Babywearing is something we tend to learn by doing, rather than reading.
When I read my first book on babywearing, I’d already spent hundreds of hours wearing my babies, watched hours of tutorials on YouTube and spent a lot (probably too much) time on sling-related Facebook groups.
For centuries and all over the world, the practical art of wearing babies has simply been ‘What you do’ when you have children. No studying required.
In recent years we’ve seen an explosion in the popularity of babywearing, in Sling Meets and Sling Libraries and online tutorials. Not to mention the blistering number of brands and designs of baby slings and baby carriers to buy.
If you’ve ever worn your baby you’ll implicitly know ‘Why it matters.’ It calms baby, makes them feels secure, helps with bonding between wearer and wearee, it keeps your hands free…the list goes on.
Rosie Knowles has taken her own ‘Why it matters’ list and created this inspiring and informative book. Rooted in her years of experience both as a GP and founder of the Sheffield Sling Surgery, the book is superbly well researched and hugely accessible.
It combines received wisdom with the latest research. It’s likely to become a go-to book for all babywearing professionals, avid babywearers who want to enable others, and any parent who wants to learn about carrying their baby.
Why Babywearing Matters begins by exploring the history of babywearing. Rosie builds on the renowned work of Evelin Kirkilionis, which identifies human infants as physiologically designed to ‘actively cling’ to their parents. She explores the physiological and societal benefits of using a sling or carrier. Or rather, imperatives.
Through the lens of attachment theory (not ‘Attachment parenting’), she unpacks the critical need for close, loving, physical contact between parent and child. Not just for newborns in their ‘fourth trimester’ but for older babies and beyond.
This book has not been written to drive sales of expensive baby carriers or expand a clique of pram-free sling aficionados. Instead, it sets out to encourage and reassure parents that babies are meant to be held close. It’s good for them, it’s good for us, and it’s good for society.
Slings and carriers are simply a tool to help us hold them close when our arms get tired or when we need our hands free to do other things.
Rosie provides both anecdotal and scientific evidence of how babywearing helps facilitate breastfeeding, tackles postnatal depression, is critical for premature babies and supports mums’ postnatal recovery.
Only then does Rosie dive into the mind-boggling array of different types of slings and carriers on the market today. This is where most of us begin. ‘The baby’s due soon. We should probably buy one of those things that sticks the baby onto your chest. (Googles ‘baby carriers‘). Erm….. HOW many different types are there!?!?’
This chapter offers a helpful overview of the dizzying array of options available, but stops short of recommending particular brands and manufacturers. Those of us with beady eyes will have to make do with playing Guess The Brand with the few black and white photographs in the book.
The final chapters on ‘Common Concerns’ and ‘Special Considerations’ are perhaps the most useful. Parents can often feel anxious or defensive about questions they have, or that are asked of them: “Will wearing my baby make my them clingy?” “Is my child too big to wear in a carrier?” “Can you feed a baby in a sling?” “Can I carry twins?” “Why does my baby cry when I put them in a sling?” Rosie offers robust yet gentle responses.
When I was a new mum I spent exhausting weeks trying to put my baby down, when all he really wanted was to be held. The first time he drifted peacefully off to sleep in a stretchy wrap it felt so, so right. Yet I immediately started worrying that I was making a terrible mistake and that he’d never EVER want to be put down again. If only Rosie had written this book sooner I’d have devoured it and been reassured.
Even now, I know this book is one I’ll refer back to for important clarifications and pearls of wisdom.
I really hope it finds its way into the hands of healthcare professionals as well as those of interested parents and babywearing promoters.