I used to live on the 4th floor of a walk-up apartment building. When I first moved into that place I thought it was charming and European and good exercise. When I got pregnant and my ability to move was limited, my charming European walk-up became this Soviet housing complex nightmare, where I would have to lug heavy sacks of potatoes up endless stairs all while a growing baby was kicking me in the bladder. You can probably imagine how hard it must have been to go out after my daughter was born. There was no way my postpartum behind was going to lug a huge stroller with a baby in it up four flights of anything. So I became this creepy shut-in who only went out when I had help, right?
Enter baby wearing. What is baby wearing? It’s exactly that. It’s wearing your baby (in a carrier) so that you can go about your day without having to wonder what to do with the stroller when you’re at a subway station with no elevator. My doula (and fellow babywearing educator) literally saved my sanity when she taught me to use a baby carrier comfortably. \
Baby wearing is a skill. It takes learning and practice and patience. But it’s so worth it. Babies are happiest when they’re with their mothers, and my baby was on me all the time. My daughter is at an “adult” height and engages with everyone we meet, instead of staring at people’s knees while down in a stroller. She can see and mimic my behavior and stimulate her mind without the need for complicated stroller toys. She cries less because she’s already being held, and because she’s right in front of me I can figure out what she wants before a full-on tantrum.
Baby wearing isn’t just for babies either. My daughter is 20 months old and 30 pounds and I wear her whenever she gets too tired to walk. I just strap Adi on to my back like a Himalayan Sherpa and we’re up and down stairs like it’s no big deal. In other countries and cultures, baby wearing is the norm and new moms are taught how to wear their babies by their family. In America, strollers are the norm, and many women are actually discouraged from baby wearing by family members who aren’t used to seeing it. Most women have to seek outside help if they want to get into the baby wearing lifestyle. And moms aren’t the only ones who can get in on the baby wearing fun! My husband, as well as my daughter’s grandparents, wear her too.
There are lots of different styles and types of carriers on the market. Do some research, take a class, and find the one (or two or three) that’s right for you. I teach baby wearing in New York City, and the number one thing (after safety of course) is that feeling of independence for parents who, up until they got and learned how to properly use their carrier were, like me, on the fast track to becoming shut-ins.
Baby wearing is the key to independence in the city.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin is a soapmaker, cofounder and educator at Urban Babywearing, a hyperlocal Inwood blogger and organizer, a political/life/religion/parenting satirist, and all around trouble maker. She is also the creator New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Spanish-speaking alter ego @elbloombito. You can reach her via twitter @Jewyorican.