Why do you wear your baby?
There are of course lots of possible answers to that question, but a very common one (especially from mothers) is that is allows us to get all the things we need to do, done – whilst at the same time enabling us to care for our babies.
Babies need to be close to their primary caregiver – that physical closeness regulates breathing and heart rate and promotes growth, not to mention fosters the attachment that underpins healthy emotional development and builds relationships. In an ideal world, perhaps, society would value this and allow mothers the time and space they need to provide that nurturing environment for our tiniest citizens – but the reality for many is very different.
There are other children to care for, chores to be done, adventures to be had and ambitions to be realised. Life does not stop on the arrival of this brand new human who depends on you to satisfy their every need: if you are lucky you may have a few precious weeks with your newborn where your village kicks into action and cocoons you both, but that support is sorely lacking – and even where it exists the need to return to a more demanding normality comes long before our babies are ready for any sort of independence.
It is an inescapable fact that the majority of childcare, especially in the early years, falls to women – and it is easy to see this as a factor in the lack of gender equality that persists on so many levels. But when mothers wear their babies, reclaiming a practice which has empowered women before us for generations, we can begin to rebalance that inequality.
Safe in the knowledge that our babies’ most fundamental needs are being met, women can go about the very important business of meeting their own needs. They may choose to work, continuing endeavours established before motherhood or instigating new ones. They may choose to volunteer in their communities, working with other parents or pursuing other interests where the presence of a baby is incidental. They may choose to study, learn, create, explore – all things which can be done seamlessly whilst babywearing.
One hugely important impact of this is that it keeps mothers, and their babies, at the heart of our society. Too often motherhood is something that happens behind closed doors, but when women walk out with their babies held close to follow their passions and use their skills it is a reminder to everyone that these things do not disappear with the birth of a child – women do not become any less capable, and arguably they become more so.
For many women the act of babywearing becomes the focus of a new life, a new career: babywearing consultants, designers and producers of wraps and carriers, educators, researchers, writers, all united by the conviction that wearing our babies is as empowering for mothers as it is nurturing for our children.
For many, many others, having a wrap or a sling or a carrier to keep their babies close is just the tool they need to be able to stay active in society and maintain a sense of their own identity during a time in our lives when we cannot take those things for granted.
So on this International Women’s Day, as we celebrate the achievements of women across the globe and recognise how much progress there still is to be made, we hope you will join us in wearing your babies with pride.
Written, as most of my articles are, whilst keeping my five month old baby close in his Integra.