This week’s guest post comes from a lady we love for her laid back, Earth Mother approach to being a mum. Writer, blogger and mother to the gorgeous Talitha, Adele Jarrett-Kerr writes at the stylish, honest and thought-provoking blog Circus Queen.
Here, Adele shares with us her journey to becoming a “babywearing mum”.
I didn’t start off planning to wear my baby. I researched, tested and bought an expensive buggy that my daughter cruelly rejected.
My idle dreams of parking it next to a bench where I’d gaze indulgently over her sleeping form were replaced by the reality that she just hated the thing.
Instead she spent her first six months mainly tied to my chest in a stretchy wrap. It’s been nothing like I’d imagined before she was born. It’s been oddly more beautiful than I could have imagined.
Our baby-wearing journey was born out of desperation but, nine months in, it’s become a lifestyle I’m in love with.
1. Babies need to be held
We’re born helpless. We just sort of lie there, unable to even grasp anything for months. All we can do is cry and hope someone else will come and fix whatever is up.
Quite a lot of the time what’s “up” is that we need closeness. There’s a lot of research to suggest that babies who are held a lot are happier, healthier and, generally speaking, cry less.
Wearing your baby means that you can carry the baby longer without having to go through life one-handed. You can even “wear your baby down” by helping him fall asleep in the sling, then gently laying him in his Moses basket.
Once I’d worked out that my daughter needed not only to be near me but to be on me we were well on our way to enjoying life together rather than drowning in newborn chaos.
2. Close contact promotes breastfeeding
Newborns feed little and often. Their tummies are little and they need to tell your breasts how much milk is needed. Having easy access to the breast makes the start of the breastfeeding journey easier for you and for them.
You can even tie your wrap or use a ring sling so your baby can feed while you’re doing other things. That was pretty much the only way I could fix myself a cup of tea in the early days!
Having your baby close to your body, especially if you’re skin to skin, also reminds your hormones that it’s milk-making time. For me this was especially important because I had supply issues but it makes a great start for anyone.
3. Wearing your baby gently introduces him to the world
My antenatal teacher was big on the concept of “the fourth trimester”. The idea is that humans could really benefit from being in the womb for another three months but that we’re born early because we’ve got massive heads.
So, we’re especially fragile in our first few months. We therefore benefit from being carried in an external womb, like a sling.
I certainly found that wearing my daughter gave her the opportunity to look around and then snuggle into me when she needed an escape from all the light and sound.
As she got older, I noticed that she would check my face at sudden sounds as if to be reassured by my response. Having her near my face allowed us to explore the world together. We both knew I would keep her safe.
4. Your body supports your baby’s physical development
Putting a young baby down on the floor goes against most people’s instincts (especially if you’ve got a busy toddler around!) yet we’re constantly being told that babies need tummy time.
So many babies hate being laid on their fronts too. Mine was one of them. I was relieved to find out that when strapped to me, my movement would help coordinate hers and that by pushing against me, she was working the muscles she’d need for things like rolling over.
Obviously, look into it for yourself (I’m not about to tell you to go against official advice!) but this was a happy solution for us.
5. Slings are convenient
With your baby in a sling, there’s no manoeuvring to get through narrow shop doors, to avoid that woman’s ankle, to get on and off buses or trains, to get up those stairs or to find somewhere to park your buggy. It’s just you and your baby. You can forget the clunky equipment.
6. Wearing your baby is good for your fitness
I can almost guarantee each time I hit the shops that someone will ask whether my 20-pound daughter is getting heavy for me. My answer is, honestly, “No, not really.”
Since I’ve worn her every day, almost since she was born, I have grown stronger as she has grown heavier. I’m also convinced that this is why I weigh less than I did before I got pregnant.
7. Baby-wearing helps you bond
It’s not a given that you will be overwhelmed by a rush of love at your baby’s birth. I didn’t experience that. A traumatic birth left me feeling numb more than anything. I needed extra help in bonding.
Like many other mothers I’ve since spoken to, I found that keeping my baby close gave me the opportunity to really get to know her. I spent a lot of time looking at her, noticing her body’s movements, feeling her heartbeat while knowing that she was feeling mine.
By carrying her a bit longer, I was able to almost rewrite the rough beginning we’d had. The first moment together may have been startling but the many hours we spent tied to each other helped me to gradually recover the intimacy I’d wanted to feel instantly.
Baby-wearing is not going to be for everyone. Some people can’t stand being attached to their baby this way and feel “touched out” very quickly.
Others physically can’t do it because of difficulties like past injuries. If you’re up for it, it can be useful but, like parenting, there are no hard and fast rules.
If you’d like to try it look for your local sling meet and go experiment with a few carriers to find one that works for you.