How Baby Wearing has Benefited this Mama

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Welcome to the June 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Babywearing

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children.

How Baby Wearing has Benefited this Mama

 

Baby Wearing Benefits Mama
Baby Wearing has Benefited this Mama

 

I knew years before I ever became a mother that I would wear my someday-baby. For many years my work has included the jobs of midwife, doula, postpartum doula and nanny. In these caregiving roles, I have done my fair share of pushing babies and young children around in strollers. Once in a while, though, I was given the pleasure of wearing someone else’s infant in a baby carrier while we went for a walk. I loved having a baby all snuggled up against my heart. It felt perfect because it seemed that I could give a baby the most when he or she was close enough for me to read her rhythms. Almost immediately, I could detect discomfort or fear, plant a kiss of comfort on top of her head and pat her small back, instantly soothing young, uncertain nerves. It seemed to me that when I wore a child on my body, I at once transformed to become the most nurturing I could be.

 

Happy in the Baby Carrier His Favorite Place to Be
His Favorite Place to Be

 

In the early 90s when I lived through my first wave of girlfriends becoming mothers, I felt a sensation of “rightness” whenever I was in the company of one these friends wearing her baby. Not long after, when I read “The Continuum Concept” by Jean Liedloff, I found a language and a story to apply to my instinctive feelings. Terms like the “in-arms stage” rang loudly. I was inspired by the concept of an unbroken continuum of a baby moving from being in the womb to being held close all the time, until the baby was ready to crawl around and away on his own. It made so much sense to me to continue, without conditions, to offer the loving oasis of  an adult body for the baby or young child to return to whenever he decided he had had enough of independence. This way of being close with a child sang to my heart. Therefore, when I became pregnant, I made the decision to forgo the stroller altogether. My son traveled everywhere, across countries, across continents, overseas, and around the home, on my husband or me, cozy in his carrier. Just before my son turned two, we did buy a six dollar stroller from a thrift store in preparation for a visit from my mother-in-law. In the following months, we used the stroller several times, but usually just to carry the diaper bag while our son walked on his own. These days, my son usually rides his tricycle wherever we go by foot.

 

My Husband Wears our Son on a Hike in the Irish Countryside Hiking while Baby Wearing
My Husband Wears our Son on a Hike in the Irish Countryside

 

When I made the decision for my husband and I that we would exclusively baby wear, I did it for the well-being of my baby. Yes, I thought it would bring my baby and I closer, and obviously that would be as important to me as it was to my baby, but other than that I was entirely oblivious to all the benefits baby wearing would bring me. There turned out to be so many great advantages to baby wearing!

 

Baby Wearing and Waiting for our Train to Baby and Me Yoga
Waiting for our Train to Yoga Class in LA’s China Town

 

I really did not expect that I would be in better physical shape after having a baby than I was before I became pregnant. I was already pretty active. I rode my bicycle around Los Angeles until my sixth month of pregnancy and I did yoga, mat pilates, and classical stretch regularly. I also love to go for long walks; there is nothing that clears my mind better. I felt like I was fit. However, baby wearing took me to a whole new level of fitness. Baby wearing strengthened my core muscles and gave me thighs that were stronger, even, than when I played in a women’s soccer league in Vancouver. It was a welcome relief to go to a class and not have to experience the same burn that I always had in the past. The greater level of strength I gained has definitely given me the advantage I needed to keep up with my two year-old son who, like other children his age, has boundless energy. This physical strength has also been good for my confidence. This is a real benefit to me as a mother because it seems that confidence in one area always overflows into others.

 

Snowshoeing with my Husband and Son in January in Saint-Angele, Quebec
Snowshoeing with my Husband and Toddler in January – Ste-Angele, Quebec

 

Since I love to walk so much, baby wearing played an essential role in keeping me centered and present during the first 21 months of my son’s life. Through these months, my son never wanted to be far from a warm body or to take a nap. I still needed some “me” time, though. The way I managed to fit in time for myself was by taking a Baby and Me Yoga and Pilates class that never failed to relax and refocus me. Walking was my other refuge. The more inspiring the location was, the more grounding the influence of a gentle hike would be on me. Baby wearing allowed me to venture further than the sidewalk. In the months I spent in Vancouver, sticking to pavement was easily uplifting because I could take a walk along the seawall, a fantastic boardwalk that wraps around the coastline of Vancouver. My Los Angeles neighborhood, however, was not so fulfilling. After all, LA is a driver’s city. To get any distance at all from home, I had to either pass over or under the I-5. I tended to avoid this walk as much as possible. Instead, I have loved hiking in Griffith Park up to the Observatory, and then stopping in at Trails Café, on the way back down, for a vegetarian lunch. My son and I have hiked there many times on our own and at other times with friends.

