Maya Baby Carriers: A How To

WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CARY AN INFANT OR CHILD BASED ON THESE DIRECTIONS.

So, this post is for theoretical use only. Please do not try this at home with real children.

I posted earlier on my fascination with woven baby carriers, or cargadores de bebes, used by the modern Maya and wanted to post a step by step post on how to fold the baby carriers.

I am no expert and at this point would NOT carry any child in a baby carrier that I folded. I learned how to fold them in Guatemala, but by no means am an expert.

And That’s A Post specifically states that you should not mistake this post for training on how to fold a cargador de bebé for real use. Please, get trained by an expert if you ever intend to use this method to transport a child. DO NOT jeopardize the safety and well-being of any child by placing them in a baby carrier based on this post. If not used correctly, an infant or young child could potentially fall out or suffocate in a misused carrier.

Now, most woven textiles in Guatemala used for carrying babies are two long textiles woven on a back-strap loom. Both textiles are stitched together along a side to form a large square textile. The textile is opened into a square and then one corner is taken diagonally across the cloth to meet is opposite corner–forming a large triangle.

The baby is placed in the center of the triangle with its head facing out on the hypotenuse. The two ends to each side of the baby are then pulled to meet over the baby. They are tied in a square knot.

Right over left and left over right.

The knot is then pulled tight.

Now, the right angle part of the triangle, is pulled up and folded over the baby’s feet. This secures the baby in the blanket.

Lift the sling up supporting the baby with one arm. Slide your left arm through the sling. This will enable your right arm to be free for other tasks while you are carrying the baby. Place the knot over your right shoulder. This is for carrying the baby in front. This is particularly useful for breast feeding or holding the baby while sitting down.

If you would like to carry the baby on your back, de la espalda, then grab the knot with one hand and place your other arm under the baby. While rotating the knot forward over your breast, rotate the baby backward over your back.

You may then want to untie your earlier knot and pull the baby tight against your back. Then retie your knot very securely.

Right over left, and left over right. Tighten securely.

And here you have it. My happy, secure baby. Or, well pillow.

WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CARY AN INFANT OR CHILD BASED ON THESE DIRECTIONS.

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I’ve Got the Carrier, Bring on the Babies

So, while I was studying Kaqchikel Maya, a couple of years ago in Guatemala, I was amazed and attracted to the traditional way Maya women carried their babies around. I was hooked. Hooked on the variation in textile and hooked on the simplicity of the practice.

I had previously decided that before I had kids, I needed to find better alternatives to the awkward American practice of transporting a baby to the side in a heavy plastic car seat like trying to carry a five gallon bucket of water. I longed for something simpler and more intimate. Something less consumeristic and something more aesthetic. I found that something in Guatemala, in the ye old Maya practice.

In Guatemala they call these things cargadores de bebes which literally means carriers of babies and sounds pretty cool in Spanish. I think they haven’t quite caught on in the English speaking world for lack of a catchy name.  Baby carrier, baby sling, baby wrap all fall a little short.

The things themselves, however, I could see really catching on with Gen Y as we’ve experienced excessive consumerism  and  are looking for alternatives. A number of those alternatives seem to lie in the simpler ways things were done in the past, ways we are now rediscovering and re-embracing. Here’s my contribution. A simple way to hold your baby close, take him or her everywhere, and avoid the bulk of lugging around strollers or the plastic car seat out of the car.

26 and a Patron of the Arts

So I love beauty. Have a pretty keen aesthetic sense. A lot offends me, beauty excites me. I used to think everyone felt this, but I learned that the golden mean and such are not on everyone’s radar. Appreciating beauty made me a patron of the arts a couple summers ago when I was introduced to the Maya artist Nicolas Reanda. I was surprised and hooked by his feminist perspective and contemporary feel. 

I applied for a received a scholarship to study the Kaqchikel Maya language in Antigua, Guatemala for six weeks. I’m painfully curious about the Maya. From the ancient civilization to the modern. I want to know how they understood the universe, developed the most accurate calendar, calculated astrological events millions of years into the past and the future, and how they built their civilizations in seemingly inhospitable environments.

Over the course of the summer I ended up making a couple Tz’utujil (tZOO-two-hill) maya friends. The Tz’utujil are known for fishing, running the boats, and farming the volcanic hillsides surrounding Lake Atitilan.  One friend in Antigua took me to visit his family back in Santiago Atitlan where I met Reanda. Though his realistic portraits of weathered Maya faces added him to the Lourve, his contemporary work seems to challenge the notion of Latin machismo. To me his work elevates women and humankind’s connection the natural word. To me his work is refreshing and rejuvenating.