Tag Archives: babywearing

The power of attachment

Before Arthur was born, I didn’t really have much of an idea about the kind of parent I wanted to be. I knew I wasn’t great at keeping to fixed routines, and my time as a teacher had taught me that nurturing young people generally works best when you take the cues from them. But it was one thing listening to teenagers communicate their needs and wants – how on earth was I supposed to do that with a tiny baby?

I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I figured I’d want to express fairly regularly so that other people could feed the baby too and I could have a bit of freedom. It was losing my freedom, if I’m honest, that I was most nervous about. I was sure I’d want to make the most of my parents’ enthusiasm as new grandparents to get out for time alone with Leigh, to touch base with the me that I was before I became pregnant rather than letting this new little person take over everything.

We were given a pram by Leigh’s parents, having researched endlessly which one would be best for tackling the off-road paths and beaches near where we live. My mum helped me decorate the nursery, all decked out with the cot the baby would move into once he’d passed the six month stage and was ready to graduate to his own room. I knew there would be times when he would sleep with us, but I definitely didn’t want to encourage that on a regular basis.

And then when Arthur was born everything changed. He went from being an abstract baby to a real little human being – and I was surprised to find that I didn’t want to leave his side. I didn’t really get out of bed for the first two weeks after he was born. Partly because it was the middle of winter, and partly because it took all the focus and energy I could muster to overcome the problems we had getting breastfeeding established (you can read about that here). And during that time, when I wasn’t dozing, I read. I started by browsing internet forums looking for inspiration about how I was actually going to approach this business of parenting. I know people say that you should just trust your instincts, but I was terrified of getting it wrong – I did have an idea about how I wanted to do things, but it was so different to what I considered socially acceptable that I needed validation. And slowly I began to find it.

I realised that I identified with what people were calling attachment parenting – I’d never heard of it before, but keen to find out more I ordered several books – Dr Sears’ The Baby Book was great for day to day questions and concerns, but it was the work of Deborah Jackson that really inspired me. I read When Your Baby Cries and Three in a Bed, and as I journeyed with her through different times and cultures I realised that the status quo I had come to accept was far from the only option.

As Arthur and I began to face the world together, I began to put these ideas into practice. After nearly being put off by the first sling I tried I soon became a convert to babywearing – I wrote about the beginnings of that journey here. I found that I was so calm and focused when I was wearing my baby – I didn’t have to put him down alone to get things done, or worry about him as he napped elsewhere. Bizarrely by physically attaching Arthur to me I found I finally had the freedom to begin to live my life again, starting with beginning to write the novel that had been swimming around in my head for so long.

It was a long time before we asked my parents to babysit – they’ve still only done it a couple of times – because we decided we’d miss Arthur too much and would rather he just came with us. And so he did, to meals out, to parties, to gigs, to festivals. I was surprised again – though of course relieved – to find that Leigh shared my inclinations, and as a result the three of us have had so many fantastic adventures together.

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The thing that has most surprised both Leigh and I though has been I think our attitudes to sleep. The sixth month point came and went long ago and Arthur is still sleeping in our room. We’ve talked about it, and both agree that it’s going to be a little while before we’re ready to give up co-sleeping. Arthur loves being close to us, and there is something quite magical about sharing the moments just before he goes to sleep and when he has just woken up as well as the groundswell of love that I still feel when I watch his sleeping form in the middle of the night or he snuggles up to me for a feed.

I know that we’ve been lucky, that there are certain freedoms that we’ve had that have meant I have been able to let Arthur set the pace. I haven’t had to go back to my job as a teacher, and as I muddle through in my attempts to forge a new career at home I can adjust how and when and where I do things to suit his rhythms.

And bizarrely, with all this talk of attachment and the warnings I’ve ignored from well meaning advisors, Arthur’s actually becoming a very confident and easy going little boy. He rarely cries, and as much as I try to follow his cues whenever I can he is proving himself to be highly adaptable when he has to fall in step with me.

