Today begins International Baby Wearing Week! From October 8th-14th join Baby Wearing International in celebrating the parents and caregivers who engage in this beneficial practice. Baby wearing is exactly what it sounds like: carrying a baby or young child on one’s body through the utilization of a cloth baby carrier. Baby carrying is a practice found all over the world, and may be done using such carriers as mei tais, wraps, slings, pouches, soft structured carriers, and numerous other types that vary according to local customs and practical needs.
While holding a baby in one’s arms works just as well to provide comfort to a child, it becomes rather tiring after a short period of time! Also, the use of one’s arms limits activity to only holding that child. Employing a carrier not only distributes the weight of the child evenly onto the body of the adult caregiver, it enables the wearer to accomplish many typical day-to-day tasks while still enjoying the close contact that both babies and their caregivers need to strengthen the bond between them.
Though I have had a marginal awareness of the practice of baby wearing, it was not until recently that I began to realize that this is a practice I wanted to integrate into my parenting and caregiving. I always envisioned some “foreign” mother in a developing nation wearing a baby, not because of the inherent value of doing so, but because of the lack of pack-and-plays, bouncy chairs, cribs, and other inanimate babysitters. In retrospect, it was a bit of an ignorant and perhaps even arrogant view on my part. Now that I have my own little one on the way, I am working hard to educate myself on how to integrate baby wearing into my daily life, especially during breastfeeding sessions.
I wish I had understood how useful baby wearing is a few years ago when my nephew was born. I remember trekking half way across the country to see my sister’s twins just a week after they were born, excited to spend my vacation with not one but two adorable little babies. The babies were-and still are-extremely cute, but I experienced something far short of a vacation that first trip. Both of my sister’s children were ill their first couple of weeks out of the womb, but my nephew seemed to crave what we mistakenly thought was an inordinate amount of time being held in order to cope. His sister went to sleep in a bassinet just fine, but my nephew needed to be in someone’s arms nearly 24/7. My first night there, I recall lying in bed next to my sister and my brother-in-law sleepily passing around my nephew every 30 minutes or so. We simply could not put him down without him wailing like crazy, so the three of us adults attempted to get sleep in shifts while enabling him to receive the comfort he needed to rest and recover. The sleepless nights, and days, continued throughout my entire stay. This was not entirely unexpected since, after all, they were newborns. However, I returned to work desperately in need of another week off to catch up on all the sleep I’d missed!
If I had to do it all over again, I would have given my sister’s family a baby carrier or two to help reduce some of the stress of having to choose between holding a sick baby and getting some work done around the house. I do not mean to suggest that a carrier would have been a panacea, but it certainly would have made things a bit easier on everyone.
Baby Wearing International is full of useful information for parents and caregivers who are interested in how baby wearing can benefit the children in their lives. If baby wearing advocacy interests you, consider becoming a Volunteer Babywearing Educator and joining-or starting-a chapter near you!