I used to be the babywearing sanctimommy. (Key words: used to be)
I’d see exhausted new mothers carrying babies in carseats and I’d actually feel bad for them. Not really for the new moms having to drag the car seats around, though I did spare them a thought. No, I felt bad for the babies.
Poor thing, I’d think. You’re all detached and untouched and unmoored from human contact and probably feel shut-down and unloved. You’re going to grow up and be the type of kid who shows signs of insecurity, including whining, crying, and clinging, in order to replace that early attention you missed. I thought putting a baby in a carseat while you shopped was like sticking them on a shelf and leaving them there. If they couldn’t feel your breath and hear your heartbeat — even if they were asleep — you might as well have left them in the car.
I’d always make a point to talk to new moms and point out my carriers, like they weren’t totally fucking obvious. This even when my kids were old enough to throw toys from their backwrapped position. “Oh yeah, it’s super simpleand you can nurse in it or bottle feed in it (I did at least try to be inclusive) without using your hands, and yes I cleaned my toilet and my whole house and went on a hike with them like that yesterday, and uh-huh, my kids are all two years apart and I absolutely could not live without it, plus don’t you just want to snuggle your baby all day?! Because I totally want to snuggle my baby all day.”
To all you mothers I victimized as the babywearing sanctimommy, I would like to publicly and humbly apologize, especially to you new moms who were struggling hard to keep it together and in waltzed me with three little ducklings, one on her back, telling you exactly how to put your life together when you could hardly manage to tug sweatpants over your C-section incision.
Babywearing is awesome. As someone who suffered from postpartum depression and who craves touch anyway, who could (and still does sometimes) carry my kids around all the time, whose babies loved being worn and still do (I wrapped up my five-year-old on a hike recently): babywearing saved my parenthood. The problem? I read a lot, decided I knew everything, and assumed it would save everyone’s parenthood.
Some moms get touched out. Some babies hate slings; mine all had reflux and needed to be upright. Some parents can’t get carriers to fit right (I had lots of help and support, and then helped countless moms in return with this part as a babywearing educator with Babywearing International). Some moms have injuries or physical conditions that prevent babywearing; some have no interest in using a carrier when they have a carseat handy.
All of these are valid reasons not to wear your baby.
Not wearing your baby will also not somehow screw up your baby.
It will not affect the bond you have with your baby either.
My kids were all worn out of the hospital. My oldest is nine. I cannot tell, between him and his buddies, who spent their time in a sling and who spent it in a carseat. I know his best friend’s mom wasn’t a fan of babywearing, and she still raised up the sweetest child on earth, as brave and adventurous and kind and smart as any kid — and without some kind of the profound and lasting damage I was convinced by what I read and what other babywearers online told me would happen if I unstrapped my spawn once in a while.
Babywearing was super useful. I love it. I miss it. I still have all my wraps and it makes me sad that I don’t use them, and I don’t get to cuddle my sons that way anymore.
And just like it’s important to carry your baby in a carseat safely — don’t put them on top of a cart, don’t take it out of the car and let them sleep in it, according to the AAP— it’s important to wear your baby safely too. Make sure they’re fully upright, c-curve in their spine, airway clear, and that the carrier is being used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Baby should never slump. That’s what people need educated about, wearing their baby safely, not how they need to babywear because otherwise their kids will grow up to whiny and clingy.
People who think they can avoid this have clearly never parented a three-year-old.
New moms deserve to learn how babywearing can help them. I’m glad I did; it fit our parenting style. It doesn’t fit other people’s, though, and I wish, in retrospect, that I had been much more open and tolerant of that. I didn’t need to feel bad for other people’s babies. I needed to grin at new moms and joke, “You’re doing a good job, you got out of the house!” This always make them smile a little bit. If I see a mom with a toddler and a newborn looking frazzled, instead of asking her if she’s thought about a carrier, I say, “Girl, mine are two years apart. I feel you. It gets better, I swear, and you look so much more put together than I did at that point.”
Because babywearing shaming, like other parenting shaming, doesn’t help anyone. No one wants unsolicited parenting advice. They do want unsolicited parenting support. They want a stranger to smile and say, hey, you got this. Hey, you’re doing good. Your kids look cute. I’ve been there too. Do you need a hand with that grocery bag? My kids scream too. No one cares and if they do they should (lowers voice so kids can’t hear) eat a bag of dicks.
Parents? They need the village. And the village isn’t some bitch side-eyeing their carseat.
I used to be that bitch. I’m proud to say that I’m not any longer.