Hello Mid-Atlantic Babywearing Families and Caretakers,
We know by now everyone is in the midst of making arrangements for the current COVID-19 situation. The Mid-Atlantic Babywearing Board of Directors has been discussing the best solutions moving through the coming months. Our thoughts are with the healthcare providers, high-risk individuals, and their families.
At this time, all March 2020 meetups have been cancelled. We will monitor the situation and recommendations by the CDC and health professionals to make a decision about the April meetings. We will try to make the decision as early as possible so that caretakers can plan accordingly. Some of these decisions will be made by the meeting locations themselves; many of the locations where we host meetups have suspended all events for the time being*.
All carriers that are currently checked out have been renewed through MyTurn, and there will be no “overdue” carriers. Should you receive a return message please email: email@example.com and we will correct the return date. All carriers that are currently “out” will be cleaned and sanitized before returning to circulation. We will also extend each current membership an additional month.
Our Volunteers and Educators are currently working on a plan to bring live videos, tutorials, and virtual meetings to our Facebook support group. If you need help with a carrier, please reach out to us and we will do our best to assist either via the Facebook group or a private chat. Please also remember that babywearing is a wonderful tool for helping keep sick kids close and keeping them out of reach of germy surfaces. It is also a great way to calm both kids and caregivers, and connect in times of stress.
The Mid-Atlantic Babywearing Board of Directors
*Please note: St Luke Lutheran Church (our Chester County meeting location) is closed to all outside events until further notice. Most libraries, including the ones we regularly meet at, have suspended events and meetings until further notice. Please check with these organizations before attending previously scheduled events.
CW: discussion of birth injury, breastfeeding, and mood disturbance
Having a baby is one of the most exciting, joyful moments in a person’s life. But, what happens when the unexpected occurs?
Magnolia Rose was born on January 12, 2018. Our little bundle of joy turned out to be not so little—a whopping 10lbs 4oz. On her way out, Magnolia’s shoulder got stuck behind my pelvic bone, resulting in what is called a shoulder dystocia. Due to this unfortunate event and the maneuvers used to get her out naturally, the nerves in her brachial plexus (the collection of nerves located in your lower cervical spine and upper thoracic spine) were stretched to the point of critical damage, resulting in the condition known as Erb’s Palsy. 2-3 out of 1,000 babies are affected by Erb’s Palsy every year.
This is just our story. Over all, about 6-7% of babies born in the US every year suffer birth defects or birth injury. No matter how prepared you are for the birth of your child, nothing prepares you for having a child with special needs.
It is well documented that babywearing can help parents of special needs babies cope (check out the resources in the MAB page, “The Benefits of Babywearing” for a link to the study!). Especially for those babies that face a NICU stay, the literal closeness of parent-to-baby encourages intimate bonding, similar to that experienced in the womb, which increases a parent’s feelings of competency and empowerment in a time where many feel helpless. These positive psychological outcomes can even help ward off postpartum mood disturbances in the birthing parent.
Beyond the general benefits to babywearing the special needs baby, in Magnolia’s case, babywearing also became a part of her everyday physical therapy. The specialists instructed us to swaddle her with her arm close to the body, bent at the elbow, and hand straight up—the same position in which she would be placed in a baby carrier! I was able to care for and feed my baby, give her the love and closeness that she and I so desperately needed, AND actively participate in her treatments, all at the same time. And sometimes, all of this while going to and from the many doctor’s and specialist’s appointments. Talk about feeling empowered!
As the severity of her injury started to improve, and her shoulder and arm became stronger, I set out to discover other ways to incorporate babywearing into our everyday therapy routine.
I learned just about every method of carrying, and discovered how versatile wrapping could be for use in restriction therapy—the practice of restraining the non-affected arm to encourage more usage of the affected side. There were some carries, like Traditional Sling Carry (front and rear), and Semi Double Hammock, that already did this without modification, due to the one-shouldered nature of the carry, and ability to spread the shoulder pass to create the restriction on baby’s non-affected side.
I even came to modify some carries, like Front Cross Carry, with a one-sided flipped shoulder, to create that same restriction but with more freedom to utilize the passes that work best for us overall as a babywearing duo.
It has been nearly two years since Magnolia’s rocky start in the world, and to this day, we still babywear both to get through the day and to make the most of our time together. The immense benefits of babywearing, especially with a special needs child, have helped us all to cope and grow as a family. After all, I have an older child at home as well, who also needs to feel special and connected. Babywearing is certainly NOT just for babies…
…..or singletons, for that matter!
All in all, babywearing provides another method to lift our children up, both literally and figuratively, to achieve all that they can while living with a disability. I wasn’t at all prepared for this journey, but feel infinitely stronger with the priceless, timeless skill of babywearing on our side.
Thanks for taking the time to read about our special story.
About the Author: Angelina is a resident of Philadelphia, proud mom of two, and long time social activist. She spends her spare time writing and volunteering with Mid-Atlantic Babywearing, as well as Philly Childcare Collective.
***International Babywearing Week falls in the same month as Erb’s Palsy Awareness month! For more information, please visit the United Brachial Plexus Network’s website at http://www.ubpn.org or Raising Hope, Inc’s website at https://www.raisinghpe.org
Thank you all so much for your support as we get off the ground! We have been working diligently since going live in January 2019 to continue to move this organization forward to best serve our membership, and we covet your input as we continue to grow and change. Our mission is to support and promote the practice of safely carrying babies, toddlers, and preschoolers closely to a caregiver in a variety of types of baby carriers for all interested caregivers through education and other means of support.
We began with meet ups in seven locations, and we now have nine meeting locations and are working at further expansion. At this time, we are serving York, Lancaster, Montgomery, Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Delaware, and Philadelphia counties. If there are other communities in these areas we should be looking at serving, we would love for you to bring this to our attention. We have grown to 68 paying members, including our 26 incredible volunteers. Paid memberships, which allow members to check out carriers at our monthly meetups, help us to maintain our lending library and to pay our insurance premiums, and other activities to help further our mission. We have been building our libraries recently! All of our meeting locations now have an onbuhimo available for check out, we just got in a new Boba 4G carrier (if you’ve never tried one, they’re awesome!), we’ve added some great items to our ring sling collection, and we have been working at diversifying the contents of all meeting locations lending libraries. If there’s something you’d like to try, let us know!
Over the next several months we will be making some changes in our library and membership software, making some improvements in volunteer communication abilities, continuing to hold meetings, and will hopefully be training some new amazing educators to continue to better serve and support our community. If you are interested in training to become an educator, or in serving our community in some other way, please reach out to me and let me know you’re interested at firstname.lastname@example.org !
I’d finally like to take this opportunity to thank our incredibly dedicated volunteers for all of the hard work they have put in to get this organization up and running, and for their commitment to continuing to spread the babywearing love and support. Thank you all so much, I am so honored to be working alongside so many incredible people! And lastly, thank you so much to all our members. We are only here because of you, and we are so grateful for your support.
I am so incredibly proud of all the work we have done and have yet to do!