Attachment parenting is all the rage among millennial parents, and among its central tenets are the big three: exclusive breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and babywearing. And while they all have benefits, they're not all things every mom can or wants to do. Still, people tend to use them as yardsticks for successful motherhood. The decision not to wear your baby is one of the most visible parenting decisions you can make, and that makes you vulnerable to criticism. No one has listened to our side of the story, until now. So here it is: the confessions of a babywearing "failure."
As an expectant mom building a registry, I did my research. I learned that babywearing was beneficial for both mom and baby. According to Dr. Sears, sling babies cry less and learn more, and La Leche League told me that wearing my baby would make breastfeeding easier. It seemed like the natural choice. Unfortunately, babywearing didn't come naturally at all. It was uncomfortable and felt insecure. After a month or so, I wasn't even trying anymore. When out and about, I used the travel system exclusively. At home, when I couldn't carry my baby, I had her in an infant seat, rocker, or on an activity mat.
It sucks not to be able to follow through with your plans, especially when they have to do with your baby. Societal pressure to do things a certain way doesn't help, either. Take it from this babywearing washout, though, that "failure" is relative. Very little in parenting is perfect, and making compromises doesn't make you a disappointment. It makes you normal.
I fully intended to wear my newborn most of the time, and I did everything in my power to set myself up for success. I registered for a Moby and picked up a Baby Bjorn at a yard sale. A friend sent me a ring sling. I was set. Surely one of those options would work for me.
Spoiler alert: they didn't.
I read instruction manuals and watched YouTube videos. I practiced with a teddy bear. I even had a babywearing friend come over and do a lesson with me. I wore my baby to the farmer's market in the Moby and must have re-wrapped her a dozen times before I gave up and carried her in my arms.
I am a reasonably intelligent individual, but I could not for the life of me figure out those damn carriers. The Moby remains mostly a mystery for me. I mean, it's just a big piece of fabric, and I do not have the skills to do the origami voodoo necessary to secure my child. The Bjorn was a little better, but anytime my husband used it, it was a nightmare to refit it to me.
One of the major advantages of babywearing is that it supposedly allows you to perform everyday tasks while keeping your baby close. This must be true for many moms, or it wouldn't be so popular, but I know I'm not the only mom who always kept one hand on my baby in case she fell out and one eye on her face to make sure she was still breathing. Let me tell you, you don't get a lot of dishes done that way.
I'm fully aware that babywearing isn't supposed to hurt. If it's painful, you're probably doing it wrong (tell me something I don't know). I had relatively more success with a soft structured carrier than a wrap, but it absolutely killed my back. I know there are other brands that are more ergonomically sound, but my body and I (not to mention my pocketbook) were already over it.
This is perhaps the most difficult confession, but I'll own up to it. As a new mom, I found that I just didn't want my baby on my person all the time. It's not that I didn't love cuddling with her or want to be close to her. It's just that sometimes I needed a break.
To be fair, before I gave up on babywearing, I didn't try all the styles. I could have tried a backpack, pouch sling, or a meh dai. Honestly, I didn't even attempt the ring sling I had. A mom friend at playgroup told me about a babywearing "library" where I could put different carriers to the test, but I never went. Maybe that makes me lazy, but I think "maxed out mama" is more like it.
I took my daughter a lot of places when she was a baby (now that she's a toddler, I avoid it like the plague), and, frankly, I loved not having to get her in and out of the car seat. Click out of the base and into the stroller? Um, yes please. Plus, my jam-packed diaper bag hangs so nicely from those handy little hooks.
Knowing that babywearing promotes attachment, as well as healthy emotional and physical development, I was concerned that my daughter wouldn't meet her milestones. I was determined, however, to keep her from developing "container syndrome." Did I have a lot of devices? Yes, but I limited her time in them and prioritized her play sessions on the activity mat.
When it comes to choices in parenting, we really should honor the fact that they are choices. I mean, obviously "I don't want to buckle my kid up" is not OK, but we should otherwise lay off the judgment. Whether it's about babywearing or circumcision or diapers, I think we'd end up with a lot more confident mamas owning their decisions instead of feeling like "failures" if we let "I don't want to" be reason enough.
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