Baby wearing is hard — but putting her down is harder

Guest post by Amanda Low

slingmama

I spent a very big chunk of time the other day “wearing” and holding my three week-old daughter, Evelyn. The night ended with a bad stomachache (hers triggered mine) and by the time my husband got home and scooped Evie up in his arms, I was relieved. I slept for four hours, alone, in a pitch black room. I practically melted into the sheets. It felt good to be a separate entity, even if I was asleep for it.

But then, there are nights like tonight, where I set myself up for an intentional break from Evelyn and the Mom Guilt sets in. I planned a little “me” time, you know, that essential thing mentioned in all the parenting books (even attachment parenting guru Dr. Sears validates “me” time for mothers). I wanted so badly to do something work-related, because I’ve spent more time than I care to admit watching reality TV lately.

So my wonderful parents watched Evie from 8:00 to 9:00 while I worked on my computer in their dining room. It was like coming up for air at first — suddenly, my tunnel vision was gone. I felt like more of a person and less of a milk factory.

Then, my mind started to wander. Did Evie need a diaper change? Was she hungry? It had been over two hours since she last nursed, after all…or did she simply miss me? Did she want me to hold her? Evelyn may have been just one room away, but she may as well have been in Bermuda.

I have these two nagging voices perched somewhere in my brain. One says that if I don’t keep Evie close to me at all times, she will turn out to be a serial killer, or at the very least in her teen years she will bring home some greasy boyfriend named Skud who’s twice her age. The other voice says yeah, but your arms are exhausted, not to mention the baby carrier puts stress on your back, and the more you tote her around the more she sleeps, which means when you do finally put her down (hey, you can’t shower with her, after all), she’ll be super fussy and wonder where all the warm ‘n’ cozy went.

This voice also says I’m being an overachiever and a bit of a tool by trying to follow the Attachment Parenting model so closely.

I suppose the lesson I’ve gleaned from this is that it’s best not to get committed to a certain style of parenting too early. Although there are aspects of Attachment Parenting that I love (cosleeping and breastfeeding are perfect for us), I think babywearing will only do if it’s for short periods of time. Otherwise Evie gets overheated, or my back hurts, or she slips down too far in the carrier and I just know that she’s suffocating herself.

But the other lesson to glean from this is that if I get too caught up in trying to act out the role of perfect mother, I may forget to enjoy these early weeks of mothering. I suppose what I mean is that parenting isn’t a video game — I’m not supposed to follow some preset storyline as I level myself up as quickly as possible.

Instead, I’m supposed to snuggle my daughter close whenever the urge strikes. I’m supposed to touch her face and memorize the contours of her little features, because it will all change so quickly. And when we’re chest to chest and she nestles her head under my chin, I will continue to stop and really soak up the feeling of her impossibly soft hair, because this is one of the many silent things that sum up everything exuberant and heart-shattering about parental love.

Comments on Baby wearing is hard — but putting her down is harder

  1. As much as I sometimes want parenting to be more like a video game, thanks for the reminder that it’s not. πŸ™‚ I guess that’s a good thing as well as a little annoying–there’s no prescribed set of tasks to do to level up… but you end up leveling up anyway, somehow, like it or not. At least, I hope so, I’m only three weeks into this too. πŸ™‚

  2. I couldn’t hack baby wearing, it was too much for my back. (I have a tailbone injury that didn’t help matters.) My daughter was a slow breast feeder though(she averaged 35-40 minutes per side), so I wasn’t worried about her getting enough mommy time in.
    I’m hoping with my next baby to find a baby wearing workshop do I can figure out the wrap models. Ive heard they are easier on the back, and I’ll need to wear the baby more with an active toddler running around.

    • Definitely go for it. Stretchy wraps are extremely comfortable for most of the people I know with back injuries (at least for the first several months of the baby’s life). By spreading the fabric over most of your back, you can save yourself from putting too much weight on any one spot.

      • That’s exactly why I want to try them. With my first I had a hand me down baby bjorn, and it put way too much strain on my back.

        I figure the potential added bonus to the wrap style is if I’m having a bad back pain day to begin with, I can always tuck hot or cold pads into the back portion of the wrap.

        • I love the Moby wrap, but I wanted to mention that it really hurt my back when I was within 6 weeks of birth. My back needed to gain in strength, and have some of the relaxin leave my body for it to be comfortable.

  3. “I suppose what I mean is that parenting isn’t a video game β€” I’m not supposed to follow some preset storyline as I level myself up as quickly as possible.” brilliantly put!!

    thereΒ΄s one general rule i go by- as long as it feels good for both people involved, do it, when itΒ΄s not okay anymore for one, stop.
    with this, weΒ΄re 1 1/2 years into breastfeeding and co-sleeping, but i am wearing my son not very often anymore because my back kills me after 30 minutes (mind you, 12 kilograms..) – and,for the back pain: maybe try a carrier with larger straps that distributes babys weight more evenly and more onto your hips.

    all the best!!

