how babywearing helped me and my baby
seeking bonding, comfort and ease: when a strip of fabric becomes so much more
BY CHRISTINE HERNANDEZ
In a time in my life when my confidence in my ability to soothe my son was wavering, babywearing was the one thing I knew I could count on to keep him content.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started to daydream about the kind of parent I was going to be. Babywearing was part of my program. As a Millennial (I hate that word) mom with far too much information at her fingertips, I felt like I had to subscribe to some kind of parenting philosophy. Many of the components of attachment parenting resonated with me: I intended to breastfeed, knew the benefits of babywearing and in a tiny Brooklyn apartment, was not opposed to sharing a bed with my baby if it came down to it.
When it came time to register for my baby shower, I told my family to skip the stroller and get me a ring sling and baby wrap instead. Not only did I not have the room in my tiny apartment to store it, but I knew what a challenge navigating public transportation can be with a stroller in tow. The subway stop closest to my house, like many in the city, did not have an elevator and I had watched far too many mothers lugging strollers up the stairs hoping for the kindness of strangers to help them manage. I admired their strength (literally) but I just knew I was too anxious of a person to try to make my way up the stairs with my baby in a stroller.
They say that a mother’s intuition is strong, and I must have somehow been in tune with the kind of baby I would wind up having when I was browsing the sling selection at my local baby store. From the moment my son was born, he made it abundantly clear he would not sleep anywhere other than on my chest. I remember buzzing the nurse for help on our first night in the hospital saying “he won’t let me put him down! is this normal?!” It’s like my son was born with some sort of very strong sensor that alerted when I was trying to put him down and forced him to wake up and wail. The nights we spent in the hospital were a blur of tears (both his and mine) and very little sleep.
Once we brought our son home I knew that my decision to babywear was a smart one. It took some practice and a whole bunch of YouTube tutorials but I got the hang of popping him into the ring sling and never looked back. He would snooze away blissfully for hours in the sling and I could go for walks, get things done around the apartment, eat chipotle over his head– as long as he felt the warmth of my chest and the snug fabric of the sling he was a happy camper.
As the first few months of my son’s life wore on, babywearing not only became a way of life but a necessity. At two months old he was diagnosed with reflux and dairy/soy intolerance and would often cry in pain when he was laying flat. He didn’t like baby seats, swings or any of the other places you are supposed to be able to put your baby while you pee or shower. Literally the only place he was content was when he was in a sling or carrier. He could be in the middle of a crying fit but once he made his way into the folds of the sling and his little head hit my chest he would melt and drift off to sleep.
I did everything with my son attached to me. I spent 9 months carrying him inside my body and then another 9 or so with him like a little kangaroo in a pouch on the outside of my body. I wore him as he snoozed peacefully through subway rides, holidays with family, my Grandfather’s funeral where I spoke on the altar, and countless walks around my neighborhood. In a time in my life when my confidence in my ability to soothe my son was wavering, babywearing was the one thing I knew I could count on to keep him content.
My son is now two and a half and I still use the ring sling I carried him in as a newborn. I still prefer babywearing to a stroller and when he’s being rowdy while I am trying to cook dinner or need to get laundry done, it makes it easier for me to get things done. What started out as a decision I made out of convenience wound up being, without a doubt, the best way for me to bond with my son in those early months when nothing made him happy. It may just be a strip of fabric, but that sling is a symbol of love and comfort in our family- and I know my son has internalized that when he asks to wear his stuffed animals around the house in it. I now sometimes even teach other parents how to wear their babies as I pursue my work as a International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
#boobertruth: Maybe it was intuition or maybe it was just luck, but registering for that babywearing ring sling saved me – and I will forever be grateful for it.