Babywearing an Adopted Infant

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I am a huge fan of babywearing and we’re currently working our second adoption from foster care.

With the first baby, we picked the baby up from the hospital. He had already suffered his first trauma: the loss of his biological/first family. I wanted to help him acclimate to our family (we’re a bit scrunchy) so we started babywearing with a no-sew rebozo wrap when he was about three months old. He took right to it and we changed to a mei tei when he was about six months old. He’s 2.5 years old and we’ve worn him all over the world and are still  going strong.

With the second baby, we picked her up when she was eight months old. Coming to live with us would be her second trauma (loss of biological/first parents, loss of foster family) and I was expecting that there might be some hesitance on her part. The first day of our visit, we just looked at her. The second day, we spent almost seven hours together and spent most of that time playing with her, but letting her lead. The third day, we had an overnight visit and picked her up early. We wanted to head to a store or two so I babywore her on my chest in the mei tei. She seemed okay for the first (her foster parents didn’t babywear) trip but I intentionally kept it short. The fourth day, we went to the store again and I did a brief babywear in the mei tei. The fifth day, we picked her up for her last overnight visit before placement. I wanted to go grocery shopping (babies eat a lot!) so I tried a back carry in the mei tei and ….  she loved it! I think babywearing is good for all babies, but especially important for adopted infants and toddlers because:

They can smell you.

Regardless of how old the baby/child is when they come to live with you, they’ll have to adjust to your smell. Smell is one of those animal things. It’s hard to define but you know when you’ve been around a smell that’s familiar. You want your smell to become the familiar, comforting smell for your child.

They can feel your gait.

Babies like car rides, washing machines, etc. Being carried by you should be one of those good feelings. When you babywear, it puts the baby right on your body and helps lull the baby. Many babies will fall asleep while being worn. Bonus!

They can explore you.

You’ll find that babywearing provides a child the perfect vantage point for looking at you and touching you. They will touch, pinch, stroke, lick, and anything else while being worn. I think this is really important for children that are being adopted because they have to get to know you. What a non-confrontational way for them to explore!

Benefits of babywearing from Dr. Sears

Benefits of babywearing for the family

 

Since I’m into gentle parenting, I’ll also just leave this article about Why African Babies Don’t Cry right here.

 

 

 

 

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Being a Crunchy Black Parent

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Doing our world schooling thing in Salvador, Brazil.

I joined a Facebook group for crunchy Black parents and until I joined, I wouldn’t have thought to call myself “crunchy”. Lol I know that there are some things that we do that other Black parents don’t do but I don’t think of us as hippies or anything.When I delved into the terminology a bit more, I came to understand just how crunchy I am … or possibly scrunchy. Lol

Crunchy parents tend to be more all-natural. Silky parents tend to be more traditional. Scrunchy parents tend to be a mixture of both. Here are some things we do, in no particular order, that apparently make us crunchy:

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Our son is not impressed by Kirstenbosch Garden in Cape Town, South Africa. Lol

 

#1 Babywearing

We started babywearing when our son was about 3 months old. Until that point, we were carrying him around in his car seat. That thing is HEAVY! Lol Once I realized that I could use a little piece of material to attach him to my chest I was in love. It made me hands-free and helped us bond. Talk about a win-win. We transitioned over to a mei tei when he was about six months old and haven’t looked back. He’s almost 2.5 years old and we still carry him when we plan on doing a lot of walking or when we know there will be tons of people around.

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#2 Baby-led weaning (aka No Rice Cereals)

Everyone knows that babies should drink milk (or in our case formula) until their first birthday but starting your baby on solids is a whole ‘nother deal. I knew I wanted to make his baby food from fresh veggies starting at 6 months but I hadn’t yet learned about baby-led weaning. Basically, baby-led weaning means that you make foods a bit softer/easier for your baby to eat while not creating purees.

