from stroller to sling (my babywearing journey)

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I didn’t start out as a babywearing mama. Crunchy was the last word I’d have used to describe myself (except for the fact that we grow organic vegetables). I didn’t even know what babywearing was. In my mind, baby carriers were for long walks or hikes. Why would I need a baby carrier when I was going to be at home most of the day?

We were given a hand-me-down Baby Bjorn front pack when my oldest was a baby. I think we used it on a walk, once each for both our firstborn and for her sister who came 22 months later. When we flew across the country or went to town, we took the double stroller or the umbrella stroller. But instead of holding children, the strollers usually became luggage carts or shopping carts. The girls didn’t want to be down there in the stroller when they could be up in Daddy or Mommy’s arms.

And as our car got more full of children, there was less room for the strollers. When it was a choice between bringing home a load of groceries or having the double stroller along for the shopping trip, groceries had to come first. That meant that if the baby was sleeping, we just lugged the infant carseat along with us and placed it in those oh-so-precarious positions atop shopping carts. (It’s rather sobering to have the greeter at Costco warn you to be careful and tell you about the baby whose seat came off the cart the week before…)

By the time my son came along, I knew I was going to have to do something different. Constantly carrying the infant carseat looped over my forearm was too often resulting in my wrist and hand going numb. But juggling a baby on my hip 12 hours a day meant I was always leaning toward one side, hurting my shoulder and aggravating my TMJ.

My friends online were talking a lot about something called babywearing–wearing your baby in a baby carrier. So I pulled out that Baby Bjorn when my son was born, intending to give it more use. Then he had hernia surgery at 2 months old. And I started realizing how much pressure that narrow based carrier was putting in all the wrong places (they’re called “crotch danglers” for a reason!). My online research revealed that not all baby carriers are created equal. I needed to make a safer and more ergonomic choice.

And just about that time, someone shared a link for BabySteals.com. And I became the proud owner of an Ergo brand soft structured carrier. I felt like I’d officially entered the wonderful world of babywearing. But that was just the beginning.

with newborn in Ergo

The Ergo necessitated an infant insert for a baby my son’s size/age. And that meant babywearing was a very warm experience for both of us in the middle of the summer. My friend Jessica raved about her woven wrap, and the more I heard, the more I realized that a woven wrap might be a better solution for this age and this time of year. A bit intimidated by the price tags of woven wraps, I went the DIY route, doing lots of research and then buying yards and yards of fabric with a 50% off coupon.

in the DIY woven wrap

Then came the Boba soft structured carrier that a friend was selling. And I officially had a babywearing addiction.

Boba

My son was one of those babies who needed to be held upright so he could keep his food down. And he never really slept well until he was several years old. I had discovered babywearing just in time. It was literally a lifesaver for a work at home mama of three littles three and under.

babywearing WAHM

And I loved every minute of wearing my son. The striped wrap was my personal fashion statement. As he grew older, we transitioned to the soft structured Ergo and Boba. The buckles were less intimidating than a wrap for Daddy or Auntie, and often both carriers were in use as we wore my son and his big sister both.

babywearing daddy

Four years went by between the birth of my son and the birth of our youngest this spring. In the meantime, I became the mom who was cringing at the way the new mom at farmers market had her baby wrapped so loosely that the baby’s head was falling backward. I was the one trying not to say anything when a friend wore her baby in a less than ideal ergonomic position or when someone raved about the great deal they got on a narrow based carrier. I’d officially become a crunchy babywearing mama.

So when I knew that I had another little one on the way, it became an excuse to research all the new babywearing brands. Not to mention enter all the giveaways. Ring slings were beginning to catch my eye, but it was a Solly Baby stretchy wrap that I wanted for the early months. I’d seen a Solly wrap side by side with a Boba wrap and a Moby wrap at our local children’s consignment store, and there was no comparison: the Solly was superior in every way. I picked out the perfect colors for each gender and waited. My month of bedrest due to pregnancy induced hypertension allowed me plenty of time to review wrap tutorial videos and peruse every babywearing related hashtag on Instagram.

in the Solly Baby wrap

It was love at first sight with our daughter–and her Solly Baby Wrap in Orchid. I’ve never felt such soft fabric. Or worn such a cozy wrap. And before too long, I’d found another babywearing obsession (thanks to Instagram!), and purchased a gently used Sakura Bloom ring sling in the softest chambray. It was followed by a double layer Wild Bird ring sling. (Because babywearing gear is pretty much my fashion accessory of choice.)

