An ode to the Ruck – Back to Basics

There are many many ways to carry your child on your back in a woven wrap. Some stand out because of the complexity of the techniques used and some are wonderfully simple and straight forward. Arguably the most simple and straight forward of all back carries is the Ruck with its many variations.

This simple carry does everything you need it to do with some very simple motions. Suitable from birth to the end of your carrying days it is the perfect carry for a first time back wrapper and can still comfortably be used for toddlers too.

 

The child is secured on your back with a single layer and two passes of the full wrap over and under their legs, the material then meets at the front for a double knot. You can hip scoot, santa toss or superman your child onto your back depending on their age and your flexibility, ability and experience. With an older toddler you could even ask them to hop on with the wrap as a cape.

Get someone to spot you the first time and if at all possible practising with a doll or teddy can improve your confidence greatly.

Top tips for achieving a comfortable ruck:

1) Make sure all of the wrap is over your shoulders, you can adjust the wrap once you have done your knot.

2) Tighten and then tighten again. Ideally you want the whole wrap to be tightened evenly with lots and lots of the wrap under your babies bottom to create a nice deep seat.

3) After you have done the knot, reach back and put each hand on one of your child’s feet and then gently push them up to achieve a nice spread squat position and if needed tuck some more wrap under their bottom. You could even tighten more once you have done this as you can just feed the extra slack around to the front and tighten the knot further.

 

 

 

Once you are getting the hang of where everything goes you can start experimenting with the many variations : Ruck tied under Bum, Reinforced ruck, Ruck tied at shoulder and many more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most importantly though have fun and if the ruck is not for you then there are plenty of other methods out there that could suit. The beautiful thing about a ruck is that the time spend learning about it will not be wasted as you will be able to transfer those bits that did click into a new carry.

Some great videos for Ruck instructions can be found here on the SlingGuide website.

The Importance of Being Father

I want to explore a father’s role especially in our family. Partially to debunk the myth that fathers must be involved in infant feeding to establish a good bond with their children and partially to say thank you to my husband and the father of our children.

At the time of writing our children are 7, 5 and 23 months and all three have an excellent connection with their father. All in their very own unique way.

Ben (7) loves to talk computer games and science with his father. When Colin comes home after work Ben is usually happy to wait for a while before engaging with him as he has learned that he gets the best focus then. He also loves reading his father’s old comic books with the current favourites being Calvin and Hobbes.

Ruben ( 5) has no patience for waiting so jumps on his lap as soon as he comes home. He is eager to show the crafting he has done that day and loves watching maths videos or learning more about football and knights.

Eleanor ( 23 months) does not understand why her father is not there all the time and when he is at work ( Dada working, all gone?) she greets every car on our drive with an excited DADA DADA. When he does come home she presses her face against the glass and shouts for him jumping up and down. She spends the first hour of him being home on his lap or following him around the house or garden.

Each of them has in the past gone through a phase of preferring me as their mother over him and each of them has also gone through a phase of preferring him over me. I am sure more of such phases are to come.

None of our children ever accepted a bottle and apart from a handful of occasions where we tried to see if they would take a bottle I have done all the milk feeds. Despite being told often that using bottles is important because it enables bonding for the father he has managed to form an excellent bond with all three.

with our youngest

So what has he done? Below is a selection of the things which we believe contributed to the bond he has with our children.

* Be a hands on father, he has done bath time from an early age with all three.

* Spend time with them doing fun stuff.

* Cuddle them when they are upset.

* Guide them in their daily live.

Or in short : All the things I do as their mother apart from the provision of milk, after all he is their parent just like I am.

Toddler Connecta Review

I have never made a secret of my love for Connecta as a perfect enabling carrier and I was very excited at the prospect of a toddler Connecta. At the Natural Mamas Big Camp 2012 I got to try the tester Toddler Connecta and I absolutely loved it, so much so that I immediately pestered Sarah to sell one to me as soon as they arrived with her!

Sarah said I could and luckily for me I did not have to wait too long! I choose a guitar print as it is a print I have always loved, is gender neutral and is nice and cheerful to look at.

I have been testing it as my go to carrier for the last week and I am very impressed. I love that it has retained all the features of the standard sized Connecta which I love so much. The flexibility, the fact that it is so incredibly light weight and the non structured waist.