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#3 Cloth diapering

Cloth diapering is cheaper than disposables and some would argue better for the environment. I really wanted to use cloth on my little one, but I couldn’t get the hang of it so we used cloth mostly at home and used disposables while on the run.

#4 You dabble in composting

We attended a seminar on composting from our county and the idea took root. I love the idea of not creating as much waste and then trying to use some of the waste you still create. Our county offers a simple composting tube for $10. If you do it right, it produces little smell and created great fertilizer for your home garden.

#5 You have a garden

We went our house, so we haven’t created an in-ground garden. Instead we do pots. It’s easy to do, super cheap (non-gmo seeds are a few dollars a pack), fun to watch grow, and yummy to eat.

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#6 You used elimination communication

I found out about elimination communication before we were matched and loved the idea of it. Many cultures around the world use elimination communication and have used it for hundreds, probably thousands of years. Anyhoo, when our son was around three months old we started watching for signs of when he needed to eliminate and then sat him on a potty training toddler toilet. Around 13 months old, he could signal that he needed to eliminate. Kids are going to go anyway, this just made for fewer diapers for us to change.

#7 You’re considering World Schooling

Kids are learning from the day they are born and some would argue before. We had very different experiences in K-12 but we’ve both come away with the same idea: we’d prefer not to place our kids in the K-12 school system. Once that decision was made, we had to decide whether to homeschool (have class at home), unschool (let the child lead the learning), or worldschool (use the world as your classroom). We chose worldschooling because we love to travel and it would expose our children to lots of different ways to live all around the world.

#8 You believe in gentle parenting

We are not perfect parents but he is a perfect kid. We are making an effort to speak with him in a respectful way and encourage him to feel all of his feelings. He’s a raucous toddler. He likes to throw things down the stairs and leave toys all over the house. He rarely has temper tantrums though. His adoption worker says it’s because our house is so calm. We rarely yell, we try to stop problems before they occur using H.A.L.T. and we don’t believe that he is “too old” to be held or made to feel secure. I’m not saying that we don’t have problems. I’m saying that we try to deal with those problems in a respectful way to all the stakeholders involved.

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Travel toys in Johannesburg, South Africa rental house.

#9 You limit plastic toys in your home in favor of wooden ones.

Wooden toys have fewer chemicals and encourage a child to use imaginative play because they only do what imagine they do. When people started giving us toys most of the toys were of the plastic/singing variety. We did let him keep a few, but most of them were donated. I want him to be able to use his imagination and lead the play, not follow the directions of some toy created by some adult in some lab somewhere.

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I sewed this felt campfire, logs, and stones set.

#10 Borrow, Buy Used, Buy New

For me, part of trying to be “natural” is not spending tons of money on non-essential things and using, or re-purposing, what I already have. I sew soft toys for our son pretty often and almost all the rest of his toys are used. Every piece of clothing and”baby stuff” (blankets, burp cloths, etc.) that he has is something that a friend gave us or something that we bought used. I know as he gets older, we’ll probably have to buy more new things but we try to minimize as much as possible.

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Our little one munching a snack while I put groceries in the car.

#11 Extended rear-facing car seat usage is a must.

This was one of the ones that I didn’t realize was crunchy. Studies have shown that the longer your little one is rear-facing the better chance they have of surviving a car accident. While I hope that we’re never in a car accident, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry, no? Our little one is almost 2.5 years old and is still rear-facing. We hope to keep him rear-facing until he’s four years old. We’ll see. Right now, riding backwards doesn’t bother him so … shhhhh … don’t tell him that other kids his age are not rear-facing.

#12 You taught your little one baby sign language.

They say that most toddlers become frustrated because it’s challenging for them to communicate. One way we’ve tried to help with this is by teaching our little one baby sign language. We used free videos from YouTube. We learned together and he has been signing since about 11 months old. He doesn’t use it as much now that he can talk, but it’s there for him when he needs it.

Since we rarely hear about other crunchy parents of color, please, please, please leave a message below if you’re crunchy or scrunchy (I love typing that! Lol). If you have a blog, link to that. It would be great if we could meet IRL sometime.

