To wear, or not to wear… That is the question.

by Scylla on May 15, 2008

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Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the occasional pains and backache of hefting a baby in a sling or carrier, or to endure the separation of stroller use, choosing a method of baby toting is something all parents have to do. That is, of course, unless you intend to never leave your house. So, in the realm of unasked for advice, I offer you my viewpoint on babywearing.

As indicated in my initial API post, I fell into attachment parenting by accident. It was not a carefully thought out parenting style, but more a response to my personal desires as a mother and the needs of my children. At my baby shower for my first child, I received the usual land-yacht sized stroller and a Baby Bjorn carrier. I also received a lovely handwoven sling from Guatemala. Oh, it was gorgeous. When Monkey arrived, I was eager to place her into the sling, but lacked the knowledge and confidence to tuck her into what amounted to a bolt of fabric tied around my body. Instead, I used the Baby Bjorn. After all, it had the appearance of something scientifically developed. It had straps, and latches, and padding! Clearly, it was safer than a simple piece of fabric held together with a knot!

The Bjorn kept Monkey close to me and it was ergonomically correct, but there was a great deal of material and padding between us, and it was unbelievably hot to wear in the summer, for both of us. It was also a lot of hassle to strap me, and then Monkey into it. Additionally, it was huge, and next to impossible to carry around without my car as I couldn’t fold it up and slip it into anything.

I tried to get Monkey into the sling after discovering the downsides to my baby wearing tool of choice, but by that time she was used to the Bjorn, and didn’t want anything to do with the sling. She just couldn’t get comfortable in it. I sold the lovely sling to a friend for her sister’s shower, and went looking for a cooler and more compact solution. Luckily I found a compact hip carrier from One Step Ahead. While it didn’t allow me to carry her on long hikes, as it rested her on my hip, it did allow me to hold her more often, and for longer periods of time, by allowing my arms to rest. It was also significantly cooler in hot weather. This was the tool I used until Monkey was about three. It slipped into my diaper bag, and later my purse, and allowed me some additional options when she was tired out and wanted a ride on Mommy.

It would be nearly six years before I had another baby, so I had plenty of time to study those instincts I had discovered with my first child and figure out ways to encourage them with my second. I looked into babywearing and discovered a number of benefits I hadn’t known about before. I learned that progesterone levels in mothers increase with physical contact with their babies, which increases the maternal bond between mother and child. I read that babies who are “worn” have a tendency to cry about 50% less than babies who aren’t. I learned that the sling, when worn correctly, can lower backache by more evenly distributing the baby’s weight. I discovered that slinging my baby would allow me to nurse on the go, and even tend to the needs of my eldest child with free hands. I also learned that baby wearing can help prevent hip dysplasia, by helping my child’s hip joints develop deeper sockets. I figured the least I could do was try to sling again when it came time to have Otter.

A good friend of mine made me a Ring Sling, and I put Otter in it within days of his birth. He stayed comfy in his sling. I wore him around the house, out in public, in the grocery store, the park, you name it. I was able to nurse him, even while walking around, because the sling positioned him perfectly for feeding and hid my breasts from view. I can’ tell you how many times I was able to prevent a meltdown during grocery shopping by nursing on the go. Best of all, I could still hold Monkey’s hand when we walked around, and I could play more with her because I had two hands free. I found other uses for the sling as well; I have used it as a last minute picnic blanket, a sunshade when driving in the summer or walking with the stroller, and to secure my baby into a chair as a makeshift high chair at restaurants (once he was old enough to sit on his own).

Otter still loves his sling. He is also a very cheerful, happy baby, who rarely cries. We have seen the benefits of slinging, and I will stick to it if I have any more children. Of course, Otter is over 30 pounds now, so I had to switch from a Ring Sling to a Mei Tai, in order to get some additional weight support when carrying him around. (The Mei Tai crosses over both shoulders, which is helpful in distributing the weight more evenly). The Mei Tai is still small enough to carry in a diaper bag, so I can have it whenever I need it, and it is still significantly cooler than the Baby Bjorn was. It also still allows for skin on skin contact, as there is no huge padded support structure between me and the baby. We have just started wearing Otter in the backpack position, and we both love it. I love feeling his little head snuggle into my back when we are walking, and he enjoys looking around and being close. We alternate between the sling and the mei tai now, depending on how much carrying there is likely to be.

So… To Wear!! That is my answer. Babywearing has turned me into a full-time snuggler, and I am happy to have my baby close whenever I can.

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Scylla (18 Posts)


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

justine May 15, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Great post! I have been using a wrap and a sling with our baby both at home and at work–which are great for me. But my hubby has better luck using the buckles and straps of the more mainstream snugli style carrier.

