Babywearing with Jess


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Big kids and beyond… Creating Families with Freedom

I have this big passion for freeing the concept of using slings and carriers from the social stigma that it is an activity for babies.

A baby is, by definition, a child aged 0-18 months. Regardless of your views on whether it is appropriate or respectful to refer to our old children in that many, it is misleading.

Many of us carry our children for much longer than that. Some of us use slings and carriers to do so. We might know its called “babywearing” and they are not babies, but what preconception does this give others?

I do not know how many times I have had someone ask for my help or talk to me about babywearing and say something along the lines of, “its ok, I don’t need it anymore because he’s crawling now…” or “oh I would have totally used one of those but little Jimmy is nearly one now, so….”

 

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You can see the excitement in both our faces when our first ever Toddler sized carrier arrived! Josh was two and a bit in this photo and I was about 20 weeks pregnant with Jai!

 

There are so many benefits to wearing big kids, here’s a blog post I prepared earlier  😛 haha “Why would you wear a big kid?” and also a bit of a rant about perceptions socially here “He’s too big to be carried!”

I worry that by using the language we are, we are perpetuating the cycle that this is a “fad” or a certain person’s kind of thing. We have been carrying our children for over two million years as humans. As soon as we evolved from apes and lost our hairy frames, we have carried our children.

Just a fact that will make you thankful you are not an ape, do you know they used five points of contact to hold onto their mother when she moved…

Five? Yes, the fifth was the ape’s nipple.

The baby held on to the mother by pulling her hair and latching her nipple while she moved . Hmmm. Yeah I am really glad me invented carriers at the same time as we made clothes as humans for that fact alone..

If we can get across to people that babywearing isn’t dangerous any more than your car seat is dangerous, that newborns are vulnerable and a lack of being aware and responsive of your child can be dangerous, then maybe more new parents could hear about it sooner?

And if we can free up the limiting “baby” perception and get the message through to health professionals that this is normal and part of our evolutionary history maybe families with special needs or in special circumstances could more freely benefit from the act of using a carrier…

Kevan Chandler who lives in Florida lived out his dream to backpack around Europe with his mates without the use of his wheelchair. They set up a Go-Fund Me account and made the papers in a bid to live out this dream (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3501048/The-human-backpack-Friends-CARRY-65lb-disabled-pal-Europe-backs-trip-lifetime.html ).

And in the last year, I have been mulling over how to explore this concept of giving families and individuals with special needs the option to consider carriers as a possibility to help them live out their own dreams. And during that time, Kevan, with the help of some awesome mates, crowd sourcing, motivation and media, got to live out his own. Using a specially designed carrier.

And now he is taking that dream just that step further and searching for ways to provide the same option to others. The team is writing a book, producing a movie, establishing We Carry Kevan as an official non-profit organisation, providing consultations and speaking arrangements.

https://twitter.com/WeCarryKevan/status/714307725665153024

They are excitedly watching and helping others to discover the world opening up to them through fresh approaches to accessibility.

This is just one story. (http://wecarrykevan.com/home)

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/kevan-chandler/the-strength-of-everyone-else_b_9576206.html

 

There are many other great examples and stories of the benefits from carrying in special circumstances through the testimonial pages for non-profit organization, Lift Me Up. Three mamas joined forces and created a non-profit organization providing babywearing carriers, education and support to families who have children with special needs.  http://babywearingtothrive.org/about

There are also special circumstances that make big kid wearing a useful tool, huge crowds (no losing your child when you have them strapped to you!), airports (tired legs happen at the most inconvenient of times), cases of grief and trauma, situations that are highly unsettling… I see endless examples and opportunities for carriers to help our children well beyond the short time they are a baby but can’t help that think that some of the barriers to it being more broadly accepted is our current cultural norms and potentially the nomenclature of the practice…

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Particularly as just a quick browse of the Natural Mama’s Pinterest page of “sling images” (https://nz.pinterest.com/naturalmamasuk/sling-images/) seem to clearly demonstrate that it is not just now that we are carrying older children in carriers. While no one bats an eyelid at an older toddler in a pram occasionally, or the four or five year old who gets a piggy back ride right?

And surely everyone realises that three year olds sometimes still want cuddles and kisses right? Even if it is more so when they’ve hurt themselves or they are sick or maybe they are just feeling sad or missing someone. Yet I have heard a lot mums have faced criticism or comments when wearing a child or even as a younger toddler.

