Finding your groove as a new parent is not always easy. Everything is new. The learning curve is painfully steep. And the challenges keep coming. Babywearing might feel like one more wrench thrown into your day if you are a parent who just can't seem to get it.
Today I want to speak to those parents who found babywearing to anything but easy. I'm grateful to Cassandara for the raw honesty of her submission below:
I really want to have one of those touching stories you are seeking. But…
They cry. They always cry. I put them in the carrier and they squirm, scream and fight. I have had 3 babies and they have all acted the same way. At the farmer’s market I watch with envy the other mommies wearing their cozy, sleeping babies. Their hands are free as they shop, snack, knit, etc. Not me, as you can see from my pictures, I got to walk around the Field Museum in Chicago with a miserable 2 month old. Maybe it’s the carrier, or the angle, or me? I don’t know.
What kind of earthy mama am I if I can’t wear my baby? This is the question I ask myself every time I strap a baby to my chest. I am crafty and on-the-go and wearing my baby would be perfect. I really, really want to!
Out of frustration I am driven to haiku…
My heavy baby
Mommy needs her arms today
Don’t scream your head off
My heart goes out to Cassandra. I've been there. I've uttered the words "My baby hates baby carriers." And "Oh, no thanks. I don't use the carrier. It sucks." And "Look what I got done today with no hands!" (motioning towards piles of dirty dishes, crusty spit-up soaked towels, dirty diapers, and unfolded laundry).
I was a babywearing drop out. Like Cassandra, I had learned to loathe my carrier.
My story starts at the thrift store: I am extremely frugal and try to buy nearly everything second hand. When I was pregnant with Sage I purchased several used carriers (a front pack similar to the one above, a homemade front pack, a sling and an awkward backpacks). They seemed good enough at first glance: sturdy, a bit of padding, a reasonable price, and someplace to tuck my baby. (My extremely sensitive, particular, and communicative baby.)
The cheap carriers sucked and he let me know in no uncertain terms. He felt the same way about the stroller, so in arms he was (as I pushed the empty stroller back home with my knees). I essentially gave up on both babywearing and baby buggies within the first three weeks of Sage's life.
Enter the Sling-Wearing-Goddess-Friend into my life. Her (extremely sensitive, particular, and communicative) baby was happy as can be in their sling. Every time I saw them. No screaming. No arching. No shaking of wee fists in the air.
She suggested I give it another shot. "He's too old," I told her. (He was then a mature 5 months old. The same kid who now at 7 1/2 years still longs for the sling. Oh, the irony.) She wore me down and I agreed to give it another go.
Sage (age 1) and I in our sling
She hooked me up with an Over the Shoulder Baby Holder to try out and I was nothing short of amazed. He didn't scream. I didn't scream. So I bought one – brand new – on the spot. It was the best $50 I spent on that boy. We wore it daily until Sage was four and Lupine was born. Then Sage relinquished it to his baby sister. When we wore it out we purchased another Over the Shoulder (ironically at a thrift store.)
Since then we've had or made close to a dozen other carriers, but if you ask me which one owns my heart it's my sling. My dirty, tattered, threadbare, memory woven, badge of motherhood sling.
But I digress.
The upshot is that be successful in wearing my baby I needed two things three things:
1. A mentor. Without the Sling Mama I never would have given carriers a second chance. (Love you, P.!)
2. A quality carrier. One that did not torture my baby by hanging him by his crotch (like many front packs do) or jam him into uncomfortable and unsafe contortions.
3. Confidence. (This one I added as an afterthought, but was key for me. I am sensitive, and my kids are sensitive. When I worried that they would hate it, they did. But when I knew it would be brilliant it was.)
Cassandra, I hope that helps a bit. Ditch your old carrier. (Some people swear by that type, but others say they hold the baby's pelvis in an awkward/unnatural position. For us it was a scream factory.) Invest in (or sew) an upgrade. Read some reviews, talk to other parents, try some on. Read the comments that parents leave here this week. I've already seen some great suggestions there. I hope you win one this week, mama. You've earned it!
Onto the goodies. Today we are hosting three giveaways. One lucky winner will receive a padded ring sling from Over the Shoulder Baby Holder. I could talk for hours (and have) about the virtues of this particular sling. if you've been a close friend in the past 7 years and had a baby changes are if I didn't give you a Moby I gave you an Over the Shoulder when you were pregnant.
Another winner will receive the babywearing DVD Tummy2Tummy , as described yesterday.
A third winner will receive a digital copy of Mothering Magazine's Babywearing 101. (Also described in yesterday's post).
To be entered in the drawing please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts on babywearing, something that inspired you to wear your baby, or a hope you hold in your heart. (One comment per person please.) Feel free to ask questions. I'll respond to just as many as I can. If you missed yesterday's post feel free to leave a comment there as well.
Comments are closed. I'll announce winners later this week!
To let more families know about this week's events, I encourage you to re-blog, post to your Facebook page, and share on Twitter. Thanks for spreading the word! I will close comments on Saturday, April 17 and announce all winners the following week.
Over the Shoulder Baby Holder
There are countless fancy, modern slings on the market. With great marketing and gorgeous fabrics and modern features. Sexy, sexy slings that you might just want to wear as an accessory, with our without the baby.
Over the Shoulder is not that sling. As opposed to sexy, they remind me a bit of myself in seventh grade. Not the prettiest girl in school (but lovely in her own right), a bit quiet, not the most popular but loved fiercely by those who have taken the time to connect, extremely hardworking, honest and easy to get along with. And one with strong ideals.
Underrated and wonderful, you might say.
