Recently, I heard tell of some panelists on day time TV deriding parents for ‘babywearing’. They argued that carrying a baby in a sling was akin to being a pack pony. Allegedly, the children would never learn to walk and would obviously have health issues. I had never heard such absolute rubbish.
In all honesty, have no idea how I would’ve survived the early months – with either of my children – without a sling. I have no idea how I would’ve survived our holidays either. That said, our sling is actually such a part of our day to day life that I have no idea how I would survive full stop.
Given that both my children can walk, neither are over weight and I certainly don’t resemble a pony… I am all about the baby wearing.
I had been meaning to write a post about babywearing for almost a year but when I saw this post on Shinners and the Brood – I knew I could wouldn’t be able to match it!
Upon reading, it was apparent that as a busy Mum of two, Sinéad (aka Shinners) was in a very similar situation to me. Running after a toddler whilst looking after a baby is… tricky. To say the least.
But instead of whinging about it – Sinéad found a solution. But then went one better and explained why that solution might work for other people to. On top of that, she not only did so in detail but additionally with a lot more humour than I usually manage!
Whilst, I would obviously encourage you to check out the full edition here – I’m incredibly grateful that she agree to put together an abbreviated version.
5 common babywearing questions
by Sinéad – shinnersandthebrood.com
A LIFELINE JUST WHEN I NEEDED IT
I first started using slings with my second child in 2012. I had just entered the fog that was life with two children and was in the process of adjusting to the need to split my attention, my time and my energy in two. This was new territory. I had to make meals and snacks, keep the house in some sort of order and do more laundry than I’d ever imagined. And all while tending to the whims of a baby being fed on-demand and an insistent toddler. A baby carrier seemed like a sensible option. And it turns out, it was. My daughter was perfectly happy in her sling, napped for hours on end and allowed me to focus more attention on my two-year-old. I was a convert and my life was suddenly made a whole lot easier.
1. IS BABYWEARING FOR ME?
It’s altogether possible that babywearing is for you if one or more of the following statements apply:
- You love the idea of having your baby close to you.
- You suffer from ‘dead arm’ regularly due to multitasking efforts.
- You’ve cursed the weight of your cumbersome buggy and privately kicked its undercarriage in frustration.
- You’ve had to decline an invite to brunch in the newest hot-spot in town because they (purposely) have no lift.
- You don’t like it when strangers reach into your pram to paw your gorgeous little cherub with their dirty mitts.
- You’re the outdoorsy type who likes nothing more than to post pictures of yourself at the top of the nearest mountain on Instagram on a Sunday morning while the rest of us haven’t managed to get dressed and ain’t no baby gonna stop you.
- You have an infant who may not be safe around well-meaning siblings who have been known to attempt to feed it Shopkins and furry cashews.
- There are a lot of steps/stairs/escalators in your life.
- You simply have a baby who wants to be close to you and who is most content against your chest.
2. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
While the Western World has seen a new wave of enthusiasm for the practice, Babywearing is obviously not a new phenomenon. For thousands of years in the furthest corners of the world, mothers have been wrapping and carrying their offspring in cloths, shawls and pouches. From the Alaskans to the Aborigines, women the length and breath of the globe have long since understood the practical and physiological benefits of keeping their little ones safe and close. Time has passed, societies have evolved, the role of women has changed but two simple facts remain:
- There is nowhere a baby wants to be more than in the arms of a parent.
- Parents need two hands. At least.
- As well as being extremely convenient and gorgeously cute, research shows that babies who are worn cry less.
(Sold! To the lady in the back with the giant coffee, the bags under her eyes and the bed-hair.)
A baby, in particular a newborn, has an innate need to be close to its mother. A sling is a safe place to be and babies appreciate that security. As well as promoting bonding and emotional development, babywearing also aids digestion. Slings are particularly helpful for babies suffering with the discomfort of colic and reflux. These are just some of the benefits. There are all sorts of physical, practical, emotional and sensory benefits of baby wearing.
3. IS BABYWEARING SAFE?
The short answer is yes! Babywearing is entirely safe once its done properly and guidelines are adhered to. Safety in babywearing is all about positioning. Baby must be well positioned and supported in an upright position. While the position of your baby in a carrier and your choice of carrier will vary slightly depending on his or her age, the general rule of thumb is that knees remain higher than baby’s bum for optimum comfort and safety. It’s advisable to get advice on your chosen carrier from a trained babywearing consultant.
