What the flip? Part Two: How to create a close shoulder flip.

In my recent What the flip? article I discussed the reasons why shoulder flips can be useful when using a number of different slings. It considered the reasons for and against closed and open shoulder flips. In this piece I am going to look at two different methods of achieving a closed shoulder flip. A closed shoulder flip is a secure flip. It helps create a clear space around baby, can make a sling more comfortable by spreading weight over a wider area, help support knee by creating a vertical line and supporting the back with a horizontal line. Learning how to achieve them is a skill that can add an extra set of tools to a sling users toolkit.

There are two methods to achieving a closed shoulder flip. There is a large level of personal preference in which method will choose to use. Neither is the right way. It is up to you. The first involves allowing the fabric to fall from your shoulder before lifting the bottom rail up to your neck. The second requires you to guide the top rail underneath the sling until it has taken the place of the bottom rail. Both work equally well, both are secure closed flips.

 Method 1 – fall and fold.

Decide which carry you wish to do and why you need to achieve a shoulder flip. I am doing a front double hammock. I have switched which wrap I use for teaching purposes during the slide show.

In this method you allow the wrap to fall gently from your shoulder slightly, creating enough space for you to fold the bottom rail up so that it is closest to your neck, creating the vertical line to support the babies knee. When you have completed this, gently gather the slack on your shoulder so you are left with a small capped sleeve, rather than the full width of wrap down your arm.

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 Method 2 – up and under.

Here you can see the method  of reaching underneath and working top rail out. Choose which carry you are wishing to create. I was opting for a Front Double Hammock here. Supporting babies weight with one hand reach up and underneath the fabric to grab the top rail. With this wrap this is the pink stripe. Gentle work this underneath the fabric until it is out in the place of the bottom rail. As you can see here the purple bottom rail is now closest to my neck and the pink stripe is now on outside furthest away from me. This pink top rail is helping to support babies back and provide tension to the carry. The purple stripe is creating a vertical line from babies knee and helping to support this it.

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Once achieved closed shoulder flips are extremely comfortable and secure. Why not have a go too? Why do you like a shoulder flip? Do you opt for open or closed?

 

 

  

What the flip?

emily d shoulder flip1

I spend lots of my time as a carrying consultant telling parents that they can flip the shoulder on their wrap,  wrap strap carrier and even pouches and ring slings. But why? What difference does it make and what an earth is the difference between an open and closed shoulder flip? Sometimes a the term shoulder flip is used to describe a pass which comes under arm and flipped back over shoulder to create a rucksack pass. In this blog we are looking at shoulder flips which spread the wrap over shoulder as seen in the photo to side of screen.

 

Shoulder flips serve many purposes and they reason for flipping the shoulder can effect which way you want to do it. (Photo with thanks to Emily Dickinson).

Reasons for flipping your wrap include:

  • Safety – it ensures we can keep baby visible by allowing clear airspace around baby
  • Comfort – by cupping the shoulder it helps distribute the weight of baby across a wider area. Many people find it less diggy than a ruck sack pass.
  • Tightens the top rail and removes slack
  • Lines of support by anchoring the wrap in place – that is to provide vertical lines in a carry that can help keep knees high. A horizontal line in rebozo or ring sling carries helps prevent the wrap going across the baby at an angle. 
  • Look – change the colour or contrast of your wrap. Great for wraps with different coloured sides or a right/wrong side.

“I most often use it to provide greater comfort for me. I love the way it cups the shoulder and spreads the weight.” (Suzanne Pearson, Sling Stars).

 

“It doesn’t dig in when you flip a shoulder, as opposed to ruck straps which can be diggy.” (Renee Jeffery, Close Enough to Kiss Magazine and Norwich Sling Library)

Open or closed?

In this image (courtesy of Rosie from the Sheffield Sling Surgery) you can see both an open shoulder flip on the left and closed on the right (as you look at screen). Both have helped to create space around the baby’s face and both are cupping the shoulders and spreading the weight of baby. But why do one over the other?

closed and open

Open Shoulder Flip

Open shoulder flips are quick, they can be achieved easily and help create that much needed clear space around babies face. They are not though secured in place and can come undone with movement.IMG_5246

They are a temporary quick fix solution securing it in place. By spreading the pass down her arm and folding the bottom suzanne openrail up again it also helps to make the wrap more comfortable for Jen to use. Here you can see the open shoulder flip in its full effect and how well it clears the space around baby’s face.

