Friday, February 4, 2011

Revisiting the ring sling with a toddler

When Jack was just a wee one, I bought a ring sling so I could wear him when we went out and about. I drank the Dr. Sears Kool-aid on the benefits of babywearing, and I mean that with no disrespect at all: I loved the idea of having Jack close to me, and after reading about the benefits of wearing a newborn, I saw no reason not to do so. Proponents of babywearing agree that wearing a newborn is comforting to the baby, and it is widely accepted that worn babies cry less. Dr. Sears suggests that worn babies learn more because they have more opportunity to observe and interact with their mothers. Because Jack was a winter baby, wearing him meant having him close for warmth, and it allowed me to keep him safe from the germy hands of strangers that just can't seem to keep away from a ridiculously cute baby. Overall, it was a great experience that we both benefited from.

As Jack got a little bigger and the newborn carry holds were no longer suitable, I retired my ring sling. There are ways to wear a six month old in a ring sling, but I could never get the hang of them without my husband's assistance, and I felt silly asking him for help all of the time. My gorgeous sling sat in Jack's closet for seven months and my babywearing days seemed to be behind me.

Then last weekend, as Jack was still struggling to get over a tenacious cold and cough, I remembered the ring sling. His cold had made him clingy, and I was worried about taking him out among people when he wasn't feeling his best. The ring sling sounded like a great solution: I could keep him close to me for comfort while shielding him from the coughs and sneezes of the general public. Now that he's a toddler, I could use some of the other carry positions, like the very comfortable hip carry.

I gave the sling a try, and my cranky, sick little man babbled his contentedness as we walked around the house and posed in the mirror. I wore him in the ring sling on two outings last weekend, and he and I both loved it. It gave him the comfort he needed while giving him the freedom to look around and enjoy a higher perspective than he gets sitting in a stroller.

The benefits of wearing a newborn are well-documented, but after that experience I began researching whether there were benefits of babywearing that are specific to toddlers. Obviously, Jack and I were both enriched from our experience, but our anecdote isn't a complete picture. I asked some toddler-wearing mamas what other benefits they experienced from wearing their toddlers and the answers I got really reinforced my decision to begin wearing Jack again. Among the reasons cited for wearing a toddler:

1. Safety - toddlers are beginning to learn mobile independence, and their moves aren't always predictable. A worn toddler is securely bound to his parent, and won't be able to dart into a crowd or a dangerous situation.

2. Maneuverability - strollers can be really unwieldy to navigate in crowds or close quarters. A worn toddler can move with his parent with much greater ease.

3. Observation - a worn toddler views the world from nearly an adult's-eye-view. Toddlers are naturally curious, and a worn toddler can observe adult interactions and tasks from a perspective that a stroller or the floor won't offer.

4. Verbal skills - a worn toddler is very close to every conversation that mom has, giving him the opportunity to listen more closely to the cadence of words during this vital language acquisition period.

5. Security from overstimulation - Toddlers love to stay busy, but when they get tired and overstimulated, they can get upset and frustrated. Holding a toddler close in a sling or carrier gives him security and seclusion and can help to short-circuit an overstimulation meltdown.

I have plans to wear Jack more when we go out this weekend. I'm glad I had the opportunity to revisit the benefits of wearing him.


No comments: