Here is the story of how I fell in love with slings and babywearing…
I was having a conversation recently with a friend who, upon seeing a lot of things listed in a local selling group because ‘baby didn’t like it’, mused that she had not met a baby who could adequately form an opinion on a carrycot or Moses basket at three weeks old.
I have. I know these parents. I was one of these parents.
Suffering from immense exhaustion and desperate to get their baby to stop crying and go to sleep somewhere, anywhere other than in their arms, they buy a plethora of expensive baby sleep equipment; Grobags, reflux wedges, Sleepyheads, Poddle Pods, Cocoonababys, bloody Ewan the Bastard Dream Sheep…
Sometimes they might get lucky and hit upon the magical solution which gets their baby sleeping and them their arms back.
More often, nothing works, with the exception of time and patience. A lot of little babies, understandably after having been living inside them until recently, refuse to sleep anywhere but on their mum. Some, like mine, just hate sleep altogether.
In a bid to recoup their costs from this, they then sell them on for a fraction of the cost because parents, sleep deprived and terrified of the risk SIDS, don’t tend to want second hand sleeping equipment for their newborns.
This time around, we had neither a carrycot nor Moses basket.
We had co-sleeping cot (well, kind of. It was a normal cot built on three sides), and a Poddle Pod. This set up had done wonders for getting my daughter to nap, and I was perhaps a bit smug that I knew the secret… But, predictably, it did nothing at all for the baby – who it seemed wanted to roll everywhere the instant he was born – except enrage him and put him in danger of falling off of the bed.
We quickly had to ditch the pod and put the side back on to the cot but it didn’t help his sleep; when he finally succumbed, usually he’d be awake before we’d snuck out of the room. Awake and screaming, very, very loudly. It wasn’t his fault; he had reflux and colic, which meant it was almost impossible for him to fall asleep and stay asleep. This in turn meant he was overtired, grumpy, and generally not a fun person to know. A bit like me really.
Fortunately, I had up my sleeve magical solution. Babywearing!
With the toddler I had tried babywearing using a stretchy wrap but it never felt entirely secure. It is very possible I was doing it wrongly – I’ve never been very good at following instructions. I had a cheap baby carrier which I used when she was very young but we barely used it and when she got bigger it was too awkward to use. She was fairly happy in the buggy so I never felt the need to carry on.
However, I knew that two under two was going to be a challenge, logistically speaking. Due to my excellent grasp of basic maths I quickly realised I wouldn’t have enough arms to simultaneously hold the baby and stop my toddler from meeting a sticky end under a bus, so I bought an Ergo Baby Buckled Carrier from a local selling site before he was born. Those early days are a complete blur but I knew that if I was at my wit’s end, the carrier would save me.
Babywearing, it appears, is the perfect compromise for mum (or dad) and baby.
It gives baby the sense of closeness and being carried around and it gives the parent their hands free for cleaning, cooking, controlling an unruly toddler, eating toast or drinking tea (just don’t spill it). It also keeps them upright, which is important for a baby with reflux as lying down can cause them a lot of pain. If you’re particularly accomplished, you can even breastfeed in one.
Aside from being hands free, and the freedom you gain from not having to drag a buggy with you everywhere, the next best thing about them is that they have a magical sleepy property that usually works on the fussiest of newborns, although you may well have to bounce around the room for five minutes before all goes quiet.
Persist; it’s worth it.
Many people when faced with an unhappy baby advocate a pram walk, but I can’t honestly say this has never worked with either of my children who, when in the pram, are too nosey watching everything going by and both stubbornly refuse to sleep. Perhaps foolishly, we bought a double buggy before the new arrival. My toddler now wants to walk everywhere and the baby goes everywhere in the sling so although the buggy, which is more like a tank really, still gets a trip out now and again, it is usually relegated to carrying bags and shopping.
I’m still very much a newbie to the world of slings and although I have friends that rave about babywearing, nobody warned me how addictive it was.
You only have to look on the selling sites at people selling off their ‘stashes’ of carriers and wraps to realise that it’s very easy to throw serious money at the hobby. I’m almost convinced that some people only have more children in order to justify buying more slings, and who can blame them. Far away from the functional but dull Ergo Baby carrier is a whole new and exciting world of patterns and colour. You can match your carrier to your outfit or to your mood, should you so wish.
Before Christmas, I treated myself to a Wompat Mei Tai sling. A soft structured carrier (SSC) all the way from Norway, made from a wrap with the added bonus of making your small child look like a colourful Druid. What’s not to love?
Being fairly brightly coloured, it does attract a lot of comments, particularly when there is a smiley baby staring out desperate to get the attention of anyone and everyone who walks past. Comments like ‘is there really a baby in there?’ (yes, I suspect it would be a weird and uncomfortable thing to do with a dog), ‘Gosh that must hurt your back’ (no, it’s actually quite comfortable because the weight is distributed around the whole waist and shoulders, but thanks for worrying about me) and ‘Couldn’t you afford a pram?’ (rude! And also, given there isn’t much difference in price between a decent carrier and a buggy, a little bit silly).
The most common comment by far though (particularly when he is fast asleep) is ‘Oh how lovely, he really likes it in there doesn’t he?’. Yes, yes he does.
If you want to babywear, please make sure you take a look at the TICKS guidance for safe babywearing.