Never Out of Style
By Heather Murphy
I was a first time mom, home alone, and feeling myself slipping into insanity. I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in quite awhile and my domestic duties were greatly lacking. What was I to do? When my newborn was awake, I felt obligated to engage him (or at least stare at him) each of those waking moments. Suddenly, I remembered the baby Snugli ® we were given as a gift. I strapped that puppy on and hooked my baby in. Voila! I started folding laundry and feeling like a new woman. Thus, the earliest stage of “babywearing” was born in the Murphy family.
Unfortunately, I didn’t spend the time I should have learning how to properly use the carrier and it never felt quite right. I abandoned the idea and depended on swings, bouncy seats, play mats and exersaucers to help me when I needed to get things done. Fortunately, they worked quite well.
When Murphy #2 was on the way, my mom gave me a baby sling. Sling? I’d never seen such a contraption. This one came with an instructional DVD and although the pictures in the booklet seemed straight out of 1987, I was intrigued. We had a big black lab and a busy two year old. I wasn’t sure the ground-level equipment was the safest place for our new little one. The thought of having two free hands and carrying the newborn with me while I was chasing my toddler seemed revolutionary. I found life much easier and motherhood more enjoyable when I could comfortably wear Clara and accomplish my other tasks. My sling started coming with us everywhere.
As I began to wear Clara more often, people would approach me out in public and ask questions about my sling. I also talked with other sling mamas and found out that babywearing is actually a part of a philosophy called attachment parenting, made popular by Dr. Sears. I had never really aligned myself with a particular parenting philosophy – we pick and choose in the Murphy house. However, when I read more about attachment parenting I realized we instinctively incorporated parts of this style into our life.
I now use a “ring sling”; I much prefer it to the carrier packs. It can be worn in several different positions and used from birth to 25+ pounds. Once I got used to my practical Dr. Sears sling, I traded in for a very fashionable ring sling I found on www.etsy.com (just search “ring sling” for a bazillion options; you’ll also be supporting handmade). I absolutely love it!
Babywearing is quite a cultural norm in many countries. Lately, I’ve seen it as a “trend” catching on in the U.S. Many believe a baby’s gestational period is approximately 18 months – 9 in the womb and the first 9 months of life (or until the baby starts “creeping” independently). There have been many studies conducted that show great benefits to babywearing. Babywearing allows the close attachment after birth to continue; fostering the natural, biological attachment-promoting behaviors of the infant and the intuitive, biological, caregiving qualities of the mother to come together. Babies are happy, healthy, and well bonded when able to spend a great deal of time with their caregiver. They are also involved and incorporated into all aspects of the family life.
While there is a clear definition of what babywearing is and how is plays into a particular parenting philosphy, I believe anyone can use (and benefit from) babywearing regardless of lifestyle. In our family, we don’t subscribe to full time babywearing as outlined in some of the resources below. I do, however, wear my babies almost exclusively when we’re out. It frees up my hands and I don’t have the bulk of a stroller. I can roll it up and stick it in my diaper bag. I wear my babies at home when they are fussy, needy, or just wanting a little company. I still use our swing, playmat and exersaucer, too. However, I found that using the sling at home allows me to attend to my infant without compromising my duties as a mom and wife. My children love being in the sling, too. I used my sling with Clara (#2) until she was two years old. And Seamus (#3) would find the sling and crawl over with it in his hands when he wanted up. Now that I’m expecting #4, I imagine this little guy will also spend a great deal of time snuggled up with a front row view of the action.
If you choose to implement any or all aspects of babywearing in your family, there are so many choices for type of carrier. Be sure to read up on baby carrier safety and choose what works best for you. Now, go strap on your baby…something that will never go out of style!
- The Importance of the In-Arms Phase, Jean Liedloff:
- What Babywearing Means: Our Story, Dr. Sears
- Benefits of Babywearing, TheBabywearer.com
- Babywearing International
- Etsy – handmade and vintage items from around the world