Celebrating babywearing

Carrying your baby is not only practical, it’s now a fashionable option, too. Kate Finney investigates

Walking down the street one day, wrestling a screaming baby in a huge double buggy in one hand and dragging a reluctant toddler in the other, I bump into another mother walking – no, gliding – along in the opposite direction, a picture of serenity. The difference is that her baby is cocooned in a wrap on her front, her toddler seems far less reluctant to walk and there’s no buggy in sight.

A NATURAL STATEMENT

I’m awestruck: it all seems so simple, and the woven wrap she is using to carry her baby is beautiful. I stop to ask her about it, and that’s when I find myself disappearing down the babywearing rabbit hole.

There is a real resurgence in babywearing underway. It seems strange to describe it as a ‘trend’ when women have been carrying their babies in slings for centuries, possibly millennia, but there is a whole community of mothers – and fathers – out there, for whom this age-old parenting technique is a perfect fit with their modern lives.

So what’s the appeal? Dr William Sears, one of the biggest advocates for so-called ‘attachment parenting’, coined the phrase ‘babywearing’ and lists many benefits for both mother and baby. Babies who are carried or ‘worn’ cry less, learn more, form better maternal bonds and spend more time in a state of ‘quiet alertness’ which enables them to develop connections in their brains. In addition, mothers are less likely to suffer from post-partum depression.

Hannah Perry, the mother-of-two I bumped into on the street, agrees: “I’m prone to anxiety, but when I’m wearing Allegra I feel calmer and more capable than I did with my first, and she’s incredibly content.”

And, as well as the practical benefits of using a carrier, the babywearing world has become increasingly fashion-conscious. “It’s something that has allowed me to express my sense of style as well as doing something practical,” says Hannah. “I’m not into high-end fashion but I really look for that in a wrap.”

BabyBjörn regularly releases new designs in increasingly varied colourways, Ergobaby has slings suitable for hiking as well as everyday life, We Made Me has slings embroidered with stars, and there are increasing numbers of mothers setting up shop producing beautiful ring slings and woven wraps.

Victoria Lowry, a former ballet dancer who now runs a Pilates studio in Devon, is one of these mothers. After experimenting with different carriers, Victoria felt she couldn’t find anything quite right, so she set up Mezaya Baby after designing a ring sling that was stylish and fashion-led, while still being practical. She settled on double-layered Thai silk – very soft and very strong – in a range of beautiful colours.

Victoria’s baby Annabelle is now a year old and has been worn regularly since she was born. “When I think back to the early days, having the sling has been so beneficial for both of us. In new situations, she can adjust a lot quicker, and I think it’s because she’s been up at my height, seeing my reactions.”

BACK TO BASICS

While many new parents opt for a soft-structured carrier with straps, buckles and waistbands for ergonomic support, the simpler wraps and ring slings are growing in popularity. The trend is even bigger in the US.

Tayler Gunn founded her sling company, Wildbird, after having a baby in 2014. Having worked as a nurse, Tayler spent her pregnancy reading and researching birth and newborns, and discovered babywearing. “I knew it was something I wanted to do. I love that I was able to have my hands free and bond with my babe at the same time – I feel like it’s home to both of us.”

Tayler, Wildbird
Tayler, Wildbird

Wildbird slings are simple and incredibly popular – with more than 30,000 followers on Instagram, Tayler attracts a lot of international orders. “I just think we are learning how to modernise it,” she explains.

Intrigued by the research that promotes babywearing, and inspired by the mothers singing its praises, I try a ring sling from Rockin’ Baby. The length of fabric is over two metres long, but is easy to fasten and simple to adjust. I test it out in different situations with my seven month old and discover it is surprisingly supportive and far more versatile than I had imagined. What’s more, it looks good, and I find myself choosing my outfit based on how well the sling will stand out. As Victoria of Mezaya Baby says, “in this country we haven’t really seen it as a fashion accessory before, but I think there’s a sling for every occasion”. I have to say, I’m a convert and most importantly, my baby seems to be, too.

Want more? Discover the benefits of babywearing