 

“It gives a clear airspace around the face in stretchies.” (Jacki Davenport, Director of Slinging London CIC).

Closed Shoulder Flip

rosie closed shoulder

 

Closed shoulder flips are a secure flip, they cannot come undo and this makes them more suitable for longer period of carrying. They again help create a clear space around the baby’s face by creating a horizontal line with the top rail (yellow rail in this photograph of Rosie from Sheffield Sling Surgery.

sling stars

This helps tighten this rail too making the carry more supportive by removing slack.

 

The vertical line that is created (green rail in this case) provide support in babies knee pit and helps keep it raised for optimum positioning and comfort. Striped wraps can make working out which rail is which much easier with their clear contrasting rails. You can see in this photo the clear vertical line fro babies knee pit up to shoulder.

Finally

How you decide to flip your shoulders, if you decide to flip them at all, is up to you. They can make it much more comfortable for you, make it safer for baby and tighten the carry, as well as being aesthetically pleasing to look at. Next up, I will write a photo tutorial explaining two different ways to achieve a closed shoulder flip.

I” love how you can change the colour contrast of your wrap from just a shoulder flip (if your wrap has stripes or preference to the wrong side look)” (Natasha Wheeler, Carrying Consultant)

emily d open shoulder flip

Links and Thank You

Thank you to the three Slingababy trained carrying consultants who shared their photographs for this piece. Emily Dickinson of The Wirral Sling Library, Suzanne Pearson of Sling Stars and Dr Rosie Knowles of Sheffield Sling Surgery. Thank you to Jen and Baby Tessa for modelling for us too.

 

How carrying helped one child with Juvenile Arthritis.

The next blog in our series of carrying babies and children with additional needs is written by Kirsty. I was lucky enough to meet Kirsty quite early on in her carrying journey as she visited the sling library for help and support. In 2014, her little girl was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis. born to carry.jpgSince Olivia’s diagnosis Kirsty has trained as a babywearing peer supporter with Born to Carry.

Juvenile Arthritis is an umbrella term that is used to describe “many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or paediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children under the age of 16”(http://www.arthritis.org). Diagnosis can take several months.

In this blog Kirsty explains how babywearing has helped her care for Olivia as well as details of how she was diagnosed. Thank you for sharing your experiences Kirsty.

I will let Kirsty take over her story here: Continue reading

Professional courtesy and sticking to what you are trained to teach.

I am extremely proud of my profession. I am a teacher by training and practice. Although I no longer teach in a classroom teaching teenagers I do spend my days teaching new parents how to carry their children comfortably and safely. I am a Babywearing Consultant. I have spent several thousand pounds training, I attend regular continuous professional development, I have insurance costs and pay subscriptions to our voluntary professional body. I know my area of expertise is slings and carriers, baby handling and sling safety. I know where to draw the line. I know I am not a doctor. I do not give medical advice. Despite being a breastfeeding mum and breastfeeding peer supporter I know I cannot diagnose feeding issues. I know when to refer to those who do know more than me. I know my professional boundaries.

When I see posts dismissing what I and many others do it is extremely hard not to be offended. Unfortunately, a recent social media post, and then subsequent dismissive comments, by a well-known breastfeeding expert has caused upset to my profession. 

If you are going to share material that is not within your area of expertise it is only correct that those of us who do work in that area identify flaws and sign post to sources of help. How many of us would start a reply with the words “Oh Please”? Does it seem respectful? Non-judgmental or professional? I think most of us would agree it doesn’t. It appears rude and disparaging; especially when you are commenting on something you only have your own experience of doing (and when you have openly criticized the role of peer support in your industry). I was especially taken aback by this. It was certainly not the way I thought a respected International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) would start a reply.

IBCLC are in a highly privileged position; their title is a protected one. This means you cannot simply start calling yourself one. It takes years of training and recertification every 5 years. However, IBCLC have not always existed. They began after a loan from La Leche League International in 1985 in a move to professionalize the industry. The Lactation Consultants of Great Britain has an even newer history forming in 1994. Nobody would say a IBCLC has less importance than a Midwife, or Physiotherapist or any health care professional – but each would agree that they all have their own area of expertise. It is not necessary to see an IBCLC to breastfeed, but if having difficulties then it has benefits. IBCLC are trained to assess a feed in detail; for example, look at the structure of the mouth, transfer of milk, tongue function, suck and swallow of the baby.  In same way that a midwife is trained to care for a mother in the antenatal period, and to help deliver her baby and care for the mother and newborn in first few weeks postnatally. Their professional expertise though does not stretch to caring for a 2 or 3-year-old. Here, a health visitor would be qualified to help. Knowing where our professional boundaries and personal experiences lie, is crucial.

