I think some folk tend to think of ‘babywearing‘ as being associated with a stereotype – perhaps an earth mother, co-sleeper, long term breast feeder, wearer of floaty clothes and tye dye. That kind of grates, because I don’t really agree with popping anyone in a box with a label because of any given parenting style or choice.
All I know is, I loved my short episode of carrying my baby around in a woven wrap for nne monthsmonths or so, when it suited me, and I have nothing but good things to say about my experience.
I had a pre-stitched slip on sling with our first baby, and whilst navigating more pressing matters like eating, sleeping and keeping a baby alive, I think I may have used it twice. Once she loved it, once she hated it, and so it resided in a cupboard building dust until the day I sold it on eBay.
A few years on pregnant with my second, and somewhat more seasoned on the Mum Circuit, I had eyed up some babywearing skills and felt somewhat bummed out that I’d fallen at the first hurdle – in fact, the whole process of putting a baby in a carrier had left me feeling hot and sweaty, and far from the zen mother image I had longed to achieve.
But this time I was feeling a little more determined. I’d had other Mums swear blind that a baby carrier was a godsend when chasing the eldest toddler around soft play, and couldn’t get enough recommendations for baby bjorns, closer caboos (like my previously eBayed one) and other more steel plated Dad friendly hiking contraptions.
And so I googled. I read about wraps as well as all of the above, and I fell in love with the idea of wrapping a tiny baby up in a beautiful linen fabric like an African tribe woman. I watched you tube videos, I searched eBay, I got frustrated at the lack of access to babywearing exclusive groups online, and I basically window shopped and deliberated with little conclusion. Those wraps aint cheap and I couldn’t help wonder if it’d be another flop.
Baby number two had well and truly arrived, and I got chatting to a proper lovely Mum at a play gym, who had one baby swaddled up in an incredible wrap, and a toddler hauled on her back. It was impressive stuff and an easy conversation starter. I told her about my dream to master the technique if it weren’t for my beginners reluctance, and she without hesitation gave me her warm baby drooled wrap, and her gorgeous squishy baby, and showed me exactly how it was done.
In that moment I knew I could do this. I memorised the technique she’d shown me; find middle, wrap around tummy, under and crossover back, over shoulders, under baby’s bum and between legs, tie. It just stuck.
She gave took my e mail address and fired me that very day a load of fab babywearing info, the TICKS rules (which she’d also emphasised during the demo), and some recommended wrap brands and retailers.
That evening I got decisive. I ordered my very own chocolate brown Hoppediz wrap, covered in gold dandelions. It cost just under a hundred quid and I was pretty nervous that I’d just blown a ton on a tablecloth. Reassured by all the forums telling me these things have an amazing resale value, I’d only gone and done it.
When it arrived, it just looked like waaay too much fabric, but, we remembered our tutorial and it actually did what it was supposed to do. Baby loved it, I loved it, Daddy loved it and many passers by always stopped to tell us how much they loved it too.
Three years later, and I can tell you that wrap will never be sold. It may never wrap another baby, but it will always be one of my most treasured baby mementos.
We didn’t babywear for an extended period – once the Mouse was mobile she wasn’t happy being constrained, and although it was never to do with her weight or size, she just grew out of it at about a year or so. We didn’t use it extensively – I never fed her in it, I only very rarely used it in the home (when really desperate) and it wasn’t my ‘go to’ comforter for her. But I’m still an advocate of babywearing all the same, just for the simple fact it was practical, it was fun and it was lovely.
That wrap not only helped me out massively at toddler groups, and parks, and busy places where the pushchair wouldn’t go; it was a blanket, a picnic rug, a camp, a snot rag, a breastfeeding shawl, a muslin, a towel, a changing mat, a makeshift jumper. It was so many things to me and the girls that it’s never going anywhere. Perhaps one day I’ll teach my own girls how to use it, or carry my grandchildren in it.
The Mouse occasionally likes to squeal for me to pop her in it now, just for fun – but at almost three the novelty wears off after as many seconds.
I guess my point is, that whatever your reason, anyone can master babywearing. There is a lovely community of folk who rave about it for all the right reasons, and whether you choose to take it to extremes of extended babywearing, or just as an alternative to the pushchair on the odd occasion, the freedom and closeness is something I’d encourage any Mum to give a go. I guess for me was the fact it was now or never – last chance saloon – and I’ll never forget the kindness of that stranger who helped me make the leap from imaginary babywearer to proper babywearer, in skinnies and converse.
Happy International Babywearing Week