Volunteers Wanted!

Babywearing International 0f Oahu is recruiting volunteers! Our organization is run solely on volunteers, without all of our current volunteers we would not be able to host meetings or play dates. We would not be able provide in person and online help with carriers. We would not be able to use lend carriers out from our lending library. We are passionate about babywearing and know that many of you are as well. We would love to see you as a Volunteer Babywearing Educator or Chapter Support Volunteer.

You may be asking yourself, what do these positions entail? I’ll tell you!

Volunteer Babywearing Educators (VBE) must complete a skills assessment showing their ability to babywear. Do you only know how to use one type of carrier? That’s okay! BWI of Oahu provides training to our VBEs on how to teach and assist other caregivers with babywearing.

Chapter Support Volunteers (CSV) help our chapter stay organized during meetings. You will be checking members in, checking in and out carriers, chatting with caregivers about what they would like to learn, and maybe even watching toddlers as they run around.

For more details on becoming part of our volunteering team you can e-mail us at oahu@babywearinginternational.org, find our public or group Facebook page by searching for Babywearing International of Oahu and messaging us there, finding our Instagram at @BWIOFOAHU, or messaging us here through our blog. volunteer

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BWIO’s Statement of Social Justice

Babywearing International of Oahu’s Statement of Social Justice

Recently, an issue confined to several closed groups on Facebook was brought out into the public: Didymos and its Ind*o wrap. In short, the design and name of this wrap are examples of hurtful cultural appropriation. Babywearing International (BWI) has issued a statement against racism and appropriation (http://babywearinginternational.org/…/bwi-statement-agains…/) and has asked its chapters to consider removing these Didymos wraps from circulation. Babywearing International of Oahu stands behind BWI’s statement, and also offers the following:

We are a babywearing community, but we are also a community of people, of a diverse set of caregivers who have the best for their families and children in mind. So we will commit to our own statement of social justice. We will make sure our community is inclusive to all, regardless of age, citizenship status, class, color, disability, gender expression, gender identity, marital status, national origin, parental status, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. Along with BWI, our community will not tolerate silencing, tone policing, or otherwise oppressing marginalized groups. We will remain respectful to all of our community members and we will allow everyone to have a voice. We will practice mindfulness about our own privilege and listen to those who may not always get the chance to talk.

We recognize that babywearing, the very foundation of this community, is thousands of years old and comes from many rich traditions around the world. We will keep in mind and acknowledge these traditions and cultures whenever we can, making an effort to realize that babywearing is not a new trend, but a practice with a rich history.

Your chapter leadership will be removing the Didymos wrap in question from library circulation. Although this is not just a statement against Didymos’s appropriated wraps, we will use that as our jumping off point and will be looking into other potentially culturally appropriative designs. We will listen to your opinions, questions, and concerns, whether stated in the comments on this post, brought up in private messages, or emailed to our account (oahu@babywearinginternational.org).

Although we do not allow tone policing, we ask that you stay as respectful as possible when discussing these sensitive issues. State your opinion, but realize when you should be listening. Ask questions, but understand that it is not the responsibility of any marginalized person to speak for their whole community or to give answers. Express your concerns, but reflect on them first, thinking carefully about how your concerns may impact others.

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider this statement. Below, you will find some links to further reading.

Together, we can continue to make this an inclusive community for all wearers.

http://nationalseedproject.org/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack

What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege

http://the-toast.net/2014/11/17/cultural-appropriation-birthing-community/

 

 

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International Babywearing Week 2016

Babywearing is such an important part of all of our lives. It allows us to engage with our children and show them the world while also helping us achieve every day tasks. Although this is something to celebrate every day each year we take one week and fill it with special events to celebrate how much we love babywearing and spread that love to others in fun, new ways. International Babywearing Week starts tomorrow, October 5th! We cannot wait to celebrate with all of these fun events. Not only will we be having these great in person events but there will also be online events every day in our Facebook group! The hikes are also listed in our Facebook group with sign ups on the events there. You can join our page at this link to participate in our online events and sign up for the two hikes taking place on October 10th: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bwiofoahu/

We really hope you all can join us in celebrating babywearing for the next week!

flyer

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The Babywearer’s Guide to Hiking – Part Four: Safety

You are motivated, you have your carrier, and your stuff is all packed up and ready to go! But, we have one more topic to discuss before you and your family hit the trail, and it might be the most important: safety. The hike descriptions we provide in our Hiking with Keiki group hikes always end with the same few sentences: “…[O]nly you know what you and your family are capable of. Always be prepared!” This couldn’t be more true. When you’re out on the trails with your kids, you are responsible for everyone’s safety, so there are a few important ideas you need to keep in mind.

1
CONSIDERATIONS FOR CARRIERS

Periodically inspect your carriers. Better yet, give them a once over every time before you put them on. Although many brands make quality carriers, none of them are guaranteed to last a lifetime. If you have a framed backpack carrier, soft structured carrier, mei tai, or ring sling, check the seams at obvious weight-bearing areas. If you have a woven wrap or a carrier made from a woven wrap, check for any pulls, broken threads, or holes. Make sure you are comfortable with the carry you are trying to do. If you are attempting a back carry for the first time, make sure you have a spotter or that you are practicing over a soft surface like a bed or couch.