Even myself there has been many occasions when I have worn my children, even when they have still been young enough to fit in that “baby” age bracket have had people, usually directed to him rather than me, say something to the effect of “you look like you’re too big to be up there!” or to me say, “you should be letting him walk!”

Therein lies the strange double standard that seems to exist for at least some in society. There are so many cases and reasons in which to do it, and to answer the uncommon question I hear, “how old is too old for them to be worn like that?” Well the short answer is, as long as they want to be held and you want to do it.

I personally believe that there are many families out there finding the use of carriers beneficial in special circumstance or special cases well beyond toddlerhood, but until now, I have had difficulty finding them…

 

If you have a personal interest or any experience in this kind of area and want to share your stories or vision with me, I would love to hear from you, anytime, babywearingwithjess@gmail.com

 

 


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“He’s too big to be carried!”

I’ve heard it for actually years now but as my eldest gets older, and obviously bigger, the comments and opinions seem much more prevalent.. “he has legs that work, he should use them!”

That was the most recent.. And unusually so, I found myself defending him, and me, and the decisions we make… My big kid is a physically affectionate little dude.. It’s one of his main love languages… He got that from me. I am that way too with the people I love.

But for him, being worn isn’t so much about tired legs.. Well I mean it is sometimes when we go walking, but I’m talking like after 5km.. He is a big walker.. We all are, it’s a family thing..

In fact bushwalking was what led my husband and I to discover babywearing. It had been a favourite past time for us both and something we did a lot together so when my eldest was born, we looked for a way to still do that. And the kind of walks we like are not pram friendly, it’s a case of the more remote, the better… We like to seek out the path less travelled and discoveries and the unknown is part of the adventure.

And our big kid loves that too.. There is not the same chance of uncovering insects, identifying different fungi species and being the first around the unknown corner when you are strapped to your parent. All things our little explorer relishes in..

But still, sometimes paths can be dangerous or little legs get tired on the hill back up and in those times, we still wear our big dude.. And obviously our little one who comes along for the ride…

But for our biggest dude, babywearing is often about the closeness and the cuddles and the security and love that are part of that…

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From about eighteen months old, he got too heavy for me to carry in my arms without some kind of sling.. My back was giving out holding him on my hip.. That was in fact when we got our first ring sling. From that time on, I have always said to him, “you’re too big to be held in my arms, but I can wear you if you like”…

And now I seem to have passed on my “fluff” addiction to my kids 😉 every carrier or wrap through those door, they both want to try it.. And look at that cuddly smile! 

I will say yes as long as he asked to be carried because I know, it’s not too far in our future that he won’t want me to carry him anymore and one day, that his kisses and cuddles will be focused on someone else.. I want to savour it while I can! 😍


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Why would you wear a big kid?!

It’s not unusual to see an older toddler in pram occasionally right? Or a four or five year old getting a piggy back ride with tired legs? And surely everyone realises that three year olds sometimes still want cuddles and kisses right? Even if it is more so when they’ve hurt themselves or they are sick or maybe they are just feeling sad or missing someone…

But it’s funny because also I have heard a lot mums have faced criticism or comments when wearing a child or even as a younger toddler. Even myself there has been many occasions when I have worn my eldest, even when he was as young as eighteen months old and have had people, usually directed to him rather than me, say something to the effect of “you look like you’re too big to be up there!” or to me say, “you should be letting him walk!”

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Josh on my back at 2.5 years, this was our first try wearing the blue rockets toddler tula when it arrived, “his” carrier.

There in lies the strange double standard that seems to exist for at least some in society. Personally it makes no sense to me at all that it is not at all strange to push or piggy back a child but it is to wear them..?! There are so many cases and reasons in which to do it, but first, to answer the not uncommon question, “how old is too old for them to be worn like that?”
Well the short answer is, as long as they want to be held.

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Eden (4) and Josh (3.5) both in Toddler Tula’s

We really discovered babywearing with our first baby as it was a way for us to keep doing bushwalks, a favourite pastime for us. And it a time that I really appreciate what big kid wearing brings when we now to continue to do this as a family of four. We seriously couldn’t take the tracks and have the experiences we can in our beautiful natural environments New Zealand offers us without babywearing.

