You know how sometimes the simplest things seem to be the most difficult for people to understand?
This is one of them. Before my daughter was born, I decided to wear her; by wear, I mean carry her in a baby carrier meant for the purpose. She is now almost two years and almost 30 pounds and I continue to.
In the nearly 22 months since my daughter’s birth, I have used countless carriers (more about that later) and used them everywhere I go – at home, out visiting, at public events, at fruit orchards, in stores, at wakes and funerals. I’ve gotten some strange looks here and there, and heard plenty of whispered comments ranging from the appreciative to the concerned to the downright dumb. Only rarely has someone actually approached me about it, and even then, it was a reasonable conversation. Luckily, I don’t have any horror stories about babywearing in public.
What I see over and over, and what strikes me as so odd is that people just don’t seem to get it. Isn’t it hard? Does it take a long time to learn to do? Isn’t she heavy? Why not just use a stroller? Can she fall out? Did you invent that? The answers, in order, are not really; no, I watch video tutorials while I’m nursing; it’s no heavier than carrying her in my arms; strollers are bulky and unwieldy; not if I put her in right; no, even when I did make my carrier, I did not invent it.
Note: If you’re unfamiliar with babywearing and getting upset over people “wearing” their babies like accessories, slow your roll, please. “Wear” in this case is just a variation on “carry”, from the original German term. We don’t think we’re putting on our babies like we stack on bangle bracelets.
The short answer to why I babywear is because it works for me.
If you don’t know me, let me start by telling you that I am a hair under 5 feet tall. Carrying a 20+ pound bucket seat in and out of the car was never an option for me. And lugging even the smaller strollers in and out of the trunk was not something I wanted to do. They’re heavy and I’d rather not push a stroller around everywhere. Plus, wait for it…I wanted to hold my baby!
Now, if you prefer the bucket seat or the stroller, good for you. I have no problem with that, it’s just not my thing.
Since becoming a mommy and meeting mommy friends, more and more articles cross my Facebook feed about parenting. Thanks largely to these articles, I know that babywearing can help with colic and reflux and can lower the risk of SIDS. I know that holding baby can help stabilize breathing and heart rate, improve sleep quality for baby and reduce crying (and consider I had a newborn fresh out of NICU, I’ll take all of that, thank you!), plus baby being up and moving helps build neural connections. I know that more and more babies have flat spots on their heads from spending too much time in “containers” – play pens, cribs, car seats, etc. I know that babies who don’t like spending time on their tummy (mine didn’t) can develop the same muscles by being upright in a carrier. So there’s science to back it up.
But that’s not why I decided to babywear. I decided to babywear because it felt right. I wanted to hold my baby and be able to monitor her breathing. I wanted to be hands free, not chained to a stroller or cart, worrying about someone bumping into it or touching my infant’s face with their dirty hands. She was safe, and calm and happy, and it very much worked for me and my husband (who will also occasionally wear the carrier).
Oh, and discreet breastfeeding on the go, safely tucked into a carrier is the best tool in my mommy arsenal.
I asked some friends why they babywear and answers included because it makes mommy and baby happier, convenience (both offering a hands free alternative with a little one, and easily carrying a tired toddler), and necessity. Some babies are more comfortable upright, or just don’t like being in a stroller or car seat.
These brief answers summed up many great reasons to choose babywearing.
To some, babywearing is a lifestyle. And that’s fine. My mother has told me many times that 20-30 years ago, she didn’t call it “babywearing”, but she carried all 3 of her kids in a carrier that had front, back and hip carry options. It was more of a tool and less of an identifier.
For me, it’s mostly convenience. When my daughter was small, it allowed me to keep her close and safe. Now, it’s a way to comfort and calm, and when I need to, confine those rowdy toddler limbs. Little Miss will ask to be carried when she just wants to be close. Mama gets to cook/clean/work, and toddler gets to snuggle up on mommy’s back. It’s beautiful.
These days she mostly sits in the shopping cart when we’re out and about, but I always have a carrier in the car for if she’s sleepy or grouchy or just needs some snuggles. Yes, she’s slightly more than half my height. Snicker if you must, gawk if you have to, but drink it in…maybe take a second to appreciate this content, quiet toddler instead of whispering and shooting me funny looks.
I’ve been asked if I think that continuing to babywear and breastfeed is going to make my daughter too dependent on me. Well here’s science again, letting us know that breastfeeding never loses it’s nutritional benefit for a toddler, and that these “coddled” children not only become independent, they sometimes become even more independent than children who “learn independence” because their secure attachments let them explore with the surety of a solid base of support to return to.
Babywearing made a huge difference for me. When Little Miss was small, it meant I could hold and comfort her while answering emails; it meant I could easily nurse her while walking around a store; it meant I could do things around the house without her losing her mind. I don’t put her in a carrier every day and never have. But when I need it, it’s available and it’s perfect.
There are a lot of carrier options out there from reasonably priced to quite expensive. There are structured styles with buckles like the Tula, Connecta and the ubiquitous Ergo (available in Target and Babies R Us), there are woven wraps which are essentially a long piece of cloth that you learn to tie, there are ring slings which are slightly easier than woven wraps for some, and there are carriers that fall somewhere in the middle like the mei tai and onbuhimo. I’ve tried nearly all of these. The number of carriers I’ve tried is almost embarrassing. Maybe they haven’t all been my favorite, but they’ve all gotten the job done. If you’re interested, give it a shot! Find yourself an ergonomic carrier, read the instructions well and go for it – safe babywearing is good babywearing.
So, not that you asked, but if you’ve seen me in the past 2 years, odds are you’ve seen me with a carrier. So if you were wondering, this is why I babywear.