by: Angelique Geehan
Using pieces of cloth to carry babies is a skill that more and more parents and caregivers are rediscovering. Why should you bother?
1)Body parts (yours).
You wanted an extra pair of arms or hands? Learning to use a carrier could free yours up to manage the rest of your fabulous day, whether that involves the needs of other siblings or e-mails from your admiring public, disaster management (unrelated to the siblings, of course) or holding a refreshing glass of lemonade as you lounge in the shade.
Did a hardworking back, shoulder, neck, or wrist cry out for relief? A sling could take some of the strain and give the tired parts a break — during nursing or feeding, chef duties, yard work, conference calls, or chatting with the neighbors.
2)Body parts (theirs).
Are curious little hands unwelcome in the middle of a store display or public restroom? Are little feet either dragging or pounding off in undesirable or unsafe directions? Invite your mini-me up for a calming cuddle to sidestep some of that trouble.
(Remember, if a carrier isn’t comfortable for you and the child, ask for help.)
3)A boost for baby and bonding.
Keeping kid noggins close enough to kiss makes sharing jokes with an older child or keeping tabs on an infant easy. Higher up, children more naturally become a part of interactions with others and with you.
It improves the view: Especially in crowded places, it can be a comfort for little ones to see faces instead of knees.
More importantly, proper positioning in a cloth carrier keeps baby’s airway open, whereas slumping in a carseat, swing, stroller, or bouncer can restrict the flow of oxygen to the brain.
4)Snuggles and smooches for everyone …
Savor some eau de tiny-sweaty-baby-head? Feel like some fuzzy-head kiss-therapy? Care for some chubby-cheek-noms? Hoping for some heart-to-heart? Enjoy it all, with unsurpassable convenience.
5)… Except strangers.
A sling can help keep well-meaning but oblivious folks from slobbering all over your offspring, and if one or two invade your personal space, your arms will be free to defend it.
6)Before the stroller, there were slings.
Let’s be clear: strollers are wonderful. However, the cloth carrier has been a loyal helper to humans for thousands of years, and it continues to offer support in some situations for which a stroller just isn’t qualified.
No sidewalks, no beaten paths, and vacation hikes that last all day? No problem for slingers. Stairs? Stick ‘em to us. Tight aisles with delicates on display? We charge on in. Narrow sidewalks? No worries, we’re nimble. A little spit-up? Toss the carrier in the wash; no disassembly required. Munchkin wants to march? Don’t wrangle an empty stroller; stash the sling or keep right on wearing it.
7)Multi-tool; no batteries required.
Cloth carriers can be used as changing pads, pillows, picnic blankets, and to help secure and cushion young babies in restaurant high chairs and playground swings. Infants can teethe on parts of a carrier, and many carriers have hoods or allow extra fabric to be used as sun or rain protection. If the weather were ever to turn cold, slings could promote the sharing of body warmth. And carriers, especially simple pieces of cloth, are magical, deftly transforming into hideouts, hammocks, costumes, roads, rivers …
With a cloth baby carrier, a much-needed nap can happen anytime, anywhere.
When sleep eludes a small member of the family, a comforting walk can work wonders. A baby who was nursed or fed in a sling and who falls asleep can remain there and make the most of the snoozes.
9)Cultural and community connections.
Like tying shoelaces or a necktie, babywearing is a skill, and it is one that people all over the world have mastered throughout history. It can be empowering to become a part of that tradition. People worldwide come together because of babywearing and learn about each others’ cultures over the internet, and in Houston, we have an active community of families that support each other as we enjoy and learn to carry our children close.
10)Babywearing has options for everyone.
It doesn’t matter if you pick up a structured carrier from the nearest store, painstakingly select just the right woven wrap online, or make your own pouch or ring sling. It doesn’t matter if your kiddos ride on your front, back, or hip; a few minutes every now and then, or every day for a few hours. Man or woman, rural or urban or suburban, practical or whimsical — we hope you learn how satisfying it can be to connect with your children by giving them a ride. Happy babywearing!
This was written with help from many members of the Houston Babywearers, who shared their reasons for babywearing via our facebook groups. Thank you!