The TICKS guidelines were created by the UK Consortium of Sling Manufacturers and Retailers and provide the foundation for sling safety:
Babywearing International has produced a similar safety overview – The ABC’s of Babywearing.
4. HOW DO I CHOOSE A SLING?
Initially you may be overwhelmed by the array of sling types and brands available. Ina Doyle is a babywearing and breastfeeding educator and founder of Bump to Beyond – a website and online store dedicated to responsive parenting. She has a fantastic introduction to carriers on her site which includes a run-down of the five basic sling types:
- stretchy wraps
- woven wraps
- ring slings
- SSCs – soft-structured carriers or buckle carriers
I’ve often heard people compare slings to jeans or shoes in that there’s no one-type-fits-all. What suits one babywearer may not suit another. There are so many factors to consider including the age of your baby, when and where you intend to use the sling, your height/build and your personal preferences. Some prefer buckles, others prefer wrapping, etc. You may also find that your needs and preferences change as your baby grows. Many will begin their babywearing journey with a stretchy wrap and then progress to a woven wrap or SSC when baby gets a little older.
An age-appropriate, correctly fitted ergonomic sling should never cause discomfort to the wearer. Baby’s weight will be evenly distributed across your body so that no unnecessary pressure is put on your neck, back our shoulders.
The key advice any seasoned babywearer will offer about buying a sling is ‘try before you buy’. I’ve had friends who tried a particular sling once, didn’t like it and sadly wrote off babywearing entirely based on that one negative experience. There is a sling type for everyone but you may have to spend a little time figuring out which one is right for you. In your sling search, consider doing some of the following:
- Investigate sling libraries. Members can borrow slings to try out before deciding on which type to invest in. Funds raised from rental fees go directly into reinvesting in slings.
- Book a session with with a babywearing consultant. Consultants have trained with one of a number of registered bodies and offer one-to-one advice on choosing and fitting all types of slings and carriers. Some slings – in particular ring slings and wraps – have a learning curve so a sling consultant will ensure that you are wearing your chosen sling correctly and comfortably. Most also operate a rental scheme.
- Attend your local sling meet. A sling meet basically allows parents with an interest in babywearing to chat over a cuppa and learn more about slings. These meets are run by volunteers and usually facilitated by a consultant who will offer demonstrations, advice and library rentals.
- Visit a specialist babywearing retailer. While many of the larger baby stores now stock ergonomic baby carriers, specialist retailers will usually have a bigger selection and experts on hand to help you choose and fit your sling.
5. HOW LONG CAN I WEAR MY BABY FOR?
If your baby is in a carrier that supports correct positioning and is suitable for the weight of your child, you can carry your baby from the newborn stage all the way through to toddlerhood and even beyond. There are carriers specifically designed to accommodate your toddler or preschooler. Many woven wraps will also comfortably accommodate an older child. Wear your baby for as long as you both feel comfortable.
With a suitable sling and a good technique, under the guidance of a medical professional, it can also be safe (and highly beneficial) to carry babies with special needs, including pre-term or low-weight babies.
Sinéad’s blog, Shinners and the Brood is fast becoming one of my favourite reads. I find the honesty with which she writes refreshing. I love the good humour that bursts through with each post and it doesn’t hurt she has lots of similar interests to me! I’m greatly enjoying her couch to 5K challenge and totally encourage you to check it out! You can of course, also find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
I would echo all of Sinéad’s advice and for Edinburgh people would very much recommend visiting Susan at ShowMe Slings.
Thomas was a much bigger baby than Katie and I soon found that the sling I had used for her wasn’t going to work. Susan was brilliant at listening to exactly what I wanted from a sling and to the issues I was having. She then gave lots of advice as to how to wear the sling I had differently – and others I could then try.
I eventually borrowed about four different slings from her before settling on one that really works for us. This obviously meant I didn’t waste money buying slings that weren’t right for us but it was also lovely to get advice from someone knowledgable, experienced, and very friendly too
Are you a baby wearer? Or one of those derisory it’s for pack ponies types? Either way it would be good to hear from you!