Does my baby look big in this? …a blog about babywearing

My friend Jen had her little girl a couple of years ago and opened my eyes to the world of babywearing. I was naive, married but not-yet-pregnant and wide eyed listening to her tell me about slings, carriers, buckles and wraps. It seemed to be a bit of a secret members’ club – a bit like the nappy thing. But the foundations of the whole idea make a lot of sense, after all parents have been carrying their babies in slings for centuries – millenia in fact.

It’s become rather trendy to sport your little one on your front or back in a funky wrap, and as well as seeing an increasing number of mamas and papas ‘babywearing’ in public (even spotted someone in Dungloe, Co. Donegal) I’ve found that there is a thriving online community on Facebook as well as countless blogs, brands and other related information. It’s not just for hippies (but you could be forgiven for thinking it at first glance) and it’s sweeping the UK. Your common or garden Baby Bjorn is no longer the only thing you’ll see a baby in. You’re just as likely to see a bairn in an african style papoose thingy – especially if you happen to visit Stockbridge on a sunday around lunchtime 🙂

The benefits of babywearing are many – babies who are ‘worn’ regularly cry less, sleep more, are calmer and have calmer parents (less prone to postnatal depression) and attachment between a baby and their caregiver is more secure. The practicalities are also pretty big advantages, especially if you’re on mat leave and feel like you can’t get anything done. Babywearing allows you to keep your baby close (and often asleep in the early months) while still allowing you free hands to do laundry, make yourself some lunch or even (eek) go for a wee without disturbing them.

During my pregnancy I did very little ‘housework’ nesting – in fact most of my nesting instinct was channeled into online shopping for dreadfully important things, and gumtree bargain hunting for other terribly important things. I added a ‘stretchy wrap’ to my list as a matter of course, not knowing that it would become one of my treasured items from Adam’s first few weeks.

Here I am in post-caesarean hobbling phase, carrying the almost weightless Adam in the wrap. You can’t see the cool design panel that’s part of it but you can see how it’s designed – it keeps the baby’s body pressed close to the parent, and keeps their head supported. This type of wrap is made from stretchy ‘jersey’ fabric and is really good for newborns. It’s just one big 5 metre piece of fabric that you can wrap in any number of ways to carry a baby:

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Here is some more information about wraps like this. They come in a neverending array of fabrics, colours, designs and styles in sizes to suit any frame. Some are breathable for hot weather; some are ‘woven’ wraps – made from thick cotton, linen or hemp materials that will last for many many years. These are more expensive but much sturdier, taking a lot more weight and suitable for a wider range of ‘carries’ (ways to carry the baby).

As we used a stretchy one Adam grew out of it fairly quickly. I wanted to get something that would last longer and that Jamie could use too – the ‘soft structured carrier‘ seemed a good choice and my eagle eye got me the Ergo on Gumtree. It’s got straps and buckles – you can wear the baba on the front, the back or the hip. Some other structured carriers also allow you to face the baby outwards, but that’s becoming less common as it’s recommended that their wee legs are kept facing in and in a froggy sort of ‘M’ shape up against the wearer. I personally feel if you’re not wearing your baby every day then it doesn’t matter, but if you’ve ditched the pram and wear full time then you should probably go for something ergonomically designed. Here’s Jamie up a hill with the wee man. I love their bobble hats. We also loved being able to take Adam everywhere we went and not feel constrained by the pram:

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Along with a number of benefits, babywearing has one amazing advantage over just using a pram – the ultimate ability to calm a baby down. Not every baby loves being worn but a great many are almost instantly calmed when popped into a carrier of any sort. Think about it – they’re right up against mum or dad’s chest, they’re comfortably supported, they’re moving around – the rocking motion of your walking will be similar to what they felt when in the womb, and they’re cosy with you body heat keeping them warm. What’s not to love? It’s like a mobile hammock up against the people you love most in the world.

The ultimate weapon against tantrum-tastic meltdowns is the ring sling. My friend Katy converted me, as I always thought they looked ‘faffy’ – in fact they are one of the simplest types of baby carrier. They still come in loads of fabrics, patterns, colours and sizes but the main feature is the use of two rings, usually metal, to fasten, tighten and adjust the fabric. Again you can carry your baby in a variety of positions but it’s easy to keep it simple. Pop the baby in, tighten the sling so they’re snug against you, always with their face pointing up and chin off their chest, sort their legs out so their knees are higher than their bum and off you pop. I bought one on a facebook group, preloved (a fancy word for ‘used’) and it has become my favourite of the lot. Not just because of its lovely earthy rainbow colours (it looks well hippy) but its magical sleepy dust abilities. Adam can go from screaming rage to flat-out unconscious in about 2 minutes once he’s in this. We recently used it at some friends’ wedding and Adam was able to join us, asleep, as we got on the dancefloor for the couple’s first dance. Here he is having a snooze in it:

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You can see the two rings and how they act like a 70’s belt to keep the sling fastened. As you can imagine, Jamie is less inclined to wear Adam in this article but I love it, and feel like a proper earth mama when I wear it, even though its usually just to the post office or tesco. There are lots of times when its easier to leave the pram at home, and I often stick this in the changing bag anyway in case of aforementioned meltdowns. The Ergo will also be coming with us to the beach this summer, and it came to Skye with us instead of the pram too – saving valuable car boot space for the vast number of cloth nappies I insisted on bringing!

