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….”
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.
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)
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…
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, firstname.lastname@example.org