2

If your carrier has the option to allow baby to face outward, this may not be an ideal position for a hike. Some manufacturers only recommend facing out for a short period of time. Since many hikes last longer that 15-20 minutes, wearing a baby facing out does not seem practical for a hike. The risk of injury to a baby if a caregiver fell while forward facing out is higher than in other positions since baby cannot tuck his head into his caregiver and the caregiver cannot as easily guard baby’s head and face. Also, it is not recommended that babies sleep while facing out, so if your baby were to be lulled to sleep by your steady footfalls on a hike, you would have to take him out and switch him around for optimal safety. Some babies do like to see more of the world around them, but they can be easily overstimulated. While facing out, they cannot tuck back into their caregivers, which removes their ability to self-regulate. Both hip and back carries allow for the curious child to look around more, but still give him a chance to turn away from the world if over-stimulated. However, it is important to wait for your baby to fit properly in his carrier without any modifications and to have enough trunk control to sit with minimal assistance before attempting a back carry. If you do choose to forward face out, be attentive to your baby’s cues, listen to your own body, and do not put yourself in a position where you are likely to fall.

3

FROM MOLEHILLS TO MOUNTAINS

You know yourself and your family better than anyone else. Even if your BFF says a trail is easy, do your own research before going. A molehill to one person may be a mountain to you or your two-year-old. If you do research on a trail and it seems too difficult for you or your family, don’t let someone talk you into it. If you must do the trail, try going without your children first so you can truly gage how difficult or dangerous it is. If you wind up on a new trail with or without your family and you get to a point where you feel unsafe, turn around. Sometimes going back is the smartest and safest choice for everyone. You can always work yourself up to a more difficult trail and come back to it another day.

4
If you and your family are completely new to hiking, you may not know your limits yet. In this case, it’s best to start with the easiest trail you can find. If you want to wear your child but haven’t done so very much or if you have little walkers who need to build up their endurance, you can even start with walks around the neighborhood or through a local park. Then, work yourself up. Use the Internet, buy a local trail guidebook, or, better yet, join a local hiking group. Bonus points if it’s a group focused on family hiking. Find different trails rated by difficulty level and make yourself a list. Start with easy and work your way up.

5

SO LONG SOLO

In Hiking with Keiki, we recommend that our members never hike alone or as the sole adult with their kids as long as they can avoid it. Even the most experienced hikers sometimes have accidents. Trail conditions can change at a moment’s notice; a safe trail on the way in could turn into a hazardous obstacle course on the way out. You don’t want to get stuck by yourself in a dangerous situation or, even worse, you don’t want you or one of your family members to get hurt with no one else around to help. If you must hike alone, stick to well-traveled trails. Ideally, find a group to hike with!

6

If you live on Oahu, join Hiking with Keiki! We offer several group hikes every week that we encourage members to join and we also allow members to post looking for other caregivers to form temporary hiking groups. On the mainland and on Maui, Hike it Baby has formed numerous chapters across the country that also offer group hikes. If you can’t find a hiking group near you, hit your local parent and caregiver groups and see if anyone else wants to start hiking with their families. This was how Hiking with Keiki was born: a post in Babywearing International of Oahu about hiking while babywearing and then an explosion of interest. You never know what you might spark in your own town!

7
So get out there! Start hiking with your family. Find the perfect carrier to hit the trails and pack the essentials for you and your kids. And remember, safety is important! You know yourself and your family better than anyone else, so listen to your instincts and do proper research before exploring any new trails. Find a group to hike with or start your own. Catch the hiking bug and then pass it on!

8

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The Babywearer’s Guide to Hiking – Part Three: Packing

You’ve got your kid. You’ve got your carrier. You’ve got your diaper bag. Oh wait, that is unrealistically large and stuffed way too full to take on a trail. Whatever shall you do? It’s time to scale down and choose an appropriate vessel for how you carry your child, and I’m here to help!

family walking 1

*Note: In this post, I will sometimes mention brand names or show specific brands in pictures. I am not endorsing any particular company over another, but simply relating my personal experiences and opinions and what I have seen out on the trails.

 

THE ESSENTIALS

It’s time to empty out that diaper bag (c’mon, you’ve been meaning to do this anyway, right?) and boil your supplies down to what you REALLY need for a hike.

