So this is one aspect of this ‘babywearing consultancy’ gig that I guess I didn’t personally have a total grasp on before going through the training process myself. I mean I have noticed the emphasis on “babywearing dolls” among educators but I guess I just wasn’t really sure what it was about… or maybe I assumed that they may not have a child of the same age bracket as what they were trying to demonstrate…
But many of you know, I have a nearly four year old and a sixteen month old who I both regularly wear… You may also have noticed that I have been demonstrating more and more stuff using a doll lately…
Or maybe you noticed the reference to my “wee army of dolls” or have seen pictures I may have posted of them..? Or maybe you have no idea at all what I am even on about…
So anyway, what’s up with the dolls?
So firstly, what are these dolls? Babywearing dolls are specifically design to be weighed in a similar proportion to the way your baby is. The smaller of these dudes, “Moritz” weights 3.5 kgs and is an infant doll, so approximately five months old say… The bigger one is David, he is a toddler doll, weighing 7kgs and is approximately in size two pants…
So David is pretty darn close to Jai’s size (though Jai weighs a heck of a lot more, David is a “dead weight” so feels pretty similar…) Yet I have posted videos and photos of me wearing David as opposed to Jai… So my thinking that babywearing educators didn’t have the “right” size model was totally flawed obviously…
There are plenty of reasons a babywearing doll might be used in the place of a child or baby to demonstrate, play or teach about slings or carriers, here is just a couple…
The wearer’s confidence;
When you are trying something new it can feel difficult to get your head around for any of us. Our kids are like little ‘energy’ sponges, they pick up very well on how we feel or perceive something.. That means if we aren’t confident about what we are doing, they sense that. If you feel more confident and in control, they also sense that.
I so commonly hear people say, “my child doesn’t like being in my sling or carrier”, the first question I would ask is, “how do you feel about it?”
So far not one of those people have said replied to me, “I love it, it’s perfect and comfortable and I feel so confident getting my baby into it”… I have no evidence that your feelings or potentially uncertainty about your carrier is a direct cause of negative associations for babies and children but my experience suggests there might be at least some correlation between the two…
When I am giving people new carriers or techniques to try, obviously there is the aspect of safety which is another reason for using dolls. Particularly at my workshops or events where I ‘open my library’ up for playing with… I am not always able to be individually supporting people in a group setting when they are trying something new. If they use my dolls, we can all have like a “show and tell” kind of experience just playing with lots of different options.
So this is a big one when it comes to demonstrating several types of carriers in a short succession for me. As well as in a “library sampling” setting where people may have a limited time to try a range of options. Each time we pick up and put down our child, they are experiencing a period of transition. Same thing if I lay them down to change a nappy and pick them back up again, that’s two periods of transition they are experiencing.
Same thing for getting in and out of the car, pram or carrier. Each period of time we are moving them or changing their environment or experience, they are going through a ‘transition period’ which we often need to help them settle with, particularly as newborns.
If I am using a carrier for a child or baby, my process of going through each of the steps or stages is much slower than if I am using a demo doll. At each step I would take some time to sway and bounce and talk to the baby to settle them as I got them into the carrier. With a doll, I can just get them in position and move on to the next step..
When we are learning something new being able to go at our own pace often helps most of us. Also not having a moving and wiggling model definitely helps learning in my opinion! Plus my dolls ALWAYS smile and never complain or moan, so that’s also nice 😉
This also means that for people who don’t have a child of their own, maybe they are expecting a child, they could work with parents using carriers but not use them personally, in these cases I still think there is lots of benefits to learning about carriers and slings and the dolls help me to facilitate that in a hands on setting.
Children also have this thing about ‘own mind’ which my dolls don’t, meaning they don’t have a choice about if they “want up” in that particular moment or not! In a workshop setting, seeing someone using a doll instead of a child helps me to more quickly help troubleshoot or explain a new process or approach.
The only time in a workshop setting I would encourage someone to use their own child instead of a doll would be if we were trying to better fit a carrier they have already been using or that we have had enough of an opportunity to practise with something that they were sure they felt confident.
When I am trying to show someone a particular thing with a carrier, I also often find using a demo doll can make it clearer to them the steps I am taking, as the distraction from my model moving and doing their own thing is minimised.
So that is just a few reasons I am using babywearing dolls for work and teaching more and more, as well as carrying my actual real life children!
Just a note about handling… These dolls are bloody expensive, they have rotatable hips, arms and heads.. The are weighted and hand painted. If you are using a consultants doll, treat them like you would a real baby! Or at the very least grab them by their clothes no an arm or leg or you could rip it off! And my kids would certainly not be happy if anything happened to our “spare children” hahaha