Bonded Beginnings

Babywearing peer supporter Lois Benvie talks about how using a sling helped to keep baby close after her planned c-section.

Cuddles, Convenience, Connection

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Birth plans are mythical creatures; they dwell in dreams and love to disappoint us. I didn’t have one the first time I gave birth. I didn’t think c-sections made any space for them. All I wanted for my second c-section was my baby close, touching me or my husband, at ALL times. Two hours after birth my baby was taken to NICU; he couldn’t have felt further away.

No-one tells you how to bond with a baby you can’t even cuddle when you want to or when he needs you to. I had felt an immediate, profound, all-consuming connection to my first born on his birth day. Towards my second born I felt distance and guilt.

But once we argued him out of NICU (another less uplifting story), we wrapped him and felt better. My husband ‘wore’ him first. His keenness to wrap was uncharacteristic; he felt the same painful distance. And the photo I took of him cuddling his newborn in a sling was an instant hit on our local babywearing fb page, an affirmation of his love for his new child and an acknowledgement of the power of keeping children close in slings.

The wrapping continued. I carried him safely around the ward and hospital and he never bothered my scar. Having him high and instantly kissable was much better than a cumbersome pregnancy belly. It was physically comfortable and mentally a huge comfort. I could pee without setting him down, traipse back and forth to the room where my pumping equipment was sterilised and my breast milk was stored (more fun stories) and escape the heat and claustrophobia of my curtained cell. Midwives gave me positive comments and other mums were curious. I felt in control, finally.

From there our connection grew. I could smell his skin and it was intoxicating. I could give him the skin to skin contact we both wanted and had been denied so soon after birth. He was always settled, feeling my heartbeat and maintaining body temperature. I could also reconnect with my toddler. Mummy was home and had two free hands for most of the time. I couldn’t shower in a wrap (or pump, annoyingly) but I could brush my teeth, dress my toddler, do dishes and laundry, pay bills, hoover, play duplo, walk the dog – you get the picture.

Babywearing is beautiful, practical, and to me, essential. It is the way to find the eye of the tornado. It helped me when I felt helpless and seven months later we rarely get through a day without using a sling. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Do I need a sling?

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Do I need a baby sling?

“I have everything I need for when my baby arrives. A pram, moses basket, bouncy chair, baby gym, so I won’t need a sling.”

This is something I often hear when I am out and about at events for expectant parents and of course it is true – you don’t need a sling or carrier of any type.

As a first time mum I had little knowledge of what I needed or where to shop, I was blinkered to the big stores and the fancy prams – guided by their glossy catalogues and must have lists. And 13 years ago the lists didn’t include baby carriers.

So when I discovered babywearing I didn’t look back and wanted local mums to have access to babywearing sooner.  This is why I trained as a babywearing peer supporter and consultant and started retailing  a range of carriers that were not easily available on the high street.  I now offer sling lends, consultation and sling meets to help other mums discover the joy of babywearing

But don’t just take my word for it! Do I need a sling? I decided to put this question to a group of local babywearers to find out how they would reply and I got an amazing response.

Here is the real reason why slings are amazing – from real mums.

“A sling is a godsend for those times when baby needs cuddles but you have to cook, wash up etc. Or if you are out on a walk and the pathway isn’t suitable for a buggy. With a sling you can go wherever your mind takes you and you’re not restricted with finding a parking space, pushing a buggy through crowds/along bumpy pathways.” – Cheryl

“If you’re out and need to catch a bus, you won’t need the hassle of folding down the pram / waiting for the next bus if baby is in a sling!” – Jenna

“No more bumping prams up and down stairs. No more sizing up if your pram will fit through a gap. No more struggling with storing a pram in the car or a packed hallway.” -Claire

“Baby might be happy enough in a bouncy seat at times, but other times (leaps, illness, grouchy days) they will have none of it and the carrier will then be a godsend so you can get some stuff done whilst also soothing baby.” – Kirsty

“A sling is amazing when they’ve fallen asleep on you (in the sling) and you can just pop a hat on them and go out you don’t have to disturb them. Makes life soo much easier if you have a fussy baby too!” – Hannah

“Slings are also great if you already have other children as you can go for a walk or to the park and still have two hands free!” – Lyndsay

“It hides your post baby belly! 😉 Or alternatively it lets you work on that belly by letting you access a greater variety of walks that are inaccessible with a Pram.” – Isla

“Using a sling means you can use the escalator rather than waiting for the lift.” – Kirsty E

“If you have a baby with reflux/colic/allergies and they just want to be held all the time, it’s irreplaceable” – Stacey

“Travelling! No buggies on flights, sling all the way!” – Lisa

“All you need is a sling! ” – Rachel

“It’s so nice to have both hands free when shopping so you can carry a basket and not get buggy rage in narrow aisles!” – Helen

“A sling is so amazing. In the first few weeks you can feel quite overwhelmed and very restricted (in amongst more positive feelings of course) but a sling will give you back some freedom.” – Jill

I think the answer is clear – you don’t need a sling, but if you have one it makes life with a baby a lot simpler.

Thanks to all the mums at Aberdeenshire Babywearers for there contributions – too numerous all to get mentioned.  Remember babywearing is not just for mums.  Grandparents, dads and care givers can all join the fun