 

 

 

 

I Carry Her All the Way to Freedom

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Moses wrapping his daughter, Boo from the show Underground.

I know you’ve been watching Underground but I’m not sure if you understood what a huge moment it was when Moses fashioned a baby carrier out of material, threw Boo in it to show Pearly Mae, and said, “I carry her all the way to freedom if I have to”. Very rarely in big or small screens do we see Black men showing such tenderness toward their children.

Underground-Preacher-FamilyYou know how much I’m into babywearing. This scene made my test tight. Here was a Black man saying that he would not leave without his wife and child. He would carry his baby (she had to be around 7 years old) more than 600 miles if he had to. In my neighborhood, I see Black men at the park with their kids, at the grocery store with their kids, and everywhere else they could be ….  with their kids. Research studies have proven that Black fathers are more involved than other ethnicities in the day-to-day lives of their children. I rarely see it on tv or movies though.

Good job, Underground. Good job.

 

How to Do a Kanga Carry

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My first carry was a rebozo with a piece of material I had in my sewing stash.

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This kanga carry is the one I want to learn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know that I am a HUGE fan of babywearing. I don’t go anywhere without my trusty Infantino EcoSash. I’ve seen women walking with their babies in a kanga carry (material wrapped only around their trunk/waist with a baby on the back) and always wondered how they do it. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me before, but I went to YouTube and of course, found some great examples of how to do it.

This one explains it pretty clearly:

This one is a great example of how quick and easy it is:

This one is done with a beach towel! How handy is that?!

 

 

5 Tips for International Travel With a Toddler

SA-Durban-Guillermo-Mini-City-2015Our baby started traveling with us when he was six months old. We started domestically (short flights and familiar airline experiences) and moved on to international flights once the baby was a year old. To find out why we travel with our little one, click here. We visited South Africa in September (Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban) when baby was eighteen months old and Brazil in November (Sao Paulo, Rio, Salvador and Iguacu Falls) when baby was twenty months old. We’re heading to Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong in March when baby will be twenty four months old. We’ve had really positive experiences and I thought I’d share how we did it.

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#1 Choose a child friendly city

We like museums, hiking, thrifting and wandering around. For us a child friendly city means someplace that we can meander around and have a good time people watching and eating at random places. When things are too structured it creates stress for us. We especially enjoyed Cape Town and Rio. Some might say these cities are places to be wary of, but I say that with common sense these places are as safe as any other place to take your baby/toddler/child.

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#2 Choose a comfortable rental house

Since our little one is still a young toddler, we look for rental houses that have a crib, a bathtub and a way to easily access transportation. We have used hotels on occasion, but we find that get the best value (good amenities at a good price) when we use AirBnB. I’ve read good and bad reviews of staying with an AirBnB property, but our experiences have all been positive. We prefer to rent a whole home (sometimes a house, sometimes an apartment) that has multiple bedrooms, a full kitchen, air conditioning and heat, a bathtub, cable and wireless internet. We’ve rented homes in the swanky financial district in Sandton, South Africa (suburb of Johannesburg) and average sized apartments in Salvador, Brazil. Before we had kids, we CouchSurfed in Japan. I’d do it again but most CSers tend to be young and are usually NOT looking for a family to move into their home!

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#3 Bring touches of home

We travel a lot. A LOT. We’re usually on the road for business a few times a month and the way these travel deals (TheFlightDeal / SecretFlying) keep happening, we are traveling internationally more and more. To make sure that we don’t all lose our minds, we bring things from home that make us feel comfortable and help us keep our routine. For the baby that means bringing one of his turtle blankets, some familiar toys, a few snacks (granola bars) and a tablet with his videos (Storybots, Rafi, Mulan and Kung Fu Panda are his faves right now). Regardless of what’s on tv in the country we’re visiting he can sit on his blanket, play with his toys and watch the same thing he might watch if we were at home. It keeps him grounded and helps us all sleep well.

