Like a lot of women, I had ideas about what kind of mom I would be when I actually became one, and that mom was one who wore her baby as much as possible. Naturally. I had read The Continuum Concept so I knew for sure I was on the right path. It was INDIGENOUS and all, so obviously.
But once R popped into the world, I quickly realized how many things I had miscalculated, and baby-wearing was one of them.
For one thing, two versions of the ring-sling failed miserably and I had to give them up, an Ergo worked but only for periods at a time, and I also saw that R didn’t necessarily want to be bound to me all the time.
She really liked to spend small amounts of time on the floor under her play-gym, always close by me but involved in something of her very own.
So I did the only thing I knew to do and scrapped my expectations. My baby didn’t want to be worn all day long, and I had to admit once I tried it, I didn’t even think it was necessarily very healthy for either one of us.
She did want to be held a ton, just not bound up, and I began to appreciate the difference a lot.
For one thing, a carrier quickly creates repetitive stress on your body because of its static nature. You might be able to switch sides or move it around a little, but you’re pretty much stuck with a couple of positions.
When you carry your baby, on the other hand, you’re forced to change positions often because long periods in any one are uncomfortable, and this constant variation is what keeps repetitive stresses away.
Weirdly enough, once you build up your arm strength, carrying your baby like this becomes infinitely more comfortable. I carry R this way for miles and my shoulders and back never hurt.
I still use my carrier once in a while for something different, but I love that I’m able to haul her around by myself if I want to.
Another benefit of carrying R in my arms instead of using a carrier is that I’m free to set her down on the ground in a second if she wants to explore, and then pick her back up a minute later, and then set her back down again, and over and over again without pulling her out and stuffing her back into a carrier.
As for floor time, or independent play as Montessori labels it, while this is the very opposite of day-long baby-wearing, I felt deeply that offering R the space to learn about her world on her own was an important thing to do.
I started doing this with R around the 4-6 week mark, and only for 5 minutes or so at a time in the beginning.
As the weeks and months passed, little by little she would occupy herself for longer periods of time, and now can stay fully engaged with her environment for a good 20-30 minutes or so.
Observation really is the key here. I watch R and ask myself all day long: “What is she showing me? What does she need in this phase of her development?”
I will hold and carry her for as long or as much as she needs, and I’ll give her all the space for independent play that she wants, but I don’t want to overdo any of these things because that would be just as harmful as neglecting to do them at all.
There has to be a balance, and that balance has to be dictated by R's emotional and developmental needs.
So…what is the intersection of Attachment Parenting, Montessori education, just wingin’ it, and plain old intuition? Because that’s where we are and I love it.
If I would have been rigid about the concept of baby-wearing, or anything else really, I’d be super frustrated and confused at this point. But like almost all things in life, flexibility, moderation, and alteration are the keys to satisfaction and happiness.
There are most definitely babies that are going to want and need constant attachment, and in those cases meet those needs for sure.
But unless your baby is clearly showing you those signs, then a little floor time, a little carrier time, a lot of back and forth in your arms, over your shoulder, back on the floor, and up in your arms again is completely healthy, and completely normal.
By the way, watch these two videos on good body-mechanics for baby-carrying:
I want to know your thoughts on baby-wearing, good and bad. Let me know in the comments below :)