Hey, I just found out that its International Baby Wearing Week! So I thought I would tell you about my experiences wearing my baby.
I have worn both of my sons from the time they were a week or two old. Andrew, my oldest, was a very fussy baby. He has always been slow to adapt to new situations, and this was extra true of his early life. He was not happy to be out of the womb, and had no problems at all letting everyone know this fact with his powerful, banshee-like scream. He wanted to be with me, see what I was doing and be involved in my world from the beginning. He would only sleep in my arms or on my tummy, settle and relax when he was in physical contact with me or my husband, and he hated to be anywhere away from home. I learned early on in our relationship that if I wanted to do anything but sit in a rocking chair all day or be screamed at, I would have to find a way to stay in constant physical contact with him while still moving around the house.
So, I became the ultimate baby wearer. I wore my son to the grocery store. I wore my son at church.I wore my son around the house. I wore my son to playgroup and on walks and to the mall. I wore him to comfort him when we were away from home. I wore him to soothe him when he got to the end of the day and couldn't handle the big, bright, noisy world any longer. I wore him to help him go back to sleep in the middle of the night when his tummy was full and he was still fussy. I tried all different kinds of carriers, and had different favorites for different situations. I learned that for us, babywearing worked for almost every situation.
My second son, Aaron, was a much more relaxed, adaptable child. But since I had a two and a half year old and it was the middle of winter when he was born, he spent a lot of time in the sling or, by his preference, the mei tai. He got to watch his brother play and watch his mommy sew and cook and clean and he got to snuggle with Dad in the evenings while Mom had a shower, all from the comfort of his favorite snuggly fabric homes. In many, many circumstances, babywearing allowed me to meet the needs of both of my young children very effectively. Andrew could get the attention and action he craved, and Aaron could get the nursing and snuggling he needed to thrive as an infant. As Aaron grew, he would happily stay in the sling for part of the day, and then fuss to get out. I would lay him on a blanket or bouncy chair on the floor where he could satisfy his greater need for play and movement and watching his brother.
This is me, just over two years ago, wearing my second son, Aaron:
And this is my husband Dave, wearing Aaron when he was about a month old. Dave used to wear Aaron at night, after Andrew had gone to bed, so I could have a shower and some time seperate from my newborn.
Because I live in a smaller community, I used to be known as the babywearing lady. I was the only one in town who wore her baby all the time, and out in public. But I have noticed more and more women using slings over the five years I have lived and parented here, and I think it is a great thing. Here's a few reasons why:
- Easy attachment: most early childhood experts these days agree that a child's attachment to parents or other care givers in the first year or two of life is essential to their later emotional health and ability to relate to others. Essentially what this means is that as we as parents learn to listen to and respond to our child's needs, we teach our children that the world is a safe place, that they are loved and valued and that when they communicate, someone listens. Later on, children who have strong early attachments tend to be more resilient. When our babies are right there with us, they feel safe and secure. They can easily communicate when they are hungry or uncomfortable, and we are more able to respond to their early, non-screaming cues because they are so close at hand. There are lots of responsive parents who do not wear their children, but in my experience it can make it easier to respond to your child's needs.
- Free hands: when you have a baby or small child, you will end up carrying them a lot. Children like to be close to their parents. We provide them with a sense of security and safety as they enter the wide, confusing world. A sling or wrap allows you to carry them while pushing a grocery cart, getting coffee, making supper or chasing your older children.
- Instant entertainment: our culture is really into stimulating and entertaining our children from the time they are infants. I believe one of the best ways to stimulate your child is to wear them in a sling. From about 3 or 4 months on, my boys loved to be carried forward facing so that they could see everything I was doing. What could be more exciting than a cupboard full of packages or a shiny sink of bubbly soap and dishes? How much more interesting would it be to see people's faces instead of their knees when they are visiting with your mom? Real people and objects are fascinating to babies. So let them get up close.
- Discreet breastfeeding: once you get the hang of it, it is easy to discreetly nurse your baby or small child in a ring sling. Not only is is discreet, but you can steady the baby's head with one hand and continue shopping, vacuming or watching your older child play at the park. I have often had people not even realize I was nursing while babywearing. I find this is most effective in the early months. Both my boys liked to have their heads out of the sling to nurse after about 5 or 6 months.
- Travelling simplified: both Kris and I have traveled internationally using slings. When you want to check out that cool shopping district in another city, or eat lunch in that pub even though you know your child is going to be hungry soon, or get on the bus and head out to that attraction without having to lug a stroller on board, or take your child with you as you wander through a ruined castle or abbey that is on uneven, unkept ground at the side of the road, a sling or wrap is your best friend. In your own town or city it means no more lugging around a 20 lb car seat through the mall, or manouvering an unwieldy stroller up the elevator.
- Lazy person friendly: Honestly, I am pretty lazy. I try to do things the easiest way possible that is still virtuous. For me, babywearing is one way I can promote attachment with my child, keep them entertained, get things done and go where I want when I want to. Sounds pretty clever to me. How about you?
If you have worn your baby, what have you enjoyed the most about it?