Welcome to the June 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Babywearing
How 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
- 10 Tips For Babywearing Safety– While wearing those babes, don’t forget these important safety tips! That Mama Gretchen shares her top reminders and welcomes your input too!
- Benefits of Babywearing – Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children talks about the benefits of babywearing in a way that is easy to inform nay-saying relatives.
- Baby Wearing while Traveling – Jana at Jananas and her family took a two week jaunt through Europe and wearing their son made all of lives so much easier and traveling pleasant!
- A Brief History of Babywearing – Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama takes a little look into the fascinating history of babywearing.
- Wear Your Baby Out (Not the Other Way Around!) – Mercedes at Project Procrastinot shares some snapshots of babywearing out and about some of Scotland’s castles.
- How Baby Wearing has Benefited this Mama – Mama is Inspired was surprised and delighted to find out that baby wearing offered her just as many advantages as it did her baby.
- Babywearing my Newborn – Julia from A Little Bit of All of It shares her favorite carriers for the newborn period.
- Babywearing with Rebozos – Survivor at Surviving Mexico–Adventures and Disasters talks about how Mexican women wear their babies with rebozos.
- My New Favourite Carrier – Laura at Authentic Parenting talks about her new favourite carrier – the mei tai.