Voting through the ages - J-cub accompanying me into the polling booth aged 2 months, 14 months and 26 months.
I'm just catching International Babywearing week by the very skin of my teeth. The irony being, of course, that I haven't slung J-cub this week, or even for the memorable past. He walks around 2 miles a day quite happily, only requesting "Nicking him up Mummy!" if we come across a particularly deep patch of mud or thicket of brambles that he just can't splosh or fight through.
And whilst I miss his closeness, and the happiness that having him chattering over my shoulder gives me, I'm just as happy to see him haring off down a path, legs going like pistons, because he's seen the glint of a puddle in the distance or a bird has just flown away and he wants to talk to it. He's growing up, and I'm slowly selling or packing away or lending out my slings.
Of course, having said that, I'm sure he'll now demand to be carried everywhere for the next few weeks.
So, without further ado, the various slings which have enabled our babywearing journey in all their glory....
#1 - The BabyBjorn
Often referred to (in babywearing circles, anyway) as what I used when I didn't know better. Knowing that Jamie has back issues, we elected to get the BabyBjorn Active, which is supposed to do all kinds of clever weight-spreading things, so that the user is as comfortable as possible and the weight doesn't put any strain where it shouldn't. Unfortunately, these types of mass-produced carriers do just that. They seem to hang the weight off your shoulders and neck, rather than distributing it around your waist - even a simple home-made Mei Tai is infinitely better engineered when it comes to weight-distribution. Jamie actually found it comfortable until he fell down the stairs and had to stop carrying, but the first time I put it on (J-cub weighed 17lbs, I recall) I felt like he was literally hanging on a strap round my neck, and I had terrible shoulder-strain for the next few days. It may be that we had not adjusted it correctly - but bearing in mind I can now carry a 3 stone toddler for hours with ease, I do think that these types of carriers don't built on the centuries of available experience in slinging babies. They also don't allow the baby to be carried with their knees higher than their bum, which prevents too much pressure being placed on their spine - more traditional carriers give knee-to-knee support which is a much more natural position for the baby to be in. Slingguide.co.uk has some fantastic information on the different types of carriers, and puts across their viewpoints about BabyBjorn-type carriers here.
#2 - The Infantino Side-Rider
(See start of post for picture - on the left.)
Note: still available to buy if anyone wants it - I haven't got round to ebaying this yet.
I picked this up in TK Maxx (which quite often has good branded carriers at loooow prices) to see if it was more comfortable than the BB. It was, allowing me to breastfeed while I hung the washing on the line, and J-cub slept quite happily in it while I pottered around the house. It was like a revelation to me. I was constantly worried he was going to fall out or his head was going to fall off though - I wish I'd had something more secure at that time as it might have brought me round to full-time sling-use a lot earlier.
#3 - The Mei Tai
On holiday in Pembrokeshire, tickling J-cub's feet to keep him awake 'til we got home.
As a result of my success with the Infantino, but wanting something a bit more secure and multi-functional, I started Googling (ahhh, if only I'd found the Natural Mamas forum at that point. I'll just insert that there, in case you're getting bored. LOADS of info there). I found some recommendations and a sewing tutorial to make a Mei Tai - a traditional Asian carrier. I told my mum I was planning on cracking open the sewing machine and giving it a go, but she kindly read through the instructions and suggested it might be a little beyond my modest skills. She spirited the printed instructions away and returned with a Mei Tai a few weeks later.
I fell in love with it straight away - it was so comfortable, so easy to use, and I started using it all the time. In fact I continued using it right up to about a year ago, when I realised that he was getting a bit big for it. It's now out on loan to the lovely Emily at The Tangled Yarn, although I'll be demanding it back (or getting my mum to make me a new one) if (ha!) and when baby #2 comes along.
#4 - The woven wrap - Girasol
When boyface started getting a bit heavy, and nothing else was going on in my life and I was looking for a new hobby, I decided to have a go at a woven wrap. These can be a bit baffling, so I won't preach to the converted or try and explain something you could read about elsewhere. Suffice to say - they rock. Supportive, comfortable, multi-functional, and fun. You can do front, hip and back carries, you can use them as swings, hammocks and blankets. Just learning how to do the different carries is great fun, and when you crack it, you get a huge sense of satisfaction. I've never felt more comfortable than when J-cub's been up on my back in my Girasol, it's like having a great big hug.
Lots of people go a bit mental with the wraps, ending up with cabinets full of them (which, to give them their due, they do use) as they come in several different lengths, and obviously the available colourways across all the different manufacturers are numerous. I can't afford to be doing that, so I went for a bog-standard, cheap-as-chips, second-hand Girasol Laguuni to start with. And, to be fair, I got it right first time. Nothing else I've tried can beat it for softness and supportiveness. It's definitely a keeper. But see, if it gets dirty, you need another one to use while it's in the wash...
