Recently, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my babywearing journey. Although my current wearee is my first proper relationship with babywearing, she also happens to be my fourth and last child. And as she creeps closer towards a fierce yet carefully cultivated independence, and further away from needing to be frequently carried for long periods of time, I have done a lot of reflection on this most amazing and special time in our lives.
Our babywearing journey began when she was 4 weeks old, after a friend suggested I look into babywearing to assist with my daughter’s clinginess. Like a lot of new babywearers, I used a stretchy wrap for the first few weeks of wearing. And, like most wearers of newborns, once I discovered how helpful and easy wearing my baby made getting on with my life, babywearing became second nature. I went from wearing for one or two hours per day, to wearing for almost the entirety of daylight hours.
When I discovered the online babywearing community though, I quickly realised how little I knew about babywearing and how diverse and widespread it was as a practice. Through the online secondhand groups, I bought a buckle carrier, and began to delve into woven wraps. Within 6 months of using babywearing as a parenting tool, I had developed a collection of carriers, including multiple wraps in varying lengths and blends. The secondhand market of babywearing carriers was quite strong at the time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the distinct privilege of being able to experiment with a variety of different carriers and looks.
Between the ages of 3-12 months, we used babywearing daily, and often multiple times a day. Sometimes I would use a carrier to comfort her; other times I would use it as a form of exercise; I did babywearing challenges to mix up my wrapping and hone my skills. But mainly, as an advocate of the Do What Works theory, I used babywearing as a tool because it worked for us. Babywearing enabled me to reenter the adult world, and have an interest in something other than feeding, bathing, and playing with my baby!
We have experienced what are referred to as ‘wearing strikes’ - where she flatly refuses to be worn. Interestingly, these periods of time have been brief. There is inevitably less wearing as she gets older, but that is a mutual decision on both our parts. I don’t always enjoy babywearing - some days I’m completely touched out and needing space, and I know my daughter feels the same. At the age of 2, she isn’t worn daily anymore, but if she is sick, or feeling overwhelmed by her environment; or in situations like going to an airport or a weekend market; we always make sure there is a carrier handy.
I was trepidatious to say the least, about our babywearing days winding down. When my daughter began to walk, I knew that the end was nigh. I was quite surprised to realise, however, that merely because my daughter was beginning to exert her independence of movement, that didn’t mean she needed me any less. Our babywearing relationship between the ages of 1 and 2 was still quite regular, as it continued to meet our needs. Wearing my daughter at the shops meant more room in the shopping trolley; taking a carrier on a walk meant when her little legs got tired, she was more than happy to be carried home.
One of the most amazing things about the babywearing journey is the relationships that are developed. Through the online babywearing community, I discovered my local babywearing group. Although it wasn’t overly active at the time, within 12 months it grew and became a regular part of our routine. I found friends, both online and in person, through a mutual interest in babywearing. Some of these friendships I have developed will be lifelong.
As our days continue to slow, I am reminded that like many things related to parenting, babywearing is about the journey. Without babywearing, it is doubtful I would have navigated my postnatal depression and anxiety. Without babywearing, I wouldn’t have albums full of beautiful photos of my daughter and I, which will provide us with a bond for life. Without babywearing, I wouldn’t have amazing friends from all around the world. So although the practice of babywearing is but a drop in the ocean of time spent being a parent, it is one I will always cherish and never forget.
Plus, there are always nieces, nephews, and friend’s babies to wear in the meantime. And one day - grandchildren!! #wearallthebabies
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Ankalia’s online journal is written and edited by white Australian women. As such, our articles are written from our cultural standpoint.
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