Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Newborn, Infant, and Toddler Wearing

In traditional cultures, baby wearing was a common practice.  For modern-day parents, having the ability to wear your baby (or toddler) has numerous benefits, including:
  • Promoting closeness between child and parent
  • Freeing up the parent's hands to accomplish tasks such as cooking and cleaning
  • Allowing children to feel secure in new situations
  • Promoting calm and well-being in the child
  • Giving parents the freedom to take part in activities such as hiking, dancing, and gardening
For me, babywearing has been a necessity.  Both of my children initially had an aversion to car seats and strollers, especially my firstborn. And as is common, both of my babies have been happiest while being held. Being able to wear my children has allowed me to meet their needs while still being able to do everyday things like grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and gardening.  Baby wearing has also been invaluable during air travel, hiking, and sightseeing.
With the exception of the last few months of my second pregnancy, I have been wearing children several times every week (and often daily) for over four years. I use a variety of baby carriers, depending on the age of the child and what activity I will be doing.  I thought it might be helpful to share some tips for wearing children at different ages (newborns, infants, and toddlers), wearing a child while pregnant, and choosing a type of baby carrier.

Tips for Wearing a Newborn
Newborns crave closeness with their parents.  It must be quite a shock moving from the womb into the relatively quiet and still world. My favorite way to wear a newborn is in a tummy-to-tummy hold.  This hold supports the newborn very well, allowing you to easily see the baby's face and make sure their airway is not restricted (this is especially important until the baby develops proper head control). My favorite carriers for newborns are the Moby wrap and the Beco carrier

My daughter really loved the Moby wrap (and indeed this is hands-down the most comfortable carrier for carrying children on the front of your body because it distributes the weight very well across your whole back).  I used the Moby wrap to take my daughter for lots of walks, to go grocery shopping, and to help her settle down and fall asleep (she was colicky for the first few months).  The Moby wrap also works great if you want to try kangaroo care (skin-on-skin contact) with your baby (the Moby wrap has good coverage so you could even leave the house and no one would know you weren't wearing a top).

I'm not sure why, but my son did not particularly like being worn in the Moby wrap.  He preferred the Beco carrier, which is a structured tummy-to-tummy carrier that can also be used to carry babies on your back as they get older.  My son was especially difficult to settle down to sleep, so I used the Beco carrier with him several times every day to help him go to sleep (and I still use it occasionally if he is having a hard time going to sleep).  It also worked great for taking him on walks while pushing his sister in the stroller. The Beco carrier is definitely great for babywearing novices, because it is foolproof to use (whereas the Moby wrap takes a bit of practice to be used comfortably). 

Wearing an Infant
Once babies develop good head control, there are more options for wearing them.  Tummy-to-tummy carrying is still a great way to calm and settle infants. In addition to tummy-to-tummy carrying, infants can be worn on your hip or facing outwards on your front.  My favorite carriers for infants are the Moby wrap, ring sling, and Beco carrier (for tummy-to-tummy carrying).

Both the Moby wrap and ring sling can be used for babies who like to face outwards.  My daughter loved being able to face outwards in the Moby wrap as we went for walks, to the zoo, or on airplane trips.  It is very comfortable for long durations of baby wearing.  With the Moby wrap, I was able to wear my daughter all the way through airport security and onto airplanes (although I think the flight attendants could technically ask you to take the baby out of the carrier, I had no problems using the Moby on multiple plane trips, whereas with the Beco carrier I was always asked to remove it). 

Once both of my children had enough head control, I transitioned to using the ring sling for trips to the store and running errands. Wearing babies on your hip instead of your front gives you much more freedom to perform tasks such as grocery shopping and cooking. The ring sling is wonderful because it can be put on and taken off very quickly.  The downside of using a ring sling is that it does not evenly distribute the weight across your whole back, so it can be a little tiresome to wear for an extended period of time.     

Wearing a Toddler
Carrying children on your front gets less comfortable as they get heavier and longer.  My favorite ways to carry toddlers are on my hip (in the ring sling) and on my back (in the Beco carrier). Once babies get old enough to ride on your back, the possibilities are endless! Wearing toddlers on your back is very comfortable and completely frees up your hands to perform other tasks.  I've worn toddlers on my back for digging holes, hiking, cherry picking, and even shoveling/moving buckets of manure to the garden. 

Wearing a Child During Pregnancy 
While pregnant with my son, I was able to comfortably carry my 2-year-old daughter until I was about 6 months pregnant.  Almost as soon as I got pregnant, I noticed that the ring sling and Beco carrier were no longer comfortable to wear.  For me, the best carrier to wear while pregnant was a mei tai carrier (which is similar to a structured carrier but has long pieces of fabric to tie instead of using buckles).  I carried my daughter on my back, and I could tie the straps either below or above the baby belly for comfort.
 
