If you happened across a certain tabloid newspaper or TV panel show yesterday you might be forgiven for feeling a little disparaged for your decision to carry your babies into toddlerhood and beyond. This post from babywearing expert Dr Rosie Knowles dispels the myths and reminds us why wearing your baby (and toddler, and preschooler) has huge benefits for your child as well as yourself.
There has been a lot of discussion from some media outlets about issues such as the “rise of the pack pony mums” and whether or not babywearing really makes any difference to positive bonding.
I will just say that:
1) There is plenty of data to show that skin to skin contact is enormously beneficial to both babies and their carers.
2) Our current culture has it wrong: human beings are social, relational creatures and thrive when they are loved and respected. Our children are no different, and in fact, the quality of their earliest relationships sets the tone for their long term future mental health. Secure attachment matters: yes all babies will attach somehow but it needs to be secure and positive for them to thrive, rather than insecure or ambivalent.
3) There are many ways to build positive bonds: hugs, loving touch and smiles, play, hand holding, listening, eye contact, and more. Using a sling is one way to facilitate close contact, and the hands-free nature can make life work much more easily when there are relentless demands on us to meet work and other responsibilities. Slings can really make a difference to helping families to cope in the stress of the society we have created for ourselves.
4) Older children need love too: would you refuse your tired and unhappy child a cuddle? Parents are not carrying their older children for hours and hours on end, just as their children are not sitting in car seats or pushchairs for hours and hours on end. Sometimes, the sling can be a tool for making life easier, happier and more free to explore when little legs can’t quite manage. You can climb higher hills and dales and show them more of the world. A carrier may be more comfortable than prolonged in-arms carrying and less stressful than pulling or cajoling toddlers along. Disabled children may need carrying frequently; their parents deserve help not ridicule.
5) Using a sling does not delay walking or stunt independence; quite the opposite. Many families comment how their carried child is more socially confident and quicker to explore the world, knowing their foundation of support and love is there whenever they need it.
6) It is not our job to train our children to accept a world of disconnection and low-self esteem, but to give them the solid foundation and confidence to change it and make it a better place.
Parents! Use your carriers to make life work, to lift your mood, to keep your child safe. Use your carriers to promote secure attachment and to get around easily. When your child wants to get down, let them; when they want your loving support again, you will be right there.
Let’s not disparage other parenting choices: we all make the decisions we do based on the information we have. Choose what works for you and your child.
Here is Sharon’s real story of carrying her older child, a brief moment of respite in a long day:
“We were holidaying in France. It was a breezy day, we visited a small town which had lots of cobble streets, steps, gateways and castle walls. It also had some little shops and cafes. We had a full day walking and exploring, the boys playing knights and castles and other pretend games: running in and out of doorways, up and down steps.
After a full morning’s adventures we ran down lots of steps towards the beach. The beach was really cold. The six year old got grumpy, the four year old got grumpy. We found a little playground and stopped for snacks and a play. After our break we began the walk back to the centre of the town where our car was parked. A long walk back along the promenade along the shore. The six year old was content running up and down steps, finding and throwing pebbles, the four year old had had enough, he was cold and tired. A tantrum or a full bum plant and “I’m not moving” was imminent.
I had the ring sling as a scarf, it was keeping me warm. “Would you like to go in the sling” I asked. Of course, the answer was “yes”, the anticipation on his face, the frown turning to a smile as I got the sling ready! I lifted him and secured him, he snuggled into me. It’s evident in the photo – the contentment that the closeness and the warmth brought to us both. I choose that over a grumpy tantrum any day.”