Babywearing Musings - by AndiDadventures
A Babywearing Dad
Father’s Day seems like an ideal time to talk about being a babywearing dad, and I was delighted to be asked by Jess to write this blog post with a few of my thoughts on the subject. I really hope that it helps a few guys out there to appreciate the joy of babywearing and hopefully sees more people getting enthusiastically into carriers, wraps, and slings.
Of course, Jess can espouse the value and benefit of babywearing far better than I can, but for me it’s not about the statistics or the proven benefits. Carrying your baby is a great way to make the most of your time together. I’m extremely lucky to be a stay-at home dad to an amazing 7-month-old baby boy; I love carrying him and he really loves being carried. Right now, he’s going through a wee clingy stage, especially when he’s under the weather; so we are using the carrier a lot more to help him feel secure and to keep him happy.
Babywearing has demonstrable benefits for bonding and development and can help ease the ‘bumps in the road’ like separation anxiety or when they are feeling unwell. Wearing your baby from an early age develops a strong attachment; which is really important when most dads return to work so soon after their baby’s birth, giving them limited time to bond. It also increases your oxytocin and endorphin levels which can only be a good thing!
Like me, a lot of people that I know have a selection of things they carry with them most of the time (known in some circles as your ‘Everyday Carry’ or EDC). Usually they have a place for those items; a pocket that they always put their wallet in, a way of organising their bag, a particular combination of items they always have on their person – wallet, watch, smart phone, keys, maybe cash. Why would you not also have a place for your child? They are the most important thing you take with you.
Our Babywearing Journey
We started out as I imagine many other parents start their own babywearing journey, we saw people carrying their offspring and, at some point, it sufficiently caught our attention and we started looking into it in more detail. I remember, years ago, seeing a woman in a coffee shop in Glasgow putting her child into a beautiful multicoloured woven wrap as she went to leave. She was clearly quite practiced at it and took just a few moments to load her baby in and adjust everything. The baby looked so comfy in there and I just recall thinking how clever the whole thing was, a wee baby pouch that left her hands free to carry her own bags.
As we navigated our way through the pregnancy, babywearing was far in the back of our minds, but was brought to the front with the arrival of our Baby Box (amazing thing, we love the scheme!) The stretch wrap it contained made us start thinking about wearing our soon-to-arrive newborn, but we still felt that we didn’t know enough to do it confidently or safely.
After the birth, once we were all settled in, I decided to have a go with the wrap. First attempt was pretty poor, too loose and we were overdressed, but it improved from there with a few attempts.
Then I started speaking with friends who I saw babywearing on social media. I got tips, hints, suggestions, and most of them suggested going along to one of the drop-in sessions. This was our first dip into the world of babywearing and it was the best thing we could have done as we had several of our preconceptions completely undone by new information.
We hired a Tula as several people had raved about them, and a friend also kindly lent us a Boba they no longer used. We tried both and couldn’t really get them feeling right, so back we went to the next drop-in to see what we were doing wrong. Turns out it wasn’t something we were doing, but simply that those carriers were not quite right for us. Rather than chase our tails with trial-and-error, we decided to book a consultation with Jess, and I only wish we had done that sooner. Having already chatted with her a bit at the drop-ins we knew that she knew her stuff and when we went along, she had a good idea of what we needed. We tried out the brand new Beco 8 and it was so comfortable! Taking it on the two week hire which was included with the consultation we threw ourselves into thoroughly testing it and, after just a week of using it, we knew it was perfect for us. We ordered one directly from Close and Calm, which meant I could pop by and return the hired one while picking up our new purchase from the drop-off locker.
Since then I’ve used the carrier for about 75% of our excursions and Callen will quite happily chat away while he’s in there and fall asleep when he’s tired. I even wrote a good portion of this post in a coffee shop with a sleeping baby in his carrier!
What does babywearing mean to me?
Babywearing is something that both my wife and I wanted to do, so we made sure to find a carrier (with Jess’ expert help) that worked well for both of us, despite our different builds.
In my mind it seems pretty fair that since one of us did all the carrying before he was born the other should do most of it now that I can.