My husband hauled both our strollers to the consignment shop the other day. They’ve just been gathering dust in our shed for the last 4 years for naught. We’ve become a babywearing family. From my husband–who wears the baby when we’re out shopping so Mommy can try on clothes (and willingly posed for a Father’s Day babywearing photo contest on Instagram)–all the way down to my four-year-old son. He and his big sisters each have their own (homemade) mini wraps for wearing their dollies and stuffed animals. (My oldest usually prefers her mei tai, but she loves to use her wrap and show me all the different carries she learned in the instruction booklet that came with one of our wraps!)

Wild Bird Sling

I’m cherishing every moment of the babywearing season this time around. My great big 4-year-old boy reminds me of how quickly it passes. But when he brings me a tiny stuffed animal and the wrap I made him and asks, “Is this stuffy too small?” I know his memories of babywearing, though vague, are just as precious.

No, I wasn’t the sterotypical crunchy mama at all. But I’ve learned that babywearing is not about a certain parenting method. And babywearing is about so much more than practicality and convenience (though it is both!). Babywearing is about loving to keep your baby close as you go throughout your day. Babywearing is for the love of having baby close enough to kiss.

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9 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness you’re me! ? ? I have a Solly and Sakura Bloom with my second and want to try the Wildbird sling! Loved hearing your experience and love that your older kids wear their dolls-precious!

  2. Loved your blog post!! I am looking into baby wearing as my second baby is due in July! I have been at the Wildbird slings on Instagram for months, but haven’t made the plunge yet. Did you like yours/which was your favorite of all the wraps you’ve tried? Thank you so much!

  3. Hi Gretchen!

    I’m a stroller mom, but absolutely understand the trouble of having to lug 2 strollers or a double stroller whenever you have more than 1 kid.

    It’s very interesting that you decided to not make use of your strollers anymore….just curious, were there times where you wished you still had your strollers?

    Thanks!
    Evelyn
    http://www.MommyStroller.com

    1. Hello Evelyn!

      You know, there hasn’t been a day I’ve missed the option of a stroller. We don’t even take the infant car seat out of the car anymore. I use a sling or wrap or soft structured carrier everywhere we go. I love having my little one close, where I know she is safe. And it makes it so much easier to push a shopping cart or hold the big kids’ hands when I’m wearing the baby hands-free!

  4. Hi Gretchen,

    I love all the pics of you with your babies in different baby front packs/wraps. From the pics, Daniel and now little Sara, look so content. I also love the one of Merritt with Mary Kate on his back. As an Auntie myself, I prefer something with strong secure buckles. I have done a small amount of baby wearing myself in the last 5 years or so. A couple of my sister in-laws let me carry my nephews/niece in the front pack while out shopping. Plus, I was a Children’s Leader for Bible Study Fellowship a few years back, and a couple of the babies would only calm down if they were in their front pack. It was a cool experience. I was able to hold the baby, but I could also still do whatever else needed to be done. No, you are not a crunchy Mama. I know for myself, it takes me awhile to get used to a new idea, especially if I have been doing something a certain way for a long time, then when I hear of doing the same thing a totally different way, that can be daunting. Thanks for sharing. Oh, and yay for second hand stuff!
    In Christ,
    Bethany

  5. Loved your story 馃檪 I accidentally got into it as well. And recently brought a babybjorn I used once to the second hand store 馃槈

    Today I finally got a back carry good enough to keep Caleb in for a long time, we were both super comfy while I cooked 馃檪
    I used ‘wrap you in love’ tutorials on YouTube, for this one it was her ‘Christina’s ruckless back carry’, or something of the sort.

    My big boys still live their rare turns ‘on mamas belly’ 馃檪

  6. I love all your sweet pictures. I loved “wearing” my babies, but Baby wearing has come a long way since my girls were little. I’ll refer back here when a new grandbaby comes along!