wrap and my baby slept for hours on his grandma. At once I knew babywearing was for every BODY. Our little extended family immediately fell in love with babywearing. I found my local babywearing group which grew into an amazing support system bonded over new parent struggles. I now serve as President of BWI Olympia.
What do you find most rewarding as a babywearing educator?
I love knowing I’m passing on parenting skills and making the world a safer place for children. One of my former clients just became a grandmother. She explained how thrilled she was to teach her daughter how to babywear her first grandchild. Babywearing is an age old tradition and I respect that tradition by sharing the knowledge whenever possible.
What is one important tip you like to share with new or first-time babywearers?
Practice the steps to prepare your carrier, secure baby in the carrier, and take baby out of the carrier. Try using a doll, stuffed toy, or even a bag of your favorite snack to make this process effective. Getting a feel for the flow of each step will make you more comfortable. Your baby will sense that trying out the new carrier is OK because of the confidence you gained with those trials!
Before I had my first son, I took every class I could to learn about what was going on during my pregnancy and how to get this kiddo out of me. I took prenatal yoga to make sure I could relax and open up during labor. I took a 6-week childbirth series. I read all of the prenatal books to learn about what was going on inside my body. And, I took one measly 2-hour class on breastfeeding, which I told my husband he could skip because, I mean, it’s natural and normal, right? This breastfeeding thing should be easy!
Low and behold… I wish I had done a little bit more preparation for this natural and normal act because breastfeeding was definitely NOT as easy as I thought it was going to be!
Thank goodness I had a team of supportive friends, family members, and health practitioners to help us get over our breastfeeding hurdles. In fact, breastfeeding support has been shown to be the largest indicator of how moms get breastfeeding to work . So, let’s talk about constructing this ‘Dream Team’ of breastfeeding support.
If breastfeeding is important to you, then it has to be important to your partner, as well. Your partner is going to need to be your cheerleader, your confidante, and your #1 support person. He/she will make sure you are well fed and hydrated, while you feed and hydrate your baby. He/she can assist with latching, if you need help, as well as call in other support when needed. He/she can bond with both you and baby as you breastfeed, nap, eat, and learn to maneuver this new time in your lives. When your partner is on board, you are a united force, working together towards a shared goal, which can feel absolutely amazing!
Take a Prenatal Breastfeeding Class
While I make light of my short 2-hour breastfeeding class, it was definitely helpful to learn about what ‘normal’ breastfeeding looked like. For example, newborn babies feed at least 8-12 times in a 24 hour period because their tummies are so small. They can also be really sleepy, so there are great rousing techniques to use to keep them awake while feeding. Breastfeeding is NOT supposed to hurt, so getting latching assistance from a lactation consultant, nurse, or midwife can be incredibly helpful. The class instructor should also talk about comfortable breastfeeding positions, such as laid-back breastfeeding, as well as signs of a good latch and knowing when your baby is getting enough milk. Also, have your partner or support person attend the class with you so that he/she can assist with breastfeeding in those early postpartum weeks.
Attend a Breastfeeding Support Group Prenatally
Several years ago I interviewed Ina May Gaskin about getting breastfeeding off to a great start. One of her recommendations was to attend a breastfeeding support group while pregnant. That advice really struck me. Why would a pregnant mom want to go to a support group prenatally? Upon further thought, I realized how brilliant this idea was.
One – after having a baby, it can be incredibly anxiety-provoking to go an unfamiliar place. What if your baby starts to cry? What if your baby has a massive blow out? Where do you park your car? If you check out this group prenatally, after you have your baby this group will already be a familiar place….meaning, you are more likely to go get support and assistance early on.
Two – not all groups are the same. Location (hospital-based vs birth center vs yoga studio, etc) might make a difference to you. Some are led by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC), while others are led by Lactation Educators or mothers trained by Breastfeeding USA or La Leche League, just to name a few. Stopping by prenatally can help you figure out which group has the best ‘feel for you.’
Three – many of us are not surrounded by breastfeeding, so we have no idea what it really looks like or what to expect. At a support group, you can meet other new moms, ask questions, and get a sense of the many ways that women latch on their babies. It is awesome!
Choose a Breastfeeding-Friendly Pediatrician
This might seem like a stupid recommendation… I mean, shouldn’t all pediatricians be ‘breastfeeding-friendly’? Yes, they should, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some pediatricians are very well-versed in breastfeeding knowledge. They know how much a baby needs per feeding, how much a baby should gain per week, how often they should be feeding, the difference between nipple tenderness and pain, and when to refer to a lactation consultant, if necessary. Other pediatricians might provide advice which doesn’t protect a mother’s milk supply or the breastfeeding relationship, not purposely sabotaging breastfeeding, but ultimately making things more challenging for mom and baby. Ask your friends and post on Facebook for recommendations. Ask a local IBCLC. You’ll be glad you did!
