Before I became pregnant, I had never given a moment’s thought to the transportation of babies. They go in push chairs, and that’s where they go. Or so I thought. It was only on walking into a popular baby shop that I became aware of the range of options, and found that none were going to work for us.
Not only would it be impossible to get most of the tank-with-tractor-wheel travel systems up our staircase (we live on the first floor), but we didn’t have anywhere to store it even if we could. And that’s assuming we could even afford one in the first place.
I don’t really remember when using a sling first occurred to me, but my initial course of action was to do what most people do: go for the best-known brands. My parents kindly bought us our first baby sling, and for the first while the Bruin carrier was great.
It was sturdy, rigid and seemed secure and comfortable. In fact, I carried our daughter around town for five hours when she was just six days of age – not a recommended activity post-natally, but neither my back nor my child suffered any ill effect.
Unfortunately, as she became heavier, I found the sling caused me more and more back ache. I was doing Mom and Baby Salsa once a week and found that was becoming harder too and was really beginning to think that I would have no choice but to resort to a push chair.
Fortunately, another kind soul came to my rescue when a friend gave me a sling she was no longer using. It is called a Mei Tai and has straps that tie around the middle and hang over the shoulder.
Thanks to the Ella Roo Mei Tai, I’ve managed another two months so far of baby wearing, for which I am so grateful. In researching for this post, I also discovered a different way of tying the sling so that it provides additional support, and having given it a try I am confident I’ll be able to carry my daughter until at least the recommended nine months now.(edit: 18/09/2012 – I carried her in the Mei Tai for 18 months and still carry her sometimes at almost 3 in an Ergo)
Even so, I inevitably need to make sure I take more breaks, as my knees are starting to hurt. Not when I carry our daughter around, but when I get up and sit down. But I have loved carrying her. I have loved the closeness I have felt to her, her head asleep on my chest, her hand resting on my breast. I have loved being able to kiss and hold her close.
I’ve loved how she falls asleep when we walk, when we salsa, when I sit in situations where other children are frustrated and irritable, like waiting rooms and embassy queues. I have loved being able to clean the house, cook and generally continue with life by putting her in the sling.
Even when we do move her in to a push chair, it will be parent-facing so that we do not lose that connection, and she still knows where to find me. (Edit: We never did put her in a pushchair)
Of course, baby-wearing also has health benefits for babies, especially those born prematurely. They experience the sling as a womb extension, and it helps to sooth them. There is also evidence that ‘worn’ preemies grow and develop faster, and in general, babies who are worn cry less than their counterparts kept isolated in prams (I say ‘isolated’ as I remember reading a story about African women in a remote village laughing at the suggestion of a pram and questioning what was wrong with the babies that they had to be kept in isolation. Sadly, I can’t find the article now).
Dr Sears has a fantastic website on the topic. There has also been a lot of mention in the press recently about the safety of baby carriers and slings and the impact on spines and hips. It’s worth reading this article before making any final purchasing decisions. If you need more convincing, Dr Momma also has a wealth of resources on the subject.
Unfortunately most people I have met have gone for the most common sling types, such as Baby Bjorn and Bruin and end up quitting baby wearing as soon as the baby gets a bit bigger due to the pressure on their backs, even with the added back support.
I highly recommend trying some of the tie or ring slings if at all possible before buying the popular ones. It might help you prolong the simple beauty of keeping your child close to you a little longer.
Does anyone have any experience on this? I’d love to hear your views!