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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Babywearers - Misunderstood and Mad about it

What is with all the babywearing bashers lately? First, the CPSC is coming out with a statement regarding the safety (well, regarding the hazard) of some slings. I’m not going to get into babywearing safety today. That is a topic for another day. (That said, if you wear your baby, PLEASE heed the warnings that come with your carrier and wear your baby safely. Check that your baby’s airway is not obstructed. Make sure they are being carried securely. Practice with help until you are confident that you are carrying baby correctly and securely. It is easy to be unsafe with baby carriers. Take the time to show others how safe it can actually be). There are also some baby carriers that don’t hold your baby properly. I’m not advocating those here.

I’m here to vent. To top off all the negative press about babywearing recently, I have had two negative reactions from daycares regarding baby carriers.
Baby T is currently in a larger daycare. They have 10 babies and 2 providers in the infant room. With that many babies, things can get—chaotic. To say the least. Some days when I am in there nursing Baby T, my eyes are bugging out of my head and I want to run screaming into the parking lot. Those 2 providers don’t just get to come to work and cuddle babies. At least half the time, they are busy filling out paperwork, warming bottles, washing bottles, washing their hands… They really have their hands full. There are usually at least 2 crying babies who can’t be held at the moment because someone has to record every little poop. So one day, I casually asked why they don’t use baby carriers. There is no state law saying they can’t use them, it’s a policy of the daycare center.

This was the response I got: “Well, if we have a baby in one of those things on our backs, then we can’t get anything done.”

I responded a little confused: “….buuuuuut…. if the baby is on your back, you can get ANYTHING done. Your hands are free, and the fussy baby that was crying is now being held close to you and is happy.”

I just got confused looks back from them.

Then again today… at another, smaller daycare. I was asking if they would, by chance, use a baby carrier.

The response I got: “Well, it’s just not feasible. Babies need to be down on the floor, exercising their muscles.”

Me: “But what about those times when a baby is really fussy and just wants to be held?”

Provider: “It’s just not feasible here.”

Me (feeling like my point is totally not coming across here): “But say, for example, you are warming up bottles for another baby and have one baby fussing and wanting to be held, and you just can’t do it all at once.”

Provider: “Well, the babies can’t come in the kitchen, and we warm up bottles in the kitchen.”

Me (????? Ok, let’s try again): “Ok, but for example, I do this at home when I’m cooking dinner and my baby cries if he’s not held. I just stick him on my back for a little while in the carrier.”

Provider: “Well, that’s neglectful. We interact with the babies and will be on the floor playing with them if they are being fussy.”

Me (!!!!!!): “It’s not neglectful. You can see and talk to the baby over your shoulder the whole time.”

Mind you, I really had to keep my cool with this one. This is actually the daycare Baby T will be going to in 2 weeks. And I get it; I think the point that the provider was trying to make was that if they have a fussy baby, they will give that baby attention, so there is no need for a carrier. But sometimes I get the impression that the general public thinks that people who use carriers just pop their baby in after they wake up and go about their business for the day, ignoring them all the while and taking them out when it’s time to go to bed.

I also recently heard a story about a girl who was at a store with her baby in a carrier, and another shopper’s daughter said to her mom, “Awww! Why don’t we carry my baby sister like that?” And the mother said, “Because that’s for moms who don’t want to hold their babies.”

Again, ?????. And !!!!!!!!!!!. And &*(!&?!

Ok people. Let’s get something straight. Responsible babywearers do not just tuck their kids into their pockets and go about their days. They do not use babywearing as an excuse to go about their business the way they did before they had babies, oblivious to the needs of their child. They use it as a bonding experience, to hold their children close to their bodies and their faces, where they can kiss, talk to, and interact with their babies. And although, as mothers, our babies are our first priority, there are other things that need to get done. We need to eat. We need to buy food to eat. Sometimes are hands our full and we CAN’T get down on the floor and play with our babies. Also, I know that when Baby T was first born, my arms were not strong enough to hold him all day. And when he was tiny and took 5 naps a day, needing to be rocked and bounced for each nap, I didn’t have the strength to hold him that entire time. My sling let me bounce with him in my arms without feeling like I was carrying an ever-increasing ton of bricks. I would put him in the sling, wrap my arms around him and hold him close to my chest, patting his little bottom and singing to him as I bounced. I could do this for hours. Had I not had the sling, I would have been able to do it for maybe five minutes.

There have been studies done that show that carrying your baby throughout the day (not just in response to their crying or fussiness) can decrease the amount of their crying when they ARE fussy. Studies show that babywearing can increase the attachment between mother and baby and mothers who carry their babies in soft carriers may be more responsive to their babies’ needs and cries. Babies who are worn may become more independent earlier in life because they feel more secure. I am not just pulling this stuff out of my ass, people. Studies have been done. Use your google.

From a personal perspective, I know that babywearing doesn’t restrict your baby from getting exercise or using his muscles. I wore Baby T quite a bit when he was a tiny baby. He was quite fussy and was easily soothed when held. He didn’t nap well unless he was held. And to avoid becoming a cavewoman, to be able to use the bathroom, to be able to wash dishes and feed the dog, I held Baby T in my sling or wrap a lot. Yes, we spent a lot of time with Baby T in my lap, giggling and talking to each other, but when I had other things to do, into the carrier he went. And Baby T was holding his head up before he was 3 months old. He was strong. He was pulling himself around on the floor army style at maybe 5 months, and crawling at 7. Now, at 9 and a half months, he can get around quite well on his feet as long as he’s holding onto something. My baby is strong. He has good muscle tone. He gets his exercise.

I guess I am just confused. I don’t understand how parking your baby on the playmat with stuffed octopi dangling in their faces all day is better than wearing your baby. I don’t understand how parking your kid in a stroller facing the world, not being able to see you or hear you, is better than walking with them held close to your chest or back, being able to feel the vibrations of your heart and voice. I don’t understand why having your hands free periodically to get some things done, while still being able to hold your baby, is such a bad thing. I am all about moderation with a lot of things in my life. I like to do all of this. Baby T has his Baby Einstein under the sea playmat. He loves it. We have a stroller. And an exersaucer. And a Jolly Jumper. But when he needs to be held and my arms are tired, or I need to make dinner or clean the house (which believe me, does not happen all day long) I wear my baby.

**Oh, and I am coming back to add: on my recent trip to Boston, you can bet that the 147 people on my flight were LOVING my Ergo. When Baby T started screaming uncontrollably for no apparent reason, kicking the seat in front of me, and writhing in my arms, I strapped him on my chest and bounced him down the aisle. By the time I got to the back of the plane, he was quiet. By the time I got back up to my seat, he was asleep. So give us babywearers a break. This stuff works.
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