  1. Water – This is an ESSENTIAL essential. I even have a whole separate section for it down below. Check it out!
  2. Snacks – I usually pack one bar and fruit for myself, and more for my little lady. Snacking helps to urge her on whether she’s walking or worn. At a minimum, I pack her a bar, one or two fruits, a fruit leather, and one or two cheese sticks. I can also add on one or two crunchy snacks or even a sandwich for both of us, depending on the length of the hike. Snacks are not as important as water, but they are definitely essential, especially on longer hikes when it’s been a few hours between meals and you’re feeling the physical strain from hiking with a little one. snacks
  3. Diapers and Wipes – As your kids get older, you can ignore the first item, but this is definitely an important consideration for the littles who have not been potty trained yet. I usually can get away with packing one diaper now for my 22-month-old daughter, but if it’s an extra long hike or we’re having a particularly–ehem–hard day, I pack two. If you cloth diaper, definitely bring a wet bag and at least one or two cloth diapers. The wet bag is even nice to have if you’re using disposables to carry out a dirty diaper or dirty clothes. Wipes will continue to be on my list of hiking essentials while I’m still responsible for tiny, sticky humans. You never know when someone will stick their hand, elbow, or nose in dirt or what you hope is dirt. You’ll be so thankful in those moments to have wipes. Or if nature calls for those who are potty trained, wipes are always good to have around. I never take a whole big package, but I try to choose a package that’s nearly finished or even take out 5-10 and put them in a resealable baggy. Trust me. You’ll want them. disposable diaperscloth diapers
  4. Keys, Phone, ID, etc. – This may be obvious, but bring your keys so you can get back in your car. Bring your phone so you can take beautiful pictures, contact the outside world if there is an emergency, or use your map app to track your progress. Take your ID in case of an emergency. Also, be wary of what you leave in your car for hours at a time. It may be easier to pack cash, credit cards, and other small items that would be difficult to replace if your car was broken into while you were on the trail. ID keys
  5. Bandages and Alcohol Wipes – It’s a great idea to take a few bandages and alcohol wipes with you, especially if you have little legs attempting some big trails. They don’t take up much space, and you’ll be grateful to have them for the occasional cut or scrape. If you have extra room, it might be nice to invest in a small first aid kit or to keep one in your car. first aid
  6. Bug Spray and Sunscreen – These may not be essential items to pack on every hike, but I definitely recommend keeping them in your car. Out here on Oahu, many hikes have mosquitoes. A good rule of thumb: If you plan to encounter mud, streams, or waterfalls, use some bug spray before your hike. If you plan to cross any streams, bring some with you so you can reapply. If your hike will take more than two or three hours, it’s also a good idea to bring some with you to reapply. Mosquitoes love me, so I find the only bug sprays that work are the heavy duty kinds that have 25% DEET. According to the Center for Disease Control, it is safe to use these products on children as young as two months. However, some families choose to use more natural alternatives like essential oils. Find a bug spray or insect repellent that works best for you and your family. Then stock up and keep some in your car for when you want to chase waterfalls. Same with sunscreen, although I usually find I need sunscreen more on the exposed hikes that lead to scenic viewpoints rather than waterfalls.bug spray sunscreen
  7. Plastic Bags – These are another item that you may not want to bring with you, but that can definitely be an important car item. I tend to bring at least one folded up plastic grocery bag on each hike with me in case my daughter’s shoes get really muddy and then she wants to be carried or in case there is a whole lot of trash we need to pack out. I also leave a plethora of plastic grocery bags in my car for muddy shoes or clothes. I also usually keep a few small resealable plastic bags in my car in case I’m doing a particularly wet hike or it starts raining while I’m getting ready to start hiking. This way, I can put my phone and other valuable materials in the bag, safe from any potential moisture. Some hikers bring a roll of small plastic bags most commonly found in the pet aisle for cleaning up after our furry friends. These are nice because the rolls are small, but come with a lot of bags. Some even come with a clip so you can attach the roll to your carrier or bag rather than have it take up space inside.
  8. A Change of Shoes or Clothes – Another set of items that you probably won’t carry with you, but that are good to have in your car. I usually wear flip flops to hikes, change into my hiking shoes, then change back when I’m done, regardless of how clean or dirty my hiking shoes get. I definitely always keep a change of clothes for my daughter in the car and, if I know I’m doing a very muddy or wet hike, I’ll bring a simple change of clothes for myself too.

 

OPTIONAL ITEMS

The items are not necessary for every hike, but they may be good options to consider for specific hikes or conditions.

  1. Flashlight/headlamp – These are good items for sunrise or sunset hikes. To experience the true beauty of the sun greeting the Earth, you will have to start hiking in the dark. Likewise, to really capture the majesty of a perfect sunset, you’ll be finishing your hike with little light. During these hikes, flashlights and especially headlamps come in handy.flashlight headlamp
  2. Toys – Depending on the age of your little one, it might be a good idea to pack some toys. When my daughter was still a riding baby and always hiking on my back, I usually wore a teething necklace or attached a toy or two my carrier to keep her occupied and away from my hair. Now that she walks on some hikes, it’s fun to bring her doll so that she can wear her own baby.
  3. Rain jacket/poncho – If the forecast is more rain and you’re doing a hike that will still be safe with a little storm, it could be a good idea to bring a rain jacket or a poncho. Although, sometimes a little rain is welcome at the end of a long and hot hike.

 

THE VESSEL

Now that you know what to bring, you need to pick the best option for how to bring it. This may depend on how you plan to carry your child.

  1. Backpack – These work best if you plan to front carry your child or if you have a second caregiver to accompany you. They are a great option for longer hikes, since they have the largest capacity for packing. I used a backpack for about two to three months, until I started wearing my daughter on my back for hikes. I would not recommend a backpack if you plan to back carry your child and do not have anyone else to help wear the backpack. I’ve seen many caregivers try to wear a backpack on the front while they carry their child on their back, but, to me, this is uncomfortable and unsafe. One of the reasons I prefer wearing my daughter on my back is so that I have a clear view of the ground beneath me. Wearing a backpack on my front defeats that purpose.
    1. PRO TIP – When your child is old enough and will be walking for the majority of the hike, buy a backpack just for her! She will love the independence of carrying her own snacks and water, and this means you have less to carry. That is until she gets tired and wants “uppies.” Then you have to carry your child, your bag, and a tiny backpack that you may be less than happy you brought at
      that point. toddler backpack
  2. Shoulder Bag – These work best for shorter hikes, when you’re carrying a smaller child, or when your child will be mostly walking. They are not as supportive or secure as some other options, but they get the job done in a pinch. I used a one-shoulder, tote bag for a few months when I was over my backpack but had not yet discovered the amazing world of fanny packs. It worked, but I would have prefered to have both of my hands and arms free during certain sections of some hikes that tested my skills. One of my fellow hikers also prefers to use her shoulder bag when she is tandem carrying her children (i.e.: wearing two children at one time; in this case, one on back and one on front). shoulder bag
  3. Cross-Body Bag – These can be great options, especially when carrying a child. Although they are still technically one-shoulder bags, the cross over your torso distributes the weight a bit more evenly, allowing for more support and comfort. If you can find one with straps that can tie, that’s even better since you can adjust the bag to fit you any way, which you might like if you are sometimes wearing your child and sometimes not. Some baby carrier companies even make their own adjustable, cross-body bags since they are so popular with the babywearing crowd.
  4. Fanny Pack – Although the cool kids are apparently calling these “hip sacks” these days, let’s be real: a FANNY PACK is a great addition to any hikers’ supply list, especially if another thing on that list is “baby carrier” and another thing is “child.” I was a bit reluctant to purchase a fanny pack, as the old, dorky stigma had stuck with me from childhood. But I am so glad I did! I can fit pretty much everything I need in my fanny pack and then clip it to my body so that I am handsfree. Perfect.

