Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Last Tuesday on Radio ABC we had a panel of 3 women. Myself, Amber and Aoife (pronounced ee-fuh). With our combination of accents we had a great time laughing and sharing our different baby wearing experiences.
 One caller rang in and said..." I hear a kiwi, an Irish women and an Aussie."
The caller was correct. I am the Kiwi girl, Amber the Aussie and Aoife the Irish. It was a fun, energetic, segment, enjoyed by all.

What impressed me the most was hearing the passion with which Amber and Aoife spoke about "Baby-wearing." I was greatly informed about the different types and colours Baby Carriers could come in. I had only ever used a Baby Carrier for practical reasons; so that my hands could be free, I could carry the baby with me while I continued to "work," and I wouldn't have to push a pram all the time. 28 years ago I was only exposed to the 'framed baby carrier,' suitable for carrying baby on the back.
But when Amber and Aoife spoke, I heard key words, like: bonding, security, heartbeat, great for fathers, slings, wraps, carriers and safety tested. 
I even heard, that women  wear the Baby Carrier much like an accessory. 'Carriers,' can be  highly fashionable, aesthetically pleasing and women have been known to get married wearing their beautiful baby in a, 'matching baby carrier!' I did not realise there was a whole world out there of, 'Baby-wearing, Mothers.!'

Amber and Aoife both belong to the Baby Wearers WA Group.
This is their website: http://BWWA website is here 
And this is the Bunbury Baby Wearing Community Facebook Page:

During the interview I was asked whether I had ever used a 'Baby Carrier,' for any of my 8 children.

 With my firstborn son, I used a carry cot. It was like a large flat sleeping bag that I carried around by its handles. The baby lay in it as it had a cardboard base with a soft thin mattress on it. And the parent like myself would pop the sleeping baby in and carry it around like a  handbag. This was in the days when car seats were not ,'in.' I did not carry it on my body, but obviously someone was thinking of how to transport a baby in something portable other than the mothers arms.

Then after some time,  I some how obtained a  'back pack.'  I felt so liberated as I was able to wear the baby on my back whilst vacuuming, hanging washing, cooking, and going for walks. I cannot remember whether that back pack lasted the duration of all my first 5 children or not. But I do remember it being a Godsend for the busy young mother I was. I was pregnant with my 3rd child under 3 yrs, I had one baby in the pram, one on my back and one in my tummy! 

My 6th child was born in 2001. This was the first time I had been introduced to a from pack. It did not feel very practical as I could not bend down to do chores without feeling like the baby was in the way. But it was nice to wear when walking, knowing that baby could fall asleep at any time and feel safe. I only got to use that when the baby was around 3 months old. I had never seen or heard of a baby wrap and I don't know if they were invented then?

My 7th child  arrived in 2006 and I was given a side sling. It slung over one shoulder and the baby lay in it like a pouch. Tony liked to walk around with his baby girl asleep in it and it was a relief for me.  It was not practical for doing things like housework or shopping, but nice for strolling and going out without having to take the pram.

When my 8th child arrived in 2009, my African friends came to my home and demonstrated how I could carry bubba on my back using a large bath towel. I felt so 'native, organic and indigenous,' wearing my baby in a towel. I even wore her to a friends birthday celebration. If I had have engaged more thought I could have chosen a matching colour towel for my outfit. One time we went bushwalking and we couldn't take a pram in the bush so my husband being resourceful used an old scarf to use as a Baby Carrier. It was not safety tested but it worked and allowed us to have a peaceful day out in the gorgeous Ferguson Valley.

My husband  also brought a second hand 'back pack,' from a garage sale, which we used when we travelled to Queensland and Melbourne. It was so convenient to be able to board the plane, carrying the extra bags and  go to  crowded places like ,'Infinity, Movie World and Sea World ,' without having to be concerned about pushing people aside with a giant pram. 