Find a Local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (just in case you need assistance after baby is born)
What is an IBCLC ? An IBCLC is a healthcare professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. We study, take classes and exams, and practice all things breastfeeding. We are the people you call when you feel like breastfeeding is a struggle. We help you figure out how to make breastfeeding easier and enjoyable!
Like I mentioned earlier, prenatally we have all the time in the world to do research. So, while you are looking for that breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician, add IBCLC to that list, as well. There is nothing worse that trying to find a practitioner to help when you are in panic-mode! Prenatally, you can check out the websites of local IBCLCs, ask your friends for recommendations, and look online for reviews. It is not like you have to contact her prenatally, although you could. Instead, write down the names and contact info of a few IBCLCs you can contact, if you should need them after the baby is born.
Create a Visitor Policy
After having a baby, you might find that everyone you know wants to come and meet him/her. While this might sound innocuous, getting the hang of taking care of a new baby takes more time and effort than one might think. You (and your partner) might feel elated, but exhausted. Your baby will be feeding around the clock, which you might not want an audience for. Entertaining guests should not be at the top of your priority list. So, consider creating a visitor policy, prenatally. Tell your favorite, most helpful friends and family that you’ll let them know a good time to come over and that it would be awesome if they would bring lunch or dinner treats with them. Maybe they can clean up the dirty dishes, afterwards, as well. Give your less-helpful friends a head’s up that you will be spending the first few weeks bonding with your baby (which means limited visitors) and that you will text them photos of your bundle of joy. Have a code word for you and your partner which, when spoken, indicates to the other that it is time to escort your guests to the door or go lie down to take a nap.
Hopefully, with this Dream Team of breastfeeding supporters you will be well on your way to getting the hang of this breastfeeding thing!
Robin Kaplan is an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), frequent media commentator on the topic of breastfeeding, and founding host of The Boob Group, a podcast about breastfeeding hosted on New Mommy Media. She launched the San Diego Breastfeeding Center in 2009 and is an established voice in the parenting world known equally for her knowledge about lactation and her commitment to supporting moms without judging them, a keystone of the SDBFC philosophy.
To learn more about Robin and the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, visit www.sdbfc.com.
Saguaro - Tula Baby Blanket Set
'Saguaro' combines a favorite spiky plant with the fluffy softness of our baby blankets! In serene hues of green, our 'Saguaro' blanket is a dreamy desert landscape of cacti. Babies love our blankets as a soft place for tummy time or diaper changes, to snuggle with in their carrier or stroller, for shade or additional privacy when breastfeeding, and to snuggle in while they snooze.
Lansinoh® Smart Pump
A Smarter Way to Pump! Lansinoh’s New Smartpump™ Double Electric Breastpump uses Bluetooth® technology to connect seamlessly to the Lansinoh Baby App to track pumping sessions, baby's activities and more, simplifying your pumping routine. Three customizable pumping styles mimic baby's natural feeding pattern to maximize milk production and comfort. Hygienic closed system design guarantees no milk backup in tubing or motor for easier cleaning.
Includes two sizes of ComfortFit™ flanges with soft, flexible rims for ideal fit and comfort, cooler bag with ice pack, four bottles, two bottle stands and a carrying tote. Lansinoh's wide-neck bottles make milk transfer easier and are compatible with the Lansinoh® NaturalWave®Nipple, so you can pump, store and feed baby, all with the same bottle.
Lansinoh® Breastfeeding Starter Set
The Lansinoh® Breastfeeding Starter Set has everything mom needs to successfully start and continue breastfeeding! This set is perfect for a new mom and will help her to address common challenges for new breastfeeding moms. Includes best-selling Lansinoh® HPA® Lanolin, recommended by lactation consultants and doctors in the USA. Also includes best selling Lansinoh® Disposable Nursing Pads, Therapearl® 3-in-1 Breast Therapy packs, and Latch Assist™ nipple everter.
Belabumbum’s Tallulah Lace Nursing Bra ($53) is a supportive nursing bralette that is as beautiful as it is practical. Ideal for everyday wear, the chic peacock lace is cute enough to peek out under clothing. Belabumbum’s Lotus Nursing Chemise ($68) in soft baby jersey trimmed with vintage Lotus lace. One of the line’s best-selling silhouettes, this nursing nightie features bra top support and one-handed, easy drop-down nursing access.
Up for grabs is the Adele Ultimate Rainbow Nursing Necklace
Each Crochet Nursing Necklace is unique and designed to appeal to babies senses vision, touch, sound and allows the baby to safely play while nursing or babywearing. Great care has been taken to create a stylish, functional and versatile nursing necklace made from non toxic, eco friendly materials.