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#4 Think strategically

Traveling with a toddler can be all fun and games IF you put things in place to lessen your stress and create opportunities for awesome things to happen. We’re all different and what that looks like to you may be different than what it looks like to me, but here are the things I do to increase the chances that fun will happen:

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  • Choose fewer sights to see in one day. What do you absolutely want to make sure that you get to do?
  • Choose times to see sights when foot traffic will be low. This is a no-brainer.
  • Bring snacks for everyone because cranky adults fight with cranky kids. A hand full of trail mix and an apple can turn even the worst attitudes around.
  • Bring our baby carrier. There is no way I’d even attempt all this travel without my handy mei tei.
  • Use caribiners to attach water bottles and snack cups to backpacks and mei tei.
  • Bring a small backpack inside of my larger backpack for day trips. Less weight means less effort expended on humping items and more effort enjoying the day.

 

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#5 Let ’em be free range

Some of the best experiences we’ve had, have happened because we are open to letting  the baby explore a bit. In Salvador the baby and a waiter played tag while we ate. It was still early (we have to feed the baby before sleepy time) so the restaurant was pretty empty. There were two waiters that started playing with the baby. At one point, he wanted to get out of his high chair and then wanted to get down off of my lap. The waiter assured me that it was fine and then began chasing the baby around! The baby loved it. He began running and squealing with delight! The other waitstaff came to see what was happening and joined in. That’s one of the best memories I have of Brazil and it happened because we allowed the baby a little freedom. See what can happen when you allow children to experience the world they live in on their own terms.

This is how we’ve managed to take our not-yet-two-year-old on almost twenty five flights on four continents in four countries. Do you have any tips about traveling with a baby or toddler? I’d love to hear ’em. Please share in the comments below.

Babywearing to the Rescue!

Can you see the little feet pocking out? Lol

Can you see the little feet poking out? Lol

I’m not sure what is going on with the baby today, but he does not want to be in his crib. He doesn’t want to lie down. He doesn’t want a bottle. He doesn’t want food. He seems to want to be held …. but I have things to do.

Babywearing to the rescue!

We’ve used everything from a no-sew homemade rebozo wrap to structured carriers that are like backpacks to mei-tei type wraps. He just found an Infantino EcoSash at the swap meet for $5 so we decided to try it out. It said that we could wear the baby front-facing, chest-facing or on our backs. Today is the day I decided to try out wearing him on my back.

It was a success.

I was able to wash some bottles and get some things packed. I can’t remember exactly where I came across the idea that Americans could babywear, but a big “thank you” goes to whomever!

Do you babywear? What’s your favorite carrier?

 

Tips for Flying With An Infant

Flying-InfantWe will soon be heading out to Chicago by plane and I have a few questions. Though we’ve traveled internationally and extensively in the US this will be our first flight with a baby.  From what I can gather I should:

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Tape disposable spoons to store-bought food.

Bring a backpack instead of a sling-type diaper bag.

Bring cloth diapers with disposable inserts. Less to throw away in your large ziplock bag.

Dress baby in a long-sleeved, footed, jumper that you don’t mind throwing away.

Before Boarding

Get a Boarding Verification Document when you arrive at the airport (don’t forget to bring the baby’s birth certificate).

Wear the baby through security.

Don’t worry about brining his formula and baby food through TSA.

Gate check the car seat at the gate.

 

While Seated

Encourage the baby to drink during take-off and landing.

Bring tons of diapers.

Bring plastic bags for diaper disposal or soiled clothes.

Bring a “busy bag“.

Bring carabiners to clip on toys to the wrap so he can’t drop them.

Bring anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down surfaces baby will touch, lick, grab, etc.

Wear baby during flight (not during take-off and landing).

Play during the downtime to tire the baby out.

Ask for wings as some airlines still give out cute little pins for kids.

 

What am I forgetting? What’s your best tip for traveling with an infant?