You know those babies that are perfectly happy to sit peacefully in their bouncy seat or swing? Or the baby that just loves relaxing quietly in their stroller? Well, I sure don’t! My first born Charlie made it quite clear from the very first day home from the hospital that there was only one place that he was going to be happy and calm- and that was as close as humanly possible to me, preferably with at least 90% of his body touching me at all times. His father or other trusted caregiver could be a temporary and less satisfactory alternative, but under no circumstances did he plan to spend any time in any of these baby torture devices that we had so carefully picked out and received as gifts (a swing, bouncer, baby lounger, mega-expensive stroller with all the bells and whistles- all clearly designed for nefarious purposes as far as he was concerned.) As fun as it was to hold my baby all day, and I literally mean alllll day, my arms were tired and I missed using my hands for things like feeding myself and operating a remote control. If I so much as put him in the vicinity of his baby swing with the intent of leaving him there so I could go to the bathroom alone, he’d go ballistic. This baby was clearly a defective model- babies are supposed to love all these specially designed baby seats, right?
We had received a hand-me-down stretchy wrap baby carrier and I soon began living in it. I wore Charlie in the morning while I ate breakfast. I wore him while I did laundry. I wore him while I watched TV. The only place he would nap was in a carrier- so while I wished that I too could be napping, instead I scheduled my daily walks and excursions around the neighborhood around his naptimes and he slept like a champ. Ever the optimist, I was sure that it was only a matter of time until Charlie developed a deep love for his stroller. It was fancy, it was a cheerful color with coordinating accessories and all the other NYC Mommies looked so cool pushing their pretty strollers down the sidewalks of the Upper West Side. So every few days, I’d break free from the baby carrier and we’d try to stroll. And every time I’d find myself balancing a screeching baby in one hand and awkwardly pushing an enormous stroller with the other hand.
It turns out screaming babies are actually quite difficult to hold in one hand while pushing a stroller and it feels fairly foolish to be consistently pushing an empty stroller. Eventually we scrapped the fancy wheels and expanded our carrier collection. And pretty soon, I couldn’t even remember why I had been so insistent that I needed a stroller; We were officially a babywearing family.
I loved wearing my little man around the city. We could go into any shop without bumping an over-sized stroller in to NYC-sized store aisles. We could easily take the stairs to the subway and get to appointments and visit friends. We could eat out at our favorite restaurants while a content baby slept in a carrier gathering crumbs on his tiny head. Once we got the hang of it, I even loved being able to nurse discretely and on-the-go in my carriers. And best, Charlie was a happy man. He was always calm and content when being held- and our ability to wear him in carriers allowed us to enjoy our lives and get out of our apartment.
As he got older, he became increasingly independent so he could explore his world, which my arms and back welcomes as a positive development, but we never stopped babywearing. Babywearing helped us maintain our love of travel. We took a trip to Europe when Charlie was 13 months old and he experienced the many wonders of France, Belgium and the Netherlands all from the comfort of his baby carrier. As he got bigger, we found different carriers that better supported his growing weight and eventually moved to toddler sized carriers. He’s three years old now and not as interested in being carried, but it is still a part of our life. I still enjoy the cuddles and it still seem to help him relax.
When we had our second son, we got right back in the routine of babywearing because that was the only way we knew how to survive the newborn period. We also ended up with a hand-me-down baby swing and out of curiosity one day I placed Cameron in the seat and nervously fastened him in. While I was expecting full blown baby hysterics, almost instantly, he was happily asleep. I was baffled. We tried it again the next day with the same result... a happy, relaxed baby. What a magical machine! Did this mean I could go to the bathroom alone? So while it honestly seemed foreign at first, we adapted. We were still a babywearing family but our baby also really enjoyed swings, bouncy seats and even his stroller! I cried real tears the day that he outgrew his swing, that thing was a miracle.
This experience reinforced my parenting philosophy of “do what works”. What worked for Charlie was non-stop carrying and our baby carrier was our most important parenting tool. What worked for Cameron was different. Thankfully, while not every baby will demand to be carried all day it is biologically normal for babies to want and need a lot of close contact with their caregivers. A baby carrier is a great way to support your baby’s development while allowing you to be active and hands free. Carriers can be an especially wonderful tool for intense babies that need a little extra contact with their caregiver to feel secure and calm in the world. As a babywearing consultant, I love being able to help families find a babycarrier that works for them and improves their parenting relationship. Some families will want to wear their babies frequently and other families will use their carrier only occasionally. While I love to share my love of babywearing, my real hope is that all parents find what works best for their unique family and builds their confidence as parents.
Picking the perfect babycarrier is much like picking the perfect pair of jeans; not everything is going to work the same for every person. You will so often hear someone proclaim that THIS babycarrier is by far the best and THAT babycarrier is inferior in a multitude of ways. And that may be true for that particular caregiver, but like everything else in parenting, there is unfortunately not a one-size-fits-all solution to your baby carrier needs. Parents should consider who will be wearing the baby and under what circumstances- will you be using a carrier for the occasional walk around town? Will you want to take it off and put it back on while you are out? Does your carrier need to be adjustable to fit multiple caregivers of different shapes and sizes? Do you feel comfortable tying knots or would you feel more secure with buckles? Does baby have any health concerns that should be considered in choosing a carrier? All of these questions can help you narrow down the universe of carriers that might work best for you. Maybe it is an Ergobaby or Bjorn carrier with buckles. It might be a woven wrap that wraps around your body and ties off with a knot. Maybe it is a simple ring sling that is easily adjustable and small enough to toss in a diaper bag or stroller basket. Maybe you are like me and will want one of each kind! The best way to decide if a carrier works for you and baby is to try it on. You can visit a local store that carries a selection of different carriers, attend a babywearing support group or class or make an appointment with a local consultant who can work with you one on one to find the perfect fit.
Erin lives in uptown Hoboken with her two boys, Cameron and Charlie, her husband David and their beagle Penny. She is a Lactation Consultant and a Certified Babywearing Educator who loves helping new parents with breastfeeding, infant care, baby carriers and more. In addition to loving all things baby, Erin enjoys travel, photography and playing in the park with her boys.