 

HYDRATION

You need water to keep your body going so that you don’t injure yourself or your kiddos. If your kids are old enough, you’ll also need to pack water for them too. A good rule of thumb is to bring 16 oz of water per mile per person under normal conditions. Bring more if it’s hot. For extra long or hot hikes, I like to leave at least 32 oz in my car. My thirsty, post-hike self always appreciates the forethought. When my daughter is only riding and not walking, I usually just pack her 8 oz sippy cup, and she is fine with that. I will, of course, share my water with her though if she is extra thirsty. If you’re planning a long or hot hike, it’s also a good idea to drink a good amount of water before you even start hiking. Dehydration can happen quickly and can really compromise your safety out on the trails.

Carrying enough water can be a whole task within itself. Here are some further tips to make sure you and your family stay hydrated on the trails:

  1. Get yourself a good water bottle. – Here in Hawaii, many of us prefer Hydro Flasks. They do not sweat. They keep cold water cold for hours without ice. You can purchase different lids for them. However, I started off with a Nalgene and loved it…until the handle broke. My daughter uses a small, 8 oz plastic cup that has a lid that snaps closed. She is usually okay with this amount of water, but if she needs more, I can always share some of mine. Bottom line: find a water bottle that will not break if you drop it on the trail and that you can use on all of your hikes.two water bottles
  2. Figure out how to pack it. – This was a puzzle to me for a while. My water bottle is big. It holds 40 oz of water. I can’t fit that in a fanny pack. I used to be able to carry it in my backpack, but then the backpack itself became too cumbersome when I switched to back carrying my daughter. I was able to put it in the shoulder bag, but I also didn’t love that vessel. Since I started using a fanny pack, I’ve just been carrying it in my arms, which sort of defeats the handsfree benefits of the fanny pack. I’ve recently bought a cross-body water bottle holder that I love! It’s really allowed me to be hands free on a hike while carrying my daughter, all our stuff, and our water. Some people use fanny packs that come with water bottle pockets. The water bottles are usually on the smaller side, but there is space for multiple containers.
  3. OR SKIP ALL THAT and get a water bladder. – The most popular kind is a CamelBak. They come in various sizes, and are mostly worn like backpacks, although I’ve seen many caregivers wear them on the front if wearing a child on the back. They are more comfortable and safe worn on the front than a backpack, in my opinion. They can hold a ridiculous amount of water, so many caregivers who choose this option only bring one for their family. Bonus: They make child sizes as well, so when your little one gets big enough, she can carry her own water. Bonus bonus: Some, like the ones pictured below, come with additional storage space. For some, this is all they need.

    camelback open

 

You’re packed with the essentials and have enough water for a full day on the trails! But before you get going, we need to talk about safety for you and your family. Come back next week for the last, but certainly not least important post all about how to keep you and your loved ones safe while hiking.

kids on the trail

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The Babywearer’s Guide to Hiking – Part Two: Carriers

So you want to hike while wearing your child? Maybe you have experience wearing already or maybe you’re new to the world of carriers, acronyms, and stashes. Regardless, you may need some specific advice on the types of carriers you can use while hiking.

Frame/Backpack Carriers

This may be the first carrier that comes to mind when you think of “hiking” and “babies” in the same sentence. Framed backpack carriers are modeled after hiking backpacks, and most have a lightweight aluminum shell that serves as the “frame.” These may seem like an obvious choice for your adventures while wearing your child. “I’m going hiking, right?” You may say to yourself. “I should probably get a hiking backpack carrier.” And you may be right!a smiling brown-skinned woman wearing a framed backpack baby carrier with a toddler inside stands on the sand with the ocean crashing over rocks in the background

PROS:

  • Some hikers find these more comfortable, especially as their kids get older or for longer hikes. If worn correctly, they are designed to displace the weight over your body, with most of it resting on your hips rather than your shoulders. Those who have certain back or shoulder issues prefer this type of carrier.
  • They come with a lot of storage options. You can carry water for yourself and your children, snacks, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, bug spray, and pretty much anything else you may think you’ll need on your adventures.
  • As well as storage, some come with nifty features, like sun shades or even built in changing pads. Many of them are also easy to wipe clean, so that means you can avoid using your washing machine and waiting a whole day for your carrier to drip-dry.
  • Almost all of them have a kickstand feature, which allows the carrier to stand on its own whether with or without your child inside. This can be nice when you want a break from carrying your child, but you don’t want to place a crawling explorer down in the middle of a mud patch.

a smiling white man and woman wet from recent rainfall stand on the pavement in front of a grassy background; the man wears a framed hiking baby carrier with a baby insideCONS:

  • Most of these carriers aren’t recommended to use until your child has enough head, neck, and trunk control to sit unassisted, which is usually around six months.
  • Some wearers complain that large frame carriers throw off their balance. This could lead to more falls while hiking, which is extra dangerous while wearing your child.
  • They are strictly back carriers, meaning your child has to be on your back. If you still have a baby who likes to snuggle in close on your front or you need to feed your baby on the go, whether be it by breast or bottle, you will have to take this carrier off and baby out.
  • They are big and bulky, whether in your garage, a corner of your house, the trunk of your car, or your body. This means that, even though many are made of lightweight aluminum, they are still substantially heavier than many other types of carriers. Also, they usually add to your height, which can make some hiking obstacles, like low hanging branches, more difficult. You may even have to take off your carrier to get around these obstacles.
  • It can be difficult or downright impossible to reach the storage compartments while actually wearing the carrier. This means you have to take the whole thing off in order to get water, snacks, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, or bug spray.
  • Even when using the kickstand feature properly, the height and balance of the carrier puts it at a risk of falling over, even with your child inside. So, even if you’re taking a break, you still need to watch your child carefully.
  • Due to their size and weight, they are not as practical for everyday use. If you’re looking for a carrier to wear while hiking AND around the house, for walks in the neighborhood, or trips to the grocery store, this may not be the right kind for you.

