If you love carrying you can find ingenious ways to work it into your day. Baby carriers and buggies are both amazing parenting tools – and you don’t have to choose between being a ‘sling person’ or a ‘buggy person.’
As my baby gets bigger and bigger, friends (and total strangers) often pitch in with their thoughts: “you won’t be able to carry her much longer”, “you should think about your back”, “she needs to get used to the buggy”, and my favourite “she’s starting to look ridiculous on you”. It’s often easier to smile and nod rather than articulate just how special carrying is to me.
When we lived in London, I had exclusively carried, never needing a buggy in the way Londoners often say they don’t need cars. But when we moved out to Letchworth (in Hertfordshire), we were further from the centre of town. I hated to admit it, but I didn’t yet have the stamina to carry that far. I reminded myself that if I was a driver my daughter would be strapped to a car seat at the back, not sitting on my lap behind the wheel. I was so used to carrying that I found it hard to come to terms with not carrying her all the time!
And so the buggy came out of retirement.
The fresh air and greenery was one of the main reasons why we had moved. My daughter would enter a dream-like state on the way into town, sometimes with the added bonus of taking a nap. But as soon as we crossed the threshold of the first shop, the spell would be broken with all the sensory changes. Loud echoes, stuffy environments and lots of people and activity. Small protests would escalate to full meltdowns.
On these occasions I’d reach into the base of the buggy for my “security blanket” – a beautiful soft structured carrier by a UK company called Sleepy Nico. Ours was navy blue with little cherries and corduroy straps. My daughter had spent so much time in it, it was like putting on a comfy pair of slippers. Once she was in the carrier I’d breathe a sigh of relief and awkwardly push the empty buggy ahead, embarrassing myself by getting trapped in the doors on the way out.
It wasn’t just the practicality of carrying that I missed, it was also the emotional side. The babbled conversations, the warmth of her body pressed against mine and the subsequent release of oxytocin. I have always felt more relaxed and confident when carrying.
I needed the best of both worlds – a buggy to get to town and a carrier once we arrived.
My partner Mat is a keen cyclist. Why couldn’t I treat the buggy like a bike? Buggy into town and then lock it up. I tossed and turned that night thinking about what a cool idea it was. Had anyone else done this before? They must have done, but I’d never seen it.
The next time we went into town I gave it a go. I felt self-conscious and worried someone would tell me I couldn’t park a buggy, or that it would be stolen or damaged, but no one said a word and when I got back after a few hours it was exactly as I had left it.
As a family we have now parked the buggy countless times, especially if we are taking the train into London. The buggy is folded and chained to the covered bike rack outside the station and our now toddler walks to the platform. We don’t have to block the space by the doors or aisles and if we take the tube on the other side the escalators aren’t a problem.
The only issue with not having the buggy is if we have too much stuff. Most of the time this isn’t a problem for a day trip. We pack very light. No need for a changing mat when a muslin will do. Take just 2-3 nappies and a handful of wipes. We use space-saving items such as fold-down water bottles and reusable sandwich wraps. As we all know, the more space you have, the more you’ll pack!
One of the beautiful aspects of being buggy free is that people notice our child. Whether she is walking alongside us, or being carried in a sling or in arms, she is on our level and included in grown-up conversations and interactions. People stop for a chat, make little comments as they pass or smile warmly. I feel proud of my little one next to me and it evokes a sense of community.
I wonder what towns and villages would look like if designated buggy parks existed.
In the time before I started parking the buggy, I would often abandon ship and head home early sensing my daughter was on the brink. But if I have the option to carry her when the world gets too much and she needs to be held close, or let her walk when she wants to stretch her legs, we can often stay out most of the day. This may interest local councils and businesses, especially if it encourages parents and carers to use services and amenities that have reduced accessibility and space.
Then there’s the added bonus of safety. When my daughter walks next to the buggy it can be awkward at best and at worst dangerous as the buggy veers in one direction and my daughter goes the other way. Without the buggy, my hands are free to steer her out of danger and keep her to the pavement. I’m not against reins but I prefer to use my hands to guide her.
In the newborn or younger baby stage too, it would be lovely if people felt they had more options and opportunities to carry. The positive effects are well documented, a safe womb-like place to nap, supporting postnatal recovery and bonding to name a few.
Life isn’t about absolutes. I am passionate about carrying, but I also need a balance. There are days where I am unable to exclusively carry – when I’m unwell or need to collect heavy items. Driving (as I like to think of it) the buggy into town conserves my energy for playgroups and running errands.
I found that I fell in love with carrying all over again when it was no longer an endurance. I can park the buggy and then my daughter and I can walk through town hand in hand, or I can pick her up and carry her close while we get on with our day.