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Jai’s first experience of bushwalking at 4 months…

Firstly the tracks are very inappropriate for prams, they can sometimes be quite dangerous and/or narrow and steep in parts and despite our big dude being a keen walker, anything after about 4kms and his little legs can’t keep up!

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Steep, exciting and narrow paths means sometimes even when little legs aren’t yet tired on the walk, it’s sometimes required to be briefly worn!

Wearing toddlers and older kids is different of course to wearing smaller bubbas in a number of ways.. Often they go through this “up” and now “down!” phase as they start to be comfortable and competent to explore and tottle around their environment. Resulting in many occasions of putting baby in a carrier and then taking them out again over and over in my experience at least…

Even before that stage, often there is a “nosey bubba” stage where they get sick of just facing you and want to see whats going on! My go to approach to these stages with my kids has been a hip carry (usually in an open tail ring sling for me) or a high back carry so they can see over my shoulder and have the same view I do.

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“Nosey” Jai at 9 months in a hip carry in a ring sling

And then when they are older toddlers and preschool age, they are often rather competent explorers of their environment and can walk and run around themselves but even so little legs get tired and situations can be overwhelming, hectic or dangerous in which cases “big kid wearing” can be an invaluable tool.

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Watching earthworks from the safety of dad’s hold, Josh at 2.5 years

There are also times when your bigger kid is maybe sick or unsettled (some of those massive changes, stresses and losses in life can leave little people unsettled and more needy for a very long time after the fact) or maybe they are just generally a more clingy or cuddly child and in these situations you can find yourself cuddling or carrying a rather large, long and sometimes wiggly child which is a completely different ball game than holding a toddler on your hip…

Which brings me to a good point, I actually bought my first ring sling when my eldest was 18 months, and it was to save my back from further injury from doing just that. I had managed to twist and tilt my pelvis, it was primarily from carrying him on my hip for quick ups and downs, like going from the car into the supermarket for example, that I had bent one hip upwards, as a way to kind of sit his pressure on it..

I’m sure anyone who has held a child on thier hip knows the kind of position I’m referring too.. Kind of creating an “c” shape with your spine.. I had lots of osteo treatment and spent a long time doing pilates twice a week to strengthen up my muscles and correct my posture but of course, my toddler didn’t care all that much about that and funnily enough, he still wanted to be held and there were still occasions I couldn’t help but be holding him on my hip.

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Jan demonstrating great technique for big kid wearing Quinn (3.5) in a ring sling

So I bought a ring sling. It didn’t change the position I was holding him in, he was still effectively for all intensive purposes still sitting on my hip (I know know just how shockingly bad my ring sling technique was at the time, I didn’t even realise I had to “create a seat” with the fabric!). The extra support provided by the fabric and the fact the opposite shoulder to hip was bearing some of the extra weight meant I was holding him in a much more ergonomic way, not twisting my posture to bear his weight.

And now at 3.5 and nearly 18kgs he knows that if wants to be cuddled or carried around for any period of time, he needs to be worn. I can’t physically carry him in my arms for very long without getting aching arms or hurting my back. And this was so invaluable that we had this as a tool and technique when he recently had an operation to remove his tonsils and adenoids and get new grommets.

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It was a sore operation, it is at any age, but that is obviously quite unsettling when you are three and your concept of severe pain in recovery is kinda limited.. There were a few times he would wake up as his pain meds started to wear off and he would jump up in pain, screaming and trying to run away from what was hurting him and in those times all I could do was strap him to me and shush him as I slowly walked around the yard or up the road till he would fall asleep again or I could just cuddle and hold him until the next set of pain meds kicked in…

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Airports is another great place wearing big kids is awesome, busy events and festivals, when your kid is a “runner” (was always my threat when my eldest went through that stage, “stay close or I’m putting you on my back!”)… I could continue to list times and places it makes sense to wear a bigger kid but instead, I will just finish with some science to back me up here.

Do you know it uses at least 16% less energy to wear your children as opposed to holding them in your arms? (http://stockportslings.co.uk/why-i-carry-my-big-kid)

Wear them as long as they want to be carried and as long as you want to wear them. Heck, if you’re both keen, you could wear them up the stairs at thier graduation with a decent woven wrap.. 😝