I’m definitely not a full time babywearer but lots of mums and dads have ditched their buggy in favour of carrying their babes everywhere they go. Like many products there are different options (like the three types I’ve experimented with) and different things suit different folk. These carriers can be expensive so you can try them out for free or for a small cost by using a ‘sling library’. You’ll probably have one in your local area – Facebook is a good way to check (just search the word ‘sling’ for a number of options) or do a wee bit of googling. If you don’t have a library near you then you can get lots of advice online and either try from a library by post or just buy preloved, and sell on if it doesn’t work for you. I’m not about to ditch my pram just yet but I absolutely love carrying Adam in the Ergo and the ring sling – and he loves it too.

Finally, there are some simple safety principles with babywearing that I feel I ought to share because they’re important: here’s a handy picture to save me typing them out:

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The mothership

I’ve developed my own gravitational pull now. I’m kidding of course but it’s no joke – I am officially massive. I have hit the 31 week mark and the bump measures 30 cm, which is pretty much bang on what it should be (thankyouverymuch) – but it feels like it really can’t get any bigger. Can it?

Despite me slowing down physically, the world still appears to be turning. Jamie has really driven forward our to-do list and has decorated, built furniture, replaced door handles, sorted through boxes and boxes of stuff, organised and reorganised cupboards, found space for things, hoovered, washed and tidied like a total champion.

Men at workI have feebly washed a few plates and done the odd trip to the supermarket, and written a lot of lists. I’ve also been in charge of Online Shopping. I was busy reclining yesterday and leaving Jamie to his own devices when he called me in to check out the nursery…

It’s been painted for a few weeks; the carpet arrived a couple of weeks ago and the last of our IKEA order got delivered yesterday. It’s also been home to some ‘misc’ items that were waiting to be rehomed or gumtree’d. I wasn’t prepared for the sight that met me when I walked in. Not only had he built the cot, he’d cleared everything out, lit the lamp and put up a few little things to start making it a real person’s room: NurseryI sat in my red chair to take the pic above (which is why you can see my slippers!). You can also see the freaky Cliff Richard calendar hanging on the back of the door. Cliff won’t be watching over Baby Gray, that’s for sure. What a beautiful room.

Its amazing making this sort of progress – it brings us closer to meeting our baby one step at a time; finishing up at work will also be a milestone – I’ve now got less than four weeks to go! Far from feeling guilty or sheepish about stopping work at 35 weeks, I am delighted to be gifting myself some ‘me time’ and some time to rest and prepare for motherhood at my own pace. I will be far from idle – there are loads of baby clothes to wash and sort, bits and bobs to purchase, and lists to make 🙂 I’ll also be practicing my hypnobirthing techniques (laugh if you want – but if you’re pregnant I strongly suggest you buy the book!) and attending late-pregnancy yoga classes just off Broughton Street. I’m expecting a visit from my Mum too.

I’ll also be busy filling our freezer with batch-cooked meals to help feed us when we’re busy/exhausted/bewildered in the first few weeks. As someone who tries hard to eat well and avoid food waste I love the thought of having good nutritional (and tasty) meals in our freezer as a result of forward planning. So far I’ve made extra and bagged some bolognese, two curries, some chilli and some vegetable soup, not to mention some sliced bagels – great for popping straight into the toaster. This will save us a lot of money and energy at a time when cooking and eating are just about fueling your body rather than gastronomy.

On the ‘green’ front, things are going well (despite August’s surrendering to IKEA) and our thrifty low carbon leanings have been well served by the generosity of friends who’ve happily passed on all sorts of things. We’ve hardly bought any baby clothes, having received loads from other parents. We’ve also inherited a baby monitor, bath seat, bumbo chair (wtf is that?), car seat, bike seat, baby sling/carrier and giant bundle of cloth nappies. All without spending a penny! Most other stuff has been bought on eBay or Gumtree, including our beautiful pram (AKA travel system) and cute ‘buggy snuggle‘ – we are saving ourselves plenty of money, and in the process we are keeping our carbon footprint down too. I’m particularly pleased that we’ve got some adorable cloth nappies – the cash saving (between £500 and £1000 per baby!) is one thing, but knowing we’ll be diverting an unbelieveable 120 black bin bags full of dirty nappies away from landfill is a great thought. Working at Changeworks I know that it’s not something to be scared of – we run a real nappy project! I’m lucky to have a fantastic source of support, and intend to use one of their trial packs or lending kits so we can try out various types and see what works best for us. We’ve been given a range by friends – some Bambino Mio, a few Tots Bots, Little Lambs and a load of plain terry squares. I’m also looking forward to going along to the Changeworks ‘Nappuccino‘ coffee mornings once we’re ready.

I’m really looking forward to:

  • Bending at the waist again
  • Being able to put socks and shoes on while breathing at the same time
  • Not caring where I park as I know I’ll be able to get back in the car
  • Getting comfortable in bed, on the sofa, at work, anywhere
  • Going back in the sauna
  • Eating runny cheese and pate
  • Having a few G&Ts
  • Seeing myself in the mirror and recognising my body
  • Wearing REAL CLOTHES and having more than 6 outfits
  • Going for a long walk without a sense of dread

Until that time comes, I am stranded in the body of a giant flump. Here is me at 30 weeks:30 weeksOh, I went to the amazing Lush Spa recently for a treatment called The Spell; it was beyond my wildest dreams! I am usually skeptical and critical of this sort of thing, because I happen to know the best masseur in the business who doesn’t need a spa or any hocus pocus to make you feel good (Hi Yossi). The Spell was incredible though – just enough theatre to make it really interesting, but not too much to overshadow the good solid skill that went into the treatment itself. It’s primarly a foot massage/spa but includes hot stones and a head massage in the frankly stunning surroundings of Edinburgh’s Lush Spa. The spa is set in the basement of the Princes Street store and is like a witch’s kitchen – that’s the best way I can describe it. They gave me a beautiful little affirmation as a keepsake – and I think it’s very apt for my journey at the moment:

Lush Spa