Babywearing dads have seen something of a controversy in the media over the past year, with the odious Piers Morgan taking a shot at James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, after he was photographed wearing his infant about town (in a Tula for those wondering). Morgan’s unique brand of toxic masculinity saw the rise of a beautiful hashtag across social media indicating that thousands of people took issue with his view that babywearing was ‘emasculating’. This antiquated view is, in my humble opinion, complete nonsense, merely an extension of the misogyny that says women should be raising the babies while the menfolk play golf and drink beer.
I fully believe that real men take responsibility for their part in a family. There is nothing more “manly” than protecting your family, carrying your child (literally, and figuratively), and ensuring that you have a strong bond with your babies so that you continue to have their trust as they grow into young adults.
Us dads have a heavy weight on our shoulders, to undo the damage that has been done to us by the media, by society, by the previous generation (and by people like Piers Morgan). Attitudes that tell men to deny or conceal emotion are destroying us, and it is essential that we stop this now by changing the way we act and think, by showing our children and our families every single day that we love them and that we are not ashamed of that love. Babywearing is not only an enormously practical action, it is a vitally caring action that protects your child and teaches them (whatever gender they are) that men can be as loving and emotionally secure as women.
How has it made a difference to me?
I’ve been struggling to find time to exercise as I run my own business and stay-at-home with Callen. By taking him in the carrier and packing our essentials in a sturdy backpack I get a reasonable 20kg of extra weight to carry, which makes every walk a bit of a workout (especially as my wife informs me that I only have two speeds, going somewhere and going nowhere).
As the dad of a particularly curious young man I love to take him exploring to see new sights, and I find myself hugging him, kissing his head and rubbing the outside of the carrier. It really makes an impact on our desire to be attachment parents.
Before Callen was born, I worried about being a good dad. Most of my worry focused not on the little things like changing nappies and feeding, but on the big, long-term stuff like raising a responsible, intelligent young man who knows that he is absolutely loved. When I have my son in the carrier it feels like I’m ‘dadding’ correctly, that I’m connected to him and that we are going on our wee adventures together. I’ll keep wearing my baby until he is too old or to heavy, but hopefully that will be a long time from now.
We love the outdoors and we like to get outside in most weather conditions for walks around the lovely bit of Scotland that we inhabit. A lot of the woodlands and trails that we frequently walk are not particularly suitable for a standard buggy or pram, so without our baby carrier we would be severely limited in the routes we could walk, as well as the sights and sounds that we could expose Callen to. He loves trees and rivers, so getting off-road lets us experience these things together.
Being a babywearing dad doesn’t mean I have to carry my baby everywhere. Much like you might have a bag for going to work and a different bag for going to the gym, I use my carrier for hikes and trail walks, as well as quick trips to the shops because its so easy to pop it on and be out the house in moments; a running buggy for trail running with him; and I use a standard buggy for longer strolls around town, for going to fetch bigger loads from the supermarket (always nice to have the wheels to hang some shopping on), and sometimes for when we go to meet friends as it’s nice to have somewhere to pop Cal down for a nap. It’s about picking the right tool for the job.
· Get a good carrier that feels comfortable and sits well on you. Try a few out, borrow from friends, hire a couple and really road test them; don’t just go with the first one you encounter.
· Get help learning how to carry properly and safely, it makes such a difference.
· Use the TICKS checklist, it’ll keep you right and keep your baby safe.
· Practice, practice, practice! Get good at putting it on and adjusting it. Learn what it feels like when it is sitting just right and how to fix it when it doesn’t.
· Start small. Wear it for ten minutes around the house, then maybe go for a short walk and extend out from there. Don’t break it in by hiking a Munro or walking all day.
· Listen to your baby and your body. If it is uncomfortable or painful then stop and fix it. If your child is unhappy or crying, then try adjusting the carrier or just take them out and try again later. If you have injuries or develop a pain while carrying, then stop!
· Don’t overthink it! Worrying about appropriate clothing in too fine a detail can stop you from just getting out there. Err on the side of slightly too little layering, make sure they have some protection on their head and legs, and get going. You will both warm up once you get going.
· Be proud! You’re carrying around a miraculous life form that you played a part in making and you are playing a part in raising. Mums should be proud, and dads should be proud too. Get that baby carrier on and walk with pride!
Andi is a stay-at-home dad in the north east of Scotland and has just started a YouTube channel dedicated to modern parenting. He talks about babywearing, mental health, pro-science parenting, and attachment parenting. Join ‘AndiDadventures’ on YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook to get involved in the conversation.