In honour Father’s Day I asked Andy, our resident expert on babywearing while being a dad, to write a bit of something for us. This is what he wrote! Please note I don’t advocate manual labour while babywearing (to be fair I don’t advocate manual labour at all!) or really any activity while there is a possiblity of injury to you or the child. I do however understand that you’re all grown up and will asses the risks for yourselves! And thanks to the babywearing daddies of WaWiSH Sling Meet for the photos!
Hi, I’m Andy, I have a son; Aiden, a partner; Nic and a beard…
It’s that last part of that qualifies me to talk about being a babywearing Dad.
It has been an experience full of ups and downs, and I’m going to share some of these with you.
I was a student in London, and being the helpful soul I am I had helped my fair share of pushchairs and prams up and down the stairs of the London Underground, or had them rammed into me in those uncomfortably small lifts. I had often wondered (while losing feeling in my foot due to a badly placed wheel) that there should be a better way of transporting sproglings around town. I believe it was on the Piccadilly Line that I witnessed the answer. It was a dad, with some sort of device that looked like a backpack with a baby poking out the top of it. It was practical, it was safe and no wheels. I thought to myself (well no I said to my then girlfriend but that’s a whole different kettle of fish) that when I was a dad I would carry my child in similar fashion.
Fast forward *cough* years and I met Jen: who is one of those friends who completely blows apart every preconception of what parenting should be, in a field (well quagmire) in Wales, who was wrapping her 5 day old daughter. I was mesmerised and astounded that a single length of cloth could hold such a precious cargo, I said to my then girlfriend (who is still my current girlfriend, but that’s another story) that when we had kids, I would carry our child thusly (Nic told me to shut up as we would never, ever be having kids).
My first go at wrapping was not with a baby, nor was it with a Grimma or Eric, it was with my stunt Orang-Utan, Tuan. However, plush toys are no substitute for the real thing. Aiden was not quite a day old, and he woke up, had a feed, then he and I went down stairs while Nic slept, to the warzone that was the house at that time; birthing pools, washing up, furniture in rooms that have never had furniture in. I am sitting there with my not quite day old son thinking “I don’t want Nic to see this mess”, so I took a deep breath, but on the Wrapsody DVD, and surrendered the safety of my child to my ability to tie knots. Though it was not quite tight enough but it enabled me to empty pools, wash up, shift a fridge and move a dining table and chairs. All jobs done, little man asleep on my chest and a very grateful Nic.
Aiden was not one of those children who slept easily. He always fought tooth and nail to stay awake and there were many many nights, especially in the first six months, where he needed soothing for hours on end. Carrying any weight in your arms for that amount of time gets tiring very quickly. For me, the best way to soothe him was to wrap him, which helped settle him quicker than anything. It also enabled me to be able to do tasks a lot easier, for example, important game playing at 3am or watching really interesting documentaries on BBC4.
As a side benefit, it enabled us to bond in a way I never dreamt would be possible. Nic was successfully breastfeeding and although I fully supported her, I did worry that I would be detrimental to my own relationship with him as he would see her as his only source of comfort. I should never have worried. Now two years on and he sees us both as equal caregivers and I am certain a lot of that comes down to me wrapping him in his early days. Being able to carry, comfort and care for my child so intimately that now I could not imagine doing any different.
On the whole, I’ve had very positive comments from those who have spoken to me while we’ve been out and about and I often get told “oooh he looks comfy” from the old dears in the shops, or people talking to Aiden directly, which has been nice as I’ve never felt anyone talk down to him, and he can smile and wave and interact with them. I’ve only had a few strange looks and one poor girl who was so intent on staring she walked into a post, but I’ve not had any bad or nasty comments. I also think that Aiden gets to see the world more fully rather than just at knee level.
As Aiden grew we needed to adapt to his growth and requirements. I went back to work and Nic carried on at home, with the pram languishing unloved. Although Nic got on really well with a ring sling, I couldn’t use it for anything but the shortest of periods, and we needed to find a way for me to carry him for longer periods. I have 3 ruptured discs in my lower spine, plus nerve damage to my left leg, which means my load bearing capabilities are not the best. I find prams to be largely uncomfortable means of transport and I so dearly wanted to wrap him when I packed up work and became a SAHD. Rachael was a saint, and we found that it was the process of wrapping that was the most painful for me and we looked at different wrap styles and products that would enable me to wrap him quickly. Buckles I find uncomfortable, due to my manly frame, for those who don’t know me I’m a mix between Sean Bean back in his early Sharpe/Lady Chatterley days and Daniel Craig only with dark hair (at least that’s the image I conjure when I look in the mirror and close my eyes, reality is so depressing). Personally, although I love a proper wrap, (I love my Firespiral) I find Mai-Tai’s to be overly convenient, I have timed the time it takes me to get Aiden on to my back, to the time it takes to get a pram out of the car and it is significantly quicker. Plus I love the feeling of someone snuggling down on my back for a nap.
BUT Andy, I hear you cry, I know you are obviously a badass parent, but I’m not sure babywearing is for me?
Well do you like?
Having a deeper, more personal bond with your children,
Practical means of transportation
Looking cool and awesome
Increased confidence as a parent
Safe knowledge that you know exactly where your kids are, plus what they have in their hands
Dancing while queuing for food while a child sleeps on your back
Enjoying outdoor events without pushing a pram through a sea of mud
Ensuring a 10 minute trip to the shops stays at 10 minutes
Then babywearing is for you…