Of the many things I'm learning as a result of being a new mom, one of the most interesting has been about different ways and reasons to "wear" babies.
Ring slings, mei tais, wraps, front carries, hip carries, back carries... It's like learning a new language! There are so many options and opinions that it is a bit overwhelming to know where to start. Especially if you are trying to practice on a live wiggling baby!
I started out with a ring sling and a couple of others borrowed from my sister-in-law, but quickly settled into using the ring sling almost exclusively. Now that Elizabeth is a bit bigger we're starting to experiment with a few of the others.
I'm quite interested in a new carrier that I received from my Aunt Mary. She lives in Pagnirtung, Nunavut, and this jacket with a built in baby pouch on the back is sewn in a style that is apparently quite common up North.
Actually, my aunt says there are three different kinds of carriers. The amauti (a winter coat used to carry and infant / child), a summer amauti like the one I have or the more traditional summer amauti which has no zipper and is less vest like. The more traditional version has cloth straps from both shoulders to opposite sides at the waist and a pounch for the baby at the back. I've used it a few times with Elizabeth, but she isn't quite tall enough yet to see which doesn't suit her. So we'll try again in a few weeks.
I've also been using a cross wrap quite a bit which Elizabeth seems to really enjoy. I looked into buying one, but they wanted half an arm and part of a leg so before Auntie Janice left for Angola we went through our fabric piles instead. She leant me a sheet like piece of fabric that she bought to make a dress mock up out of. It's double the required width but exactly the right length for us at the moment (5 yards I believe). Most sites imply that a stretchy fabric is best, but although this particular fabric is almost denim-like I find it extremely comfortable. The knot is a bit bulky though because there is so much of it! I used this wrap for the first time when we took the baby sailing on Canada Day. I felt I needed a different babywearing style since it's useful to be able to go completely hands free on a boat and I was also a bit worried about Elizabeth's safety. Incidentally, did you know that that there are no life jackets that are Transport Canada approved for children under 9kg (20lbs)? We thought about buying the infant life jacket offered by MEC anyway, but decided that strapping Elizabeth to Mom would be safer.
The biggest problem I have with a wrap is that I don't know how I'd tie up a wrap of this length when out and about - it drapes on the ground which would tend to make it dirty, no? Even the instructions that explain how to tie a baby wrap using a single piece of fabric show it draping on the floor.
I haven't been posting for the last couple of days - it must be summer! We've been quite busy. Deck-building, berry picking, jam making... Did you know that making jam isn't a terribly baby friendly activity? I guess I did intellectually but it didn't register how unfriendly it was until we had large boiling pots of jam and water on the stove. Luckily Erika is already learning to babysit. She's great at entertaining Elizabeth, but not so great at letting the babies sleep.
In addition to all of the above, Elizabeth and I have been taking advantage of some of the many activities available in Ottawa for moms and their infants.
We checked out a free Kindermusic class this morning. It was pretty similar to babytime at the library, but the activities were a little more varied and the instructor explained the purpose behind each activity as we went along. For instance, babies have 1/5th the vocal range of an adult. Apparently singing glissandos is supposed to help them increase their vocal range more quickly because the babies will imitate you (she used a slide whistle to demonstrate). Looking online after the class to see if I could find out more, I tripped across a study that actually talks about the applications of research in musical education which is quite interesting if you are into that sort of thing. There were a few different dances as well, apparently to encourage vestibular development.
There were many instruments (mostly various kinds of rattles) that were given to the babies to play with. Each type of toy was given only for a brief period of time, and then cleaned up. In some cases the toys were dumped into the middle of the mats and the babies could choose the ones they wanted. The idea is to reinforce "sharing" and "cleaning up". It seemed to work better with some children than others. Elizabeth was a bit overwhelmed by all the noise and commotion at times, but wasn't bothered at all by putting the toys back (she's still in the "out of sight out of mind" phase). Some of the older children objected quite loudly.
All in all, the music class was interesting but I'm not sure I'm ready to pay $13.50 per class + $46 for take-home materials. Babytime is not quite as varied, but it is also free! The fall Kindermusic classes are a bit cheaper, so we might decide to try them. There are quite a few other musical classes available as well so I'm going to try out a few more before making up my mind.