BOTTOM LINE: I recommend this type of carrier only if you plan on regularly doing more extreme hiking, like backpacking, camping, or trails that are 8+ miles long, or if you have certain shoulder or back problems that may be exacerbated by other types of carriers. I’ve heard in the past someone describe frame backpacks as carriers for hikers who want to wear their babies, and I definitely agree.

a landscape that includes mountains, the ocean, and grassy hills in the distance with a rocky path and long, dead grass in the foreground; a brown-skinned woman stands on the path in the top right in profile looking out; she wears a framed backpack baby carrier with a baby insideSoft Structured Carriers

If framed backpack carriers are carriers for hikers who want to wear their babies, then soft structured carriers (SSCs) may very well be the carriers for babywearers who want to hike. SSCs were modeled after another carrier called a mei tai, and they both still have a main panel in common where your child sits. The main difference is that, whereas mei tais have long ties at the waist and shoulders, SSCs have buckles. The Hiking with Keiki Facebook group has over 5000 members, and at least 200-300 of them actively attend group hikes offered multiple times each week. The vast majority of the ones who carry their children on hikes use SSCs. Is this the right carrier for you and your little hiker?

a brown-skinned woman stands in front of dry, tall grass and leaves with her back to the camera; to her left stands a brown-skinned toddler who faces the camera but looks off to the side; the woman wears a rainbow patterned soft-structured carrier handing down around her waist; the picture cuts off at her shoulder blades

PROS:

  • They have a short learning curve and can be worn by different caregivers with some adjusting.
  • They are easy to get on and off quickly, which becomes more important when your riding baby becomes a walking toddler who may need to be worn if she gets tired on a hike or faces part of a trail that is too difficult or dangerous for her.
  • They are lightweight and fold up easily when your child wants a break from being worn. They can also clip easily to diaper bags or around waists for transport. They take up minimal space for storage or in the car.
  • They come in a variety of fabrics, sizes, and styles. This means you have a wide selection to choose from and you can size up as your child grows.
  • Many can be used from birth or close to it with an infant insert, and some styles allow you to wear a very young infant without any other accommodations.
  • Without the infant insert, these are one-layer carriers, which is an important consideration for warm weather hiking. Certain styles are made of all mesh or have mesh panels to keep the wearer and wearee cooler.
  • They can all be worn on the front or back and many styles can also be worn on the hip or on the front with baby facing forward. This allows for a wide variety of carries and activities. If baby needs to be fed or simply needs reassurance that you’re there, you can wear her on the front. If you need to see the terrain you’re adventuring across, you can switch baby to your back if she has enough head, neck, and trunk control to prevent herself from slumping and is large enough to fit the carrier without modifications.
  • Some styles have storage pockets or pouches for things like keys, identification cards, and cell phones.
  • Most varieties come with hoods, which can provide sun coverage or head support for your child, especially if she falls asleep.
  • They are easy to use both on and off the trails.

a smiling, white man and woman stand in front of a flowing waterfall and rocky background; the man holds a toddler in his arms and the woman wears a baby in a porcupine patterned soft structured carrier on her front

CONS:

  • It can take some people a bit of adjusting to finally find the sweet spot where they are most comfortable in the carrier. If you plan to frequently switch from one wearer to another, it may become annoying to constantly adjust and readjust your carrier.
  • You may have to buy different sizes as your baby grows. Many caregivers start off with an infant or standard size that then becomes less comfortable as baby transitions to toddler and toddler transitions to preschooler. Depending on how long you want to wear your child, sizing up may be necessary.
  • The infant insert required by many SSCs to safely wear smaller babies can get hot, which can lead to baby overheating. However, without the insert, smaller babies are at risk for falls or suffocation from slumping. Some companies offer SSCs that can be worn from birth without an insert, but these would then usually need to be changed out for larger carriers as baby grows.
  • Some styles do not come with any storage options and many that do are not large enough to carry hiking supplies.
  • They are not as easy to clean as some of the framed backpack carriers. You may have to spot treat them and then wash them with gentle detergent on the delicate cycle in your washing machine and then line dry.
  • The buckles are made of plastic and can break with heavy use or a simple mistake, like stepping on a buckle or closing it in a car door.
  • Although some budget-friendly options exist, SSCs can be pricey, and some rare versions can sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars (this can be a pro if you’re looking to resell).