We tried back carrying in our local park to pick some brambles ( or black berries if you do not know what brambles are …)

Bramble picking

We also tried it around our local supermarket, which was such a big success that she fell asleep immediately a great compliment as she now rarely sleeps in a sling.  The we took it on an adventure, which accidentally led to a trip to the doctor for me to have my hand stitched back together, proving that it is a great sling even with limited hand mobility. My daughter is nearly 2 and tall for her age yet she still has plenty of growing room making it a perfect next step after the standard Connecta

My top three plus points for the Toddler Connecta:

* Easy to put on

* Light weight

* Affordable

If my post has convinced you that you need a Toddler Connecta, a pre order for the Toddler Connecta can be found here.

with instructions

My toddler Connecta will be available for hire soon, if my daughter lets go of it that is.

Toddler wrapping!

Wrapping a newborn is great and you get that closeness when they snuggle up and listen to your heartbeat. The fabulous thing about wraps however is that they are a true universal carrier and can be used from birth to toddlerhood and beyond.

Yesterday we had an amazing day out at a local National Trust property and I took along a size 6 Roses Foxglove Oscha as I knew that we would do more walking than little legs could handle.

Often when carrying a toddler in a wrap it will be done on the back with as many layers as possible to increase the comfort for the carrier. It is however perfectly possible to still use the full versatility of the wrap with a toddler.

Ruck tied in front

First up is the Ruck tied in front. As a one layer back carry this can feel heavy on the shoulders if use for longer periods of time. For a quick trip it is perfect though, it is quick to tie and untie and your toddler will be able to see over your shoulder where you are going and share in the excitement.

Hipcarry with long wrap

The next image is of a hip carry using a long wrap. This carry is fabulous as it allows you to use the same wrap but on your hip. It is also in part pretied so it is very useful for a toddler who cannot quite decide whether to come up or run around. It is possible to leave most of the material in place and just retie the final knot. It is also possible to spread the material of the final cross over your toddlers bum and add a little bit of reinforcement.

Front Cross Carry

Moving on to the Front Cross Carry. This is an often under rated way to use a long wrap as it can be a bit fiddly to adjust the rails especially with a smaller infant. The great thing about this carry is that it is pre tied. You can tighten further to increase comfort once your toddler is seated but this is not always needed. And if you do retie it is quick and easy. Yesterday we use this method to keep her close to me whilst we explored the Abbey which had many stunning items of artwork at toddler hight!

Double Hammock

And lastly but by no means the end of the options the double hammock. This is one of the most rock solid ways to carry using a long wrap. Two layers over your toddler and a layer at the front to balance it out. This is one carry which is well worth the time investment needed to master it!

Running free …

And of course the truly amazing thing about toddler is that they can be carried one minute and running free the next ♥

* Please note that these are just some of the methods of wrapping you can use with a toddler, a full list would have to be truly never ending!

The rise of the parenting ‘Expert’?!

What is an expert? An expert is a word used to denote someone who has extensive, prolonged experience in their field gained through education, practice and research. The exact meaning of extensive and prolonged is not defined and of course it is something that differs per field.

The problem when putting parenting and experts together is that there are as many ways to be a great parent as there are parents. Self proclaimed experts can often make it sound like their way is the only way to be a great parents which can then lead to parents feeling like a failure. All the more ridiculous if the expert in question does not have any children themselves so any expert experience they have will be solely based on research or education. Not that I feel you must have practical experience in order to be able to be an expert but when it comes to parenting something that involves so many emotions which are difficult to understand without feeling them. To then go on and offer extreme parenting advice is something that does not sit well with me at all.

Of course having experts to turn to is not a new phenomenon even in Victorian times parents turned to rules relating to how their children should behave. It really is no wonder that in times of great change we turn to others for help and information. I will now admit that reading parenting manuals is something that I enjoy doing. I love hearing about someone else’s views about parenting, reading new tips I can consider for situations I find challenging and just plain being nosy.

Another issue I take with the existence of know it all experts is that it pushes out those with very real and very valid experience. Those who did not and do not want to do anything professionally with the experience they have. Yet those parents have also gained some unique and potentially amazing insights on how to do their job as a parent. It could just be that their experience is all a new parent needs!

Keeping all of the above in mind it is perhaps easier to understand my reticence in being labelled an expert. Granted I have over 7 years practical experience, I have completed well structured and highly acclaimed courses, I have done my own research and I keep up to date with all relevant happenings in the babywearing industry. BUT and it is a big but I do not have all the answers.

