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slings and other cloth baby carriers
Ahh...there is nothing like holding a baby!  Even before I was a parent...back in the babysitting days of my early teens, there was nothing like rocking a baby (and often myself) to sleep.  Then many years later, when my own children came along,  I said it again..."there is nothing like holding a baby!"  and holding, and holding, and rocking a baby (time passes)...oh my gosh..a toddler, a preschooler....

We do a lot of holding as parents!  Mammals are divided into two subgroups based on how often their young are fed, and the composition of their milk.  The cache mammals leave their young for extended periods of time to hunt, and therefore nurse only a few times daily.   The carrying mammals feed frequently, if not nearly constantly, and remain on their mother's bodies in order to feed.  Guess which category humans fall into?  Yep...we are carrying mammals.

All cutures throughout human history found ways of carrying babies throughout day to day life.  Young nurslings were, and still are, carried on their parents' backs, on the hip, and in front in loving arms.  Babies are swung around to the nursing position when it is time to feed.  The rest of the time, baies enjoy the warmth and security of being close to another person, and observe the goings on of the world...making sense of it and gradually joining in from their secure home base. 

Our industrialized world has gotten away from our human carrying tradition.  Seperating work from family life and the home, segregating our young from parents all day, and isolating ourselves from helping community has led us to seperating ourselves from our babies.  Just look at our generation.  We have plastic infant seats that go into the car, lock on top of strollers, and fit inside shopping carts.  Parents can take their baby on a shopping trip and move the baby in the seat from place to place, and never have to even touch the baby!  Baby doesn't have interaction with her enviornment or any people, as she stares up at the celing the whole time, or the sky. (or into a blanket covering the seat if the weather is bad or the sun is too bright).  I have seen mothers struggling with lugging their 15-pound babies in a heavy infant seat...needing both hands to carry it, and leaning way back to maintain balance.  They would be much better off (and safer!) just holding their babies in their arms! 

For those lucky babies, there are all kinds of carriers out on the market that allow them to be "worn" on the body of their ever-busy parent.  Parents don't get carpal tunnel sundrome from holding baby in awkward way.  (Although, admittingly, backs can get tired after awhile...thank goodness babies usually weigh 10 pounds or less at birth, and our bodies can adjust to their gradual weight gain!)   The carriers are generally less expensive then the infant seat/stroller combo, and many can be used far longer than the infancy period...well into toddlerhood with some designs!  Also, many carriers can accomodate several diferent carrying positions to meet the needs of the parent, activity, and growing child.




My personal favorite is the baby sling.  The design is simple, and it has accomodated my kids from newborn to age three.  Each has nursed countless times, has taken as many naps, while surrounded in a sling next to my body. 

At the other end of the activity spectrum, we have spent active and exciting times while using  the sling as well.  My kids pick produce out at the grocery store, put coins in the washing machines, feed the geese and ducks from a safe height, and have explored aquariums, museums, and festivals. A sunset walk on a pier in San Diego, and quiet, star-lit walks at home are favorite times in the sling.   We have travelled through airports, on busses and trains with the ease and safety of child in-arms in the sling.  My kids observe conversation and interaction with others, and are always in easy conversation distance with me. 

I was really grateful for the sling when we my husband and I videotaped and photographed a friend's wedding last year.  Both kids were with us as we hustled around...5-year-old son by our side, and one-year-old daughter sleeping, nursing, and sometimes dancing in the sling! The sling helped to keep at least one hand free to work, and to keep my dughter close at the same time.  A backpack with camera gear, toys, a few diapers, some snacks, and a bottle of water made us completely portable throughout the wedding.  A backpack fits very well on top of the sling, and can be donned or removed without taking the baby out.  In fact, this set up has worked beautifully for us while at conferences and while travelling and sightseeing.




Just as with breastfeeding, learning to wear and use a sling takes practice...it is an aquired skill.  It can take a few days (weeks!) of frequent use to get the hang of it!  There are videos and illustrations that can be ordered with a sling purchase  that demonstrate all of the carrying positions.   A friend who uses a sling can be an invaluable resource in getting a new "slinger" on track..  But perhaps the best asset  (and is what I relied upon) is stubborn persistance, a relaxed attitude, and a little humor. 

There are many great web sites out there that demonstrate carrying positions, and who sell slings.  I plan a link section to these sites here soon.  Average cost of a commerically-made sling is about $40.  Expect a higher price tag for speciality fabrics and larger designs.



Or...you could make your own sling!  The design is really quite simple, even if one has never sewed on a machine before.  In fact, it is a very good first sewing project.
Interested?   Please go to my homemade baby slings page.

homemade baby slings
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