I am just so glad I took the time to explore the alternative approaches to parenting that were out there, to find a way to meet the needs of both my baby and myself. I’m glad too that I accepted the changes that becoming a parent wrought within me – however surprising they were at first. I suppose you’ll never know what sort of a parent you’ll be until you are one – I’m not for a second suggesting that the approach we’ve taken would work for everyone, but for the time being at least it definitely seems to be working for us.

Thank you to Sara at Mum Turned Mom for inspiring this post with her prompt of ‘surprise’.

 

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Welcome to the weekend

Come Friday evening we’re usually pretty exhausted, and last week was no exception. Arthur and I had been booked up with play dates and activities every day – though we had lots of fun it maybe would have been sensible to leave us with a bit of breathing space. With my novel deadline fast approaching I was keen to get lots of writing done too, and of course that coincided with having lots of things I wanted to add to the blog!

By the time Leigh got home at about 6.30, tired and stressed by a long commute and an irritating encounter at work, we were very tempted to go to the pub. But instead we decided to go for a walk. Leigh put Arthur in the sling, and we set off up to Berry Head to catch the last of the evening light.

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Arthur loves being carried by his dada, and the stresses of the week quickly melted away for Leigh: I think it would be nigh on impossible to stay stressed with the combination of fresh air, beautiful views and baby cuddles. They carried on their bonding when we got up to the fort, examining the world around them. As usual Arthur was thrilled to be outside.

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I managed to get some mama cuddles too, though that did involve quite a bit of chasing. As Arthur gets faster we’ll definitely need to teach him about cliffs!

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As the sun began to disappear and thoughts of dinner set in Leigh put Arthur back in the sling to head home. It was lovely to watch him snuggle up against his dada, him calmed and Leigh reinvigorated by our little adventure.

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By the time we did get home Arthur had drifted off, so he even managed to fit in a power nap before we all sat down to dinner. It was the perfect start to the weekend, a weekend that turned out to be decidedly grey and drizzly – something that made me even more glad we’d made the most of that Friday sunshine!


      Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

Becoming a mum: babywearing

Alongside breastfeeding, I think the most significant choice I’ve made as a mother is to wear my baby. A lot. Getting to grips with babywearing transformed my experience of motherhood, and it continues to give us a special combination of closeness and freedom that I’m not sure how I would have otherwise achieved.

One of the first books I read as a new mother, once I’d decided that actually some informed advice would be useful before I scared myself silly on internet forums, was ‘The Baby Book’ by William and Martha Sears. I had a hunch that I might be leaning towards an attachment parenting approach – not something I’d really considered before Arthur was born – and reading this book seemed to help everything fall into place.

Of course in the early days I didn’t have much choice but to be attached to my baby. Our struggles to get breastfeeding established meant spending an awful lot of time snuggled up in bed, and even when Arthur wasn’t feeding I found I rarely wanted to put him down. We’d bought a Babasling before he was born having been recommended one by some friends, but though I used it for our first family stroll when Arthur was only a few days old neither of us really got comfortable with it.

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I figured I’d maybe try again when he was a bit bigger, and consigned myself to spending my days stuck on the sofa. The turning point came when I had a visit from a neighbour. She’d just come across to check up on me really – make sure I wasn’t struggling on my own. I remember saying that I was fine, that I was loving being a mum, but just couldn’t imagine how I’d ever get anything done when I was permanently attached to Arthur on the sofa. And she asked whether I’d tried wearing him.

I felt a bit silly when she’d gone – of course that was the solution, everything I’d read about attachment parenting indicated that babywearing was the answer. But after those tricky first experiences I’d just put the whole thing out of my mind. I certainly wasn’t ready to give the Babasling another go, but then I remembered the Moby Wrap. I’d ordered it, taken one look at the intimidating length of material, and put it back in its bag. Maybe now was the time to put my nerves to one side, read the instructions, and see what all the fuss was about.