All Cherub Chews necklaces are made with EU sourced unfinished (no colour or varnish non toxic) wooden beads, crochet covered wooden beads made with organic cotton yarn , on an adjustable slip knotted cotton cord, so you can wear the necklace long or short. The beads range between 12 mm to 27 mm and the length is approx 30 cm full length.
The necklaces are designed with nursing and babywearing mothers in mind. They are attractive to little ones, beautiful and safe.
Chic, classic and timeless, the nautical “Abby” breast pump bag is a fashionable, yet neutral breast pump tote with room for breast pump, pumping accessories, keys, laptop, phone, and more! Ideal for the always-stylish mama, the "Abby" bag features two thermally-lined pockets for breast pump, pump accessories and expressed milk, a multi-functional tote-like style that easily converts to a diaper bag, and easy-to-clean, durable nylon with real leather accents.
PRO-Moms delivers six probiotic strains that specifically help seed the digestive tract, birth canal, and breast milk with beneficial bacteria to promote regularity and healthy digestion, optimize nutrient absorption, and support a balanced immune system for both mother and child.
One of the most beneficial things about babywearing is that it offers you the opportunity to provide care and comfort for your little one while on the go. Time for rest, quiet observation, and feeding can happen while you hold your baby in a carrier. We have shared the benefits of breastfeeding and babywearing in a previous blog, that included tips for how to feed in different carriers. But we know there are common issues that may make breastfeeding while babywearing difficult. Read on for suggestions on how we troubleshoot these concerns.
Breastfeeding and babywearing takes practice!
Your first attempts at breastfeeding in a baby carrier may be more difficult than you thought. We recommend that you practice and become confident in each activity, breastfeeding and babywearing separately, before combining them.
For babywearing: Become familiar with your carrier’s features. Learn how it is adjusted and practice, without your baby, the adjustments needed to feed in your carrier.
For feeding: Whether you have a breastfeeding relationship established with your child, or you are feeding with a bottle or other manner, it might be helpful to practice feeding baby in a position similar to the one used in a carrier. You may need to rest on your side while baby is on a flat surface, lay baby on top of you while you are laying down, or position baby upright while you are sitting.
When these skills are newly acquired, it might help to practice them in a comfortable place when baby is calm. With practice, comes lots of confidence!
2. Your breast size might dictate how you adjust for feedings.
Your baby’s mouth will need to be at your nipple level to latch and feed. So, along with adjustments to your carrier straps, you might have to make other adjustments to your carrier and your breasts to feed in your carrier. For smaller babies, or babies with less muscle tone, you may need to also support their head to assist with their latch.
For smaller chested people: Try lowering the waistband and loosening your arm straps to bring baby to your nipple height.
For larger chested people: Along with adjustments to your carrier, you may want to lift your breast with your hand, keep your bra clipped and lift your breast over the top of your bra, or roll a small washcloth and place it under the breast to lift it hands-free.
Practice these adjustments to find the right combination for you and your baby.
3. Looking for more privacy?
If the panel or the fabric of your carrier is not providing enough privacy for your own comfort, there are some other ways to get additional privacy. The carrier hood can be snapped up. (We recommend snapping only one side). You can use a lightweight blanket, like a Tula Baby Blanket, or a nursing cover over your carrier. If you are hoping for coverage on the side of your carrier, you can wear a button up shirt or cardigan over your carrier. This provides additional material coverage on your sides.
With all of these methods of coverage, be sure that you keep baby’s airway clear and that you check on baby often to monitor their breathing and temperature.
4. Not always hands free.
While being hands free is something we appreciate about babywearing, when you are breastfeeding, you may not be able to be totally hands free. A hand or two may be needed as your baby is developing head, neck, and truck control. You may need to lift your breast up to assist with your baby’s latch. If you are bottle feeding, you may need to hold a bottle in place. Or, you may need to support your baby while your carrier is loosened. That’s okay!
Keep in mind that some of these reasons are temporary and that babywearing while feeding still provides freedom. You can walk and follow an older child while at the zoo or playing at the park. You don’t need to leave lines while traveling to feed your baby in a specific room or area. You take care of grocery shopping while baby eats. And there are many other benefits of breastfeeding and being close!
5. You can find additional support!
If you are experiencing challenges with breastfeeding and/or babywearing, there are consultants and groups that can help! A lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group can assist you with additional questions about breastfeeding or other feeding options. If you need support regarding your carrier, there are also babywearing consultants and, often, babywearing groups locally that can help. If you have any medical concerns, we recommend always discussing them with your medical care provider.
Reminder of some general safety tips!
Baby should always be visible and have a clear airway. Check on them often.
If your carrier needs to be very loose to accommodate feedings, always keep a hand on baby for additional support.
Do NOT unbuckle your carrier. If you have to untie to adjust, always re-tie your carrier.
