So a while ago (quite a while ago, this post idea has been in the drafts folder for a while) I read a blog post on Phd in Parenting about babywearing, called “Babywearing gave me mothering wings”. As I was reading it I was nodding.
Nodding about how using a sling or wrap or other baby carrying device can really help. Particularly in that newborn phase where it is so important for them to be close to you. Freeing up your arms does make a big difference.
I really nodded when Annie said: “But I am also concerned with government advisories and regulatory practices that go so far that they discourage and marginalize safe and healthy parenting practices and bankrupt companies that make products that support those practices.” Yeah, totally.
I totally respect and admire Annie, but I just can’t stop thinking about that post and I want to express what got me thinking. There were two things that tweaked my overly sensitive- not always a fan of everything attachment parenting-senses. One: Annie spoke about physically touching her newborn 22 out of 24 hours each day. And two: near the end of the article she said this: “Babies should not and cannot simply be put down every time their parents need their arms. Putting babies in car seats, swings, or bouncers for much of the day is unsafe and deprives them of the much needed warmth and bonding with their parents. Leaving them to scream in a crib or bassinet while their parents get things done or have a much needed break is neglectful.” And I went WHOA.
It is not that I totally disagree. I don’t think that baby swings, car seats and bouncers are the ideal locations for your baby, at least for long stretches of time. But I don’t begrudge the parent who discovers one of these things is the mystery cure for endless bouts of screaming. Essentially, if it makes baby happy and saves your sanity, then I am all for it. But, in theory, my preference would not be for baby to be in a car seat, swing or bouncer for most of the day.
I also agree that putting a baby down, who is upset and screaming, in order to get stuff done, is not the ideal response. I get really bothered by the word neglectful, mostly because the word is applied to so many many things in parenting that may not be great, but are not the same as true neglect. Like, the kind of neglect that would get children taken away from their parents. You know? I digress. Anyway, that being said, putting a baby down who has been screaming for hours and giving yourself a 10 minute break to save your sanity? Totally reasonable, in my opinion. Especially if you are at the breaking point.
I think what really bothered me about the ending of this post is the portraying the opposite to the extreme. For example, there are lots of parents who don’t hold their babies 22 hours a day and who do put them down, in part to get stuff done, without leaving their child wailing in a crib while they clean the bathroom. And there are lots of places to put baby down that don’t involve strapping them into a car seat. Get what I am saying?
In the first few weeks of Audrey’s life she spent no where near 22 hours a day physically touching me. Well, I take that back, I did spend A LOT of time breastfeeding, which was fine. So that was probably a good 12 hours of the day. And we probably had her in a wrap or sling a good 4 or 5 hours of the day. So, lets call it 16 hours. The other 8 hours? When she feel asleep we put her down in a bassinet, which we wheeled around to whatever room we were in. We didn’t put her down screaming, but we got that space and time to ‘get stuff done’. As she got older, that 16 hours probably went down to 14 and then 12 and then 10 and so on.
When she was older (probably around 4 months), she spent quite a bit of time on the floor on a big blanket. She loved listening to music and trying to reach for stuff and learning to roll over. By 5 month or so she was crawling. I valued this time, as it was amazing to watch her explore her world. She knew I was close by, so she was happy. And I got to ‘get stuff done’. By 9 months she was cruising, and being held by mama was not her idea of a good time. She still was happy in a sling while out and about, but at home she wanted to explore.
What I am saying is there is a balance. And I know there are babies out there that respond very well to constant contact and get very upset if they are ever put down. Maybe 22 hours a day is reasonable and appropriate for those babies. But I also know there are babies who are perfectly happy to observe the world a meter or two away from their parents. More over, there are babies who scream at the top of their lungs if you don’t put them down sometimes. You gotta do what is best for your kid.
Babywearing is awesome. AWESOME. But so is putting your baby down to let them explore the world. And so is getting some personal space for yourself.
I think it is unfortunate that a lot of supporters of babywearing present it in such a way that the average person, who may want to put their baby down sometimes, can’t quite relate. If someone had tried to sell me a sling when I was pregnant with the line that ‘you can hold your baby 22 hours of the day with this thing’ I would have run for the hills. I know Annie was just sharing her experience and what worked for her kids, but it still seemed to imply that that was the ideal. And the statement afterward, about depriving our babies from bonding with us, reinforced that.
Furthermore, I really believe that giving baby time to explore her/his world is important. As a baby gets older, it makes sense that they spend more and more time not physically touching their parents and that parents allow opportunities for the baby to reach out and interact with the world. I think each parent needs to find a balance between both wonderful, beneficial things for baby: physical closeness to their parents and that ability to branch out and have the space to explore their world.