4 years ago, I was on maternity leave, excitedly anticipating the arrival of my first baby. After hours of research online, I had found my way to purchasing a Manduca baby carrier, an Oscha ring sling and a Didymos woven wrap. Once Toby was here, the ring sling was quickly moved on as I just could not get to grips with it AT ALL. The Manduca was wholly more successful, and my first foray in to wrapping ignited a little spark that was to grow...and grow...and grow!
I wanted to 'babywear' for a few reasons. On a practical level, I was all about being able to eat and cuddle my baby at the same time, and as a non driver, it made buses much easier to negotiate. I also had a very romantic notion in my head that I would transform in to an earth mother goddess, wrapped in beautiful fabric, wind blowing in my hair every time I carried him.
The reality was slightly more mundane - a massive oversized fleeced cocooning me and the baby, a big red backpack holding everything we could possibly need, and hair that had seen more dry shampoo than was healthy. But I *felt* like superwoman. I could carry my baby, everything we needed, get places we wanted to go, do what we needed to do, and home again, all whilst keeping him close and content. Letting everything pass us by, we were a little unit - me protecting him from the world, and to some extent, him protecting me, during that transitional period where I went from 'me' to 'mum'. Breastfeeding was hard, the sleep deprivation was hard, trying (and failing) to do housework/remember things/do simple tasks like showering alone were hard, but carrying was easy, comforting, enjoyable and gave me the confidence to get us out the door. Without it, I would have struggled to meet people, get to groups and do things even just in the village - and I'm always grateful that I found my way with slings early on.
The local babywearing community at that time was enthusiastic but small - we had no sling library, sporadic meets, and you rarely met a babywearer out and about, but the Facebook group was growing in popularity.
I happily carried Toby till he was 18 months (despite many 'is that not hurting your back?' comments) both in the Manduca and in an Oscha wrap, and it was only when a tough bout of morning sickness hit, that I hung up the slings. 4 months later when I was feeling better, he was happy to get around on his own steam, so I started to plan how I wanted to carry baby number 2.
Stretchy wrap in hand, and a week or so post c section, we gave it a whirl, With a boisterous toddler, and my husbands paternity leave soon over, the wrap gave me the ability to have those precious newborn snuggles, inhaling the heady scent of milky hair, whilst having two hands free for my toddler. I could pop Molly in to the wrap, take T up to playgroup and come home again, all with her snuggled happily asleep against my chest.
And snuggled on my chest she has stayed. Regardless of the type of carrier (and there have been, and continue to be many!) we have walked through forests, navigated playgroups, restaurants, shopping centres, numerous national trust properties, parks, exhibitions, buses and trains, volunteered at sling meets, parties and sling exhibitions, and had many an evening meal saved by being able to pop her up in a sling. The pain of teething, colds and illness have all been soothed, and nap times conquered by wrapping her on to me, heart to heart, her upset soon being forgotten.
The local babywearing scene is now buzzing and huge - over the past 2 years, it has grown at a tremendous rate, and you don't have to look far to find a babywearer, no matter where you are. We are so lucky to have such a lovely community with numerous sling meets and libraries to allow as many parents as possible to access slings. No longer are they seen as the 'hippy' option, but as a baby essential, which is an encouraging shift in attitude, and the community is truly diverse in the parents it attracts.
I have found so many wonderful friends from something as simple as using a sling, all brought together through a love of carrying our babies, sharing wraps and experiences as our children grow. All of us have had our sanity saved at various points because of a sling - sometimes when there doesn't seem to be an answer, the sling will always make everything right in the world again
Being able to help families find the right sling for them is one of my most favourite things to do, and with the late summer/autumn baby boom in full swing, I have seen so many gorgeous newborns of late. It makes me so happy to know that new parents are getting to experience all the benefits of babywearing, right from the very start. But it's never too late to try a sling - even if your child is well in to toddlerhood (or beyond!) - so don't think you have missed the boat by not starting when they are small. A recent client hired two carriers for her 3 year old twins, and being able to pop them up in the sling when legs got tired, or the busy festival atmosphere got too much, meant their holiday was much more enjoyable.
I titled this blog post 'Why I Carry My Children', and bar the obvious, I just couldn't imagine not doing it. The act, the art even, of wrapping and carrying them has become a part of me. Not so much something I do, but who I am, as a mother and as a sling educator, and even when they are both big and their legs never tire enough to be physically carried, they will be carried in my heart
Wherever you are in your parenting journey, (or geographically), there will be a sling meet/library/consultant and a community of welcoming parents ready to help you. Have a look on www.slingpages.co.uk to find out more