Archive for Monday, October 27, 2008

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In the sling of things: Baby slings catching on for trendy infant transportation

October 27, 2008

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Amanda Berger carries her son, Jonah, 17 months old, using a baby sling, as her husband, Jesse Gray, walks nearby along Massachusetts Street.

Amanda Berger carries her son, Jonah, 17 months old, using a baby sling, as her husband, Jesse Gray, walks nearby along Massachusetts Street.

Amanda Berger carries her son, Jonah, 17 months old, using a baby sling, as her husband, Jesse Gray, walks nearby along Massachusetts Street.

Amanda Berger carries her son, Jonah, 17 months old, using a baby sling, as her husband, Jesse Gray, walks nearby along Massachusetts Street.

When Christina Ihloff's daughter Iris was a day old, she put her in a baby sling and took her out for breakfast at Milton's.

It had been a long, natural labor, and Ihloff was famished. The sling made it possible to keep her baby warm enough to enjoy the brief outing.

"She was born in the winter, so it would have been too cold to take her out a lot," she says. "But with the sling, I could wrap her in blankets and keep her close to my body."

Whether it's on a trip to the coffee shop or a nomadic journey across the plains, mothers from all over the world have chosen to wear their babies.

Helen Krische, archivist at the Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass., has found that the significance of "baby-wearing" extends far beyond its practical uses. She is currently researching a project titled "Native American Cradleboards: More Than Just a Baby Carrier."

"The cradleboard was often the infant's first introduction to the culture itself. There is a spiritual aspect to it as well as a societal meaning," Krische says. "Being tied up in a cradleboard is similar to being in the womb. I've seen many babies put in cradleboards and instantly stop crying."

Amanda Berger would agree. Her now 17-month-old son, Jonah, was often soothed in his Maya Wrap ring sling during infancy. "I used to try to take him in a stroller, but he'd get really upset. As soon as I picked him up and he was next to me, he was calm. He was most comfortable where he could hear my heartbeat and smell me. Eventually, I just put the stroller away."

Berger admits that baby-wearing took some getting used to. "He was hard to carry for the first six weeks after the Cesarean: Now that I have a heavy toddler, it's definitely much better on my back because it distributes his weight evenly. Now I can be out downtown for a good four hours with just a carrier."

Many mothers point to convenience of nursing as one of the main reasons for baby-wearing. Ihloff found that the support of the baby sling provided her with increased mobility and discretion. "She wanted to be with me all the time. It made breast-feeding in public and going in and out of stores a lot easier."

"Baby-wearing makes the most sense in getting things done like making dinner or taking care of the house," says Berger, who has found it to be just as useful inside the house as it is on the town. "I never felt I had to choose between doing laundry or holding a fussy baby."

And she's not alone. Berger's husband, Jesse Gray, points out that baby-wearing can be just as beneficial for fathers. "Wearing our children gives us a way to communicate and relate in a lot of the same ways that mothers do. It allows more intimacy from such an early age that the feelings of trust and protection develop naturally."

Comments

Ragingbear 6 years, 9 months ago

That's not a baby sling in the pictures. A Baby sling looks like...well, a baby sling. It slings under one of the arms, not across the chest. Those are growing popular. What is shown in the pictures is what is normally referred to as a "papoose", based off a mis-interpreted Native American word for child. I can't even tell you what tribe it came from. Either Apache or Cherokee most likely.

Sandy Beverly 6 years, 9 months ago

Nice story, Marlo. While slings might be popular among "hippy mommies", I believe most mothers of young children would find them helpful.The soft carrier in the photo looks something like an Ergo baby carrier. I love my Ergo! Carried Max on my chest like the pic when he was an infant. Now I carry him on my back. We go on hikes--He walks for awhile, then rides. Useful it for trips the fair, the RenFest, errands downtown. Will probably carry him on my back while older brother goes trick-or-treating.

storm 6 years, 9 months ago

I'm hoping the Go section improves. So far, it's had some sexist articles. Articles like this contribute to building a Lawrence Aquatic Center with the entrance to the men's dressing area AWAY from the children's area. Or placing signs for special parking stalls for new mothers instead of new fathers in the grocery store lot.

appleaday 6 years, 9 months ago

I say let the men carry the kids around. Hey, Reality Check -- have you ever had to deal with a small child while doing 3 or 4 other things at once?

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