Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Babywearing Benefits: Part 1

Before our 1st child was born we registered for a front pack type of baby carrier.  My first experience with it was when our oldest was just about two weeks old & Mr. Lee had to go back to work.  I still remember the sheer terror of being left ALONE with this perfect, helpless, yet needy little creation.

I quickly found out that ALL she required was breastmilk, a clean/dry diaper, & being in my arms.  I also quickly found out how that meant I was NOT going to get anything done other than holding her.  She was our first (you know, the one you make all your mistakes with so you can do better next time, should God ever bless you with any more children... not that you MEAN to make mistakes, but it just seems to work out that way, no?!) & I was WAY different then.  For starters I pushed myself way faster to get into the groove that everybody ELSE placed on me, rather than finding OUR groove, as a new expanded family unit.  That involved going to church & the store after 2 weeks and trying to be super mom, wife, & house keeper all in one.  Enter in that baby carrier we had registered for.

Remember how I said the baby was only two WEEKS old?!  Well, picture this... new mama, sweating bullets trying to care for her newborn AND make dinner because she needed to prove herself worth of the new awesome responsibility of not only being wife & mama, but a stay-at-home wife & mama for the first time EVER.

Let's face it!  People just expect so much of women & moms, and I was quickly finding out that they certainly expected far too much out of a stay-at-home-mama.  Only back then I had no idea that was THEIR issue & not mine.. NOW I do & NOW I know Mr. Lee has very reasonable expectations for our family and he would not give me any grief if our house looked like a laundry bomb went off as long as the kids were properly cared for (which they always are, of course!!).  But then, I just felt so much pressure, even though now I have far greater responsibility not only having more blessings now, but far more chores, cooking most everything from scratch, school work, etc.

Okay, so back to my first day alone.  I very vividly recall that "all" I accomplished was caring for the baby all day long... nursing every hour even though each feeding would take 30-45 minutes because she was a lazy nurser (& trying to sleep off her epidural still... like I said, I was a completely different person then... but that experience taught me so much... like how much I NEEDED to birth at home after that) who liked to suckle & snooze, but if I ever dared to try & pry her off my breast, well, let's just say I didn't because our bundle of joy made it clear that was NOT an option!  So I pulled out that baby carrier... strapped it on my chest & decided to skip reading the directions because dinner was going to burn on the stove... and since I have always been pretty technically inclined I usually figure more out how to use something just by diving in than reading those pesky directions.

Well, as straightforward as that carrier was things just did not go smoothly with it.  My 2 week old 9 POUND baby was TOO BIG for it... WHAT?!  Yeah, that's what I said... so the dinner I thought I was going to get to finish making was soon neglected because then my greatest need was trying to figure out how to get my newborn OUT of the carrier... perhaps those pesky directions would have helped, but I doubt it... that carrier was just too small, end of story... But since my child was a NEWBORN & the carrier supposedly went to 25lbs, I was determined it was going to work.

Well, guess who walked in from his first day back at work after becoming a daddy & the the first thing he had to do was help new mama get the baby out of the carrier she had the baby wedged into... who was also fussing (baby not mama.. LOL)?!  Talk about feeling incompetent... sheesh!!  I took that carrier back to the store a few days later & decided no more of those dumb things for me after I had such a bad experience... I felt my arms were a much better & safer option.

Since my precious wee one wanted to be with mama & in my arms, pretty much every waking moment, I was able to get little else done because she also decided that naps were just NOT her thing unless she was IN MY ARMS.  I knew she would soon be past that stage & tried to cherish it as much as I could... the time was precious... my baby & me...

As much as I tried to cherish those hours, days, weeks, & months of baby holding, that nagging from those around me and the unrealistic expectations they out on me as a stay-at-home wife & mama were stressful.  They made me feel lazy & guilty because there Mr. Lee was out making the money & "ALL" I was doing was taking care of a baby... surely I should be doing more than all day long.

One thing I am so grateful for is that I new enough, even being a new mom, to trust my instincts no matter what others around me would say.  Mr. Lee always was & always is very supportive and involved in hands-on, intentional parenting.  So there was never anything he said or did that made me feel guilty, but rather those on the outside.  At that time, pretty much most of our friends our age didn't have children yet, so I really didn't have a lot of understanding people to talk to.

Some of the best advice came from my mom, who was (& always is) very supportive of me & the way we were raising our new family member.  She said that being a stay-at-home mom of one child is so hard because YOU are their EVERYTHING... there are no siblings to entertain them & play with them, it is ALL YOUALL. DAY. LONG!  She also knew how unsupportive so many people were of moms, especially stay-at-home-moms, & it meant the world to me that she would listen & encourage me.

One day I met a new friend at church.. she had an older child & also a child the age of my first.  She was a tremendous blessing to me & she came into my life at the perfect time.  It wasn't that my mom wasn't good enough, but somehow having someone else, not related to you, that can encourage you, support you, & understand where you are coming from meant so much.  One not related to you who didn't HAVE to love you & support you, like Mom does.

