Friday, July 30, 2010

Babywearing Stories: Lessons from my daughter

raspberryIt isn’t much of an exaggeration to say my daughter taught me nearly everything I know about babywearing. After all, babywearing can vary greatly between mothers and children—even children in the same family. It only makes sense to begin the learning process with the baby.

I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I made the decision to wear my daughter. Prior to her birth, I was interested in slings, registered for a Hotslings pouch sling, and thought that, yes, this is what I would do—for convenience if nothing else. How useful was my stroller going to be during a New Hampshire winter anyway? I didn’t really know any babywearers—I had seen celebrities wear their babies in slings, but that was the extent of my experience. Well, that and reading the Sears' Baby Book.

C was born in late January, no complications, no problems—she was completely perfect. She ate well, which is to say she ate all the time. This led to lots of holding. My mother would tell me, “Put that baby down. She needs to sleep. You need to sleep.” And these things were all true, but when I put her down, she’d wake and cry. And I’d pick her up and nurse her and the cycle would begin anew.

By two weeks post-partum I had lost over 30 pounds and started thinking that I should really be better about eating. After all, if I didn’t eat, the baby wasn’t going to eat. But how do you eat when your arms are full of sleeping or nursing baby? That’s when I remembered the sling that I registered for and someone kindly purchased prior to the baby’s arrival. Lo and behold—it worked!

Many babies dislike pouch slings. They’re deceptive in their simplicity. For me, it was a good first sling, because all I had to do was put it on. I was fortunate that the one I had fit correctly and that my daughter liked the cradle hold. Many babies don’t—and, in fact, it’s a hold that you need to be particularly vigilant when using to make sure the baby is positioned correctly and her airway is clear.  But C loved it. And, with the use of a hand (and sometimes two hands), I got to start eating occasional meals again. And read books. And knit. All while holding my baby.

My town is not stroller-friendly, which I discovered the first (and last) time I tried to take her for a walk downtown and a cup of coffee. Brick sidewalks, steps, curbs, and small shops do not contribute to a comfortable experience for a brand new mother and a brand new baby. With the sling, I could be an all-terrain Mama. And if the baby needed to nurse, I could do it discreetly—without having to take her out of an infant seat or a stroller.


Eventually, we added other carriers to our mix. I bought a mei-tai for gardening so I could wear her on my back—C hated it. I bought a Scootababy hip carrier because C favored hip carries above all else. I bought a ring sling when it became clear that the pouch sling, though it says it works for kids up to 35 lbs, wasn’t cutting it any longer. I asked for (and received) a Beco for Christmas so that I could wear the squirmy Miss C on my back when she needed holding and I needed to cook dinner or do laundry. I bought a wrap carrier because I thought I should try it out, and I recently bought an Ergo because I’ve been having back troubles and wanted to try one more thing before I cut back on the babywearing.

My husband rolls his eyes at my collection of carriers, but he also recognizes how important babywearing has been to me and to our daughter. From the very beginning, she has been a child who thrives on touch and who needs to be held. When I went back to work after my 12 weeks of Family Medical Leave, I worried about how she would adapt and how I would adapt to the hours when she wouldn’t be in my arms. Every night when we got home, I would nurse her and wear her until it was time for bed. When C became mobile, she would bring me a sling if she wanted to be held.

My daughter is a cheerful, social, and active 18 month old. She still loves to be held and I still love to hold her. Because she is used to being worn, she is used to being where the action is, and she has a smile and a wave for everyone we meet. Everyone knows C—which I’m not sure would be the case if I had kept her knee-high in a stroller. What’s more, everywhere we go, we receive compliments on how well-behaved our daughter is. And I’ve had people ask my secret. Well—here it is: Listen to your child. When C gets tired or overwhelmed, she starts to melt down. Babywearing gives her safety, security, and a way to recharge. Babywearing can bypass a tantrum. Because at the end of the day, no place is better than Mama’s arms and nothing is better than a snuggly baby.


This post is part of the July Series Babywearing Stories. You can read more about Saisquoi and her adventures in parenting at Saisquoi?


Funky Mama Bird said...

You're in NH and you babywear?! I swear when we moved up here, I thought I was the only one; I certainly haven't seen anyone else since we arrived!

Saisquoi said...

There are a few of us out on the seacoast, but I'd guess that it varies around the state. I feel very fortunate that all of the people we run into are either supportive or interested in my babywearing--I've rarely been criticized to my face for it.

natalie said...

Thanks for the awesome guest post! Love it... and love the sweet pictures too! :)