Then someone said something to make me stop and think. ” Being an expert does not mean that you have all the answers, it means that you are willing and able to help someone find theirs”. I like that, a new and different way to define who and what an expert is. A guide rather than an instructor. The role of guide is something I feel a lot more comfortable and confident with!

As a guide I do not have to take responsibility for someone else’s decisions, I do not have to worry about whether my way was right for them. All I have to do is enable and empower them with information so they can make a true free choice. Just like it should be.

Connecta – Review

A Connecta has been part of my stash from when I first started stocking them at Mama Natura ( I no longer run the shop). I have owned both the standard and the Integra Connecta and even a solarweave one.

In addition to being a part of my personal carrier stash it is also the one carrier I always make sure is in my demo and teaching bag.
A Connecta fills the gap in the market between Mei Tais and Soft Structured carriers. As a Buckle Tai it is truly unique and there is nothing out there at this moment that comes close in quality and comfort. And the best bit? They are produced right here in the UK!

The Connecta has two padded shoulder straps which attach with buckles to the side of the carrier. When worn on the front the straps cross on the back in an X shape for maximum comfort. If using a Connecta for a back carry the straps go straight under your shoulders like a rucksack.

Connecta’s are easy to adjust, and as the reverse side is plain black it makes for an ideal carrier to share between two parents of different sizes ( and taste in prints!). The only downside I have found so far is that it can be very hard for very small mums to get a good fit with the shoulder straps.

The seat of the Connecta can be adjusted to be smaller by using the chest belt. This is shown in the instruction leaflet and means that it is easy to use a Connecta from birth.

Sarah, who owns Connecta, is a pleasure to deal with and has high standards in customer service.
All in all a carrier I am very happy to recommend to anyone wanting an easy to use carrier which is readily available.

Small print : Again, to be fair, I would like to point out that I consider Sarah a personal friend. I won the Zoology Connecta Integra pictured in a competition in October 2010.

Did you use a Crotch Dangler?

If you did ,and you know what I mean, that title may have just put your back up! For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about let me explain.

I am a babywearer. This does not mean that I wear my baby like a piece of clothing to be changed as fashion or the weather changes, it means I carry my child in a soft sling. A soft sling which places my child in a physiologically optimum position. Some of the main points to keep in mind are reflected in the TICKS guidelines for safe babywearing:

 

 

Tight

In view at all times

Close enough to kiss

Keep chin off chest

Supported back

 

 

 

In addition, I would also advocate that the child’s hips are in a well supported position, which is generally illustrated by having the knees higher than the bum.
And then we finally get to the issue. The vast majority of readily available carriers in the high street do not support a child in that position. Instead they often have a narrow seat. Narrow seats lead to the legs hanging down or, in other words, the baby dangling from their crotch.

It is, then, not hard to see why these carriers can be referred to as ‘Crotch Danglers’.

I am going to hold up my hand now and answer my own question, “Yes I did. Furthermore, I am not afraid to admit it.”  Yup, you read that right! I – who was last week referred to as one of the foremost experts on babywearing in the UK ( thank you but I will leave my view on the word expert for another post …) – used a ‘Crotch Dangler’.

And you know what? I have an intense dislike for the term. I feel that using strong negative words to describe an element of someone else’s parenting sets you apart from them. So where moments before you were two mothers with at least one child each, now you are a babywearer who knows and a simple silly mum who uses such a vile thing that dangles their child by it’s crotch.

Instead of focusing on the negative of something that may well have been bought with hard earned money or given as a gift from a doting grand parent, why not focus on the positive and see another mum carrying her baby. Then, if you are feeling really brave, you can plant a seed and tell her there are so many different options out there for when she is ready to move on.

Because one day you may be that mum who has a whole new world opened for them. I am certainly grateful that the person I turned to for help when I could not get my carrier comfortable offered me just that, instead of condemning me as a parent.

Are they learning? Try and stop them!

This weekend a nice thick envelope landed on our mat. In it was a letter about Home Education and the provisions we have made for Ruben together with a leaflet on Home Education and a questionnaire about how and why we educate otherwise then at school.

Any issues I have with the request aside – Sundays are not for ranting – it made me think about what and how my children learn. We are autonomous or child led in our approach to educating our children. Looking back over the last week I can off the top of my head identify the following learning points

 

No you pull out my grass - Ruben(5)

* Both boys have worked on their lapbooks ( Lions for Ben and Knights for Ruben).

