In August 2014, the Yahoo Contributor Network was shut down. All the copyrights to articles thereon were returned to their authors, so I decided to publish certain articles of mine, originally written for Yahoo UK on my own blogs. This is one of them.
Yesterday, as I strolled down the high street, a woman approaching in the opposite direction threw her arms up in delight and cooed "oooh how cute". At first I thought this was a slightly bizarre complement directed at me, but then I remembered - as usual, I was wearing my baby.
Babywearing is the slightly odd label given to the practice of carrying your baby about your person, in a carrier such as a sling or wrap. Most people expect to see people in traditional, tribal cultures babywearing, but the practice is still regarded as a curiosity in Western society, despite a recent surge in the popularity of this and other "Attachment Parenting" methods.
Babywearing is reputed to have a number of benefits for baby and parent. Worn babies are said to be calmer, less colicky and more sociable. Studies have shown that close contact with mother helps a baby to regulate their temperature, breathing and heart rate, while the constant movement helps them develop balance and strength. None of this was responsible for my choice to babywear, as with most of my parenting choices, I do it because it is the option that is easiest and most pleasant for my children and I.
I have been "a babywearer" for almost three years now. I carried my eldest in a stretchy wrap from birth. After an emergency caesarean, I had difficulty getting him in and out of his pram, let alone pushing it; but with my baby wrapped snugly upon my chest I could carry him and barely feel the weight. People often asked if he was heavy to carry, but in reality he was easier to carry like this than when he was in my belly!
I have never had a problem with the weight of my children when I carry them, as they have grown I have grown stronger to accommodate them. I was still wearing my 15kg 2 year old at 38 weeks pregnant.
Carrying my babies when out and about has been remarkably liberating. Before having a baby, few able-bodied people consider how many steps, heavy doors and narrow pavements they encounter on a daily basis. With a baby in a pushchair, especially a larger pram or travel system, these become a serious obstacle, along with buses, small shops with close-set displays and soft ground. With my baby in a carrier I was free to go for a walk on the beach, to use the escalators in shopping centres rather than hunting down the lift (inevitably in the furthest corner) and navigate crowded streets with ease.
My babies have both loved being worn. Comforted by the movement and sounds of my body, made so familiar before their birth, but able to observe their new world from a safe vantage point. Both my boys have enjoyed smiling and chatting with the dozens of people who inevitably wish to engage with them on our travels, and both learned the trick of diving nose-first into my cleavage when the cheek-pinching became too much for them. I have spoken to a lot of parents who go to all kinds of lengths to get their babies to sleep, even going on unnecessary car journeys. My babies have always fallen asleep in the sling, all it takes is a short walk, or just pottering around the house, and they are happily snoozing.
With my baby firmly secured to my body, I retain the use of both hands. I can carry shopping, do housework, cook and eat with my baby safely snoozing or calmly watching me. Just last week my nine-month-old was having a "clingy" day as his next tooth chose to come through when I needed to prepare the house for a weekend of guests. For many mums this would have meant forsaking some chores, or leaving their baby without comfort. For a babywearing mum this isn't a problem. I grabbed the nearest wrap and wrapped him onto my back, where he snuggled and slept, leaving my hands free to make beds and prepare food.
I can feed in the sling too, baby hungry halfway around the supermarket? No problem, latch on in the sling, and carry on!
It's not just me that carries our babies. My husband was converted to babywearing as soon as he realised our black wrap made him look like a Samurai. Our children love his movement, warmth and the deep vibrations of his voice; I can leave the baby with him, or have some precious time alone at home while he goes out for a walk.
I don't just love babywearing, I can honestly say I don't know how I would parent without it.