Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Evolution of A Babywearer
My experience as a "baby wearer" began 21 years ago after the birth of my first baby. At that time there was limited choice for baby "carriers" and the term sling was not even in my vocabulary. I purchased a Snugli, a navy blue, corduroy one with a white flannel lining. I was in heaven! I carried my son in it everywhere and not having a car meant using public transit was necessary and now much easier! I practically wore it out! Once he was too big for the Snugli I transferred him to a stroller when I needed to go anywhere. I had a car seat for the occasional car trip, but it wasn't used much when he was an infant. Eventually I got a car and my Snugli was retired to the container of "baby stuff" I no longer used.
Fast forward five and a half years to the birth of my second child. There were some differences to my circumstances now. I was no longer a single parent, and had a five and half year old to drive to school (out of our neighborhood at the time) and to hockey practice. Having a car meant no more public transit for the most part, but the blue Snugli came out of the baby stuff bin( it was one of the few items I kept from the first baby). I used it much less then, but, when my baby didn't need to be in the car seat for travel he was out of it and in my arms. He spent quite a lot of time in hockey arenas as a baby, attending most of the practices and virtually every game his brother played so that would have meant a lot of time in his car seat! Eventually the Snugli went back to the bin.
In between the second Snugli retirement and the birth of my third child, six and a half years later I learned a thing or three. I became a doula, and that in itself opened up a whole new world to me (that is another blog post). Through the many books I was introduced to I discovered Dr. Sears and learned the terms "baby wearing" and "attachment parenting". To many of you who had not started having babies in the 80's this might seem odd to you , because it's now more mainstream. It could have been my age back then or partly because I didn't know anyone else who had a baby except a neighbor in my apartment building. I didn't know anyone who breastfed, slept with or carried their babies. I had one book on childbirth and did not attend any prenatal classes. I was going purely on instinct, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn there was a term for it. With our second child my husband followed suit, felt good about the same approach, gladly co-slept, and supported breastfeeding although I don't recall him ever baby wearing.
When I had my third baby I bought a ring sling. A lovely woman showed me how to use it properly and effectively. I found it to be more versatile than the Snugli as I could carry the baby longer and more comfortably. I went on to use it for my fourth baby too. I hiked many times using the ring sling, attended trade shows and sporting events, shopped and breastfed while carrying a baby more than I had ever done in the past. I had more children to care for so it made life so much easier. I had two babies (the last two were 22 mon apart) to take along to their big brother's activities and Daddy's as well. I couldn't imagine using a stroller and carrying a car seat or maneuvering a double stroller during those times!
Through my work as both a postpartum and birth doula I introduced client's to baby carriers and shared my experiences with them. When I became a childbirth educator, baby wearing and attachment parenting became part of the curriculum more and more. I needed to know a thing or two about it and my education continued so I could pass on accurate and safe information to my client's.
Fast forward again to the wonderful world of retail! When I considered the kind of business I wanted to run it was more of a resource center. It would be a place where customers and clients could come to gain information, share their experiences and buy practical, high quality products. The service that I would provide would be thorough knowledge of the items I stocked and to pass it along to my customers with hands on practical demonstration. How I learned about each carrier I sold was originally based on the manufacturers guidelines and instruction booklets. I felt this approach was good but, not ideal as I was learning along with my customer and let's face it I had not worn my own baby for a few years by this time. I purchased a DVD and watched You Tube videos to get a more practical idea of how they were used. Luckily for me I had a very experienced baby wearing Mama who worked with me who mastered many different carriers and the various positions they offered and we learned together as we added new styles to the inventory.
The baby carrier industry has practically exploded in recent years, both with work at home Mothers creating their own businesses and larger companies as well. One thing is for certain, there is no shortage of choice. I have been selling carriers for almost 4 years now, with the ring sling as my start point. From there I ventured into different styles and narrowed down my inventory based on some criteria that I am comfortable working within. I now carry some favorites including Mei Tai's, soft structured carriers, stretchy wraps, pouches and ring slings. I will be phasing out some brands in favour of others in the coming weeks and months.
I've been interested in carrying a woven wrap at the store for about a year now. I have sought out information on them and have seen a few up close. I have questioned Mothers who use them, people that sell them and perused baby carrier websites. I really feel like a woven wrap will be a very welcome addition to our carrier collection. However, woven wraps have been the one carrier I strongly feel that I need to learn hands on myself. It offers such a variety of carrying options for babies of all ages and the many tying options mean I need someone very experienced to show me first. I am excited to be attending a baby wearing workshop this weekend, where I will become proficient with wraps and polish up my skills with other carriers at the same time. Besides, with baby wearing front and center in the news at the moment I feel I need to be more than ever, very confident in my ability to help my customers and to pass on the message that baby wearing is safe for babies of any age.
I have come a long way since my Snugli days, but just as I felt back then carrying your baby against your body, close to your heart is one of the best gifts you can give both of you. Keep an eye out for some great new carriers at Birth Source Inc. and happy baby wearing!