I'd never heard of "babywearing" before I had my first baby, back in the distant depths of 2004. It was all the rage in the (mostly American) online parenting communities that I relied on for support in our isolated location, outside Geraldine.
Babywearing advocates cited lots of benefits, but the one I was most deperate for was reduced crying. Since my eldest was a rather... unsettled child, I thought I'd give it a go. I found instructions on the internet and sewed up a simple pocket sling.
I'd like to say that it was a revelation, but it really wasn't great. He wasn't yet sitting independently, so I tried the cradle carry. Mostly, it just hurt my back. I know now that the sling was much too big. Once he learned to sit, a hip-carry was much more comfortable.
Toddler-wearing worked better for us than babywearing had.
We'd moved to Auckland by then, and didn't have a car. To do the grocery shopping, I'd take him to the supermarket in a pushchair, do the shopping, load up the pushchair with groceries, pop him in the sling and walk home.
At the zoo for his first birthday, it was easy to carry him. He had a better view than kids in strollers, and it was so easy to talk to him and watch his reactions. When he started objecting to the pushchair at around 18 months, we could still get places without having to walk at toddler speed.
I'd made slings (and mei-tais) for other people by then, and adapted the pattern to include a padded edge. Because it was just fabric, it was easy to stuff it in a pocket of a bag and bring it everywhere. Our sling served as an emergency blanket, sunshade and towel on occasion!
The sling was useful when I occasionally looked after another little boy. I could get out and about with two toddlers that way, and we often went for a short train trip to a playground.
It was good practice for twins.
After the fateful ultrasound, I looked into babywearing twins. It seemed a Moby wrap was far and away the best option. Once they were born, I tried tandem babywearing once or twice, but found it too difficult to learn without help. I went back to my pocket sling.
Even wearing one of them was tricky, though. If I had a sleeping baby in the sling, and the other one needed a feed, I was in trouble. At least using a double pushchair meant that I had a place to put down the baby in the sling before picking up the other! Twinfants are tricky.
Once again, it was toddler-wearing that I really found useful. Once I learned to do a back carry, it was easy and comfortable to use a single pushchair for the other twin, thus saving me the disapproving looks of many a shopkeeper. On walking expeditions, the sling gave me a backup if one got tired. In desperate situations, I sometimes found myself with one two-year-old in a back carry in the sling, and another riding on my shoulders! It was more doable than hip-carrying two, particularly when I had other things to carry.
The sling languished unused between two-and-a-half and three. During our recent bout of illness, though, Vieve was exceedingly whiny and clingy, at that horrible time of day when I was trying to do dishes and cook dinner. She wouldn't settle. In desperation I asked if she wanted to ride on my back. After her tearful nod, I popped her in the sling. She found her thumb and I washed, chopped and stirred in peace.
The next day, when I started cooking dinner, Finn appeared in the kitchen trailing the sling behind him. Wistfully he asked, "My turn a Mummy back cuddle?"
Toddler-wearing is great. Preschooler-wearing can be pretty special, too.
And... exciting news! Another PG competition! Leave a comment with your favourite babywearing story here (before Sunday, October 14), and you'll go in the draw to win one of:
* a Moby wrap (very kindly donated by Scarecrow Farm)
* a $20 Unido voucher
* a $20 Adventure Kids voucher