What Type of Carrier Should You Buy?
With the right carrier, there is no need to buy a stroller, and I found my children to be happier in a carrier than a stroller anyway.  Deciding what type of carrier to buy will depend on what activities you are likely to do while wearing your child.  For long walks, hiking, and sightseeing, carriers that distribute the weight over both shoulders are ideal (like the Moby wrap or the Beco carrier).  The ring sling is my favorite carrier for running errands, grocery shopping, or anytime I needed to be able to quickly take the baby in-and-out of the carrier.  

Each child and parent has different preferences.  If possible, check to see if anyone you know is willing to lend you a carrier for a week or two to get a feel for which ones work best for you.  Baby carriers make great baby shower gifts, too! 
 
Do you wear your baby or toddler? What are your favorite carriers?

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet and Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop!
***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon July 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • Between Love and Fear: On Raising our Children Sensibly — Mamma Earthly at Give an Earthly discusses the fear factor in parenting and how she overcame it, despite societal pressures.
  • really, when do i get my cape? — Sarah at small bird on fire is a working city mama trying to learn how to set aside her expectations of perfection and embrace the reality of modern parenting.
  • Baby, Infant, and Toddler Wearing — Child wearing is part of Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured's parenting philosophy. In this post, Sarah describes benefits of child-wearing and gives tips for wearing babies, infants, and toddlers (even while pregnant).
  • First Year Reflections — As her daughter's first birthday approaches, Holly at First Year Reflections reflects on how she and her husband settled into attachment parenting after initially doing what they thought everyone else did.
  • Making an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a guest post from Sam about the unexpected lessons giving a four-year-old an allowance teaches the child — and the parent.
  • How to be a Lazy Parent and Still Raise Great Kids — Lisa at Granola Catholic talks about how being a Lazy Parent has helped her to raise Great Kids.
  • Philosophy in Practice — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how her heart shaped the parenting philosophy in her home.
  • What is Attachment Parenting Anyway? — Gaby at Tmuffin describes the challenges of putting a label on her parenting philosophy.
  • Of Parenting Styles — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom talks about how she and her husband tailored various parenting styles to fit their own preferred parenting philosophy.
  • Moment by Moment Parenting — Amy at Peace 4 Parents encourages those who care for children (including herself) to explore and appreciate parenting moment-by-moment with clarity, intention, trust, and action.
  • Maintaining Spirituality in the Midst of Everyday Parenting, Marriage, and Life — Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured shares her perspective on finding opportunities for spiritual growth in every day life.
  • Parenting Philosophy — Lily, aka Witch Mom's parenting philosophy is to raise child(ren) to be compassionate, loving, inquisitive, and questioning adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves in a way that avoids harming others.
  • Long Term — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis thinks about who she would like to see her daughter become — and what she can do now to lay a strong foundation for those hopes.
  • Connection, Communication, Compassion — She's come a long way, baby! After dropping her career in favour of motherhood, Patti at Jazzy Mama discovered that building solid relationships was going to be her only parenting priority.
  • My Parenting Inspirations - Part 4 — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at her biggest parenting inspiration and how that translates into her long-term parenting philosophy.
  • A Parenting Philosophy in One Word: Respect — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction summarizes her parenting and relationship philosophy in one word: respect.
  • Knowledge and Instinct — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that knowledge and instinct are super important … as are love, encouragement and respect. It's the ideal combo needed to raise happy and healthy children and in turn create meaningful relationships with them.
  • THRIVE!The Sparkle Mama wants to set a tone of confidence, abundance, and happiness in her home that will be the foundation for the rest of her daughter's life.
  • On Children — "Your children are not your children," say Kahlil Gibran and Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • This One Life Together — Ariadne aka Mudpiemama shares her philosophy of parenting: living fully in the here and now and building the foundation for a happy and healthy life.
  • Enjoying life and planning for a bright future — Olivia at Write About Birth shares her most important parenting dilemmas and pours out her heart about past trauma and how healing made her a better parent.
  • My Parenting Philosophy: Unconditional and Natural Love — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about her parenting philosophy from a year of following her instincts as a mama.
  • An open letter to my children — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine writes an open letter to her children.
  • My Starter Kit for Unconditional Parenting — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses her wish to raise a good person and summarizes some of the nontraditional practices she's using with her toddler son in order to fulfill that wish.
  • Responsiveness — Sheila at A Gift Universe has many philosophies and goals, but what it all boils down to is responsiveness: listening to what her son wants and providing what he needs.
  • Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy — Have you ever really thought about your parenting purpose? Knowing your long-term goals can help you parent with more intent in your daily interactions. Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers exercises and ideas to help you create your own parenting philosophy.
  • Be a Daisy — Becky at Old New Legacy philosophizes about individuality and how she thinks it's important for her daughter's growth.
  • What's a Mama to Do? — Amyables at Toddler in Tow hopes that her dedication to compassionate parenting will keep her children from becoming too self-critical as adults.
  • grown-up anxieties. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life explains her lone worry concerning her babies growing up.
  • Why I Used Montessori Principles in My Parenting Philosophy — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why she chose Montessori principles to help her now-adult children develop qualities she wanted to see in them as children and adults.
  • Parenting Philosophies & Planning for the FutureMomma Jorje considers that the future is maybe just a fringe benefit of doing what feels right now.
  • Not Just Getting Through — Rachael at The Variegated Life asks what truths she hopes to express even in the most commonplace interactions with her son.
  • Parenting Philosophy? Eh... — Ana at Pandamoly shares the philosophy (or lack thereof) being employed to (hopefully) raise a respectful, loving, and responsible child.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Being Present — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses the changes her family has made to accommodate their parenting philosophy and to reflect their ideals as working parents.
  • Who They Will Be — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a short list of some qualities she hopes she is instilling in her children at this very moment.
  • Short Term vs. Long Term — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts how long term parenting goals often get lost in the details of everyday life with two kids.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Practicing and Nurturing Peace — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle sets personal goals for developing greater peace.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 1: The Yamas — In part 1 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie guest posts at Natural Parents Network about how the Yoga Sutras provide a framework for her parenting philosophy.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 2: The Niyamas — In part 2 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie explores how the Niyamas (one of the eight limbs in traditional Yoga) help her maintain her parenting and life focus.
  • Our Sample Parenting Plan — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shares hopes of who her children will become and parenting strategies she employs to get them there.
  • Philosophical Parenting: Letting Go — Jona at Life, Intertwined ponders the notion that there's no right answer when it comes to parenting.
  • Unphilosophizing? — jessica at instead of institutions wonders about the usefulness of navel gazing.
  • Parenting Sensitively — Amy at Anktangle uses her sensitivity to mother her child in ways that both nurture and affirm.
  • how to nurture your relationships — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog believes that sometimes all kids need is a jolly good listening to …
  • Philosophy Of An Unnatural Parent — Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum sees parenting as a process of guiding her children to develop the skills they'll need.
  • Life with a Challenging Kid: Hidden Blessings — Wendy at High Needs Attachment shares the challenges and joys of raising a high needs child.
  • Flying by the Seat of My Pants — Heather at Very Nearly Hippy has realized that she has no idea what she's doing.