Babywearing Consultants do not have the luxury of a protected title. Currently, anybody can choose to call themselves one. It is only in the last few years that there has been a growth in our number and an increase in training opportunities. We are experts in our field.  There are moves to create national and international standards and a regulation of our industry. A move I wholeheartedly applaud.babi-logo-transparent It is why I already subscribe to the British Association of Babywearing Consultants (BABI). Babywearing Consultants are attempting to professionalize our industry in the same way IBCLC did in 1985. Just because we are still in the process of doing so does not mean our knowledge or expertise is any more or less needed than that of IBCLCs: we simply have different areas of expertise.

Babywearing is a millennia old activity. For as long as humans have needed to move, we have needed to carry our young. Our babies are born helpless; unable to care for themselves and completely dependent on their parent or care giver to meet every need. By carrying our young we are able to respond quickly and efficiently to their ever changing needs. All cultures have a tradition of carrying their young; although the methods vary widely. This tradition though has disappeared in the western world.  Skills traditionally passed from mother to daughter have disappeared. It is only in the comparatively recent past that there has been a resurgence in its popularity. Babywearing, like breastfeeding, became unfashionable. It has taken the growth in breastfeeding support: from peer to peer support through to IBCLC, and international laws around infant formula marketing to help increase breastfeeding rates. The growth of sling libraries and Babywearing consultants in the last 4 years is unprecedented. The increasing understanding of ergonomic baby carriers and availability on the high street is making it much accessible.

Newborn and small babies, and those with underlying health conditions, are particularly at risk when being worn in a sling when it is worn incorrectly. This is why the TICKS guidelines were developed in 2010. They have become widely accepted as best practice for safe Babywearing. Unfortunately, if not followed (or supplied) there is a risk of a baby suffering from positional asphyxia. Any internet search about safe Babywearing will bring up stories of where things have gone wrong. As a Babywearing Consultant it is my job to help teach parents how to minimize those risks.  I work step by step, in detail, focusing on the small things which make a big difference: tightening, safety, positioning, comfort. DSCF2830This is why Babywearing consultants suggested that if you are going to back carry a small baby (something that can be achieved safely if you know what you are doing), that you do seek support, especially if you have limited knowledge of carrying your children in a sling. To suggest we are not necessary is to oversimplify the issue. No, it is not necessary to always have a consultation but there are times and places where it is advantageous. I have helped parents carry babies born extremely prematurely, with Development Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH), Talipes, multiple births, breathing difficulties, congenital heart defects, genetic disorders and hyper mobility to name just a few. As well as parents who just want some 1:1 support to get it right first time. 

 

Dismissing the role, myself, and other Babywearing Consultants, has the potential to be fatal. Please, give us some common courtesy as well as professional respect. We will stick to teaching how to carry babies safely, and will point out if there are weaknesses with technique that could be dangerous. Let other professionals stick to their specialisms. This way we can work together to support new parents for the benefit of them and their babies.

Babywearing in Pregnancy

pregnancy test“I’m pregnant can I still carry my baby/toddler?”

As frequently as I am asked or see the question: “Can I carry after a caesarean?” I read the question: “I’m pregnant can I still carry my baby/toddler?” Whether it has been posted publically or sent via private message (I have been privy to many an early announcement), it is a question I am asked a lot. Pregnancy can be a very scary and stressful time and it is perfectly understandable that women may feel pressured to stop carrying as heavy lifting is generally advised against during pregnancy. But does she need to stop?

It is important to note that baby bumpI am not a Midwife or Doctor. I am a sling librarian and babywearing consultant (and a mum) who has both worked with pregnant women in order to help them find comfortable carrying solutions, and carried a toddler myself during pregnancy. If you have been told you CANNOT carry during pregnancy by your doctor or midwife please DO NOT ignore their advice.

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Babywearing means security not just transportation

We are simply going to consider whether it is possible to use a sling while pregnant, ways in which it may be made more comfortable and look and times it would not be advisable. For many mums using a sling has allowed them to get out of house, calm upset baby or toddler, keep them safe in chaotic environments, security for the child, it isn’t just a form of transportation. For many mums and children there is an emotional aspect which cannot be discounted. How would you feel if you were told you could not do something you enjoyed doing? What do you do if your baby is still that, a baby? Unable to walk (or walk far) and needing reassurance of mum? Do you simply put them in a pushchair and hope for the best? What if they hate the pushchair? What if you don’t own one?