#5 - The woven wrap - Storchenwiege
So I succumbed and got myself a spare - going for a Storchenwiege Inka which I'd been lusting after for weeks. I always thought of this as my workhorse wrap - I was happy for it to get muddy and sandy and to be used for swinging on or as a roof for a den...
and I loved it while it was here, but I wanted something prettier. So I sold it. And that makes me kind of sad, now. I miss it :(
#6 - The Ring Sling
I got a cheapy cotton ring sling off ebay, for about £6, just to try it out. Ring slings are great for quick up-and-downs - they're really quick and easy to put on, and I for times when you'd normally carry your little one on your hip, they allow you to do so hands-free, with a little extra support. When J-cub was going through a big separation-anxiety phase, I could get on with washing up or cooking with him watching. I perfected sliding him onto my back in it, which was surprisingly comfortable (I normally don't like a lot of weight on one shoulder) and I used the cheap ring sling a lot. I guess that it wasn't as supportive as it could be though, so I splashed out on a BB-Slen ring sling which are made from a woven wrap.
#7 - The REAL Ring SlingIt made such a difference, and I used it loads. It's so quick and easy to use, and I'd probably still be using it now, but I loaned it out to a friend in need when J-cub stopped wanting to be slung around the house. I do miss it for those super-clingy times though!
#8 - The Shorty
Shorties are short woven wraps - usually between 2-3 metres in length rather than 4-5 metres. I bought this one out of necessity - we were going to a wedding and I didn't want the faff of a long wrap, I wanted something smarter than the Mei Tai, and my ring sling didn't go with my dress. So I sourced and bought this particularly to go with the dress, and it went perfectly. It was just what I needed, as we had to park a long way from the church and J-cub was not in a walking mood, it kept him contained while we were in the church (you can see here I'm licking his fingers clean after feeding him Welsh cakes - lovely) and gave him somewhere to cwtch when he got tired. It's just like a ring sling, in that it can be worn in a very simple hip carry, but you can do front and back carries with it too. Apparently. I've never managed it.
(Oh, it's a BB Slen in Green Peas, if you're interested).
#9 - The Soft-Structured Carrier (SSC)
My babywearing journey is almost complete - I got my SSC around this time last year, and if we were still using slings a lot I'd be looking for a pre-schooler sized one now, as this no longer supports J-cub knee-to-knee and is not quite as supportive as it once was. When we first got it though, he was weightless. I could carry him all day, with not so much as a twinge of "Ooof! You're getting a bit heavy up there"ness. It's a Babyhawk Oh Snap!, bought second hand (as indeed all my slings have been), and I love it. So quick and easy, just click and go. I've got more comments and questions about this than any other carrier, and I'd highly recommend it.
#10 - The woven wrap - Didymos or FISHIES!
Hoernum Fische (above) and Petrol Fische (below)
Didymos are the epitome of woven wraps. They make lots of limited editions, and all kinds of special weaves and blends of things-I-don't-quite-understand. I'd been lusting after some printed with fish (babywearers seem to either love or hate these fish - I love them) for a long time, and a fellow BLW-forumite took pity on me and sent her Hoernum Fish on holiday here for me to try out. And oh my holy alpaca, were they ever soft. So beautiful, and I've never wrapped with so much ease. Just perfect. Again, another one to add to the list for baby #2.
So of course I wanted my own, sold my Inka and some other stuff, and bought myself some petrol-coloured ones. They're beautiful. Of course, this was around the time that J-cub decided he didn't actually want to be slung any more, thank you very much, so this one has not seen much love. And therefore might be sold on before too long, as I feel a bit guilty having that much expensive fabric sitting around doing nothing. But I'm glad I got to own them, I've scratched all of my babywearing itches, and I'm 100% more prepared for slinging a baby second time around.
To conclude, slinging rocks. The happy, knowing smile when you see a fellow sling-user checking you out; the cuddles; being able to use stairs and go off-road and on-beach; not having to find a place for a buggy in the house or car (ours has been languishing in the garage for nearly a year, with just a solitary outing to the zoo in April to boast about); and the never-ending chatter in your ear.
Such as, when I was standing on a narrow pavement in my local town, waiting to use a cashpoint. There were two cashpoints; one was out of order, and beeping to indicate there was a problem, and the other was being used by a lady. I walked up to the first, realised it wasn't working, so turned to queue at the second. J-cub said something along the lines of "Beep! Is beeping! Beep beep!" and I replied "Beep beep! It's doing BIG beeping, isn't it? Beeeeeeep!". At which point the poor woman in front of me, who'd finished her transaction, hadn't seen J-cub on my back in the sling and obviously thought I was talking to her, turned to me kindly and said "Yes, it is doing big beeping, isn't it dear?"