Lizzi Sofge, seen here with her daughter Camila, is one of a pair of Northern Manhattan moms who have launched a babywearing business.
It’s a familiar sight in New York City. Moms, and sometimes dads, climbing up a long set of stairs in a subway station, carrying both stroller and baby, panting, catching their breath when they get to the top. Occasionally a kind soul will take notice and help, holding the front of the stroller on the way down. Sometimes the parent is out of luck, and must precariously walk down, balancing up to 50 pounds of carrier and baby.
But there is another way. It’s called babywearing. It’s just what it sounds like: literally wearing a baby, close to the body, in a wrap or clothing-like carrier.
Caprice Corona first learned about babywearing two years ago, when she attended a La Leche League meeting. A woman at the meeting was wearing a beautiful red wrap, and to Corona’s surprise, the woman’s baby was climbing in and out of the wrap with ease.
“I told my husband about it and he said ‘let’s get one,’” said Corona.
Corona went online and found a whole community of babywearing advocates at thebabywearer.com.
That was the beginning of what has now turned into a blossoming education and consulting business, and a budding retail company.
Corona started offering babywearing consultation and education two years ago, showing parents and caregivers how to “wear” a baby safely, comfortably, and ergonomically correctly. In the beginning, Corona didn’t sell baby carriers. As an opera singer, she traveled and couldn’t make the commitment to retail.
Corona eventually decided to sell baby carriers, and partnered with co-owner Lizzi Sofge to officially launch The Art of Babywearing on October. Corona said that Sofge has a background in marketing and had ideas about how to market the concept, and the carriers, in the neighborhood. Both Corona and Sofge have children, making the business mom-owned and operated.
The two Northern Manhattan moms are currently developing a catalogue. Selling the carriers and keeping some on hand allows them to bring different types of carriers to the classes they offer, so that parents can try them on. While the business now has a retail component, Corona said the focus is still on education.
So what are the benefits of babywearing?
For starters, babies who are worn or carried closely cry less. Babies spend more time quiet and alert, which is ideal for observing and learning. And all the while, babies are developing greater neck and head control.
As for mothers, having the baby close helps milk to come more easily and makes moms less likely to experience postpartum depression. In addition, carrying the baby this way strengthens the core muscles that may have been weakened by the pregnancy.
And a benefit both moms and dads can enjoy: baby carriers take up less room than strollers in often already cramped Manhattan quarters.
With all of these advantages, one might wonder why parents haven’t been using carriers all along. But indeed, they have.
The trend of babywearing that has developed in the past 10 to 15 years in the U.S. is actually a reincarnation of many cultures’ methods of carrying babies. Corona and Sofge cited the Inuits in Alaska and cultures in Africa, Mexico, and Guatemala among the traditions that use some form of sling or carrier to carry babies. One of the carriers Corona and Sofge offer is based on a Chinese design.
“There are a lot of ways that modern couples have adopted older ways of carrying babies,” said Corona.
According to Corona, not all carriers are created equally. Corona credits the BabyBjörn hard structure carrier with helping to bring back the idea of carriers, however she believes this may be one of the most uncomfortable carriers, for both parent and baby.
Other slings were singled out in a March 2010 government warning for blocking babies’ air passageways, but Corona faults the government for not distinguishing between which types are safe and dangerous. Corona said most carriers have been designed and tested by moms, and that they are not the same items as the ones that prompted the government warning.
Corona’s first rule for parents is that the carrier should not hurt. If it does, it’s not being worn properly. Corona said parents may get a little sweaty, but that it shouldn’t be uncomfortable and there should be no back pain.
“It’s exciting to help people in modern, urban, New York City to do this,” said Corona. “We all live at the top of the A-line. Schlepping a stroller is not fun.”
The Art of Babywearing will hold classes Sat., Nov. 20, 3:30-5pm, at 60 Seaman Ave., Sun., Dec. 12, 1:30-3:30pm, at Bread & Yoga (4951 Broadway, Suite 6), and the third Tuesday of every month at Brazen Lingerie (253 Dyckman St.), 9:30-11am. The class is $20 and registration is requested. Email
or call 646-678-2324 to register.
For more information, visit www.theartofbabywearing.com.