Friday, November 14, 2008

Celebrate Babywearing! International Babywearing Week

November 12 – 18 is the first annual International Babywearing Week – what better time to tout the benefits of babywearing? People in all sorts of cultures have worn babies for centuries. It’s a rewarding practice, for both kids and caregivers, not just emotionally but practically; without my Hug-A-Bub wrap carrier and Rockin’ Baby pouch, I might never have gotten out of the recliner the first few months of Violet’s life.

Babies thrive on closeness and human contact, and many are distressed without it. “Babywearing” – carrying your baby next to your body in some sort of cloth carrier – can be a tremendous source of comfort to a newborn. A baby carrier mimics the womb in many ways; rhythmic sounds like the wearer’s heartbeat and breath echo the baby’s experience in utero, and the gentle motion of the wearer’s walking feels just like old times. Going for a walk wearing Violet never failed to lull her to sleep in the early days. Even now, she’ll succumb if she’s tired and we’ve been walking awhile.

Sure, there are other accessories available for containing your kid or toting her around. But a cloth carrier keeps your baby close to you, instead of at arm’s length. I’m not sure when the Western notion that babies should be content to be left lying alone - whether in a crib, a swing, or a bouncer - 75% of their infancy became so commonly and casually accepted, but I’ve got to admit I don’t agree with it. (Neither does most of the rest of the world.) More importantly, that wasn’t what my baby needed, and she wasn’t afraid to tell me so. Violet protested pretty much any time she wasn’t in someone’s arms, so it was fortunate we were enthusiastic about wearing her; I had our coat rack covered with a wrap, 2 pouches and a ring sling even before she was born. She was in the Hotsling just hours after we brought her home, where she snoozed in a cradlehold while I tried to keep crumbs from our favorite pizza off of her forehead.

In addition to calming her in infancy, wearing Violet has allowed us to share so much with her. In a carrier, she can watch whatever we’re doing and we can interact easily. Recently, she rode in the ring sling as we browsed the farmer’s market, and her position on my hip allowed her to see so much more than she could have seen through the legs of all the other locals out that Saturday morning had she been in a stroller (it was much easier for me to maneuver, as well). It also gave us a much better opportunity to snuggle as we shopped, pointing out fruits and vegetables and anything else that caught our eyes. Because she can walk now, she spends less time in a carrier, but I look forward to wearing her on occasion for some time to come. We’ve got a Connecta carrier I’m looking forward to using for back carries with our Peekaru this winter!

As good as I believe babywearing has been for Violet, I feel compelled to point out that the benefits of babywearing aren’t all baby’s – for the parent, babywearing can provide you a great way to carry your baby (or toddler!) without wearing out your arms and wrecking the rest of your body because the carrier supports the baby’s weight and distributes it more evenly (something my neck, shoulders, and back were always grateful for). Even better, babywearing allows you to keep your baby close, but your hands free. Much can be accomplished while wearing a baby, from catching up on emails to cooking dinner!

For those interested in, and perhaps unfamiliar with, babywearing, is a fantastic resource (a permanent link can be found in the left sidebar). And if you’re patient, I’m planning to share more about specific types and brands of carriers we’ve tried in future posts. Happy International Babywearing Week!


Jenn said...

My little dude spends a lot of time in his pouch or mai tai, I don't know how people get anything done with their newborns if they don't wear them :)

I need to get a ring sling but they're a little more intimidating for some reason ....

East End Jenn said...

Jenn, the ring sling was really intimidating for me at first, too. It wasn't until she was big enough for a hip carry that I really warmed up to it, but it ended up being the first carrier I reached for all this past summer. I'm loving the buckle-tai now, though.

Charndra at Part Time Diaper Free said...

I just lost my post! I was saying how lovely all your photos are.

I love to wear my 7 month old in a wrap or a ring sling or a mei-tai, depending on the circumstances. Today I've had him on my back for two sleeps, in a Tibetan Carry and a new tie a friend showed me earlier.

My baby is Jett, a little gem. He sleeps diaper free in our slings as it is sooo easy to know when he needs to pop down for a wee, and it is so comfy for him to be like that, when we are at home.