Happy International Babywearing week! What's that you say? You've never heard of it? Well allow me to enlighten you dear reader. Every October Babywearing International, a non-profit organisation established to promote the benefits of babywearing, hold a week of celebrations. If you'd like to take part then take a look at their website where you can find out how to take part (today is 'workout Wednesday' - hopefully walking the dogs with my toddler on my back counts...)
I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about how important babywearing has been to me in the nearly eighteen months since I became a mother. I got into it in probably the same way 99% of folk do - it was really convenient, (and by the by, convenience is one of the major benefits of babywearing), and I had given birth to a child who, without fail, would scream bloody murder at 6.15pm every evening. My sister-in-law had lent me a high street carrier, and it turned out popping the boy into it and going for a walk was the only, and I mean the only, thing that would settle him. I soon progressed to a stretchy wrap, and when the boy began to get too heavy for that on I went (after some advice from a fellow wrap-addict) into the world of woven wraps. And that was it, hook, line, and sinker. I was a goner.
I cannot stress how much easier life with a young child is when you have both hands free. I've shopped, cleaned, cooked, dog-walked, and DIY-ed whilst babywearing. It means my love of long-walks has continued through the early days of parenting, although now the boy can walk those long walks have turned into long walks. There's also the feeling of comfort and support it brings to both me and the boy, for there is really nothing more lovely than having your wee one close to you. There is evidence to suggest that babies in slings cry less, and learn more from the world around them because they spend more time in a state of quiet alertness. Being carried allows babies to 'passively participate' in the world, rather than become overwelmed by it, and this is also true of older children. Toddlers, as we've probably all witnessed, have a tendency to become overstimulated. The sling provides a calming space for them, providing them with comfort and support in a sometimes scary world. And of course the fact the boy loves being up on my back, loves the snuggles, and runs happily towards my wrap whenever he sees it is another major plus. Now I like my buggy too, but he certainly doesn't get excited when he see's it.
Below are the 'TICKS' guidelines. If you're interested in getting into babywearing then it is imperative you follow them. We've all read horror stories in the press, but as with anything baby-related, if you follow the guidelines and use slings correctly then there is really no need to worry. If you do have any concerns, look to see if there is a sling-meet close to you where a trained baby-wearing consultant can check your positioning and provide reassurance (and heck, us parents often need a ton of that). Sling meets are also a great way to try out lots of different carriers ( and there are a lot of them - wraps, ring slings, mei tai's, buckle carriers, to name but a few), and find what works for you.
I think I've had pretty much every possible babywearing critisicm levelled at me. 'It's dangerous' - no, if you're following the above guidelines, it is extremely safe. 'You're teaching your baby to be clingy' - tell that to my super independent toddler! 'Your baby will walk late' - nope, he walked at 14 months. 'You're creating a rod for your back' - well, if I am there's no sign of it yet. My back is just fine, thanks.
It's not all fun and games. I use woven wraps and getting the hang of the different carries can be tricky (youtube is your friend. Check out 'Wrap you in love'), and there will be a stage where you're simultaneously trying to fling baby onto your back, pause youtube whilst drenched in sweat, and it will so not feel worth it. But the joy of having your child so close (and let's face it, this bit doesn't last for long), the pleasure of exploring all of the lovely carriers out there, and the friends I've met through the babywearing community make it absolutely worthwhile. I'm never going to be the best babywearer, but I'm so glad I discovered this wonderful world.