BOTTOM LINE: These are popular carriers both on and off the hiking trails. Many companies have loyal followers, and many people own several different styles and sizes. They are easy to get on and off and are a breeze to carry around and store. You may find yourself investing in more than one for a variety of reasons, like a growing child or multiple wearers. I highly recommend them, especially for caregivers of toddlers who are starting to hike on their own, but still need to be worn at times on the trails.

a brown-skinned man and white-skinned woman sit on a bench with their backs to the camera; they gaze lovingly at each other; a toddler sits between them looking out and the woman wears a baby on her back in a green soft structured carrier; in front of them are green bushes and in the distance are green hills and the ocean

Mei Tais

The mei tai is a traditional carrier from China, although the version most commonly seen now has been changed a bit from its original ancestor. There are some variations, but the basic mei tai has a rectangular panel that provides most of the support for baby and ties at the waist and shoulders. I have a soft spot in my heart for mei tais. Although I personally own one SSC and almost exclusively use it for hiking now that Lena is bigger, heavier, and more mobile, the mei tai was the first carrier I borrowed from Babywearing International of Oahu. I have since bought two of my own, and I used them on all of my hikes until Lena was about fifteen months old. Maybe it’s the right fit for you too!
a brown-skinned woman stands in profile facing and smiling at the camera wearing a baby on her back in a rainbow mei tai; she stands in a clearing next to dead wood on the ground and surrounded by green trees and bushes; there is an opening in the greenery and Diamond Head creater can be seen in the distance

PROS:

  • They are fairly quick to put on and take off once you get the hang of tightening, but there’s a slight learning curve.
  • They fold up small for easy storage and transport and can be worn around the body when not being used for carrying a child during a hike.
  • The wearer must adjust the carrier entirely every time it is put on, so this allows a very easy transition from one wearer to the next. It also allows for easier breastfeeding, at least in my opinion, than an SSC.
  • Like SSCs, there are many companies that make them in a variety of fabrics, styles, and sizes. This gives you a wide selection to choose from and allows you to size up with your child.
  • They can be a bit more budget friendly than SSCs, but expensive varieties exist.
  • Like SSCs, they are a single layer carry, which is important in warmer weather hiking.
  • Almost all can be modified to use from birth without the use of an infant insert.
  • They can all be worn on the front, hip, or back. Like the SSC, this allows for a wide variety of carries and activities. If baby needs to be fed or simply needs reassurance that you’re there, you can wear her on the front. If you need to see the terrain you’re adventuring across, you can switch baby to your back if she has enough head, neck, and trunk control to prevent themselves from slumping down in the carrier (note: more experienced wearers can begin using a mei tai on the back before it is safe to do so with an SSC).
  • Many varieties come with hoods, which can provide sun coverage or head support for your child, especially if she falls asleep.
  • They transition easily from on to off the trails.

a close-up of a smiling brown-skinned woman and white-skinned man; the man wears a baby on his front in a black mei tai; in the background you can see a paved path, some green grass, and mountains that fill the frame

CONS:

  • They are objectively a bit more difficult than the SSC to learn.
  • The long straps will frequently touch or drag on the ground when putting a child in or taking her out.
  • Because some companies make various sizes, the mei tai you start out with may not be comfortable for the duration of time you may want to wear your child. If this is the case, sizing up may be necessary.
  • Few, if any, styles come with built-in storage options. Those that do will not provide enough storage for hiking necessities
  • They are not as easy to clean as some of the framed backpack carriers. You may have to spot treat them and then wash them with gentle detergent on the delicate cycle in your washing machine and then line dry.

BOTTOM LINE: This is another great carrier for babywearers who want to hike, but who also want a carrier to use around the house or out on errands. They are quick, once you get the hang of tightening and adjusting them, and they can move seamlessly from one wearer to the next. They are extremely easy to nurse in, and most can be worn without any modifications from birth. I highly recommend this type of carrier, especially for caregivers with younger children who may not be walking yet.

a brown-skinned woman stands in profile atop of a cement pillbox structure overlooking a green neighborhood and the ocean in the background; she smiles at the camera and wears a smiling baby on her back in a rainbow mei tai

Woven Wraps

The term “woven wrap” includes any carrier that is made from one long piece of fabric that is woven together. Woven wraps can trace their origins back to many ancient cultures around the globe, and modern companies either handweave or machine weave their products. They are made in countless colors, patterns, and fiber combinations, and they typically come in a range of eight lengths. They are gaining popularity in the western world, but they may not be the type of carrier that comes to mind when you think “hiking.” But maybe it’s the right one for you!

a brown-skinned woman stands with her back to the camera on a dry dirt path with tall dry grass around her; she wears a toddler on her back in a blue striped woven wrap; in the distance is a green neighborhood, the ocean, and two islands

PROS:

  • All woven wraps can be worn a variety of ways with the wearer tying them into different carries. The types of carries you can do with a particular woven wrap depends on the length of your wrap, your size, and the size of your child. With the right size (beginners are recommended to start with their “base size”), you will be able to do a variety of front, hip, and back carries.
  • They come in a wide variety of styles, colors, fabrics, and sizes. If you look long enough, you’re bound to find something you fall in love with.
  • Certain carries can be used with a single layer of fabric, which will keep both caregiver and child cooler during warm weather hiking. However, these can be less supportive than multi-layer carries.
  • They can be used from birth without any modifications or accommodations. Extremely experienced wearers can even back carry their newborns in a woven wrap.
  • The wide variety of fabrics and possible carries allows you to use a woven wrap through toddlerhood.
  • There are budget-friendly varieties.
  • Due to their versatility, these carriers are perfect for day-to-day life off the trails.

a tan, but white-skinned woman stands in semi-profile with her back to the camera in front of a pond with four ducks swimming close by and a green field with trees in the distance; she wears a toddler on her hip in a blue and pink woven wrapCONS:

