Preemie Babywearing

A guest post from Alena Monkiewicz of So-Cal Babywearers…

Alena is a babywearing mother of 6 and leader of So-Cal Babywearers. Of her 6 children, 2 of them were preemie babies, so she has learned quite a bit about preemie wearing first hand over the years. This guest blog post is a summary of her experience and those of others compiled to provide some guidance to other preemie moms. As your preemie may have specific needs, please discuss with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about babywearing with your preemie. Don’t hesitate to contact BWI of Central Missouri directly to set up a time to meet with one of our VBE’s for in-person assistance.

Preemie Wearing

No one goes into their pregnancy planning to have a preemie. It’s not usually something you research and prepare for. Usually you find out days to minutes before your baby’s birth that you will be a mother to a miracle. It’s a lot to take in at once.  Babywearing is an amazing tool and even more important for preemie moms to help recreate that womb like experience for a baby that lost their nest too soon.

I am actually a mother to 2 preemies. With my first preemie I was scared to death to touch him, much less wear him. I attempted a mei tai and a pouch sling and quickly realized he was much too small to wear either safely. I put them away and decided to wait until he was bigger and stronger. With my second preemie I was already an avid wrapper. Not only was I experienced in wearing my own babies, but I had started teaching others how to wear their babies. I had a lot of confidence in my wrapping skills and was still surprised at how different wrapping a preemie is.

It was impossible for me to wear my son in the NICU. He had so many wires and tubes that it wasn’t possible for me to wear him properly. That did not stop me from bringing my wraps. I would drape it over us and mock wear during kangaroo care. It helped me regain a bit of privacy and also helped to start create a bond in our special piece of cloth. I will never look at that wrap as just a wrap again. It is so special to us.

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My first time attempting to wear him was on discharge day.  He was finally completely wire free! I slipped him into my ring sling and went to tighten it. I was pretty sure I was wrapping air and not my brand new baby weighing in at 5lbs 2oz. This was so new compared to my 30lb toddler. Once we got home and settled in I decided to give a few other carriers in my stash a whirl.

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What I quickly learned:

– Stretchy wraps are not good for preemies.  I placed him in and no matter how much I tightened or how high I wore him; he would slip into unsafe positioning. I later learned that stretchy wraps are not recommended for preemies because preemies are just too floppy. They need the full support on their neck and spine that only a woven wrap can offer. The manufacturers recommended weight starts at 8lbs, and by the time my son reached that weight it probably would’ve been a safe option. I didn’t try it again because we were happy in our wovens.

– Thin wraps work best. He was teeny tiny and though he needed support, we didn’t need a ton of fabric. I adored my thinnest wraps and shortys.

– A woven wrap conversion ring sling was the easiest and fastest way to cradle my preemie safely. I love wrapping and usually reach for my wraps more than anything. But the ring sling was so convenient and a 1 layer carry that completely supported his body without being overwhelming.

– Mei tais and soft structured carriers are not ideal until baby has more core strength. For us this was around 4-6 months actual and 2 ½- 4 ½  months adjusted depending on the actual carrier. Always keep in mind your baby’s adjusted age when trying carriers with age requirements. You know your baby best and some babies catch up faster than others, but always use caution when trying new carriers.

– Froggy vs feet/legs out. This was a tough one for me. I was taught and advocated that baby should always be legs out. How can I teach this and not follow it? Well a preemie is a whole different ball game. I could not uncurl him until we reached his due date. I do not recommend forcing your baby into a legs out position until they are ready. Every time I placed him in a wrap or ring sling I would attempt to put him in a legs out position and followed his cues when he wasn’t ready yet.

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Always remember that preemies are not just smaller newborns, but still have developing to do outside the womb. Next to mom’s heart is the ideal place for them to do this. I will always treasure those early wearing days. Even though I mourn losing the end of my pregnancy, I am so happy we had another way to create that bond.

Sometimes the littlest things take up the most room in your heart” – Winnie the Pooh

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