Why I Choose to Wear My Baby

August 14, 2010 at 00:30 1 comment

In the past couple of days I have gotten a few comments (more than usual) about my preference to carry Oliver in a sling over pushing him in a stroller. Most of these comments have been really positive, referencing how happy he looks to be carried, the beautiful fabric of my ring sling, and general pleasure and interest in the convenience and ease of “baby wearing”.  Some have been a little negative, suggesting that I may somehow harm Oliver or myself by traveling that way, or that I am crazy for “wanting a baby attached to me all the time”. So I thought that, after the sheer number of conversations I’d had on the subject lately, I should write about my preference to baby wear over the use of a stroller.

For the record, it’s not because I am like Maggie Gyllenhaal in the film ‘Away We Go’:

Though I am getting crunchier by the minute I have no issue with using a stroller, (though after I heard an old school attachment parent refer to a stroller as an ‘isolation pod’ I thought it was so funny that my husband and I now refer to our own stroller that way.) I do not think that the use of a stroller is in any way harmful or bad or whatever, I just don’t find the use of a stroller convenient for me and my family. We occasionally use ours, but most of the time when I do I end up wishing I’d taken the carrier instead.

Before Oliver was even born I insisted on buying at least one good quality baby carrier. My Mom ended up sending me the West Coast Sling which we used every day for the first few months of Oliver’s life. At first my interest in “baby wearing” was for convenience purposes only. Because I do not drive and therefore rely on public transit when my husband isn’t around to be my chauffer, I wanted to be able to take Oliver on the bus without having to wrestle a stroller on and off or block the bus aisle and inconvenience other passengers. I also live in an area where the ground is covered in 5 feet of snow half the year rendering even the best stroller completely useless. But it quickly became apparent to me that there was way more to ‘baby wearing’ than convenience.

The first time I ever put Oliver in a stroller he was about 4 or 5 months old and he hated it. After being carried snug and warm on my chest with the beating of my heart in his ear for his entire life he simply could not understand why on earth he was strapped into some contraption instead of in my arms. I managed to calm him with a few of his favorite toys and, with my husband walking out front where Oliver could see him, we took a walk around our neighbourhood.

This was the first strike against our stroller, without my husband there to give me status updates on Oliver’s mood, I would have no way of anticipating if Oliver was getting uncomfortable, nervous, cranky, cold, bored, or anticipating any of his needs unless he started crying loud enough for me to hear him from behind the stroller. When I (or my husband) have Oliver in the sling or carrier we are able to read his cues and anticipate his needs much faster and easier than when pushing him in the stroller. Being able to read his cues and anticipate his needs is important to us as we believe that responding to his needs promptly and consistently fosters trust, security, and confidence.

Shortly after that first attempt with the stroller, I decided to escape the monotony of our living room and take Oliver for coffee at my favorite bookstore. I took the stroller because our stroller has a cup holder, so I figured it would be a convenient place to put my coffee while I browsed through a few books. What hadn’t occurred to me was that Oliver may want to drink and browse too.

We had barely gotten through the doors of the book store and in line for coffee when Oliver started fussing. I picked him up and ordered my coffee, by the time my coffee was ready Oliver was very upset and had all but latched onto my breast outside of my clothes. I bounced and patted and juggled Oliver over to a quiet seat and nursed him until he calmed & put him back in his stroller to browse the book store. Had Oliver been in a sling or carrier that I could comfortably nurse in, I would not have had to unlatch him to browse the store, and he could have nursed as much or as little as he wanted without me getting impatient and rushing him along. Keeping Oliver close to me in a carrier allows for the kind of closeness, contact, and access to my breast that encourages relaxation, cue feeding, and a steady milk supply.

More recently, as Oliver has become a lot more vocal and is learning to socialize with the world around him, and I have come to realize that my choice of transporting him has a major effect on the way that others (and I) treat him.

I once ran into an old friend while walking with Oliver in the stroller. We stopped to say hello and ended up talking for more than 20 minutes. When we first stopped I introduced Oliver by motioning to him sitting in his stroller, my friend said hello to him, commented on how cute he is, and then turned back to me and continued catching up. In the 20 minutes that we were talking this was the only real interaction with Oliver.

A week or so later we ran into another friend that I had not seen in a while, this time Oliver was sitting comfortably on my hip in the ring sling. I introduced Oliver and then chatted with my friend for about 10 minutes or so. Not only did she say hello to Oliver, but throughout the rest of our conversation she and Oliver would make eye contact and smile, wink, and wave at each other; my friend and I had the same conversation that we would have had whether Oliver was in the stroller or in the sling, but by having Oliver at eye level and facing my friend and I we were able to include him in our interaction. When I travel with Oliver in a carrier he has more opportunities to interact and communicate with me and with other people.

In short the physical, emotional, and social contact that a carrier or sling provides us make it the right choice for our family. While both the stroller and use of a carrier have their pros and cons, it is the carrier that fits best into our life style and parenting philosophy. And though recent media claims have made the use of infant carriers controversial, when used correctly and safely a carrier can be a huge advantage to parents and children to bond and travel together.

For more information about the benefits of ‘baby wearing’ check out this great article by Dr. Sears in which he explores his own experiences wearing his children, the numerous benefits to wearing your baby, and goes over the technique or ‘art’ of ‘baby wearing’.

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