The 8-12th October 2012 is International Babywearing Week. Like other "weeks" it aims to raise awareness of particular practices that might not otherwise have much exposure.
Carrying your baby or toddler in a sling has been seeing a resurgence in popularity in much of the developed world over the last few years. When I started "wearing" Lucinda nearly four years ago it was rare to see any other babywearers. Other than men carrying toddlers in backpack carriers on long walks or spotting the occasional BabyBjorn style carrier, it was a tiny minority of parents who chose to carry their babies. Four years later and it is still in the minority - but so much more commonplace than it was. On most days out now I will see someone using a wrap or mei tai type sling. A few months ago I was very impressed when I attended a local childrens centre party with Lucinda and saw at least five mums using either a wrap or mei tai. I wondered whether it had anything to do with a natural/attachment parenting talk my friend and I did at breastfeeding group three years ago, when we demonstrated a range of slings. Several mums went on to purchase their own and started wearing their babies. Maybe we started a local trend? I like to think so!
But the truth is that it's nothing new. Many cultures would be baffled at the idea of pushing a baby in a pram at arms length or putting the baby down in a bouncy chair while they got on with their work. Those practices wouldn't cross their minds. They just tie their babies on and away they go. Millions of women in Africa, Asia, South America, etc, still go out to work in the fields, walk miles every day to find water and just go about their normal daily lives with their baby tied on their back.
I blame Queen Victoria! Her Royal Highness made all sorts of things "fashionable" - Prams being one of them. What started as a status symbol for the British upper classes spread throughout the country and indeed the Empire. Eventually, by the 1950s, prams were the baby transport of choice. And even I admit that some of them are absolutely beautiful - I love the big old Silver Crosses! But, realistically, I know that I would get very little use out of one. I have been totally won over by babywearing since I got my first mei tai.
There are countless benefits to babywearing, some of which can be found <here> but here are some less scientific advantages from my personal experience…
- Space-saving - Slings take up a fraction of the space of a pushchair. I always keep one in the door pocket in the car for if little legs need a rest on a day out. Also possible to fit one in your handbag.
- Better for rainy days - Having your hands free means you can hold an umbrella and keep both you and baby dry. Also don't have the problem of bringing a wet and muddy pushchair back into the house.
- Shopping centre friendly - No need to find or wait for a lift. You can just use the escalator or stairs. This is also a benefit of slings if you live in an apartment and have stairs up to your home. Slings are easier in crowds. No need to fight your way through masses of legs with a pushchair.
- All-terrain - All-terrain pushchairs might be able to go up hills and over rocky ground but they can't get over a stile! With your baby in a sling he can go wherever you go.
- Close enough to kiss - When your baby is on your front you can kiss them loads!
What other advantages of using slings can you think of? Feel free to post them in the comments section.
I will leave you with some images of "International Babywearers"...