When your child is done feeding or if they fall asleep, always reposition them back to the optimal position for the carrier and their size.
Along with our one of our Team Tula babywearing educators, Priscilla Parra, we want to thank the following educators that provided additional thoughts and tips:
Our friend, Larissa, from Living in Color Blog, has graciously shared her beginner’s guide to using a ring sling with us so we could share the helpful information with you! Whether you have no idea what a ring sling is, or have been considering one but wanted more information, read through this guide where Larissa answers some common questions and gives some helpful tips!
If you’re anything like I was as a new mom, you don’t know A THING about ring slings,woven wraps or soft structured carriers. I hope to demystify what these other carrier options are and share additional tips for using them. Babywearing has most definitely made me a better mom.
Here’s a list of commonly questions I get about ring slings and my answers!
What is a ring sling?
A ring sling is a piece of woven wrap cut to a specific length (depending on size) and sewn at the shoulder with rings to create a convenient “sling” to use to carry a baby.
How does it work?
So chances are when you receive your sling it will be unthreaded, meaning the rings will be up top and the end of the sling will hang freely. The first thing you need to do is thread the rings. See this video that helped me when I was learning how to thread.
After your sling is threaded, you are now ready to practice using it. The rings hold the wrap sling in a way that allows you to create a hammock-like seat, wrap around your baby’s back up to their neck, and then tighten carefully. Read on for tips on using a ring sling!
Who needs a ring sling?
Anyone who wants to carry a newborn. In my opinion, ring slings are the easiest to use with newborns. Anyone who wants to run a quick errand and wants a compact, easy to adjust carrier. Also, someone who has a baby or toddler that you would prefer to hold in a hip carry. Most caregivers will want to carry your baby or child on your hip anyway. So, why not have a nice and supportive piece of fabric to help you do it and free up your hands?
Is a ring sling the only carrier I need for my baby?
Yes and no. If you have a newborn or super light baby, then yes, all you need is a ring sling. At around six months I started wearing G in her soft structured carriers too since they help distribute weight a bit better for older babies. But I still use my ring slings too – just for different reasons! I use three types of carriers daily. A ring sling, woven wrap, and soft structured carrier. They each have different functions and you can read more about that in this post here.
How old does baby have to be to be worn in a ring sling?
Each sling has it’s own weight limit depending on the fabric and the age of the child. Generally, 35 pounds is a good maximum baseline. You can generally wear a newborn in a ring sling right away (assuming there are no medical problems – be sure to consult a medical professional before officially wearing your newborn in a sling – just to be safe.) I wear my 17-month-old in a ring sling daily and still feel very comfortable with her in it. She loves it so much.
How do I get one?
There are buy, sell, trade groups on Facebook, or you can easily buy one on BabyTula.com. That is my favorite place to buy ring slings, which brings me to my next question.
What are your favorite ring slings, Larissa?
I have owned quite a few ring slings in several different types of material. Baby Tula tencel blend ring slings are my favorite fabric/types because of their cute prints and their special tencel material they use. Of the four that currently live here now, three of them are Tula.
Which fabric is best for a ring sling?
I would say tencel blend like I mentioned above, 100% cotton, or bamboo are my recommended fabrics.
How do I know what size I need?
Here’s the thing – when I bought my first sling I had people tell me to get a S/M (small/medium) because that’s what t-shirt size I wear, but I prefer a L/XL (large/extra-large) aka, LOOOOONG tails!
I love the long tails because they serve three purposes: the first is beautiful flowy fabric, the second is a makeshift nursing cover, and the third is extra support at neck or bum or another layer of warmth for baby! It’s a win-win with longer tails, but honestly it’s a personal preference thing!
My size guide in the image below is for Baby Tula Ring Sling sizes. For ring slings that are converted from small pieces of woven wrap, just look at the inches and then refer back to this guide.
S/M – 77 inches
L/XL – 87 inches
THREE TIPS FOR USING A RING SLING
1. Create a deep seat.
When your baby is carried in the ring sling, in a deep seat, you create a position that is very safe and more comfortable. This deep seat prevents them from undoing the “seat” of the carrier when baby straightens their legs.
Check out the photos of G in our ring slings. The bottom third of the ring sling fabric is pulled across her bottom, thighs and supporting her “seat” from the crook of one knee to the crook of the other knee.
2. Make sure you start with ring sling mostly tightened
The graphic below shows optimal comfort and tips for using ring slings. To make sure your ring sling is secured in an optimal position, tighten the fabric of the sling in THREE sections: top third, middle third and bottom third. Start with the sling snug with just enough room to get your baby into the carrier. If your ring sling is loose, it could make it uncomfortable.
3. Make sure there are no twists in fabric on your back.
The fabric that goes across your back should be flat and snug on your back so that it doesn’t mess with the seat or the fabric that’s threaded through the rings.