There is absolutely nothing sweeter than seeing a dad wearing his babe. Those teeny, tiny sparrow legs peeking out of a carrier against a man’s big frame is just so special.
When a baby is born, some dads can feel a little like the third wheel in this new relationship. After all, mama has carried that little human for almost 10 months and has felt her feet from the inside as she’s made her presence known. Dads can feel like there’s not much for them to do, especially in those first few weeks of sleeplessness, milk and dirty nappies. However, babywearing can help them to develop a close bond with their tiny babies, and help give mama a much needed break.
Ubuntu Papas featured above: Ryan Sandes, Nash Govender and Stuart Ross
One morning when our babe was about 7 weeks old, my husband and I decided to get some fresh air, and to take her and our dogs for a nice walk along the beachfront. I asked him if he wanted to ‘wear’ our daughter as I wanted him to have some special time with her, but also I was feeling a little touched out. He agreed, and we started to unpack the car. He grabbed the carrier, with babe sitting in her carseat, and proceeded to start buckling it all up, seemingly to slide babe down the top, I don’t know. I watched him and then tried to give him some helpful instructions on how to correctly put the carrier on and subsequently our babe.
Now if your husband is anything like mine (pictured on the right), they do not appreciate these instructions or your help. In fact they may nod and smile, but they’re not actually listening, and your “helpful” instructions are actually heard as a nagging white noise. He likes the challenge of assembling flat pack furniture without reading the instructions, as that’s “cheating”…
Our babe, however, was not a flat pack cabinet, and I as her mama, continued to “help” resulting in an angry “stop nagging me, how bloody hard can it be?” leading to an unhappy babe, and a stressful baby wearing experience for dad. Not quite the romantic ideal I had pictured in my head on the drive to the beach.
Positioning babe in the Ubuntu Baba can come naturally to some dads, but for plenty of others, not so much, and trying to get a sometimes crying babe into the carrier can be a rushed and stressful job, often with mama chirping instructions, which can add to the drama.
All jokes aside, and as amazing as it is for dad to wear his babe, it is important to stress that they need to wear them correctly and safely, and that the TICKS guidelines are always followed. These guidelines are even more imperative when babies are small as it ensures that their airways are protected for safe breathing.
T – tight: Ensure your Ubuntu Baba is snug, and hugging your babe, but not restricting her. If you lean forward, baby shouldn’t really move. By keeping the carrier tight enough it will prevent babe from slipping down or slumping.
I – in view at all times: You should be able to see babe’s face by simply glancing down.
C – close enough to kiss: Babe’s head should be as close to your chin as comfortable.
K – keep chin off chest: You should be able to fit at least a finger between babe’s chin and chest.
S – Supported back: The Ubuntu Baba supports babe’s back in her natural fetal position of a J position (when looking from the side), and an M position from the back with her knees above her bum.
A note directly for the Ubuntu Papas (and a few tips)
Hey there daddy bear, I see you there wearing your baby. Your wife is shattered, and needs to shower or dress or to just sleep, so you’ve offered to wear your babe. You’ve seen your wife wearing her, and your carrier looks pretty simple to put on right? Clip on the waistband roughly where your jeans sit, slot babe in, pull up carrier, clip in, tighten…..done! Easy peasy. Yet now as you wear her she has dropped down a little, you can’t see her face so easily and she’s starting to cry. Your wife is fretting because you’re not listening to her as she barks instructions at you, and what started out as a good idea is rapidly spoiling. Before you give up, here are a few tips which you might find helpful:
Aim to hold your babe chest to chest. She should be close to you and high up so you are able to kiss her head without straining. Men generally have longer torsos than women, so if you place your waistband at your waist or even your hips, then babe’s head will sit lower down your body than it would on her mama. Place your waistband higher up your body. Think about how you would hold your babe naturally in your arms. You wouldn’t hold her with her head sitting beneath your chest near your belly button, so don’t wear her in your carrier like that. As babe grows bigger you will naturally position your waistband lower down. Ensure your waistband sits parallel to the ground and isn’t tipped forward.
The Ubuntu Baba carrier has been designed to be used from newborn without the use of an insert. Those little sparrow legs sit outside of the carrier. Tie the string to make the seat narrower so the fabric sits knee to knee.
Place your shoulder straps in the centre of your shoulder and pull it in a downward motion before clipping in. When tightening your carrier, use your arm beneath babe’s bum to take her weight and pull the webbing in the same direction as the strap. It helps to follow and bring the slack from the shoulder strap to the clip.
A dad’s chest feels very different to mama’s soft chest. It is hard, and can be a little uncomfortable. If babe is crying (and you’re sure she’s doesn’t need feeding/winding/changing) she might just be feeling a little unsure. Start swaying or walking and talk to her. You can tell her about the weather, explain the latest episode of Game of Thrones or just read the newspaper to her, it doesn’t matter. The sound of your voice will help calm her, and the act of talking will help to keep you calm and less frazzled.
Keep your babe’s face in view at all times. I cannot stress how important this is, especially when babe is very small and has little to no control of her head movements. You want to ensure that her chin is kept off her chest and that you’re able to fit at least a finger between her chin and chest. If she falls asleep and you put the silk hood up, have a peek through every so often.
Practice at home in front of a mirror, after babe has fed and winded and is happy and sleepy. Take your time and don’t be disheartened if babe doesn’t settle immediately, simply try again another time. Practice with a soft toy if you like, so you’re familiar with the carrier and its straps and buckles and have a look at the instructional videos.
Safely wearing your babe close to you is one of the most amazing things you can experience. You’ll become their safe space and your wife will not only absolutely appreciate the break, but will fall in love with you all over again.