In this first post of a two part series, Zoe Woodman, from The Sling Consultancy (pictured above with youngest child Jude at Deans Court in Dorset) talks about Babywearing and how it can support maternal mental health.
It is funny how much we focus on and think about the birth of our baby, everything is pretty much geared to that part. There is far less focus on the time after you have given birth to your baby; you get home and you are like right ok now what?!?
At this point you realise you perhaps didn’t really think about this point. Much of the antenatal care and antenatal classes spend far more time on the birth and time leading up to that, usually one session on feeding and one on post-natal. It is only with hindsight you realise that perhaps more focus could be on the “now what?”
Birth doesn’t define you as a parent although it may impact how you feel and links in with your mental health. You may feel detached from your experience and your baby if it didn’t quite go how you thought it might or if it was traumatic.
You may be wondering how you can recover and look after this baby that needs you ALL THE TIME…
This is how I felt after the birth of my first baby. A traumatic birth meant a longer stay in hospital and I ached to get home to something normal, a new normal of course but the familiarity of home and my things around me. We lived in a flat on the second floor, it was so hard for me to carry the car seat or carry cot from the pram up those stairs. We realised we needed another solution so we got a sling. I didn’t know anything about carrying or babywearing or slings. We got one at John Lewis that we had seen others using and it served us well, it enabled us to get out and about easier, onto the tube into London but mostly up the stairs. It wasn’t used lots; in fact I can barely find any pictures of us using it, just a couple of Daddy using it.
I honestly cannot recall carrying Mai very much in it, it was just a practical tool. Obviously she was carried in arms though! A baby cannot move around by themselves so are either carried by us in arms or in a container of some description.
We stopped using the carrier when she was around 8 months old or so as it wasn’t very comfortable anymore and I happened to see someone on a train with an older child in a carrier and asked what it was called and went and bought that exact one online! I hadn’t really seen anyone carrying older babies or children and I think I must have thought it would be very practical. Having moved to Surrey in an area of outstanding beauty, we wanted to go for walks and the carrier was so handy! It meant we could explore the woods and we continued to use this until she was nearly 3 (she was quite petite!). It was so handy for visiting places that were not particularly accessible or where it was useful to have our hands and know she was safe like when travelling.
Mai was 4 years old when we added to our family. Charlie was carried much much more! Already having one child meant I needed my hands free and the sling meant I could meet his needs for closeness and hers too. Also juggling preschool drop offs and then starting school, the sling/carrier meant I could hold her hand when walking to school and even go in with her to support her transition, and as well as not adjust our route due to the steps at the top of our road. This time it was used to support many different aspects but again from a practicality point of view it made sense.
Jude our third child was born in 2016 and he was in the sling more than out of it! I fed lots in the sling as there was (and is!) so much to juggle. Each time my carrying journey has been different; we have used many different slings/carriers and adapted to each set of circumstances.
People come into using slings/carriers for many different reasons and the reason itself doesn’t really matter.
After having another 2 children, running a sling library and training as a consultant I know so much more about the whys and how’s and exactly just how powerful carrying can be. I am proud to be able to support others on their carrying journey and for it to be an empowering experience. .
We are sold so many things as parents to be, there are lists of things we “need” often much of this is to make money, if you really think about it, babies in reality need or want very little!
Baby’s need touch and closeness, for it is all they have known up until they are born. Using a sling/carrier helps you to meet their need for this. It is hugely distressing and frustrating when each time our baby is fast sleep in our arms, we go to put them down and they immediately wake up. I remember this with our first baby, thinking why?!?Just stay asleep!!