Tuesday, October 11, 2011

So, what is babywearing anyway?

So, what is babywearing? Babywearing is an art, a bonding experience, a comfort, a convenience, a third arm.  Babywearing can give you your hands free, it can comfort a baby, and it can make navigating a crowd easier.  A baby carrier can go where a stroller can't.  It can allow you to do things even when baby is sick or cranky.  For an actual definition, the many benefits, and more, you can refer to Babywearing International.  Or you can check out the book, Babywearing by Maria Blois, it was even available at my local library.  Yes, there are actually so many benefits, choices, and historical information, it can fill up a (rather interesting) book.
I am not going to answer all that the book does, not the generic "what is babywearing?" question. I am going to answer the question "what is babywearing to me?".  I actually "heard" about baby slings in 1996.  That was long before they were as common as they are now (which still isn't "common"). In 1996 there was internet but if there was Wikipedia or Google, I hadn't heard about them yet. I don't know the history of The Babywearer but I know I had not heard of it in 1996.  As luck would have it, I had a Lamaze teacher that had heard of baby slings. I am not sure I got anything else out of Lamaze (but that's another post). But I clearly remember her talking about overstimulation in newborns (something I still don't hear many people mention but is a great thing to know about). She recommended a baby sling to block out stimulation and keep them close to your heart, thus preventing overstimulating sights, lights, sounds, motion, etc.

In 1996 there were not a lot of choices. Nojo, Over the Shoulder Baby Holder, and Maya Wrap were the most well known. The Baby Bjorn was becoming popular and so many Snuglis were available. With the popularIty of front carriers I thought they must be great. They certainly looked like they'd last longer than a "sling". Then we found a Fisher Price version. It came with a weather cover (not needed in our climate) that could double as a "sling" attachment.  This sounded like the best of both worls and we got it. We didn't use
it for long because it really wasn't as great as it seemed.

3 years later, while pregnant with #2 I found information on baby slings on the internet. They seemed a lot more versatile than I thought. We managed to get a hand me down Over The Shoulder Baby Holder from my sister. My reflux baby then lived in it. As the padding of it started to get restraining I coveted the Maya Wrap.  I dusted off my sewing machine and figured out a way to make an unpadded sling. She lived in it until she was 3. I do not know how we would have managed a reflux baby without our sling. I do know that my oldest wouldn't have been able to do half the activities we did.

5 years later I had found other lovers of babywearing. I had also found The Babywearer. I also received a knit wrap in a swap.  I made a mei tai from the frankencozy pattern. I still loved the ring sling for the ease of use and the ability to quickly put baby in and out or switch her to nurse. For long trips to the grocery store the knit wrap was great. I didn't fall in love with the mei tai.

Over the next 6 years a few more kids were born. When you have a toddler and newborn, the sling becomes the 3rd arm God didn't give you when you gave birth. When you have a preschooler, toddler and newborn, the sling becomes the only way you can avoid a monstrous triple stroller. When you have 4 kids aged 5 and under, your carriers become part of your wardrobe. Like a shirt, it is something you put on every day.  Actually, when I had a newborn in a growth spurt, nursing every hour, I am pretty sure there were days I just skipped ashirt (but not the carrier).

In those 6 years, I found the Ergo. The Ergo was and is indispensable. It allowed me to be able to quickly toss a baby (or toddler) onto my back. With them on my back my front was free to wrangle a toddler, unfold a double stroller, grocery shop, kiss a boo boo, cook dinner with baby well away from anything hot or sharp, and so much more. I have done the zoo, hikes, Bowling for Autism, rooted for my sons football team, helped a daughter practice soccer, the Heart Walk, countless open houses, shopping for communion and confirmation dresses, helped serve pizza at school parties, gone apple picking, etc, all with baby tucked safely and happily on my back.

I have since tried wraps, podegis, onbuhimos, mei tai and countless other brands of structured carriers. Some I've liked, some I've loved, many have moved onto new homes. I still own an Ergo, I can't live without one. Of course I also have about a dozen other carriers.  That is a lot to some, a meager "stash" to others. When you have 2 kids that still ride (at least sometimes), 2 eager kids old enough to also wear a child on their back, 2 vans, and a 2 story house you really need one strategically placed EVERYWHERE. A lot of the time two of them are in, or waiting for, the washer.  Then 1 or 2 were left in the van hubby took to work. 

Yes, I typically keep 2 in a vehicle. I know that sounds extreme. I have become so accustomed to using one, and thus having 2 usable arms, that not having one is like missing an arm. I have, too many times, gotten out at Walmart and realized I have no carrier with me. I used to keep only 1 in a car, so when it went in to be washed I had nothing. I have been 4 hours from home and had a child get motion sick on the only carrier I brought. That left me with a fussy baby who wouldn't sit in the stroller and a child to chase, through the aquarium. 30 minutes from home I was caught without one after dropping hubby and the older kids off at the movies. With only a single stroller with me, along with a 5 month old and a 2 year old (without shoes), my only saving grace was my babywearing knowledge and a nearby fabric store. So yes, I keep 2 carriers in each car.

Many times I take my carriers for granted. Other times I wonder what I ever did without them. Walking through Walmart or the mall, I am usually reminded what I would do. In 1 cart there is a screaming baby in the carseat that so badly just needs to be cuddled. Another cart is being dragged along by a mom juggling baby in the other hand. At the mall, countless moms try to push their travel systems while holding the fussy baby.  Other moms push the travel system while ignoring the screaming baby (read the links I posted to find out how unhealthy that is for baby).  I so badly wish I could win the lottery. I would love to keep spare baby slings with me to pass out to these moms in need.

I know I talk like the sling is the only thing a mom needs.  I can tell you that it does not fold the laundry, wash the dishes, run your errands, or let you use the bathroom alone.  It does let you fold the laundry while nursing a baby.  Or wash the dishes with both hands while still comforting the cranky baby.  It calms a toddler tantrum so you can finish your grocery shopping.  It even lets you use the bathroom without leaving the sick baby screaming or waiting until your bladder explodes.  OK, yes that does mean wearing the baby while you go.  But, after giving birth, you don't have much that hasn't been displayed anyway.

Since my older kids are well past the carrying stage I can confidently say that carrying your baby whenever they (or you) want will not "spoil" them. They will not ask you to carry them to 5th grade. They will not even let you walk them to 8th grade. Some days in high school you'll be happy to drive them to school, then you at least get a few minutes with them to talk. Go ahead and hold that baby. Sit down on the sofa and do nothing but cuddle. Do not worry about putting down the baby that fell asleep in your arms. Memorize that image, every stray curl, that soft fluffy hair, that sweet baby smell, those tiny fingernails, and that adorable way they smile in their sleep

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