 

Hiking and baby wearing at Griffith Park in Los Angeles
Sharing a Hike with another Baby Wearing Mama at Griffith Park in Los Angeles

 

We spent the first summer of my son’s life in Ireland. I adored walking around a town that so strongly contrasts with anything I have experienced in North America. Even now, I often find myself strolling through Sligo in my nighttime dreams. With such a spectacular, green countryside beckoning, however, I had no desire to stay on paved streets where a stroller could easily roll. Instead, I felt drawn to the indescribably gorgeous outskirts of Sligo town. Thank goodness for the baby carriers we had with us!

Walks in Ireland involved one breathtaking view after another. On the Island of Inishmore, my husband and I decided to reach our Bed and Breakfast by foot. Most people rent bikes or take a cab but neither was a suitable option for us. We took the slow way up the road. We learned that slow is the ideal way to travel across this island, old with history and bursting at the seams with ancient sites. By the time we reached our destination we were entirely enchanted and knew that one night on this island would by no means suffice. We instantly booked another night. If there would have been accommodations, we would have stayed two extra nights! While on the Aran island, we hiked to ancient forts and religious sites that we could never have managed to get to even with an off-road stroller. Again, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for our baby carrier.

 

Baby Wearing and Nursing my Son Comfortably in an Ancient Room of the Iron Age Dun Eoghanachta on Inishmore
Nursing my Son in an Ancient Room of the Iron Age Dun Eoghanachta on Inishmore

 

I also took many enlightening and bonding hikes with a good friend I met at a Sligo La Leche League meeting. Together, with our babies strapped onto us, we visited more ancient sites, tucked away landmarks and the seaside. I cannot say enough about the magnificence of the Irish countryside. My friend and I both love to be active and to explore. Nursing on the go is another great benefit to baby wearing. At any given time, one of us might have been nursing our baby. It was a blessing that we could keep on moving while we did so.

 

Baby Wearing at Lislary Ireland, popular spot for surfing in Ireland
My Good Friend Wears her Adorable Baby on the Coast of Lislary, a Favorite Surfing Spot of Irish Locals

 

My husband and I visited Dublin together, again with our baby son in his carrier, and we were very taken by the city. We had a wonderful time, absorbing all the rich history both on our own and on guided walking tours. We also loved the abundance of delicious food and I became smitten with Irish Breakfast tea. If you have made it only to the capital city, however, you have not experienced what Ireland so freely gives. I could never have experienced the easily accessible history of the island, as the mother of a young infant, if I was not baby wearing.

 

Baby Wearing on a Tour Bus in Galway
We All went on an 8-Hour Bus Tour together in County Galway. I’m Sure the other Tourists were Terrified to See us Baord the Bus. However, Happy in his Carrier, our Son was No Noisier than any other Passenger!

 

The lifestyle my family led for the first two years of my son’s life was adventurous and exciting, but it also meant lots of train, bus and air travel. This was the downside and I cannot imagine having had to do it without our supply of baby carriers. A stroller would have meant being even more loaded down-we had enough luggage as it was! However, the difference in the quantity of stuff we had to lug around was not the greatest impact baby wearing had on traveling with our child. Our son was a very wiggly and grabby guy. For many, many months, his nickname was Mr. Grabby Hands. I do not want to imagine what it would have been like to embark on hours of travel at a time with my son sitting on my husband’s lap or my own, free to move around as he liked and seize anything and everything that was within his reach.  I also would not like to have experienced the aching muscles in my arms I surely would have ended up with had I been forced to  hold him for hours on end. It was far better to have my hands free while at the same time my baby was close to my body. My son was most content when he was contained in the carrier. My husband and I used to joke about the relief our son displayed when he was finally restrained again and therefore relieved of his own constant movement! He cried very little because he had exactly what he wanted while we were in transit: a warm body to hold onto and when it was me who was wearing him, he was even more relaxed by the close proximity to my breasts that nourished him. It is absolutely appropriate for babies to wail and express hunger, frustration and boredom while traveling. I have never been a flyer who feels dread the moment I see a child board my plane and take a seat next to me. However, I would be lying if I did not confess that I have experienced much less anxiety as a traveling parent, certain in the knowledge that my child is not disturbing fellow passengers. Anything that makes travel less stressful is good in my book-especially travel with a baby!

