This article was recently published in the La Leche League’s Aroha magazine, available in print and free to all LLL NZ members.
My babywearing journey started in my early 20’s, many years before I had my first child. I met a woman in a market place who had her new baby wrapped to her chest. I was struck by the feeling of how ‘right’ it seemed to me.
I thought this is totally where a baby would want to be and where I’d want my baby. The woman gave me some verbal instructions on how to make and use the wrap and I went ahead and made one for a friend who was about to have a baby. I continued to make these very basic carriers for friends and 7 years on I made one for my own baby. It didn’t take long for me to realise that the cotton lycra I was using doesn’t cut it for an 8lb baby.
Knowing it wasn’t right for baby to end up down by my belly button I had a few attempts at making the same wrap around sling with different types of material. Then my Mum bought me a woven wrap! Wahooo.
I found babywearing sooo helpful. My son had milk injected down his throat during most feeds and hated lying down with a full, uncomfortable tummy. Over-supply has its issues too. ‘Wearing’ him in an upright position really helped him to keep breastmilk down. Well, some of it! He wasn’t a great sleeper and I’ll never forget one of Brylin’s (LLL Leader for Dunedin West) first comments to me when I was reading a sleep book and commented to my Mum that Eli didn’t sleep anywhere as much as what this book said he was meant to. She said ‘It’s ok dear your baby hasn’t read that book!’ So true Brylin! I felt better knowing that I wore him a lot during the day, giving him the opportunity to rest and sleep whenever he felt like it. The sling was his mobile bed. My husband and I partied til midnight on New Years Eve with our 6 month old happily asleep in the sling.
Another moment of ‘thank goodness for the sling’ was in the middle of the supermarket when Eli 6 weeks started head butting my chest in demand of a feed. Rather than leave the half full trolley to go back to the car I loosen the sling, wiggled him down and latched him on. Unbeknownst to anyone else in the shop. Babywearing win!
At 6 months old Eli was the youngest delegate at the NZ Association for Environmental Education Conference for 3 days. I can’t say I got to hear every presentation from start to finish, but I did get a lot out of it. For years I had people say, ‘Oh yes I remember you. You had the baby attached the whole time and he was so happy.’ He loved being in the sling. He could see things from an adult perspective yet tuck himself away when he’d had enough. Being a big boy I quickly learned to wear him on my back where he could look over my shoulder. It was an even better view from there.
Babywearing was invaluable with our second child, Niwha. Life is so much busier with two. Feeding on the go aswell as being able to help the older child without making the baby wait was important to me. As we know babies don’t do ‘waiting’ well.
There were very few babywearers in Dunedin in 2007, at the time we had Eli. I really wanted more people to experience how helpful, fun and snuggly babywearing is. So I found someone to run a workshop on babywearing and raising a nappy free baby. I got some funding from the Council to run the workshop and out of this created a parenting group focused on supporting parents in practicing these techniques. By the time I had Niwha there were babywearers in town that I didn’t know!
I was still surprised at how few parents were babywearing, outside of my little bubble. I decided it was time for more action. I formed a Babywearing specific group, including a carrier library started with second hand, donated carriers. I was itching to challenge my brain alongside the challenge of raising two boys and decided that I’d write a book on Babywearing. A chapter into it I realised that it made far more sense to utilise my husband’s skills as a media producer, along with my background as an educator and outdoor instructor to create an instructional DVD/Download.
We questioned our sanity a number of times over the years it took to produce Wearing Your Baby. They’re not kidding when they say never work with babies and animals.
I was determined to create something to inspire and educate parents, educators and health professionals to support the practice of babywearing. Babywearing may not be for everyone but I’m certain that secured to Mum or Dad’s chest is where most newborn babies want to be.
I could write many more pages on the benefits, reasons and ways you can wear your baby. In fact I’ve started and you can read them here.
La Leche League New Zealand has ‘highly recommended’ the DVD for their group libraries so if you would like a copy ask your LLL Leader to get one, purchase one yourself or gift it to a pregnant friend and inspire more babywearing parents. It’s now available through the LLL catalog.
Anna Hughes is the Co-director of Wearing Your Baby www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz.
She is a former LLL member, mother of two boys who experienced bedsharing, being raised nappy free, breastfeeding and of course babywearing. She is also a wanna be writer!