I Love Babywearing, But There's One Big Problem With It That No One Talks About
Long before I knew for sure that I wanted to have a baby, I knew that I wanted to try babywearing. It's a handsfree hack that makes being on-the-go with an infant a hell of a lot easier, so it just seemed like the most practical option to me. Strollers are heavy and bulky, and traditional prams are even more so. A baby carrier or sling, though? Easy as pie.
As my partner and I began to prepare for our daughter's birth almost six months ago, a carrier was at the top of my list for must-have items. I'd scroll through photos of babywearing celebrities like Beyoncé or Anna Paquin, admiring how natural it looked. While they made the whole baby thing look easy, I didn't anticipate that, for me, babywearing would be hard AF. I'm a size 22-24, and I later discovered firsthand that it's really, really difficult to find babywearing options for plus-size women.
As a self-identified fat woman, I'm used to being erased from mainstream fashion. Most brands' sizes cap out somewhere between a 12 and 16, so the more niche a category of clothing, the more unlikely it is that I will find anything that fits and that is, well, not hideous. I'd assumed, however, that baby carriers would be a different story. Surely the mommy market, no matter how fatphobic it sometimes seemed, would realize that parents of all sizes exist, so carriers of all sizes should exist, too.
But a few months into parenthood, I found myself sitting on a pile of discarded BabyBjörns, Bobas, and some kind of indie wrap backpack thing. They'd all been given to me from relatives who knew how excited I was to be a bonafide babywearer, and they'd all failed to fit over my back boobs. Try as I might, none of the carriers stretched or elongated enough to accommodate my broad shoulders and jiggliest sections.
I found myriad wraps, slings, buckle contraptions, and backpacks. But nothing was designed with fat bodies in mind.
We kept the BabyBjörn for my slender partner, and we returned the rest. But I kept searching for plus-size baby carriers. I found myself hitting up all of the parenting stores in the United Kingdom, and found myriad wraps, slings, buckle contraptions, backpacks, and some kind of canvas and plastic rucksack similar to the one that Jane Fonda rocked in the '60s. But nothing was designed with fat bodies in mind. The sizes stopped at L or XL, which translates to roughly a 16-18 women's dress size. As for the baby carriers that were marketed as "one size fits all," they should've really been marketed as "one size fits most thin people."
At first, I wondered why there were so few babywearing options for plus-size women. Then I remembered a multi-brand clothing event I attended when I was working in New York media just a few years ago. It was centered around the "hottest spring workout wear" on the market, none of which would've fit me. When I asked the brand spokespeople why they didn't make larger sizes, many found the suggestion downright comical. There was a clear consensus that fat people don't work out, or at least that those who do exercise wouldn't possibly be interested in wearing Lycra.
I figured the thinking here was the same. After all, babywearing can be considered its own sport: it requires a lot of squatting should you need to bend down, while supporting the weight of your baby. In fact, there are workout routines and classes specifically designed for babywearing parents. Clearly, retailers had made the same assumption that the fitness clothing brands had made: babywearing is a physical activity, and fat people just aren't interested in physical activities.
From the moment I found out I was expecting, I have felt, time and time again, that brands don't care about fat moms.
But the thing is, physical activity is not a size-exclusive concept. While I'm sure some fat parents would prefer pushing a stroller around to strapping 20 or more pounds of baby weight onto their bodies, there are many who might want nothing more than to feel their child nestled up against them as they go about their daily routines. This is a sensation I have craved for a long time, and it's certainly not one that should be off-limits to me because of my size.
From the moment I found out I was expecting, I have felt, time and time again, that brands don't care about fat moms. There is a complete absence of options for fat women in the maternity and mommy markets. When I was pregnant, I couldn't find any clothing options from mainstream maternity stores. I could only buy clothes from plus size-specific retailers, and they weren't exactly what you'd call fashionable.
As it has so often done in the past when it comes to plus-size shopping problems, the internet solved this problem for me. Plus Size Birth, an online resource for plus-size mothers founded by author and blogger Jen McLellan, has an extremely comprehensive list of plus-size babywearing carriers and wraps. There were two options in my budget (under $100) that I could order from England: The Moby Wrap and an Infantino Carrier. While the former was purely fabric, the latter featured straps and buckles, so I could adjust the size to my own comfort.
It's always frustrating to come face-to-face with yet another reminder that plus-size clothing options are but a speck of dust in the universe that is the straight size market.
When I actually started using the carriers, however, I found that the Infantino didn't quite work for me. Although the carrier fit my body, the buckles seemed to dig into my flesh, and I felt extremely constricted in my movements. This was the opposite of the freedom I hoped for in a carrier. The Moby Wrap, on the other hand, was soft to the touch, incredibly stretchy, and would undoubtedly continue to fit should my size fluctuate in either direction. Most importantly, my daughter seemed comfortable in it.
It's always frustrating to come face-to-face with yet another reminder that plus-size clothing options are but a speck of dust in the universe that is the straight size market. That said, finding the particular sling that actually did work for me has undoubtedly made the motherhood experience thoroughly more enjoyable.
There are definitely situations that call for a stroller (if I'm going out for a meal, for example, I appreciate having a seat for the baby so I can eat comfortably). Most of the time, however, I find that the handsfree nature of the sling is best suited for my lifestyle. Trips to the grocery store, walks in the park, daytime getaways to the city, or any kind of mundane errand are all more manageable for me now because I have the use of my hands. I always knew that a baby sling would allow me to feel as free as Beyoncé when she carries her own infant. It's just a shame that finding a plus size-friendly one is so damn difficult.