 

22 weeks and using an Optiai full buckle for a spot of festive shopping

 

I am well aware that for many mums to be carrying during the first trimester may be the last thing on their mind. That morning sickness, tender breasts and just a general “odd feeling” may mean they simply don’t want to carry. I know I couldn’t stand anything touching my tummy for the first 10 weeks and although I did carry as Henry wanted me to I wasn’t that comfortable, so I completely understand that you may simply want to have a break for a few weeks. Although do remember that you may not have the same level of stamina when carrying when you restart, so take it slowly and build up again. For example, do not assume that because you could walk 3 miles with a 25lb toddler on your back a few weeks ago that you will be able to do that straight away after having those weeks off.

snoozing henry

5 weeks here and my tummy was sore but Henry needed a nap.


emily and connecta

A walk together with Connecta Baby Carrier fastened above bump for when little legs are tired.


emily with joe

5.5 months and front carries. Kindercoat for warmth.


louise and bump due date

Day before baby boy’s arrival.

Pregnancy is not an illness and typically for most pregnancies we are told by our midwives that we can and should stay active during pregnancy. It has been shown that the more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it is for body to cope with changing shape and weight, it can also help you cope in labour and can reduce problems in late pregnancy and labour. The NHS website says we should keep up our “normal daily activity or exercise….for as long as you feel comfortable. Exercise is not dangerous for the baby”. So, whether it was swimming, Zumba or carrying a toddler in a sling, exercise started before pregnancy can be continued during pregnancy for as long as you feel comfortable. It is however, not advisable to start a new activity during pregnancy unless under specific instruction from a medical professional.

boxing day

Boxing Day 2011 – 23 weeks. 2 weeks later I prolapsed a disc. Physio decided it took longer for my back to go because of pregnancy. I ended up carrying Henry to help fix it.

The key with any exercise in pregnancy is to not exhaust yourself and to listen to your body. You should be able to hold a conversation; not working to your maximum, unable to speak. As using a sling is unlikely to exhaust you and likely to have been part of your daily routine, there is no need to stop doing it unless you want to in most cases. When lifting it is important that care is taken to lift correctly, remembering that your ligaments will be stretching and relaxing due to the hormone relaxin in your system. Bending at the knees keeping your back straight, and remembering your pelvic floor muscles at all times.

For mothers with complications in pregnancy it is crucial that you listen not only to your body but to your health care professionals too: physiotherapists, midwives and obstetrician. They have yours and babies best interests at home. Therefore if they say you cannot carry it is worth listening to them. Typically this will be in cases of unexplained bleeding for example but not exclusively. There were times during my own second pregnancy where I was desperate to carry but knew I could not (on bed rest due to threatened preterm labour), but also times where I was advised to do it (was easier for me to transport a toddler on my back than push a buggy and battle walking sticks when I prolapsed a disc in my lower spine). I had to listen to them. Then as I got better we carried more often. Most famously a trip to the labour ward to pick up my prescription for pethidine for my planned homebirth. That got the midwives chatting as I stood waiting at the desk for the script to arrive.

So how or what can you use to carry your child when you are pregnant? Do you have to stop front carrying? Are hip or back carries the only option? Can you use a soft structured carrier? All important questions and all are pretty individual answers. Firstly there isn’t a carrier you can’t use. It will personal preference. If you wish to use a carrier with a structured waistband having it sitting above or below bump will be more comfortable than sitting on it. Those without a structured waist band such as a onbus, pods or Connecta Baby Carrier allow you to have carrier above bump, as do wraps and mei tais. Ring slings because of they are one shouldered can be kim and bumpharder to use but useful for a toddler who wants to sit on your hip. The size of your bump will play a part in when and if you wish to back carry. The key with carrying while pregnant is to listen to your body and only do what you feel comfortable with and remember that sling cuddles might just have to be shorter than normal sling cuddles.

Carrying our children should be fun. It shouldn’t feel like a chore, so if you don’t want to do it because of bump don’t feel bad for wanting to use a pushchair. We all have individual experiences of pregnancy, our own reasons to want to sling, or not to sling. It is your choice. Whatever you decide enjoy your pregnancy, enjoy your bump and enjoy your cuddles with older children in whatever way you choose to get them.