My friend Rebecca Tham who was  unable to attend the Radio Panel with us, has contributed some information and photos about Baby Wearing that should answer any questions you have.

"Rebecca Tham- what is Baby Wearing? "It is carrying your baby close,  with the aid of, "purpose made baby carriers,"  like,  buckle carriers, ring slings and wraps.
What are the benefits of baby wearing? 
The benefits range from: 
 keeping baby feeling safe and secure, 
having arms free to carry out work around the house,
having arms free  while on errands, 
 being a substitute for a pram (small car boot space),
helping mums recover from PND (Post Natal Depression)
What types of carriers have you used with your children?
I have used a ring sling and a soft structured buckle carrier with my elder 3 children (eldest is now 8). With my 4th child I am using Babywearing Wraps, which are long pieces of cloth that you tie around your body to secure the baby. There are 'You Tube,' videos anyone can view,  demonstrating all the various ways of tying wraps to carry baby on your front, hip or back.
How did you get into baby wearing? From my home culture in Malaysia, our helper used to carry my younger siblings in a simple 'Sarong cloth,' tied on the shoulder while carrying out domestic work. My mum also used a front carrier made of mesh fabric when I was younger. I stumbled upon ring slings when looking for maternity clothing and loved the idea and have been hooked ever since.
What role do you play in the baby wearing movement? 
We organise the local Bunbury Babywearing Community which is a 'Chapter,' of the Baby Wearers Western Australia Inc (BWWA Inc) which organises local Babywearing Meets. It is a support group and a skills sharing group where Mums get to practice, share and learn new Babywearing tips and skills. The Community is also a loving group of Mums in the area, with mostly similar natural parenting mindsets. We are open and inclusive of all parents although our Common interest is Babywearing.

What are the types of carriers available?
 Most carriers fall into 4 or 5 broad types
Wrap carriers: long pieces of cloth or even towels
Ring slings and Pouches: a piece of cloth adjustable with rings or non-adjustable pouches 
Soft structured carriers: fabric carriers with straps that close with clips, buckles or rings 
Mei tai or Asian style carrier: similar to the one above but with not buckles or clips.
 Frame style backpack carrier: popular with hikers.
Do the carriers hurt the back and shoulders? 
They can if the carrier is not suited to the person using it, or if using certain 'carriers,' for really long periods of time. Each person is different and there is a carrier for every type of build and purpose.
What age or weight can a carrier carry? 
Again this is a personal preference, and it depends on the carrier too. Some parents 'Babywear,' from newborn up to the time a toddler walks, with occasional carries when baby hits preschool age. Most 'carriers,' are weight rated up to about 20kg. Softer 'carriers,' may carry up to 14-15kg.
In what circumstances do women use the carrier?
Mostly to multitask! You can soothe a baby while going about your daily duties around the home and around older kids too. Go on a hike or exercise with your baby safely strapped on your back.
There are Mums and Dads who use 'Babywearing,' as a way to bond with their baby.
Safety while babywearing is important and this is emphasised at every meeting. 
We follow the TICKS rule for safe 'Baby wearing' :
 T - Tight: slings and carriers should be tight enough to hug your baby close to the caregiver.
 I -In view at all times: make sure you can see baby's face to monitor their breathing and general condition. 
C - Close enough to kiss: baby should be carried high enough that you are able to kiss your baby on your head or forehead. 
K - Keep chin off the chest: to maintain an open airway, make sure baby's chin is not forced onto his/her chest as that can restrict their breathing.
S - Supported back: baby's back needs to be supported according to their natural position with their tummy and chest against you, to prevent baby from slumping.

I thank Rebecca Tham for offering the information I needed to write this blog. I was so busy after our radio show that I did not have time or memory to write up what I had learned until now! That was over a week ago!
Rebecca Tham has also provided photos of some of her friends and family wearing their babies in various, 'Baby Carriers.'  I must admit the front wraps do look so intimate with baby so close and secure. Enjoy :)