It is really important trying out different types at different ages and to be flexible enough to experiment.

I just went to my 13 year olds school concert with our 8 week old in the sling. She discreetly nursed the whole time, even with the elderly gentleman sitting right next to us! Another parent there had to take their impatient little one out of the auditorium when things got too loud…which made me really proud of how safe and calm my little one must have felt even with all of the noises and distractions.

Thanks for sharing!

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Sherie May 15, 2008 at 8:21 pm

I wish I could have got my little screecher into a wrap, sling, pouch – anything – when he was tiny. He didn’t want anything to do with babywearing until he was about 5 months old, and only then if I did a kangaroo carry with him facing out (until the stimulation was too much and more screeching insued). Happily, once we could manage the hip carry (with a wrap), all was well. :-)

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pixie May 16, 2008 at 2:52 am

I’m hoping that when we have another bundle of joy, I’ll be wrapping and slinging from birth. With littlepixie, I just couldn’t get my head around it until she was about 3 months old, but then we were off :)

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Theresa May 16, 2008 at 3:17 am

I bought the Maya Wrap just before my lil angel was born because of what I had read about baby-wearing… but I couldn’t figure it out at all! So I bought a Baby Bjorn. Angel hated it!! She screamed within 2 seconds of being in it. Back to the sling I went, determined to master it. It took us a while, but now we both love it :) I use the Mei Tai for the longer carrying sessions though, like walks or grocery shopping. My shoulder really hurts with the sling after an hour or so.

I never quite figured out how to nurse in the sling, and its still pretty uncomfortable in the Mei Tai. Any tips??

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Green Mamma May 16, 2008 at 4:33 am

I too “fell” into attachment parenting, and it was babywearing and breastfeeding that brought me to the wonderful group of mothers and fathers who I now meet with each month.

We too started with a bjorn, used a mei tai (which we liked), and are now happy with our ergo. Not only is the ergo great for bonding, getting outside for hikes (where no stroller may go), and for avoiding nasty germs at the grocery store (I really think that the cart seat and handle are where we’ve picked up many a virus).

Anyway, we are definitely a “to wear” family.

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Scylla May 16, 2008 at 5:27 am

Teresa,
Sling nursing for me required loosening the sling enough to comfortably tuck him into it, and was much harder to do as he got bigger.
In the Mei Tai, so long as he is facing me, and I have something to drape over me a little, I can just pull my shirt up, unhook, and he is able to maneuver into position. Sometimes I have to lower the way he is sitting to align him better with my breast.
However, Otter really likes to nurse sitting up on my lap anyway, so it may be easier for us to transition to nursing in the mei tai because of that.
I would suggest giving it a try at home, until you find a comfy way to do it, so you don’t have to worry about “being discreet” while you and your baby find a comfy way to wear and nurse. It also may not be comfortable for you to do so. Some babies, and mommies, prefer a less hectic on the go nursing style.
I wish you and your baby the best!!

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Theresa May 16, 2008 at 9:16 am

Thanks Scylla :) Incidentally, on the way home from our walk today, Angel decided she was hungry… we still had about 15 minutes or so before we would be home. I couldn’t wait that long. I had to pull down my top (which I find easier than pulling it up, of course dependent on the neckline) and I used my jacket to cover us up as I faced a wall… probably looking like a real loony, hehehe.

I had tied my Mei Tai a little lower than usual, so that seemed to be the trick!

I don’t think we will make it a habit, but it definitely works in emergencies :)

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nancy sv May 16, 2008 at 1:25 pm

I never did use the sling, although it looks wonderful. I just couldn’t figure out how to manage it with twins. Once our babies were about 6 months, we put them into baby backpacks – one on my back, one on my husband’s – and carried them everywhere, even tothe top of Mount Sinai!!

Our boys are now ten, and we are still very close. We’ll be taking off soon to ride our bikes from Alaska to Argentina and I can’t wait to have all that time with my babies – even if they are big babies now!! (You can read about our journey at http://www.familyonbikes.org)

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Rose May 20, 2008 at 8:37 am

I use the Ergo Carrier and am very pleased with it. there is no barrier between me and my baby, and it can be used to front carry the baby, or hip carry, or carry him on my back. I love it!

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linda May 21, 2008 at 5:20 pm

I recently made a mei tai in response to visiting my sister-in-law (an avid AP babywearer). My 3yr old son wanted to be like the “baby” and be carried again. I used to hold and carry him all the time as a younger baby. He never liked the sling but he loved the soft baby carrier that his dad and I used to carry him, facing out or in, but always in front. Now we go front or back. He likes the piggy back style and we have had a lot of success at the market using it.

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