babywearing

Falling deeper down the well

The second stage of my descent (or ascent?) into willow-weaving was marked by the purchase of our first woven baby wrap. What’s a baby wrap? Well, it’s a long piece of woven fabric, which you can arrange around yourself and your baby to securely ‘wrap’ them to you in an endless variety of different ways. Just like cloth nappies, babywearing – especially with woven wraps – brings with it geekery, beauty, and community.

I distinguish above between babywearing in general and woven wrapping in particular. Babywearing encompasses all ways of securing your baby to your body. The most familiar in the UK these days are probably structured buckle carriers, like the Ergobaby or the Baby Björn. Stretchy wraps are also becoming increasingly popular for wearing newborns, and you can even get t-shirts specially designed for you to pop your baby in for skin-to-skin. (I considered the latter during my pregnancy as they looked sweet. However I am glad I didn’t spend any money on them as I suspect the Little Weaver would have soon stretched the carrying capacity of t-shirt fabric!)

When I first thought of babywearing, it was these sorts of carriers I had in mind. Rather than doing solo research, though, as I did with the cloth nappies, I decided to seek out an expert for some hands-on guidance. The Scottish Historian and I ended up attending a pre-baby consultation with Emma Gilmour, who runs the Fife sling library. She talked us through the ‘TICKS’ guidelines for safe babywearing – and let us try out different ways of carrying babies (or, in the setting of the consultation, realistically-weighted dolls). We tried out stretchy wraps, such as the one included in the Scottish Baby Box… and then Emma got out her woven wraps.

I’ll start with the beauty aspect of wraps, because it was the aesthetics – both visual and haptic – of these woven lengths of fabric that first struck me: the colours, the textures. Woven wraps come in an unimaginable variety. Some people make their own from affordable fabrics (and dye their own – I have visions of my cats running around suddenly pink if I tried this at home). Individuals, companies, and co-operatives around the world offer a variety of handwoven and machinewoven made-for-purpose wraps, with patterns to suit more or less every preference; Oscha, a Scottish wrap producer, offer a range of ‘Middle Earth’ wraps for the Tolkien-lovers among the babywearing community.

And of *course* I got a Middle Earth wrap. This is Misty Mountains Rauros (outside of maternity leave I’m a historian of mountains).

And there’s that word again – community. Just as with cloth nappy users, when it comes to babywearing birds of a feather certainly flock together. ‘Fan’ pages for different wrap brands and types tend to also serve as hubs for buying, selling, trading (and even ‘holidaying’, where you send your wrap to be used by other people) activity. One of my favourite online wrapping communities, however, is the ‘Geeky Wrappers’ Facebook group, dedicated not so much to drooling over gorgeous textiles (although this also occurs!) as to offering advice and troubleshooting on wrapping technique. And here, of course, we see the pseudonymous geekery which I so enjoy indulging. I’m going to write about this more at a later point, but wrapping is most definitely a skill, and one that requires work (and one at which I am most certainly still an apprentice!). There’s a real satisfaction, in the midst of the repetition and hard work that is early parenting, to feel that one is building a skill and learning something new every day.

There are about a million other advantages to babywearing – for example it’s a wrap that has allowed me to finish writing this post with a fast asleep bairn snuggled to my chest – but I’ll leave it there for now.

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