I think we're going to call this photo "A hard day's play"...
Elizabeth cried on and off all night last night, leaving her parents rather tired. The injection sites are a bit red and sore, but we think the main issue is that she is remembering this scary thing that happened. In between screaming fits she seems quite content.
We were going to go berry picking again this morning, but it was pouring rain and Elizabeth was napping after her interrupted night so Brendan bravely volunteered to babysit. Erika, Grandma J and Auntie Yukiko came as well.
Elizabeth had her four month checkup with the pediatrician today. It was much less traumatic for mom and baby this time, but Brendan still got to be the bad guy while I cowered in the corner.
We got to hang out in the cute princess room this time. Elizabeth weighs 5350 grams, and officially measures 60cm long. This puts her at the 10th percentile for weight and the 25th percentile for height, and means that she is maintaining a consistent growth curve. We are highly skeptical of the height measurement because they measured her lying down, while wearing her cloth diaper. Elizabeth spent the time wiggling and frankly I'm not sure that the nurse tugging on her leg to stretch it out resulted in an accurate number at all. My last measure of a standing, naked Elizabeth was 63cm. In any case, Elizabeth is somewhere between the 25th and 75th percentile for height, so is growing well.
We put Elizabeth down on her back on the examining table while the nurse was asking us questions to determine whether Elizabeth's physical development is on track. "Does she smile and laugh? Does she coo? Does she blow bubbles?" We were particularly amused when the nurse asked up whether she is able to hold up her head. We just looked at Elizabeth, who had flipped herself over onto her stomach and was holding up her head and looking around proudly. "I guess she can roll" said the nurse. "Tummy to back?" she asked. "All directions" we answered.
Last time they took off her diaper before giving her shots, which resulted in terrified screaming baby at every diaper change for the next 24 hours. This time they let us keep it on. Elizabeth didn't react too much to the first needle, but the second one was obviously unappreciated. She cried only a few minutes though and then listened to Daddy read a story about a curious monkey getting a needle too ("Curious George goes to Hospital").
The pediatrician saw her and declared her healthy. After admiring her and commenting on her beautiful blue eyes, Dr. Russell finished her examination and tried to put Elizabeth's diaper back on. Elizabeth, obviously having decided that the doctor needed to see first hand just how clever a baby she is, promptly demonstrated her exceptional ability to wiggle and roll. Dr. Russell did an admirable job of getting the diaper on despite all the wiggliness. She commented that Elizabeth moves like an 18 month old and that we would have our hands full when she learns to walk. I can just hear Grandma H laughing now...
She was pretty content for the rest of the afternoon.
Elizabeth went to university for the first time today, in order to participate in a language development study.
When we were invited to sign up, research assistant Tamara described her study as follows: "We're investigating infants' ability to use sound detail when learning a new word. In order to do this, we will have infants sit (on a parent's lap) watching an image on a TV screen at the same time that they hear a word being played over and over (labelling the object on the screen). Once the baby becomes bored with this word, we will switch it with a similar but different sounding word. If the baby notices the switch, as indicated by an increase in looking time at the screen, then this will show that they can distinguish the two similar sounding words." Apparently infants can usually distinguish between all sounds at birth, but by the time they are six months old they begin to lose the ability to distinguish between similar sounding words if those sounds are not found in their native language. The research is intended to help clarify how this happens. They are particularly interested in analyzing the impact of exposure to multiple languages, especially for bilingual children.
Unfortunately, while Elizabeth was very happy to coo and smile for Tamara before the start of the experiment, Elizabeth became quite upset as soon as the voice started talking. She didn't seem that thrilled by the pulsing dots on the screen either. I wasn't allowed to speak during the experiment and was given a pair of headphones playing music to drown out the voice. The idea was that this would prevent me from cuing Elizabeth when the sound changed. We tried a couple of times. The second time Elizabeth had her rattle. She was happy as a clam chewing away even during the pulsing dots phase, but as soon as the checkerboard pattern came onto the screen and the voice starting talking, Elizabeth started to wail. Apparently some kids don't really like it when they can't see the person who is talking, and Elizabeth is one of them.
Given that Elizabeth was so uncooperative, I was a bit too shy to ask permission to take photos. Luckily the lab has a virtual tour which shows what we experienced extremely well!