  4. Not entirely sure what the policy about posting outside links here is, but I caught this post this past weekend and it brought up all sorts of feelings: http://momastery.com/blog/2012/01/04/2011-lesson-2-dont-carpe-diem/

    I don’t mean to make light of what you’re feeling — I definitely felt the same about EVERYTHING when I became a mom — but you need to know that you’re doing fine, that “me” time is VERY IMPORTANT and you shouldn’t let it fall by the wayside, and if you don’t follow Attachment Parenting or any other method to the T, your kid will not suffer for it. I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect those first couple of years and while I know I enjoyed motherhood the best I could, I just don’t feel the constant second-guessing and the forgoing of me time was worth it.

    The beautiful moments of motherhood are awesome and should be cherished, but it’s even okay to NOT enjoy every single moment of motherhood and to admit that sometimes you just need a time out from not being attached to your baby.

  5. um yes. I’m sure dr sears wears his baby like all day long. Do what works, try not to have an existential crisis about these things….. you probably will, I still do from time to time even though I have already thrown my idealism about parenting out the window a long time ago.

  6. Certainly don’t feel like you need to be attached constantly (at least not consciously)but also know that the carrier can help so much! I know the wrap was great until a certain weight and then I tried a bjorn or something and it was awful. Then I got an Ergo and could wear her forever! (Or as long as she’d let me πŸ™‚ )

  7. Amen. It’s funny, even after my sweet girl gives me hell and wears me out and I’m ready for a break.. an hour later, I’m obsessively checking on her and when I get into bed I want to pull her close and snuggle her..

  8. Bring her bum higher when you wear her, at or above your belly button, her head should be close enough to kiss. That may make it a lot more comforatable. The straps also look like they are too far toward the center of your body and are resting on muscles that can cause some wicked refered pains through out your back.
    Happy future wearing, and hands free breast feeding. Oh! That’s why she is low on you maybe? I’m still learning that adjusting/tightening is the secert to wearing.

    • Thanks for posting, I was going to say the same thing! The photo does NOT look comfy at all. Dear author, you should only wear baby as much as you like, but it shouldn’t hurt your back, especially not with such a little babe. I wore my son until I got pregnant again and at 25 lbs it was still comfortable for me.

  9. I couldn’t get the hang of baby wearing in a wrap at first, but when I revisited it when our son was four or five months old with the Ergo, it clicked. Assuming we have another kid someday, I’m going to look into other Ergo-style carriers I’ve heard about that are a bit better for newborns than the Ergo and it’s weird infant insert. But it may also be that I just prefer wearing a slightly older baby.

  10. I thought I was a paranoid, overachieving type of mother before I had my son, so I set myself up for less trouble by purposefully not buying any parenting books or reading material. It has killed me sometimes because I start feeling that other parents know secrets I don’t, but then I remind myself that this is exactly the reason I did this. I want to reach out to other parents and connect on a useful level, not get lost in the black and white of some parenting model. Think you for reminding me!

    Also, I have had the wonderful opportunity to try wearing my son over his first five months in many carriers. We have a Baby Bjorn that is now reserved for hubby, because he likes the feel of the carrier and baby better than the wraps/slings, not so close and easy to see baby, etc. Man preference maybe? It always killed my shoulders and back because of the design. We have a Maya Sling (adjustable ring-type) that was excellent for when my son was in his first few months and just wanted to be cradled. You could feed pretty easily in it too. As he got bigger, even though you could spread the material, the one shoulder thing hurt after a while and he wanted to look around more. We now use the Moby wrap, which I sometimes wear it like a piece of clothing because he likes shorter carries throughout the day. He chews on the fabric nearest to him, which helps with the teething he is starting, and it is so comfortable to carry his 16+ lbs. Best advice a store ever told me was that you will probably change wearing styles a few times or more as baby grows. I might go back to the sling for hip carrying as my son gets bigger, who knows!

    I try not to carry him too much, but then a very important person in my life told me the one truth I hold to above all else – if you listen to your mama gut, you will know what is right for the two of you. I’m tired a lot as I stay home with the little man and take care of him all night, but something just tells me it really isn’t that bad to hold or carry him as much as he wants right now. Besides, he will be so mobile later I won’t ever be able to hold him this close for this long again! Thank you for your article and good luck!

    • My youngest is 11 years old now, and his brothers were almost 3 when he was born. Out of a necessity borne of chasing toddler twins, I carried him in a sling from day 1. I carried him almost constantly. Sometimes I worried about that, but we both liked it, so I kept doing it. I did learn with the first ones that I *needed* me time, so Saturday mornings I left all of them in a big puppy pile in bed with their dad and snuck out for early morning bagels and thrift shopping with another mom friend of mine. As long as I knew the kids were with someone loving and attentive, I felt ok. I tried to be the perfect attachment parent with the twins, and really, it was exhausting; it really took a toll on my marriage, and I’m not sure the boys have as much of a sense of how they fit into the wider world as I expected they would. With my youngest, I picked him up and loved and nursed him whenever either of us felt like it. BUT, I also made time for myself and guarded it carefully. That kiddo is now, and has always been, cool to be around. He’s balanced, considerate, independent and not clingy at all. Looking back now, I believe it’s because the important part is letting kids know that you love them no matter what, and that showing them that you value *yourself* (and your partner and your relationship) too helps them understand that, while they’re important and the loves of your life, they are part of a bigger picture that includes others’ feelings and needs too. And when those needs are met, *everyone* is happier. Plus they have the opportunity to learn to trust and depend on others, which helps reinforce the idea that they have a spot in the world outside of just you. What a gift! I wish I had learned that sooner! Good on you for bringing this up only a few weeks into it–parenting can be so competitive sometimes, and this kind of ambivalence hard to talk about in our quest to “do everything right”. πŸ™‚

