I recently discovered that it is now International Baby Wearing Week, which runs from 7-13th October this year. As we’re both keen on wearing slings, my wife and I decided to go on a little excursion last weekend to a town called Sling that happens to be a mere ten minute drive away from where we live in North Wales. It may not be renowned as the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch that is only a few minutes further away on the island of Anglesey and certainly doesn’t attract bus loads of tourists who queue up to have their picture taken next to the sign on the platform of its small railway station, but we ventured to Sling ourselves to take photos of our son in his sling next to the solitary sign in the village bearing the name Sling. My wife has now also done blog post about Sling and slings at her blog Mindful Mam.
As it happens, my wife and I were able to put him in a different sling for our photos as we have quite a few. Some of these we have bought from eBay and we have bought others new over the web. It’s been great to be able to try out slings that we’ve been lent by friends before deciding to buy, and my wife has been to a sling library in Colwyn Bay. For my part, I am a proud member of the UK Sling Dads group on Facebook and have enjoyed carrying our son in a variety of different carriers ever since he was a few weeks old. It used to be that he’d go to sleep almost instantly when we popped him into a carrier, opened the front door and walked only a few footsteps.
I’ve always loved the way our son, who is almost six months old, is able to look around when he’s in the sling and also feels close by. It’d feel odd to me just pushing him about in a buggy and not being able to look at him. I’d miss not being able to make the silly faces at him for a start. I also feel that carrying our son in a sling has also helped to create a stronger father-son bond. It was really cute when he was a few days old and would just go to sleep on people and it still is when he gently nods off while he’s in one of his slings when we’re carrying him. I have, however, learnt that it’s often a good idea to put the sling on before a coat as it can be a challenge coming back home with him asleep and trying to take my coat off without waking him up. In fact, it’s kind of like playing the kids’ game Buckaroo.
On a recent trip to France that I have mentioned in a previous blog post entitled Our First Family Holiday, we didn’t see many other people carrying their kids in slings. In fact, I think that we only saw three and one of those was in a shop that sold eco baby products such as slings. This started me wondering what attitudes towards sling wearing were like in different countries round the world, and I’ve been able to discuss this with fellow members of the great Multicultural Kid Blogs group on Facebook. Here are some of the insights that fellow bloggers provided:
- Stephen Greene (Head of the Heard) told me that slings and other baby carriers are very practical in Brazil as the condition of pavements in certain areas means that using a buggy is more or less impossible.
- Kim Siegal (Mama Mzungu) has done a great blog post about the impracticality of using a normal buggy if you live in Kenya and also talked about how wearing a baby in a sling on one’s front as opposed to one’s back can result in strange looks from locals.
- Sandra Amorin (BXL Sprout) observed that carrying babies in slings in Belgium is a bit of a middle class thing, also adding that slings were not very common at all in Portugal and that carrying a baby in one can be something about which passers-by comment out of inquisitiveness.
- Amanda Ponzio Mouttaki (Maroc Mama) contrastingly pointed out that it is very common to see babies being carried in slings in Morocco and that strollers are a rarity.
- Annabelle Humanes (Piri Piri Lexicon) backed up my initial impression that slings are a bit of a rarity in France and told of how a male relative had to put up with quite a few judgmental remarks when carrying his daughter in a sling.
- Sarah-Jane Begonja (Chasing the Donkey) went as far as saying that she had never seen anyone carrying a baby in a sling in Croatia and received strange looks when doing so herself, adding that there seems to be a bit of a national obsession with fancy prams.
- Souad Guex (Babelkid) used to run a babywearing consultancy and blogged about sling wearing while doing so. For Souad, who became the first trained babywearing consultant in the UK, babywearing is ‘the second most important parenting tool after breastfeeding’.
One thing that I’ve noticed here in the UK is that whilst I have seen other men also wearing their kids in slings, there aren’t all that many. Nevertheless, when my wife went to our village supermarket the man behind the till started talking about how he and his wife also carried their baby in a sling and thought that it was great. I remember feeling slightly self-conscious the first time that I went out on my own with my son in a baby carrier, mainly because I’d never seen any men carrying a baby in a sling in our village before. When my wife and I were at a music festival (at which our son was wearing his very cute looking ear protectors) I noticed a few people smiling and pointing as I walked around with our son in a sling. At the time, I couldn’t work out whether it was because he looked cute with his ear protectors on or because they thought I looked silly. It felt a bit weird in some ways, but this was probably because I’m kind of shy more than anything else.
As the weeks go by, I wonder how many slings and baby carriers we will ultimately accumulate. As it happens, my wife said that a new sling that she’d seen on the internet (a sort of woven wrap that she will be able use to make both a wrap and a ring sling or a bag) is what she would really like for her birthday this month. As it happens the sling that she has her heart set on is a second hand sling that is in excellent condition, which may mean that I’m able to successfully participate in the ‘October: Buy Nothing New Month’ initiative that Ute Limacher-Riebold recently described in a post on her blog Expat Since Birth. As to when we’ll stop getting new baby carriers, it’ll probably be when we discover one that can be described as the….
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