18 comments:

  1. I absolutely love wearing my little girl. It look me a little while to get into the hang of using the sling with her when she was younger as I really wanted to use the Ergo carrier, but she preferred the sling. She was happy in the sling until about 6 months, then we transitioned to the Ergo and now she's back to preferring the sling (wearing her on my hip). I like having different carriers because you never know which one your baby is going to prefer.

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  2. This sounds just like me! ;) We used the moby exclusively for months and all three of us (me, my husband and my daughter) loved it. It's still my #1 recommended carrier for new mommas. Since she's grown (8mo & 20+lbs), we've transitioned to a beco gemini as well (I especially love it for back & hip carries), and have tried the ring sling (although I don't feel like she's as supported on my hip in the ring as she is in the beco). I've also learned to backtie her with a woven wrap, which is a new favorite! She loves being worn and gets giggly when she sees me break out the carrier. Happy Babywearing!!

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  3. I miss wearing my babies. They are too grown up for that. I think I wore a child for a combined 7 years. I would not have done it any other way. My babies were very happy and I was able to be on the go with them. Have sling will travel was my catch phrase. As a toddler, my middle daughter always made sure to grab a sling for me whenever went out the door. (As a mom, I always kept a spare sling in the car).

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  4. Yay for babywearing! I don't understand how people wouldn't want to wear their babies. It makes life so much easier. I can't tell you the number of times people comment on how amazing it is that my newborn will fall asleep within 5 minutes of getting snuggled in a wrap or ring sling.

    I second how awesome it is to have different styles of slings, too. With Baby T, I wore a Gypsy Mama stretchy wrap almost exclusively. My partner used the Ergo. I bought woven wraps when Baby T was 12 months old, and they are amazing too.