  11. I have a 3 month old daughter and we are doing the attachment style parenting with her. I modify the style as needed. Co-sleeping isn’t for me as I am a crazy toss and turner so she is in a pack and play next to the bed. My daughter had tongue tie so she had a hard time breastfeeding so I pump and bottle feed. I use a kozycarrier when we run out for errands and to the mall. My daughter is never fussy, and this modified style has worked wonders for us. She sleeps through the night, takes naps, and eats like a pro. From the start me and my husband were like we want to try attachment parenting but, the number one thing to remember is just be team baby and whatever you find works work it!!

  12. I am going to echo a couple other posters here (though it’s not exactly to the point of your article, which was great, by the way πŸ™‚ )…Your carrier is a mei tai-style carrier, and that makes it sooo adjustable! If it IS hurting your back, you can easily shift the weight upwards to your upper back and shoulders. In fact, it is preferable that with such a small baby for them to be up on your chest instead of so low. Tie your waist straps just below your bust, take your shoulder straps over your shoulders, cross them in the back, and bring them back around over baby’s bottom and across to go under the opposite knee and then tie in the back. Having her higher should be more comfortable πŸ™‚ also once she’s bigger and you can put her on your back, it’ll be even more comfy! Good luck!

  13. When I was nursing my son (for 45 minutes out of every 2 hours) I would sometimes cry because I also felt like a milk factory. However, whenever I would leave him, even just for an hour to run to the store or take a walk or sometimes even a shower by myself I would feel terrible, like I had just abandoned my kid and gone to Mexico. But I learned, slowly, that I felt better after some me time and could better appreciate my wonderful baby, and that he enjoyed the time spent with his father or grandparents – and so did they.

  14. Thanks for the wonderful comments, everyone! I love hearing how different kinds of baby carriers worked for others…and it’s interesting to hear about other kids temperaments.

    Since this article I’ve purchased an off-brand baby bjorn style front carrier, which is better on my back but not quite as snuggly as the old one. My husband and I still use the old one when we’re sitting down, just because it gets our daughter nice and snug against our chests (I think it feels more like a blanket to her than a chair). The moby wrap looks soooo cool, but I’m scared I’d get confused trying to wrap the thing!

    • YouTube videos are your friend. πŸ™‚ It did take me about half a dozen tries before I got the hang of the moby, but it’s really not too bad of a learning curve.

    • Yes, YouTube, and the manual that comes with Moby wraps really helps, as does silly practice sessions for your baby’s entertainment! You get so good at it eventually you can do it without the ends touching the ground, or sitting down in the car. And there are always moms cycling through different carriers that would be happy to let you try them. All three styles I have are borrowed! I just rotate with what feels right with my son and my body at that particular time.

  15. Ohhhh, I remember when my daughter was that tiny! Every day during my maternity leave we left the house at least once for some fresh air and to keep me sane. I carried her in a ring sling snuggled against my chest. I remember how soft her hair was. Oh so sweet! Now she’s ten months old and we usually put her in the stroller. Maybe I’ll bust out the carrier though for our next trip to the grocery store!

  16. The moby is SUPER easy once you figure it out…another option tho’ would be a baby k’tan which is similar to a moby but doesn’t require the tying. Altho’, at this point an Ergo (or other “soft structured carrier”) would probably be your best option (a Moby is too stretchy for a baby much bigger than 15 pounds or so…). Good luck!

    • if purchaseing new i would put the money for a moby toward a wrap that can also carry older babes.

  17. Instead of buying a Moby, I bought 5 yards of jersey cotton for $7.00, then cut it into 3 long strips, making three baby carriers. It did take some practice to feel like I was doing it right, but now its easy to use.

  18. People talk of parenting as this thing that sucks the individuality of you, but I think it makes many people more flexible and more willing to stand for what *they* want, what they seem to know in the moment. in other words, screw Dr Sears (not literally) when his advice isn’t working.

    For me, the co-sleeping has been off and on; I adore it, but my lil’ guy sleeps better when he’s in a crib. (Sigh.) Breastfeeding didn’t work and I couldn’t produce enough, after three months of pumping, to continue. So much for that. Bottles and formula won out.

    And early on, I couldn’t handle the wraps and carriers, physically. But after about 6 weeks I started using the Eco or Ecco (?) and I love, love, love it. He’s 16 months old now and I totally miss how much we used to be carriered together. (Btw, Ergo and Bjorn and a couple others were really hard on my back and I desppiiiised the whole Moby business… people happened to give us a ton of different brands, second hand. So maybe you would like baby-wearing with a different type. Or just say screw it, not like every culture in the world has always done carrying!)

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