We used our Over the Shoulder sling from the time Sage was six months old until he was 4. (And by then Lupine was occupying it.) Pete walked Sage to sleep in the woods behind our house in the sling every night. The first baby sign Sage made up was a sign for "sling". Sage even had a wee Over the Shoulder of his own for his babywearing adventures.
On the top shelf in my sewing room is what is left of our sweet baby sling after six years of constant use. I am making quilts for the kids. Each will contain a piece of the sling they were comforted and loved in for countless hours. That way they are always wrapped up in my mama love in that sling.
Below is my interview with Over the Shoulder Baby Holder. They are truly ethical, big-hearted, honest folks.
Clean: What is your company and how long have you been in business?
OTSBH: We were the first company to manufacture baby slings back in 1987. Early on the Lord put on our hearts the desire to help children. We saw that all children responded to, blossomed, if you will, when they were nurtured in love.
Clean: What makes your carrier one of the best?
OTSBH: Our padded and adjustable sling allows the caregiver to exactly ‘mimic mom’s arms’. The padding supports the newborns head and torso so that they lie naturally rather than sagging into a ‘C’ shape, and we can see their face and check on their comfort. And being adjustable allows the caregiver to make the sling fit perfectly no matter if the baby grows, or if we change caregivers, or the baby changes positions.
Clean: Why do you believe caregivers wear their babies?
With our first baby, my wife & I who were followers of Jean Liedloff’s Continuum Concept, determined to carry our babies every waking moment until they naturally weaned themselves from continual contact with us. This is not only convenient for the parent, but allows the baby to develop maximum security as they develop a sense that they are in control of their environment as they give cues to their responsive parent. This is in opposition to a baby who is left to fend for himself in a ‘away from parents body’ type of device (strollers, walkers, bouncers, etc.); these babies do not develop the same sense of security because they have no control over their environment–a device cannot respond to a baby’s cue.
Clean: Any tips for beginners?
OTSBH: Fool proof sling wearing:
1-Before putting your Over the Shoulder Baby Holder on, hold your baby in your arms in front of a mirror–note where the baby's head is in relation to your elbow, bustline, etc. Note where your baby’s bottom is.
2-Wait until your baby is sleeping and you are free to practice putting the sling off and on. Practice tightening and loosening the sling until you can do it with your eyes closed.
3-Again in front of a mirror, put on the sling, put a doll or teddy bear in the sling. Tighten & loosen as needed and position the doll exactly where you were holding your real baby–head near crook of arm, bustline, etc. Remember, practice makes perfect, do it again! And again!
4-Now when you and your baby are in good moods, have plenty of time, etc. get in front of the mirror, put the sling on. Now put your baby in exactly the way you did the doll. Don’t be afraid to gently move your baby to where they need to be, then tighten. Voila! Happy baby, happy mom!
Clean: What else should we know about your company or babywearing in general?
OTSBH: Raising a baby in a sling naturally increases the bonding and attachment between baby and all people. Your child will grow to be attached to people, rather than things. Relationships are the only thing that make us joyful for our entire lives. When we are attached to peopel, love people, we do things for other people instead of thinking of our selves. When we have this kind of joy it is not conditional on some event making us happy – we have joy, even when undergoing the trials of life.
Feeling Like a Mama, Danielle Reiner
My last steps into mamahood came to me as a surprise. A pop and a splash, too early in the morning and too early in the pregnancy.
There was, of course, joy: joy at welcoming a new life into the world, at meeting my son. But there was also sadness, fear, and heartache. Being a mama to a preemie changed everything, my dreams and plans for becoming the mama I wanted to be.
For the first two weeks of life, my access to my little one was restricted. I was restricted by the incubator; an unnatural barrier between us, mother and son, with only two holes for my hands to fit through. I was restricted by the noon to 8pm visiting hours. I was restricted by the doctors, the treatments, the tests, the tubes, the policies, everything. I went home without my babe in my arms and without my babe in my belly. It was, quite possibly, the hardest thing I've ever done.
In the care of his doctors, he improved. Slowly, piece-by-piece, equipment was removed, until my little one was there, breathing on his own, eating like a champ, and gaining weight like he should. Finally, he was released into our home and our care. Things should have been right, as they were meant to be, Mama and babe, together.
However, even though we were reunited, things were off. I had a hard time finding my groove as a mama. I struggled. He was only two weeks old and I felt as though I had missed so much. I wanted to catch up, to connect, to get to know my babe and have him get to know me. I wanted to hold him close and make up for lost time.
This is where babywearing helped us find ourselves. Babywearing helped us be together. Babywearing helped us bond. Babywearing helped me connect to a babe that I, for a short time, was physically disconnected from. More than anything, babywearing helped me feel like a mama, while I learned about my little one.
I felt like a mama when I learned to identify and pick up on his most subtle signals. With the babe in the sling, I could see his tiny little mouth starting to open and shut like a little bird. Before he even fussed, I could tell he was hungry. I was his mama, I knew.
I felt like a mama when I could feel him shift through cycles of sleep. When his eyelids would flutter, or his body twitch, I knew that if I walked or rocked a bit, he would go back into a deep slumber.
I felt like a mama when I would slip him into the sling, during a particularly challenging part of our day, and he would melt into my body and relax. While I couldn't erase the troubles of the day or take away the gas pains in his tummy, I learned that being close to me was enough to bring him comfort.
While babywearing couldn't erase the pain of the start we had, it helped us heal. It helped me connect with my little one, and it helped him connect with me. Being close allowed us to get to know and trust one another.
That first time I put him in the sling, I had no idea what a powerful act it was. After an unexpected and rocky start, that sling helped me to become the mama that I wanted to be. The mama I dreamed about. The mama that my little one deserves.