This post was prompted by a very well-meaning and brief conversation with my sweet older neighbour a few mornings ago, as I carried my 2 and half year old daughter on my back in her Ergobaby carrier home after dropping her brother off at school.
As we crossed paths he told my daughter she’s lazy, she should be walking and that she shouldn’t be carried on my back. He chuckled and smiled and I hope that all my daughter absorbed from their interaction was a friendly face said something to her in a kind tone. His wife actually interjected immediately and told him no she’s not. Thank you Mrs. Neighbour! I appreciated the support, even though I smiled back and forced a laugh, and agreed with his wife that “No she’s not lazy”.
Overall it wasn’t a terrible moment in time, he was trying to make conversation with my daughter, as he has done many times. He is a lovely person and I think it’s wonderful that we live next door to people who seem to genuinely like our children….But…
It’s not the first time someone has suggested that a child of mine is too old to be carried, or lazy because they’re in a carrier, or I’ve witnessed someone else saying similar things to another person.
This is untrue and unfair. Babywearing does not make babies, toddlers or even pre-schoolers lazy. It’s just one way of transporting them from A to B, it will no more going to make them lazy than putting them in a car seat would.
One person might see my daughter on my back and think “She’s too old to be carried, she should be walking” And in that moment they have no idea when we left the house to walk up to school she was trotting along with her brother and I on her own two feet. We walk to school every day. We walk to the super market. We walk to the park. We walk for the pleasure of walking. And I don’t expect her to walk several kilometres a day.
So I strap my buckle carrier on around my hips with the shoulder straps dangling behind my legs and head out the door, and when she’s ready she can put her arms up to be carried. Sometimes she makes it to school and back, sometimes she makes it half way. Whichever is fine.
I’ve been asked several times why I don’t I just put her in the pram. My answer is usually “She won’t stay in a pram”, because that is the simplest response, without going into ALL the benefits to babywearing. I have had someone say in response “Tough luck” – as in, directed at her, to mean; tough, she should have to stay in it anyway. Which brings me back to Mr. Neighbour’s concern about my daughters alleged laziness. Strapping her into a pram and telling her she has to sit and stay no matter what isn’t exactly congruent with encouraging her to walk as much as she can. Also, it is heaps easier to walk with a toddler, hold her hand, herd her, chase her and coax her along with a buckle carrier strapped to my hips compared trying to do that while pushing an empty pram.
The other concern I’ve had people express to me – and this is the most laughable for myself personally for MY children – is “They wont learn to walk if you never put them down!”
Do they mean to say if I didn’t wear my children they may have walked SOONER than 9 and 10 months?
This is where I have enjoyed pulling out a bit of a “Well, actually…” because a baby who is worn will be engaging their muscles and learning to balance with every step, every time their parent bends or changes their angle. With all those little bends and movements they’re learning skills and developing strength that would help them walk when they time comes.
Also… who truly never puts their baby down, especially once they’re at an age where they’re learning to walk? I might have carried my babies for hours a day, but there were a lot of other hours where they were able to wiggle freely on the floor, crawl and cruise around.
The misconception I probably would hear most often is “Aren’t you uncomfortable?” or “Does that hurt your back?” The short answer is – no, I’m not uncomfortable and my back is well supported. Though this is why it is important to choose baby carriers that aren’t just suitable to the size and weight of the baby or child you intend on carrying, but also a carrier that suits your frame also. Some carriers are designed to fit taller and broader parents and other carriers are more comfortable for petite parents.
The other misconception I thought I’d throw in, which hasn’t so much been said to me out loud, but I sense that it’s a belief some people have and I want to clear it up:
Babywearing isn’t JUST for one type of parent. People who babywear do so for many different reasons and they have many different approaches to parenting in general. Babywearing isn’t just for “Attachment Parenting” or for “hippies”. For some people babywearing does become a bit of an identity in itself, but you don’t have to join the local babywearing groups and buy ALL the carriers, and ALL the wraps to babywear. It can just be putting your baby in a carrier or sling to go to the supermarket because it’s easier to push a trolley that way – and that’s all it ever is. Babywearing is different for everyone.
Babywearing doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t need whatever the latest brand-name baby carrier is or a hand woven wrap, there are many less expensive or even basically free ways to babywear. I have friends who’ve carried their babies in a bed sheet knotted into a sling. My second baby carrier (after a Baby Bjorn Synergy that didn’t work very well for us despite being the most expensive carrier I’ve ever purchased) was 5 meters of jersey knit fabric I bought on sale at Spotlight – from memory it was about $3 a meter and cut length ways it made two very functional, no-sew, stretchy wraps. Another bargain babywearing option is a DIY No-Sew Ring Sling with either a sheet, piece of fabric, or even a table cloth; just be sure to only use purpose made sling rings because other types of rings may not be able to hold your baby’s weight and may have a welded join that can tear the fabric or scratch your baby. I’ve purchased Sling Rings from Karri Tree Lane before and was very happy with them.
Which brings me to the final misconception: “Babywearing is dangerous.”
It is very important when babywearing to make sure your baby is safe. Check your carrier regularly for signs of wear and tear. Learn how to use your carrier properly. While you’re not obliged to, this is where joining local babywearing or online group is actually a pretty good idea so you can ask experienced babywearers “Does this look right?” and to get tips and advice on how to correctly position your baby. It’s not about nit-picking or critising, it’s about safe babywearing, because disastrous things can happen if babies are not worn correctly. That’s not to say that babywearing IS dangerous, but it’s important for parents to be mindful that it CAN be.
The acronym T.I.C.K.S is a great guide to follow for safe babywearing and if you’re unsure what they are and what they look like you can watch the video below.