    With Little M, I used the ring sling more when he was a tiny newborn. I don't know why--I just preferred it. Now, I like to wear him on my back in a woven to get things done. And yesterday I had him skin to skin in the Moby because he was sick.

    Babywearing is awesome! It life so much easier. My only regret is that I stopped babywearing when I was pregnant, because now my toddler doesn't really want to be worn.

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  5. Wonderfully informative post. I am a huge fan of and advocate of babywearing. It has been a constant source of comfort and security for my babe. We have used a few different carriers during the past 28 months as needs changed but my Moby and Beco are my faves! Great post!

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  6. great review on various types of carriers! we don't have this many choices of baby carriers but baby wearing here is catching on and many local manufacturers are developing their own versions of different types of carriers and slings. Babywearing rocks :D

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  7. We love baby wearing too, and I second the idea of having lots of different carriers. We have a homemade Moby ($5 instead of $40!), a "Hotsling," and several second-hand no-name cheapos that have nonetheless come in really handy! The only problem with babywearing for me is that if we've just arrived (with baby in the carseat) at the grocery store, it's SO nice to be able to take sleeping baby in the infant carseat, stick her in her carseat in the shopping cart, and shop without baby even waking up! As we eat less and less conventional food, though, I guess we'll be frequenting the conventional grocery less and less. :)
    Loved this post!

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  8. I loved the Moby for my daughter, but found it too heavy material wise. With my son, I have been using a borrowed Sleepy Wrap, and I LOVE it. It's more resilient than the Moby - you can put it on without baby in, put baby in, wear him for hours, and then take him out and the wrap hasn't stretched out almost at all. It also seems cooler to me, which is important in the summer! I also uses a mai tei for him when he was first born, and loved that for a newborn because it is so secure, but adjustable and not full of buckles. I made my own, and love it. There are all sorts of free patterns out there to use, and you can make one out of fabric you can find at your local fabric shop. My next addition to the baby wearing wardrobe will be a ring sling. . . I have the rings and fabric for it - I can't wait to sew it and try it out! For my son right now at 3 months of age, I use a modified version of a general one shoulder sling. I sewed mine shorter than hip level to let my little bub ride closer to my chest - he likes that position much better than a traditional sling allows for.

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  9. Oh, how I miss baby-wearing! My son is a toddler now, but he is much too active to ride on my back anymore. Any attempt to wear him now is met with resistance, but I very much loved our Baby Hawk back in our wearing days. Before that, we had a handmade ring sling that I bought from an Etsy seller that went with us everywhere.

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  10. What a great primer on babywearing at the different ages! I'm once more in newborn babywearing heaven and loving it. I've been using a Sleepy Wrap (like the Moby) but even more so the mei tai I made, which is similar to the Beco. I love love love the snuggliness of little baby against my tummy. :)

    My firstborn was a huuuge baby, so I was glad to start using the Ergo early on with him and transition to back carries on the early side as well. Then I was still comfy to wear him until…well, sometimes I still do, and he weighs 48 pounds now. ;)

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  11. When my son was born last year it seemed like he HATED every type of baby carrier. I was SO SAD because I had used ring slings for my previous (3) babies and LOVED IT. It turned out my son had severe reflux and any pressure on his tiny belly made him cry and cry. Now he is 12 months and he is much better and he has turned out to LOVE the sling--especially falling asleep there.

    I would ncourage every mother to keep trying to use a carrier at any age. Even my 5yo loves to ride in the sling when her legs get tired.

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  12. I have quite the library of carriers, for sure! Once the wrap got too small we moved to a Hotslings-style thing that I made for about $8. The ring sling rode too low for anyone's comfort and seemed insecure after the belly-to-belly carry with a wrap, so I sewed a curved bum seam in the middle, which helped but it never became a favourite. I need to invest in a mei tei or similar now that my 3yo is too heavy for long-term hip carrying.
    @Patti, that's interesting; I have a friend whose child refused the sling as well, I'll have to tell her.
    The only thing I'd like to add to a great summary post is the concern about out-facing front carries putting unhealthy pressure on a small child's spine.
    I use the TUCKS rule for safe babywearing: Tight, Upright (head higher than bum), Chin off chest, Kissably close, Supported (knees higher than bum and spine in a neutral position). For something similar, see babyslingsafe.com.
    There's a store chain in Ontario that rents carriers for a week - perhaps other places offer similar services?

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  13. Love this post! I have a 20 month old toddler and since we got our Ergo when he was 6 months old that has been our favorite hands down! I've worn him while cooking when he needs extra momma time, and also when gardening and berry picking. It's a lifesaver!

    I found you at Fight Back Friday and I'd love a visit to my blog: plusothergoodstuff (dot) blogspot (dot) com.