By the time Leigh got home that evening I’d already been wearing Arthur for a few hours and was loving my new found freedom! It’s safe to say we never looked back.

At home, I wore Arthur to settle him and to reduce the wind he suffered after feeds. It soon became apparent that it was the best place for him to nap, too, leaving me free to get on with things round the house. It was soon after my babywearing revelation that I got started on my first novel. With Arthur safely strapped to me I didn’t need to worry about him – we were physically attached, so for a little while at least I could allow my mind to wander elsewhere. Leigh got in on the game too: it was a lovely way for them to develop their bond, even when he had work to do.

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It also gave us the freedom to get out and about. Our local terrain is not best suited to prams, but wearing Arthur meant we could go for walks on the beaches and up to Berry Head – even just going into town was easier without needing to negotiate a pram up steps and round cafes.

The first big test though came when we took a trip to see my brother in Paris when Arthur was three months old. We were travelling by Eurostar, and as well as the usual sightseeing we would be taking Arthur to his first gig. We decided that babywearing was the way to go, and it made everything so easy.

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As summer approached we were looking forward to lots more adventures, but it became clear that the Moby might no longer be up to the job. Arthur was growing fast, and I found his weight made the stretchy wrap sag after I’d been wearing him for a while. It was time to find a new solution, and the best solution we could find was the ERGObaby. Leigh tried it out first, and both him and Arthur loved it.

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I was a little bit disappointed with how utilitarian it looked, but I couldn’t deny it worked well. Easy to slip on and off, and its handy pocket particularly useful for when we were on the go. We used it to take Arthur to festivals, and even on an epic journey from New York to Toronto and Halifax by train. It made his first plane trips a breeze too.

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But despite the convenience of the Ergo, I was longing for something a bit – well, prettier. Arthur and his carrier had become my most commonly worn accessory, and I was getting a bit bored of sensible khaki. I thought about dabbling with woven wraps, lusted after some online in beautiful fabrics, but after the ease of the buckles it seemed like such a hassle. And then I came across the Connecta.

We were actually asked to do some modelling shots for them through a friend and were given a couple of carriers in return. I was sceptical at first, not having heard of Connecta before, but they soon won me over.

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The Connecta shared the ease of the Ergo with its simple straps and buckles, and was just as comfy if not more so despite using much less padding. I find now that Arthur’s getting heavier by the day that the way the Connecta holds him high and close really helps protect my back – I can wear him for hours at a time without so much as a twinge. The Connecta is really easy to breastfeed in too, which is definitely a bonus. And, even better, the Connecta is available in a huge array of fabrics! From funky prints to wrap conversions, from gorgeous silks to warm tweed: my yearning for something stylish and practical as a new mum was more than satisfied.

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What my adventures in babywearing have taught me so far is that the key thing is finding a way to do it that suits you. I never would have imagined that I would still be wearing Arthur so regularly at fifteen months, but now I’m on the verge of upgrading to a toddler Connecta so I can continue for, hopefully, a good while longer yet. Arthur is of course walking now, but he’s not confident or strong enough to walk for any length of time. Even when he is I imagine I’ll have my carrier in my bag ready for when he’s tired or needs a cuddle.

I honestly believe that babywearing has been key to the relationship I’ve developed with Arthur. Studies have shown that it has a whole raft of benefits for both mother and child – and in fact for developing closeness with other carers, as Arthur has done with his dad and my mum. For me, though, it’s really just helped me maintain my independence and sense of self whilst navigating this new territory of becoming a mum. It might seem like a contradiction in terms as that independence has been won whilst having a little person strapped to me, but if he wasn’t I doubt I would have managed to write or travel or just hang out quite as freely as I have.

I’d love to hear your babywearing experiences so please feel free to add them in the comments. I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have about babywearing – and if I can’t answer them myself I’m sure I can point you in the direction of someone who can!