In honor of International Babywearing Week, we have a special guest blogger. She is a very inspirational mother who currently lives in abroad with her husband and two children. She has been my friend for long time, and is someone who is very dear to me. Let’s all welcome Helene Smith.
- I’d like to share with you my experience with baby-wearing. I live abroad in a developing country. Baby-wearing here isn’t a trend or a philosophy among trendy well- educated moms; it’s a coping technique. It’s a matter of convenience and safety among impoverished mothers and grandmothers (and the occasional foreigner like me!)
- In the city, where sidewalks abound and grandmothers are the primary caregivers while mothers head off to work, babies just get out to have fun. While the sun is shining the park is awash in strollers and sunbathing infants, but few people need to take their baby to run errands. The babies are usually confined to a stroller, sitting on a lap in the car (only trendy educated moms use car seats around here), or perhaps held snugly in grandmother’s arms.
- In the countryside, however, babies are everywhere. They might be cuddled on to grandmother’s back by two wide embroidered straps or sit enthroned in a wicker basket that she wears like a back pack. The lithe older ladies even have a way to carry an older child piggyback where they tuck both hands behind them, under a tiny tushy. They can walk for miles (no exaggeration) with 30 pounds of wiggling kid behind them. Babies and toddlers don’t have the stamina to walk down a mountain into town, and it’s not safe for them to be wandering around a terraced field while their caregiver picks vegetables. Wearing a baby here is a matter of safety and a way to accomplish day to day tasks.
- When we realized we were going to be parents again, we thought carefully about baby transportation. We debated between a sling and a backpack. Notice I did not say we debated what kind of stroller to buy. That was out of the question. No cute little grandma lives at my house. My husband and I work alternating schedules so if groceries were to be bought, bills were to be paid and errands were to be run, they would be accomplished with baby in tow.
- Around here even an umbrella stroller is a nightmare. Imagine standing in the rain, unstrapping the baby, then picking her up. Now while holding the baby and the umbrella, you get to take down the stroller and wrangle it into the trunk of a taxi. I don’t think so! And the bus is even worse! If you have a stroller in one hand, and baby in the other how do you intend to hold on when the bus driver decides play dodge the pedestrian? We needed a good way to secure our girl safely to her Mama and we needed one quick!
- We started with the sling, a breastfeeding go-to, then transitioned to the backpack when she was weaned. I needed a way to keep our little girl safe now that she was walking even running. Walking through the open-air market, you might easily slide through rotting vegetables, dodge a fish flopping away from an eager shopper, or have a narrow miss with a motorcycle carrying half of a hog on the back. It’s not a place for a loose toddler! She rode on my back not only for our daily errands but hoofing it across international airports and hiking through one of the world’s largest remaining areas of protected rainforest. Back in America to visit, the idea of putting her in a stroller for a walk around the mall seemed really foreign.
- So, the next time you’re thinking about “baby-wearing” remember it’s as traditional as it is international. All over the world women are wearing their babies, not only for the benefits to emotional health and the convenience of housework with baby in a sling, but as a basic means of safe transportation. Take a moment and remember “modern” isn’t always better. Then will you say a prayer for them? Pray that without the car seats or even the cars that we take for granted, they and their babies will still be safe.
- I’m Helene Smith, a wife, teacher, mother, blogger and expat. You can find me at www.maidservantsofchrist.com blogging about God’s relationship with women in the world and in the word!