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  14. I think my favorite carrier has been my new native sling. That was a life saver when my daughter was an infant and wanted to be held constantly. I liked the moby, but she could never seem to get very comfortable in it. I am hoping it works better for #2. Now that she is older, my favorite carrier is our mei tai carrier. She's a little big to carry on my front, but she loves riding on my back in it.

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  15. I wasn't sure how to get a question to you...

    When you describe your parenting style, you mention co-sleeping. We are currently co-sleeping too. Is it something you still continue or did you stop when the children got to certain ages? We're looking for tips on how to transition from co-sleeping into children having their own bed. Do you have any sources or words of wisdom?

    Thank you!

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    1. Hi JoAnna,
      We have co-slept with both of our children. For us, transitioning them out of our bed is taken slow and easy, and we take our kids developmental needs into account rather than using an arbitrary time-table.

      My son is 3 and still sleeping in our bed. He has always had sleep issues, waking very frequently during the night and being scared if I'm not nearby. These issues are getting better now with the help of homeopathy, but not completely resolved yet, so he is not quite ready to sleep on his own yet. But we have recently night-weaned, so that is some progress.

      My eldest, now 6-years-old, was still sleeping in our family bed when her brother was born (at that time she was almost 3). Because of my son's sleep issues, my husband and daughter started sleeping in another room fairly soon after my son was born.

      They slept together in another room for awhile, then moved back into our room when my daughter was 3. At that point, my daughter was sleeping in a toddler bed (without a rail) pushed right up against our king-size bed (and our king-size bed is a platform bed, so it is actually the same height at the toddler bed). My daughter would snuggle with my husband at night and often hold his hand while sleeping. Over time, we gradually moved the toddler bed away from our bed, a little at a time (and did install a very low bar just to keep her from rolling off). Over time, she was then sleeping in her own bed, completely independently, a few feet away from our bed.

      We started transitioning her to her own room when she was perhaps 4-years-old, but I found that I wasn't comfortable with her being so far away. Our house has a split floor plan, so I worried that I wouldn't be able to get to her in case of fire, or that she could be sick in the night and we wouldn't hear her. So we built her a bed that fits perfectly in our room. It is not next to our bed, but across from the foot of our bed. She has been sleeping in this bed independently for several years now and it works out wonderfully. She has her own small booklight, so when it is bed time she reads quietly to herself and then turns off her light and sleeps whenever she is ready. I feel comfortable having her in the same room, knowing that she is safe with me nearby. If we did not have a split floor plan, maybe she would be sleeping in her own room. Or maybe not, who knows? I am happy with the arrangement we have now and don't feel any need to change it.

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    2. Thank you for telling me your experience. I think we are going to try putting a toddler bed next to ours as the next step and go from there as he permits. Thank you again. None of my friends co-sleep so it helps to hear stories from someone who has similar views and opinions.

      Without getting too personal, this is one thing I haven't quite figured out... While co-sleeping with your daughter, how were you able to find time to create your son? Did she nap during the day by herself? We're finding it hard to get time to try for our next, since our nights are accompanied by our toddler. Of course there are some times that present themselves during the day, but those aren't quite frequent enough for me to feel like we're "trying" for the next.

      Thank you again!

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    3. You're welcome; I'm happy to share our experiences. My daughter did not wake easily, so we often had middle of the night liaisons on the other side of the bed when trying to conceive our son. I was also using fertility awareness to track my probably ovulation times (by just keeping track of waking body temperature and vaginal mucus), but we also seem to get pregnant very easily. Both times, I was pregnant within the first month of "trying". Besides trying to get pregnant, though, co-sleeping does require us to have a bit of creativity to ensure we can still maintain our intimate relationship. When my daughter was 2, I recall that we would sometimes set her up to watch a 30-minute video on the couch, and then we would go off to our room with the door shut for some time to ourselves. We did this about once a week. With two kids, we have had to try to get more creative. My son is old enough now that we can use the same trick of letting them watch a video (that works especially well for us because we hardly ever let them watch any videos and we don't watch television). When my son was younger, though, we did often find ourselves not being able to seem to find any time alone. The thing that has worked best for us in this regard is having my mom babysit the kids at her house twice a month, and rather than us going on a date, we stay home instead so we can have an uninterrupted opportunity to be intimate together. We both enjoy these times so much more than the times when the kids are home that we often will just wait until the next babysitting event. While I certainly would like us to be able to have more intimate time together, it is definitely a challenge with kids in the house. It definitely has to be made a priority, otherwise it would be too easy to go long stretches without finding any opportunities to be intimate.

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