  • To achieve most supportive, two-shouldered carries, which are the kind I’d recommend for hiking, most wearers would need at least four meters of length in a woven wrap. This is quite long when not worn, so it can be difficult to carry on a hike. You also run the risk of the tails of the wrap hitting or dragging on the ground when you’re setting up your carry.
  • Although one woven wrap can be used from newborn through toddlerhood and beyond, many people prefer lighter and “glidier” fabrics for newborns, but more textured and thicker fabrics for toddlers, which may necessitate buying more than one wrap.
  • Some carries, especially ones that are more supportive for longer hikes or larger children, use multiple layers of fabric, which can add to overheating during warm weather hiking.
  • Because of the variety of carries and reliance on the wearer to go from one long piece of fabric to a fully functioning carrier, woven wraps have one of the highest learning curves of all carriers. However, they can be quick once the wearer becomes comfortable with use.
  • They do not come with hoods, but many carries can be modified to add support for a sleeping baby.
  • All woven wraps require careful care in special detergent when washing and most need to be drip-dried after. Depending on the fabric content, some may be handwash only or need to be ironed.

BOTTOM LINE: Woven wraps are amazing options, but I would not recommend them to the average caregiver who is interested in hiking while babywearing. They are definitely usable on the trails, but I probably wouldn’t tell you to purchase one as your go-to hiking carrier. I will say, however, that one of my close friends, founder of Hiking with Keiki, and fellow educator prefers to use woven wraps when her kids are very young and also prefers to use one woven wrap and one SSC when tandem wearing.

a smiling white-skinned woman stands on a wet, dirt path with one foot up on a short, rocky ledge; behind her is a tree, greenery, and small pool of water; she wears a toddler on her back in a blue woven wrap and a baby on her front in a rainbow woven wrap

Ring Slings/Pouches

Ring slings and pouches are both one shoulder carriers that wrap around the wearer’s torso like a sash. Ring slings are one piece of fabric with rings at one end that need to be threaded before wearing, and most pouches are one continuous loop of fabric. Both of these carriers were modeled after the Mexican rebozo, a one shouldered carrier. Ring slings were created in the early 1980s right here in Hawaii, and now many companies that make woven wraps also convert their wraps into ring slings. The history of pouches is a bit more cloudy, but they also popped up sometime in the 1980s.

a smiling brown-skinned woman stands in her mailroom wearing a smiling toddler on her hip in a floral pouch

PROS:

  • Once you learn to use these carriers, they are quick and easy, which is nice for indecisive toddlers who mostly walk on the trails, but sometimes need to be worn.
  • Made with less fabric than most other carriers, they both fold down very small, especially pouches without padding. They are easily stored and transported.
  • They are both single-layer carriers, which help keep both caregiver and child cool during warm weather hiking.
  • Wearers can carry newborns in both types of these carriers, as long as they are used correctly.
  • Ring slings come in a few sizes that vary according to company. The same ring sling can be used in the same way by multiple wearers without any additional adjustments.
  • Pouches are generally inexpensive, and there are budget-friendly ring sling options as well.

a smiling brown-skinned woman stands in semi-profile with her back to the camera wearing a baby on her hip in a mustard ring slingCONS:

  • They are one-shouldered, single-layer carriers, so they are not as comfortable for long periods of time or with older children, unless you get a very supportive ring sling.
  • Most pouches are not adjustable so it is extremely important that you get the right size. They can be hard to size, and the same size will not last you from newborn through toddlerhood or beyond. The one I own works right now for my 21 month old and me, but I probably won’t be able to wear it much longer as she grows and I definitely wouldn’t be able to safely wear a smaller baby in it. Likewise, my husband probably would not be able to wear it because it would be too small on him.
  • Neither of these carriers come with hoods, but some people use the tail of the ring sling as a cover or modify it to use as additional support for a young or sleeping baby.
  • Both of these carriers have higher learning curves, in my opinion, then both SSCs and mei tais, but they are a bit easier to learn than woven wraps.
  • Many ring slings are made from woven wraps and, therefore, need to be cared for as such. This means washing with special detergent and usually drip-drying after. Depending on the fabric content, some may be handwash only or need to be ironed.
  • The ring slings made from woven wraps have similar price tags. Those that are more inexpensive are usually made of less supportive fabrics.

BOTTOM LINE: I would not recommend these types of carriers to the average caregiver who is looking to hike while babywearing. Although they are great options for everyday errands and as emergency diaper bag carriers, most would not be comfortable out on the trails. Unless you are intending to wear a small baby or to only wear a walking toddler for very short periods of time, I would recommend looking into a different carrier to use while hiking.


The list I’ve provided is certainly not exhaustive. It is compiled from the most common carriers I’ve encountered on the trails. There are other carrier options that you may have more experience with, you may like better, or that may work best for you and your family. The most important things to remember when choosing a carrier to use while hiking with your child are safety and comfort. If you and your child feel comfortable in the carrier for long periods of time and your child is safe and secure while being worn, then that sounds like the perfect carrier to use while hiking!

As with anything in life, it’s great to try out all of these options before buying. That’s where your local chapter of Babywearing International comes in. You can attend a free meeting where you can try on most of these types of carriers and get guidance from experienced educators. If you become a member, you can borrow a carrier for up to a month and really try it out with your family and your lifestyle. The only carriers that may not be available at BWI meetings are the framed backpack carriers. If you are interested in those, I would head to your local sporting goods or wilderness store. There you will find many of these carriers on display, and the knowledgeable staff can help you try them on to see which works best for you and your family.

a brown-skinned woman walks in front of a white-skinned woman on a dirt path surrounded by tall grass, trees, and bushes; they both are walking away with their backs to the camera; the brown-skinned woman wears a toddler on her back in a floral soft structured carrier and the white-skinned woman wears a toddler on her back in a rainbow soft structured carrier

Now that you have your carrier, you’re almost ready to hit the trails. But what will you need to bring? And how can you possibly carry it all while also carrying your child? Find out next week and, while you wait, go find an adventure!

