Friday, November 20, 2009
When my son was born, babywearing was a necessity. Mikko emerged weighing an astonishing 12 pounds, and he was not amused at being ousted from his soft, liquid home. The one thing that made him feel better? Snuggling close to a warm body, feeling loving arms around him, and hearing a gently beating heart — and bouncing. Parents have instinctively known for centuries that newborns respond well to the rhythms of a mama's walk, because of course that's what the baby's been experiencing these long nine months within.
But our little guy hit 20 pounds at nine weeks, and we couldn't manage the continual walking and bouncing he demanded without something to hold him up and give our arms a break!
I was glad I had invested so heavily in a babywearing stash during pregnancy. Out came the ring slings, the stretchy and gauze wraps, the structured carriers, and each had its place in our babywearing repertoire, depending on task (long walk? chores around the house?) and mood (do I feel like green butterflies or fuzzy brown?).
What didn't change was the give-and-take at the heart of babywearing. We poured out love and security into Mikko, we offered the lovely memory of those free-floating days in the womb, we wrapped him warm and close and spoke into his ear. Mikko in turn gave us his trust, and before we knew it he could reach out his arms to us to signal that now, again, was the time to pick him up and hold him close.
Sometimes, as babies turn into toddlers, babywearing falls by the wayside or is given over to the next sibling to arrive on the scene. Once a baby can walk, it seems that we as parents are not needed as much for transportation, and we give our young a chance to stretch their legs and their freedom.
This autumn, we moved house. Since our new digs were just down the street, we frequently took advantage of the short distance by walking back and forth between the two places, to look for something we couldn't find, to transport a bulky object that didn't fit in the cargo van we rented, to free up more passenger space in our tiny car to fit that many more boxes for a trip.
I needed a way to accomplish all the tasks that come with moving, but our 2-year-old whirlwind was making getting anything done a bit of a challenge. I plucked the Ergo off the coat tree and turned to Mikko. "Want a ride on Mama's back?"
His eyes lit up, his arms shot out, and once again he was lifted up close to me. At this vantage point, as we walked along the beach toward our new home, he could see from our perspective, he could feel snuggled against a loving body, and I could hear his voice chirping sweetly in my ear and reach back to give his feet a squeeze.
I've made an effort to put babywearing back into our everyday lives, even though Mikko is a hefty 35 pounds and change, and even though he sometimes prefers to walk on his own. There's a lot more up and down than when he was a newborn, but babywearing is adaptable. If he wants to walk, he can, and if he wants a piggyback ride, I'm available.
Even once your child is too big or too heavy or too old for you to babywear, there are still ways to carry forward the spirit and intention of babywearing.
You might not have the kangaroo-care skin-to-skin bonding of those first few days, but you keep that contact alive by giving regular, nurturing touch: holding your child's hand, cuddling him close for nursing, giving a back rub as she falls asleep, and pooting that tempting soft belly.
You might not always be carrying their full weight against your body, but you can still find chances to physically interact: saving a seat on your lap, wrestling on the floor, twirling around the room, and squeezing in a great big hug.
At some point, you might not be able to pick up your child anymore. It's an observable truth that most kids eventually outgrow their parents' ability to haul them around, even in a really sturdy back carry! But we can still respond as attached parents when they lift up their arms, either literally or emotionally, and ask for our help, our connection, or our awareness.
If you keep in mind the reasons you chose babywearing in the first place, you will always find ways to hold your kids close to your heartbeat.
I'm curious: What's the heaviest or oldest child you've worn in a sling or other carrier, and do you have carrier recommendations? How do you physically connect with your children?
Special notes about this post: If it is Nov. 20 still, you can enter my mei tai baby carrier giveaway!
Even more significantly, I wrote this post to enter a contest myself: Parenting by Nature’s Blog to Inspire contest. Please comment and share this post — even if you're usually a lurker, I'd love to hear from you! We're judged partly by our engagement, so engage with me, fellow hobo mamas! And if you're a parenting blogger in Canada or the US, consider entering Blog to Inspire yourself. Wish me luck!