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Back in April, I designed a six-page handout titled Babywearing Basics for my local mama group. In the introduction, I explained that many types of modern baby gear subtly encourages Western mothers to not touch their babies. You might feel that I'm being unfair, but think about it for a minute. Infant car seat/carriers, bouncy seats, infant sitters, swings, jumperoos, johnny jump ups, strollers, and who knows what else are all incredibly popular and require virtually zero interaction with the infant being contained.
Of course, I didn't belabor the point because I know that not every mother I know agrees with that assessment. But I still believe it's absolutely true. I might be unreasonable, but it seems like the babies who end up suffering from Container Syndrome would agree.
Not surprisingly, I didn't have an infant car seat/carrier prior to my son's birth. Many friends insisted that I would want one. No, that I would need one. I was told that I won't want to wake the baby if he falls asleep in the car, I was told that it's more convenient to carry a baby in the car seat than take them out, and I was told that I'd change my mind and want one once the baby arrived. As it turns out, none of those points were a valid concern in my situation.
I trusted my instincts and held off on buying one. I ended up just sticking with a convertible car seat that could be used safely with a baby as lightweight as five pounds. My eight-pounder easily fit in the convertible car seat and I never once regretted my decision to eschew an infant car seat/carrier.
I don't care if you love/loved infant car seat/carriers and use/used one all the time. That's your choice to make and your right as a parent to make that decision for your own child. I just would never ever use one with my own child. Neither opinion is right or wrong, they are simply differences in opinion.
I hate infant car seat/carriers above all other types of baby gear. There. I said it and I'm not ashamed of my feelings. I also acknowledge that my opinion on infant car seat/carriers is only based on my observations and the research that I've done on them. I never used one so I really can't comment on their effectiveness, convenience, or safety.
What's my beef with the ubiquitous infant car seat/carrier? I actually had a couple of reasons for not liking them. One, they all are so heavy and bulky. It always looks like an awkward item to carry. Why would I want to tote my tot in a heavy piece of gear when I have two capable arms or a cozy carrier? Two, a car seat that so easily detaches from the base just doesn't seem as safe as one that is completely anchored to the vehicle via LATCH or seat belt. As I've learned more about infant oxygenation levels and how SIDS is related to deep and uninterrupted sleep, I actually have a third gripe that is probably much more legitimate, but more on that later. . .
I didn't really know much about babywearing, but I knew that I wanted to try it out. I am so glad that I did! Thanks to my stubbornly unmovable breech baby, I had a c-section. I couldn't lift my stroller out of the car for months after my son was born. That also means that I would not have been able to life an infant car seat/carrier out of the car. It isn't an exaggeration to say that I don't know how I would have survived those earliest days of motherhood if it hadn't been for safe babywearing options.
I purchased a stretchy wrap and familiarized myself with how to wrap yards of fabric around my body to create a safe seat for my bundle of joy. I wore my darling little baby in that wrap from the moment we arrived home from the hospital; mainly because I was afraid that I would drop him. Typical new-mom jitters, right? Additionally, I think that thanks to keeping him upright and belly to belly with me in a wrap, he had outstanding neck control and was able to push up to look around at only one month of age.
I think he liked being carried so close too. I suppose every new mother thinks their child is absolutely wonderful, but he really was a very pleasant baby. As an infant, he only cried when I didn't pick up on his hunger cues or, much later on, when he was teething. Even taking him out of the car seat if he was sleeping didn't really bother him all that much. He might have stirred awake a little bit, but he'd cuddle right up to me in the wrap and oftentimes would just snuggle or fall back to sleep. I don't know if his easy-going attitude was because I wore him or not, but I will definitely wear any subsequent children I may have in the future!
My son was worn in a wrap for his first six months or so and then I started to use the stroller. The only reason I stopped wearing him is because he grew too heavy to wear in my wrap. I used the Ultimate Baby Wrap and it became a real hassle to have to constantly adjust & tighten due to his increasing weight demand on the stretchy fabric.
Knowing what I know now, I would have simply transitioned him to a woven wrap. Or a ring sling. Or an adjustable pouch. Or an SSC. Or a mei-tai. Or an onbuhimo. Yes, there are plenty of options for babywearing older infants clear into toddlerhood!
I rediscovered babywearing when my son was nearly 18-months old. Oh, I am so thankful that I did! I purchased several styles of barely used carriers from a certain meetup organizer (you know who you are!) and my son happily transitioned out of the stroller when I reintroduced baby/toddlerwearing into our lives.
I wonder now how I parented all of those long months without babywearing. Thanks to putting in hours upon hours upon hours at hospitals and medical centers this year, I have truly come to love babywearing. Hands-free parenting of my toddler has been a requirement while navigating wheelchairs and helping "patients" into and out of vehicles. On top of that benefit, it has been so nice to keep my son close, comfortable, and quieted while in impossibly stressful situations.
Even now, at nearly 2 1/2 years of age, my son still likes to go "in the pouch" or on "mama's back." Putting him in a carrier often wards of meltdowns and tantrums, it helps him feel secure when he's overwhelmed, and it gives him a cozy place to snooze if he's tired while we're out & about. Just this weekend I pouched him for thirty minutes to calm him when we were at church and it worked like a charm.
Though my son can certainly walk, there are still plenty of places we go that I need to keep him safe and secure - whether it's in a stroller or a carrier doesn't really matter. My son is too tall for his regular stroller so I haven't used it in months. But he still easily fits in my ring sling, pouch, and ERGO so here's to enjoying many more months of baby/toddlerwearing!
Did you wear or carry your baby or do some mix of both? How did you find that your choices made your life easier when learning how to live with a new baby? Please share your feelings below.