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The Babywearer’s Guide to Hiking: Part One – An Introduction

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” –Rachel Carson

sunset

My name is Jennifer Tolisano. I have a daughter who will soon turn two, and we go hiking at least once a week. We live on the beautiful island of Oahu, and we have been hiking together since she was four months old. “How?” you may ask. Babywearing!

In September of 2014, my shiny new baby was three months old, and I finally made it to my first Babywearing International (BWI) meeting. While I was there, I  fell in love with babywearing. I loved snuggling my daughter close and being able to complete my daily tasks while doing so. Babywearing International of Oahu became an indispensable resource to me and my daughter, and in December of 2014, I decided to volunteer.

Three months later, I became a chapter support volunteer and, three months after that, a volunteer babywearing educator (VBE). I was so excited to share my passion with others and to be able to help caregivers enter the wonderful world of wearing.

babywearing education

Babywearing education in action at a local BWI meeting

Only one month after I became active with my local BWI chapter, I found the world of hiking. This collage is from our first mother-daughter hike together. It was taken on October 2, 2014, four days before Lena turned four months. We attempted the nearly five mile long Aiea Loop hike with a new local group that had just formed called Hiking with Keiki. I think the group went maybe 1.5 out of those five miles, but it was a start. And I was hooked.

Three and a half months later, I became a hiking lead with that group and, that summer, I became an administrator. I have loved nearly every second of leading group hikes, finding trails, and helping other families explore our island together.

first babywearing hike

Our first babywearing hike on Aiea Loop in a borrowed mei tai

The truly amazing thing is that I didn’t babywear before Lena was born (this may not come as a surprise), but I didn’t hike either (there’s the kicker). I mean, I had hiked. In the two years we lived here before Lena was born, my husband and I had completed a whopping three trails on the island. I would never have called myself a hiker. Teacher? Yes. Foodee? Sure. Nature-lover? Yeah, I guess. Maybe more of a nature-appreciator mostly from my lanai (i.e. balcony) during sunset. But being able to share the world with my new baby gave me a newfound appreciation for exploration. And I needed to explore as much as I could. And then share it with others. Why?

  1. Hiking while babywearing is a great way to stay active. It is no secret that the average modern American family has trouble finding ways to get off the couch. I promise, if you go out and climb a mountain or conquer a trail, you will catch the hiking bug and you will not stop. Start while your children can’t even walk, wear them on hikes for an added workout, and then start encouraging them to walk on their own. They will love it too, and it will simply become something you do together as a family. They will ask to go hiking, climb mountains, and chase waterfalls, and you will all be off the couch, at least for a few hours.

    hiking family shirts

    Mom and baby hiking shirts by UOTC designs

  2. Hiking while babywearing gives your family a common hobby that you can share forever. Sure, when Lena and I started hiking, she didn’t really have a choice in the matter. I strapped her to my body and off we went. She still doesn’t really have a say. I’m selfish enough to make our plans without consulting her calendar, but she’s pretty amenable to running around on trails. If she gets tired, I fall back on the tried and true strapping-her-to-my-body trick. But usually, she demands to walk even when it may be dangerous for her to do so. My point? She loves hiking! Most of my friends’ children who have been hiking since they were babies ask to go hiking almost every day. They beg to see waterfalls and to explore with their friends. My hope is that they will continue to do this as they grow into adults. By hiking with my daughter at such a young age, I have given us a lifelong hobby that will allow me to stay connected to her when it becomes difficult to pry her away from her cell phone (will they even have cell phones in 12 years?). Sure, she may whine about it at first, but she’ll appreciate the beauty when she’s actually on the trails. And hopefully, one day, she’ll be wearing her own children while she explores with her family.
  3. Hiking while babywearing allows you to get back to nature. We are all guilty of being over-connected. We’re always on our phones or computers, running around in our busy lives, forgetting about the beauty that surrounds us. When I was little, I loved exploring the woods around my neighborhood. I appreciated the way the sunlight hit the trees and the rain trickled down the leaves. I had forgotten some of this until I got back out into the wild with my daughter. It is so important to take some time to go out into the world, stop, look around, and appreciate the beauty. Start your kids young and teach them that the world exists beyond them. It will give them an important perspective, something timeless to appreciate, and a priceless heirloom that they can pass down themselves.
  4. Hiking while babywearing will help you relax. The over-connectedness I mentioned in my last point leads to high levels of stress. When you are expected to be on all the time, it becomes difficult to find a second to breathe and relax. Unplug, adventure with your family, move the fresh air through your lungs, and float away on the wind. Hiking can sometimes be physically challenging, especially while wearing a child. Having to focus on step after step and breath after breath will get your mind off of your other worries. Then the amazing payoff, be it a beautiful vista, rushing waterfall, or proud accomplishment, will keep your mind on the next hike you want to conquer. There will be no time for stress while you’re out on the trails! Well, until your kids begin to walk themselves. Then you worry about teaching them trail safety, preparedness, and awareness. You take on some of that stress while you watch them become avid little hikers who will one day help you up the steep incline. And you can relish in the fact that you’re imparting valuable lessons that they can use on and off the trails: the payoff of hard work, the respect we have to give to the earth and its creatures, and the importance of getting up when you fall.

So now you want to hike while babywearing, right? Start ‘em young! Wear them on trails! Next week, I’ll be back to discuss the pros and cons of the different carriers you can use. Until then, find some way to share an adventure with your family!

Mauna Kea babywearing hike

Family hike on Mauna Kea

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