* Both have completed a selection of worksheets ( We have a folder for each child where they can choose what they want to do)

* Both have made progress on the reading eggs website.

* Both have done individual reading and reading with an adult.

* We have had several trips to the shops.

* We have been outside in the garden to play, to write and draw (chalk), to collect herbs for cooking and to start preparing the garden for planting.

* We have cooked a variety of dishes.

* We have been to the park.

* We have been to the library to choose new books.

* We have been to a slingmeet.

* We have been to a local Museum and Farm.

* We talked about how money works and how much you can buy.

And that does not even cover half of the stuff they have done!

The education we provide for our children may not tick the boxes on the questionnaire and I have no intention of writing a plan for the next term. I guess I could ask them to write it but then asking a 5 and a 7 year old to commit in writing to what they are going to learn for the next 6 weeks seems a bit limiting.

And lastly the best learning moments in my opinion are those which were not planned but just spring from their natural curiosity like the time we spend looking up information about driving licences and why you need one after I had a driving lesson this week!

Portable Swamp – DIY sensory blanket

Earlier this week I came across a huge pile of toys in the middle of my living room. Nothing new you may say but it was a very methodical pile and there were two boys with swords jumping over it.  A few quick questions established that it was in fact a swamp made out of their sisters toys and it was vital to their play to have a swamp.

I had been making some sensory cushion covers ( more on these to follow at a later date) and remembered some nice swamp like fabric that I had stashed away. I offered to make a swamp for them to play with and decided to make it a lightly sensory swamp.

Sensory blankets/pillows/toys etc. has been something I have been reading quite a bit about. Ben is dyspraxic which is a sensory processing disorder. In short this means that sensory items are good for him and as both Ruben and Eleanor are touchy feely children too ( really I think most children and even adults are).

Anyway back to the swamp. It is a very very basic swamp. It is also a firm favourite already.

Nice swamp colours

Materials:

Fleece ( green or brown would work best for a swamp)

Thin cotton ( leafy pattern in green, blue and brown in my case)

Thread

Remove small child from fabric before cutting ...

Method:

Cut out your swamp shape from each of the materials. The fleece I am using was left over bits from a jumper so I sewed the strips of fabric together first.

Make sure the good sides of the fabric are facing each other when you cut out your shape.

Simple leaf shape

Cut some leaf shapes from the cotton fabric and applique them onto the fleece side.

Sew the two pieces of fabric together good sides to the inside. Stop just short of going all the way round and turn it the right way around. Add a topstitch to the end all the way around. Then holding the fabric in place with some pins lightly quilt the swamp by sewing wonky lines over it in all directions

Swamp all ready

 

You could add leaves in a different fabric to give even more different textures and a very different sensory experience. I wanted to keep this one simple. Both because of the two demanding knights standing at my shoulder whilst I was making it and because sometimes simple is good.

Can you see a swamp monster lurking??

 

Parents: Set up to fail or to succeed?

Parents today do not have an easy task. From every direction they are bombarded with information on what their baby needs, wants, should have and could have. Advice on how to be the best mum, the coolest dad and an endless parade of the latest must have gadget that will make everything so much easier.

 The question is: ‘does this information empower parents or does it set them up for a fail?’

Does it help parents if you stop them from thinking and instead force feed them a stream of information on what they have to do to be able to come close to that illusive accolade of good parent? Everyone is different and trying to come up with a one fix solution means that no one will fit the exact mould. This can and does lead to parents who are doing what is the best for their children feeling a sense of failure in not reaching all set targets. It can even lead to resentment of others who did meet that one specific point without looking at their overall picture of not having reached them all either.

I feel strongly that every baby born into this world has one very important basic right: ‘the right to be nourished physically and emotionally.’ How that right is enacted depends on each baby’s unique individual circumstances, his character, the character of his parents and anything else that sets this baby apart from others born at the same time.

I also feel very strongly that parents should be empowered to make their own choices and feel confident and secure in the choices they make. True information is power, to follow blindly where others lead you is to be a sheep. Don’t be a sheep!!

I believe parents should reclaim their position as the ones who know what is best for their children. Reclaim it with confidence and without the need to point at someone else and shift the responsibility there. Research is a valuable tool as a parent, letting others make decisions for you is not.

Let’s embrace the diversity that makes us all different and rejoice in finding common ground with those close to us. Above all common sense should prevail and common sense tells me that if on the whole we did not have the ability to parent in a safe responsible mankind would have died out a while ago.