Babywearing International of Central Pa. has about 125 baby carriers available for attendees of its meetings to browse, try on and borrow, and there’s probably just as many reasons a parent would decide to wear a baby.
Maybe it’s about wanting to go where a stroller might be cumbersome, with many of the region’s fall festivals fitting that category. Maybe it’s a need to care for two kids at once — finding a way to tie your toddler’s shoes while soothing your infant, for example. Maybe it’s to allow a reporter mom to take notes during BWI of Central Pa.’s monthly morning meeting in the Patton Township Building without her 5-month-old trying to make a meal out of the notebook.
Babywearing is exactly what it sounds like, using a carrier of some type — soft structured, sling, wrap, mei tai — to keep your child as close as can be on your front or back and still have use of your hands. It’s often about convenience, but that’s not how it started for Addie Rockwell and her 2-year-old daughter, Gracelynn.
“Gracelynn was adopted at birth, and I wore her at the hospital to inundate her with me, to get an attachment formed,” said Rockwell, who is a chapter support volunteer with BWI of Central Pa.
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Benefits of babywearing go hand in hand with the known benefits of skin-to-skin contact, and include bonding, reducing maternal stress and even helping newborns cry less, steady their breathing rate, heartbeat and body temperature. But when it comes to selecting a baby carrier, the many different types — and price tags that reach hundreds of dollars — can be overwhelming. That’s where BWI of Central Pa. comes in, with a library that lets members check out and borrow a carrier for a month.
“Some people use the library because some carriers are rather expensive,” Rockwell said. “Other people come because they don’t know what kind of carrier they might like.”
After attending her first BWI of Central Pa. meeting, Katie Mangiacarne fell in love with the carrier she borrowed for her 2-month-old twin boys, but said the lending library is her best option.
“It’s about $150 and they’ll only be in it for a couple of months,” said Mangiacarne, who travels from her home in Altoona to attend the meetings, which are unique in the region.
BWI of Central Pa. has morphed from a babywearing group that’s been in the area for years, according to Jenny Krout, a volunteer babywearing educator who took the reins of the organization in 2013. The affiliation with BWI led to the carrier library and accredited educators who teach others how to use carriers safely and comfortably. And if you don’t think there’s a need for educators, you’ve never pulled a long piece of fabric out of a box and contemplated the various knots and maneuvers needed to attach a child to a body with it.
“When I first started babywearing, I didn’t know anyone else who did it,” said Krout, whose oldest child is 6. “I think babywearing is becoming more mainstream ... in the past two years, there’s been a large boom in carrier manufacturers.”
Interest in the group and membership has seen similar growth, according to Krout, who said twice-monthly meetings average 20-30 people. In addition to the meetings, the BWI of Central Pa. also hosts walks, play dates and parent nights out.
“Socializing is a huge part of it,” volunteer babywearing educator Jennifer Park said. “The biggest goal is to socialize with other parents, but we also want to offer people as many different carriers as we can.”
BWI of Central Pa. meetings are open to the public and held at 10:30 a.m. every second Monday and 6 p.m. every fourth Monday in the Patton Township Building, 100 Patton Plaza, State College.
For more information of BWI of Central Pa., join the Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/babywearinginternationalofcentralpa.