Before Baba was born, I bought the Bjorn carrier. It seemed to be a good fit and I liked that baby could be faced forward. However, when he suffered a stroke the Bjorn didn't have the positioning I wanted and it was hard to get him out after he fell asleep for naps. I started to look at other types of carriers, but I was overwhelmed. Some books I read absolutely warned against slings and I couldn't decide which carrier would give me the positioning I wanted. Why was positioning important?
Since Baba had a stroke, apart from the sensory issues, he also began to develop spasticity. His right arm would catch when I would try to move it and it seemed to be getting worse. He also had a tendency to draw his arms and legs backwards. This positioning of the body is typical of babies who suffered a stroke.
|favoring this position at 1 month, 2 weeks after discharge from hospital|
Before I ruminated too long, my sister bought the Balboa sling. She knew I was looking for a different type of carrier and figured we could try it. It turned out to be perfect. The sling put Baba in a flexed position, which broke up the extension tone. It also provided proprioceptive input (deep touch). Which is comforting. This combination of proprioception and vestibular input helped Baba tolerate movement without getting motion sickness. It also helped him tolerate a flexed position for a few hours a day.
|Baba in Balboa Sling at 1 month, same day as above|
Within a month, Baba displayed decreased spasticity (We were also co-sleeping for positioning. A post about that is coming in the future.). He also stopped favoring an extension position and began to play with his hands. It was so exciting to see him start to explore his hands.
|Baba on same day as above, after being worn, on Boppy Total Body Pillow|
So I used the Balboa sling most of the time, but when we went for walks, I put him in the Bjorn. He loved facing forward and being able to see everything. This system worked well, until he got really heavy. I didn't know the Bjorn had a new back support system, so I bought the old version. When he was small it didn't matter, but when he got heavy (20 pounds by month 4) it really put a strain on my back.
Around that time, another mom introduced me to the Ergo Carrier. She let us try it before committing to it. Baba seemed to enjoy it and immediately fell asleep, so we bought the Ergo. It has been a life saver. Baba was starting to feel uncomfortable in the Balboa sling because he was so big, yet he wasn't able to tolerate being on the hip because he couldn't sit up. It was good timing because he was no longer showing spasticity (increased muscle tone) and he was able to keep his limbs forward. It seemed like we didn't need to use the sling for positioning anymore.
|Baba in Ergo at 6 months|
I still use the Ergo for carrying Baba. He weighed 23 pounds by month 6 and now weighs 25.5 pounds at month 10. Yes. He's a big baby! For a mom with physical limitations, I can't carry him without the Ergo. This is especially true when he's sick and needs to be carried more than usual.
At 10 months, I carry him for 1-2 hours a day, mostly to help him sleep. He is still working on modulating his arousal level. He has a hard time winding down. He has improved in his ability to tolerate movement and for the first time enjoys the swing! If I could install a swing at home, I would leap tall buildings, but my landlord says no. Sigh...
As far as choosing a carrier, mainly it has to be comfortable for both baby and mama. Try out the carrier/sling and use it if it works! If you're concerned about positioning, there are alternative ways to work on that. Ask your OT or PT for specifics about your child's treatment, as spasticity, extensor tone, and sensory issues can be very different and unique to each child.
So what if your baby isn't a baby anymore? This is when the swing becomes crucial. Look for part 5, where I also share how I changed an 11 year boy's life with a swing! Yes, I said swing!
I tried to provide definitions as I wrote, but if I missed something, feel free to ask me in the comments section or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.