 

Nursing on the Dock at Mullaghmore
Nursing on the Dock at Mullaghmore

 

As with every parenting choice, I know that exclusive baby wearing is not for everyone. For me, though, baby wearing has brought immeasurable quality to my life as a new mother. I could never have had the same outdoor experiences.  Nursing in public would not have been so easy. Travel might have been more difficult, otherwise. I would have been unable to find the time to exercise and reach the same level of fitness. My baby has adored being worn. Until recently, it was his favorite place to be. I have been thrilled by the surprise that baby wearing has been equally as advantageous for me. If I had another child, I would exclusively baby wear all over again.

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Visit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month’s Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, when we discuss anger!

 

 

18 thoughts on “How Baby Wearing has Benefited this Mama

  1. Pingback: 10 Tips For Babywearing Safety | That Mama Gretchen

  2. Pingback: Babywearing a Newborn: My Favorite Carriers

  3. Wow, I love seeing the variety of the places you’ve been while babywearing! You certainly have made a great case for keeping baby close as long as he wants. My partner and I still wear Daniel (3) almost every day because that’s what he needs, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    • I am happy for Daniel that you are providing him with all the closeness he needs. I would have kept on wearing my son as long as he wanted. At their age, (at every age?), I really believe that need and want are the same thing where closeness (and many other things!) is concerned.

  4. Not only are the pictures you posted awesome but you present quite the case for the benefits of babywearing! I actually still wear my daughter who is now 4 years old! (She is only 30 pounds though so it is doable!) I discovered a lot of benefits to babywearing that I would never have guessed had I not done it for so long! Loved your post!

  5. I couldn’t agree more! This past spring, we spent 8 days in Walt Disney World (with our 8 month old and our 3 year old), and we were stroller free the entire time! We walked 10 – 15 miles per day and my preschooler walked, while hubby and I alternated baby-wearing my son. People could not believe it, but it was so wonderful and easy! Thanks for sharing the the Tuesday Baby Link Up Community. If you would be willing to add a link at the end back to one of the hosts, I’d love to feature this post in this week’s link up!

    • Hi Jennifer, that’s great that you have had the same wonderful sort of traveling, babywearing experiences that we have had. Babywearing ha been great for us and I suspect that the lack of time in the stroller has also played a part in how much my son now loves to get where he’s going by his own steam. Sounds like your three-year-old is just the same way. Fun!

      I would love to be featured in this week’s link up. Thanks! I have added your badge. I would love to link up to some of the other posts as well, but since I wrote this piece for a babywearing carnival, I will leave it at only the badge this time. (It’s getting a bit busy at this post!) However, I love all the blogs that are hosting the Tuesday link-up so I will be more than happy to link back to specific hosts in the future. Thanks for hosting :)

  6. Great post! I hadn’t thought about benefits to me before I started babywearing, either. I wasn’t at all familiar with it prior to getting pregnant, beyond seeing people use Bjorns. A friend introduced me to the Ergo when I was pregnant, and I’m so glad I went with that. I also developed a small collection of slings. Due to health issues I couldn’t wear my sons all the time, so we also used strollers, but I loved the ease of babywearing, and the closeness.

  7. Beautiful article. If i was on the fence about it before reading it i wouldnt be now. I loved baby wearing both my bundles. At 21.5 months apart I always struggled with having to stop baby wearing my eldest since I only had room for one. I would sometimes joke with my husband that I could carry one on my back and one in front but I am unfortunately not strong enough for that. I didn’t get a double stroller till my youngest was 13 or 14 months old. I have to admit I was relieved when that double stroller arrived in the mail but I would still wear my youngest until recently (she is 2.5). My youngest was exclusively in the ergo from birth till the very beginning of her first year. I wouldn’t have used the stroller often if my children hadn’t been so close in age. I loved it. If you haven’t a reason to do otherwise I would definitely agree that it’s the best!

  8. Pingback: Babywearing with rebozos in México | Surviving Mexico

  9. Pingback: Babywearing a Newborn: My Favorite Carriers

  10. Pingback: Babywearing with Rebozos | Surviving Mexico

  11. I had never thought about the simple act of baby wearing as a transformative act to become a more nurturing parent.

    We primarily baby wear, but have started to switch to using our stroller. Our little man gets fussy and hot very easily, so our recent heat weave (30C plus humidity) has left him cranky if he’s worn. I can’t wait for the cool weather of fall so that we can go back.

    I love the snowshoeing photo!

  12. Pingback: Benefits of Babywearing | Living Peacefully with Children

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