That friend also introduced me to a baby sling & made me stop timing every nursing and keeping track (via pen & paper) of which side the baby nursed on.  Can we say Type A personality?!  Yep, baby was two months old & I was STILL timing & tracking her nursings.  Hey, what can I say?!  I had no idea how on earth I would know which side she'd need to nurse on unless I kept track of it with my trusty notebook & pen.  I also tracked how many wet & dirty diapers too... eeeks, that alone was enough to keep me busy all day since every time my baby ate, she pooped... EVERY TIME!!

Oh, yeah, back to the sling... there was seriously a halo around that woman, who became a good friend of mine.  She helped me to follow my God-given instincts to love, care for, & attend to my child without guilt & without shame.  If I had a bad day or confrontation, she was always there to give me a pep talk.  Anyway, one day she had me try her sling on.  I LOVED it!  My baby HATED it, but I was very excited at the idea of being able to both attend to my baby's needs (without having to leave her alone to cry for mama) AND do some chores, since clean laundry & food in our bellies was a nice thing.  I liked my friend's sling so much & then found one for sale on eBay for myself.

I tried for a while to get the baby to like the sling & she got to the point where she would tolerate it for a while, which was a huge blessing, but it wasn't until she was 8 months old that I actually felt confident enough to leave the house & nurse her in public (aside from being at my friend's house or at chuch).  See, not only was I harassed for not doing enough, but I was shamed for nursing.  Yes, you read it right, I was shamed for feeding my baby!

A couple of times I actually got enough nerve up to go to a store with just the baby & me, I was actually told I needed to go into a bathroom to nurse, gawked at, & given nasty looks by store employees.  I did speak up, even asking for a supervisor at one store, but I was tripping over my words & had tears in my eyes, so I am sure I looked like a weirdo!

Don't worry, for our second baby & the others after, I was well equipped with a PRINTED copy of the state's breastfeeding law, & while I never actually had to pull it out to support my claims about my right to nurse in public, I was ready to.  I even printed out the laws from other states if we were ever going to go out of state.  In fact, I even did that a few years ago.

At present I would just tell anybody they would be hearing from my lawyer (which I would have to hire, shhhhhhhh!! LOL) if someone didn't refrain from continuing to harass me once I informed them of the state's law.  Currently, I think most people may glare, but not as many are quick to say anything directly to a nursing mother, or at least I have found that has changed dramatically over the years.  They may comment to someone WITH them, but usually don't have the nerve to say anything directly.  I am pretty much always so concerned with taking care of my nursling & any other children who may be out with us, that I really don't have time to notice if anybody else is staring at me or whispering about me.

Oh yeah, back to babywearing... there was a point I was getting to, so I will do that now.... I guess...

Babywearing was not only wonderful for helping me to get things done at home, but I found it also enabled me to be able to shop for groceries, and it was perfect because I could also nurse my baby while doing whatever else needed to be done.  Even though my newborn babywearing experience with my first child was a bust I didn't let that discourage me from meeting my baby's needs & from continuing to try to find what would work for me and my family.  I did hit a few roadblocks along the way, but I was finally able to navigate through them & reap the benefits of babywearing.

Aside from being able to grocery shop, get things done at home, nurse my baby, etc. while babywearing (or baby carrying rather, when my first attempts went awry to babywear), I also enjoyed extra bonding time and skin-to-skin contact (which helps regulate the baby's digestion, breathing, sleeping, etc., and it also helped extend the time frame between the return of mama's 1st post partum monthly cycle, which I am all about) with my baby; while my baby enjoyed a lot of quiet, alert time where she observed so much about me & the big world around her.  She also learned that she could trust me to meet her needs when she needed them met, not only when it was convenient.

I have since worn all of my babies, from birth through toddlerhood.  As my older toddlers transitioned into becoming preschoolers, I found that they have all liked knowing that they were getting bigger & older, yet there was always a place for them in mama's arms, sling, wrap, backpack, soft structured carrier, etc. if the need ever arose.  We are one of "those" families who always has a stroller with us, but the stroller usually has the diaper bag, snacks, etc. while the baby and/or toddler is being worn or carried.  There are times when baby may prefer the stroller for a bit, but overall all of the Lee kids have loved being worn (minus the first one who took a bit to adjust to it).

Throughout the years I have acquired a collection of baby carriers as I find that no two work exactly the same for every child & I have also been able to help other people try my carriers on & figure out which one may work for them.  While I have not tried every brand of every type of carrier, I have tried pretty much every style of carrier now.  Right now my favorite is a soft structured carrier (SSC), which is featured in a review post here: Boba 3G review.

 If you are new to parenthood or new to babywearing, my best advice is to hang in there & find something that works for you.  If your child is fussy in a carrier, they say to put them in & go walk around to get them used to it.  I find my little one gets really fussy while bring worn it is usually an indication they are fighting sleep & are usually happily, sound asleep in 2-3 minutes.

Have you ever worn a baby or child in a carrier??  If so, what is your favorite brand & model baby carrier??  Or do you tend to hold a baby or child instead of using a carrier??  Do you or your child prefer a stroller??