When I was pregnant and soaking up anything and everything about motherhood, I have to admit I was a little afraid of the babywearing community. Its most outspoken advocates seemed to be saying I didn't love my baby unless I vowed to strap him, fresh from the womb, tightly (but not too tightly!) to my chest and keep him there, all day and all night, until he turned three. This did not sound like a good time for either of us.
Then I had the actual baby and needed to figure out how to mother him while also doing all the other things I needed to do on top of that, and it was only then that I realized babywearing doesn't have to be a big, scary all-or-nothing Philosophy of Parenthood; it can also mean, simply, that I sometimes wear my baby. You might say I'm a babywearer in practice more than in theory.
Both my babies prefer(red) the comfort of a warm body to the support of a bouncy seat or Bumbo or Exersaucer, and putting them in a stroller always made them RAGING MAD because why couldn't I just carry them (because you're a heavy little nut, that's why). Since most of us can't spend our kids' entire babyhoods just...holding them, all the time, finding a good baby carrier was the next logical step. And thank goodness for that, since a carrier lets me hold a baby all snuggly and secure and hands-free, so I can do all the other things I need to do, like wash dishes, fold laundry, vacuum, garden, grocery shop, answer emails, and, yes, even use the bathroom. I actually think there's a special Mom Merit Badge for that last one.
I use a homemade Moby Wrap (basically a long piece of T-shirt fabric) before my babies are five months old, because they like having their legs all tucked in, but after that, it's all Ergo all the time. We used the Ergobaby Carrier with my oldest son until he was almost three (the babywearing fanatics would be so proud of me), and I'm using it with my second son almost exclusively in place of a stroller. (When I do take the stroller out, it's usually to hold all my stuff, but the baby is still strapped to my chest, right where he's happiest.)
I can breastfeed in it, I can toss it in the wash, it adds extra weight to help burn extra calories on long walks. It helps me carry my twenty-pound chunker up the giant flight of stairs at preschool. When I go grocery shopping, I strap the kid on, use the front pounch for my phone, wallet, and keys, and I'm ready to go--no need to strap him into that nasty cart. In my opinion, a good baby carrier is essential at airports, especially if you're flying alone and need your hands free to fold up your stroller to send through the security x-ray. (How would you even do that without a carrier? Ask a stranger to hold your baby?) The Ergo is also adjustable so my husband can wear it too. After four years of use, our Ergo is still in great shape, and I seriously (obviously) can't say enough good things about it. I do sometimes wish it had an outward-facing option, but then I remember how grabby babies are, and it's just as well to keep them tucked against my body where they can do the least amount of damage to the outside world. They get plenty of practice doing that at home.
I love my Ergo carrier, this much is apparent, and although I'll absolutely recommend it to anyone in the market, my more general advice is this: Don't let the crazy-hippy babywearing fanatics scare you away from wearing your baby. Find a carrier that works for you and your baby/toddler--maybe it's a sling or a wrap or some newfangled thing I haven't even heard of--and just give it a go. A good carrier is as close to having an extra set of hands as most of us are going to get.
Are you a babywearer? What's your favorite carrier?
Image via Ergobaby.com.