top of page

Conscious parenting through babywearing

Updated: Apr 7


a dark-skinned woman breastfeeding a baby in a carrier

This article was first published in the Natural Parent Magazine, Issue 49, Summer 2023. This beautiful artwork is called "Every part of me" by Katie M Berggren - and here with permission


As my son turns five and we leave the nappy cave behind, I reflect on the babyhood and toddlerhood we carry on only in our hearts and minds. Now that we have moved into nappy-free nights, preparing for the start of school and him taking steps into the wider world without us, I hope that we have established the connection and relationships we need to navigate whatever comes. I hope that these first five years with us have given him the foundation he needs to achieve his dreams and that he will always want to come home. I wonder, will holding him close in his early life hold him close throughout his adult life?


Set your own narrative


I recall deflecting a sense of despair when I think back to my pregnancy. The narrative around early days parenting seemed to be framed around how we would survive rather than thrive through this precious time. Interestingly, I don’t recall babywearing being mentioned in antenatal classes or appointments. I remember being focused on birth and breastfeeding, with friends and family focused on sleep and stuff, often things that encouraged separation of me from my baby and broke my heart. One thing I wish had been more of a focus was how I planned to nurture connection with my baby.


Holding babies close has been a valued parenting tool for millenia across all cultures. Many of us in the western world these days stumble into babywearing due to an unsettled baby, needing to wrangle a toddler as well as a newborn, or just for practicality’s sake. It is known in the literature that holding a child close has physiological benefits that can impact on their long-term health and wellbeing (1,2). And yet, how many of us in the throes of newborn parenting are aware of this and supported to make decisions that embrace this superpower? It would be wonderful to see babywearing more regularly offered as a suggestion to help with parenting and nurturing our children.


Values based parenting


In all the noise of parenthood, it can be hard to navigate what is a useful thing and what is not. Many parents wonder what can guide them to the right choice when everyone seems to have an opinion? In many cases, your individual and family values can be a helpful way to guide decision-making.


Values can be defined as “the principles that tell you to decide what is right and wrong and how to act in various situations” (3) and having a good understanding of your own values can help you understand what motivates you to act one way or another. Values can be seen as your lighthouse, helping you to stay true to the parent you wish to be. Parenting according to your values can also support your mental health and wellbeing, especially when things are tough (4).


In determining your values to guide your parenting decisions, some helpful questions to navigate this long game could be: What is your dream for your relationship with your child? How would you like your child to describe you in 20 years’ time? On balance, what is the best decision now to help you get what it is you want in decades down the track? Is this choice pushing your child away or bringing them closer? Being clear in your values and what you want your relationship to look like once your child is grown can help with those tricky decisions in these early days.

Values based choices


Everywhere we look it seems as though trying to sell us something, and often it feels as though the market pathologises normal infant behaviour to sell us something to fix it. Leading up to the birth of my son, it seemed overwhelming. So many choices, so many people giving advice, so many algorithms trying to sell me something online. It was so hard to know what would be a useful spend for our family. Looking back, if I had a better understanding of how my values influenced my parenting, I suspect I may have made more informed and considered choices when purchasing items for my child.


Not for our family the fancy rocker; high-tech pram; cot and toddler bed; or beautifully decorated nursery. The most useful major purchases for our family have turned out to be those that hold us close.

● An adjustable carrier – (in truth, I have several, yet one would suffice) For years, a ring sling was always stuffed into the bottom of my bag for those just-in-case moments when my son needed to be held close

● Toddler tower – this is an integral part of our kitchen and still has years of use to come. We use it to cook together, eat together, chat together over a drink, play together. My kitchen bench is the heart of my home, and my child is right there with me.

● King-sized bed – this was my birthday present last year, ideally, we’d have got this for ourselves as a babymoon present. Although I personally don’t have much more space to sleep in, this is what my son calls our family bed.


When things were tough, the services that suited me best were the ones who aligned with my values and offered me choices supporting them. The Australian Breastfeeding Association, Possums & Co, Raised Good, Little Sparklers, Nurture Neuroscience, Pinky McKay, the incredible contributors to this magazine, the list is long and growing.


Parenting integrity


Perhaps the lists above can help you to identify my values. I am playing the long game, for what I want in 20 years’ time. I want him to know I am there whenever he needs me, 24 hours a day. Being together as a family. To love preparing and sharing food. Learning to be capable and be in tune with himself and his environment. To contribute to his community. To be kind, compassionate and caring – to himself and those around him. I think most parents have these dreams for their children.


I aspire to be my son’s safe space and in my parenting choices I hope to have supported that for him. These choices that haven’t always been easy to follow through with, not especially when he woke every hour during the night and countless hours dancing around the house with him in a carrier. Certainly, even now, when all is going sideways, being close to me or his dad is what my son seeks. A piggyback, a cuddle, a “can you carry me” when he seeks connection. These moments together support regulation when self-regulation eludes all of us (3, 4). The moments together also communicate forgiveness when we have made mistakes. And parenting in line with my values means I doubt myself less when I might be doing things a bit differently, or I don’t quite get the short-term outcome I was hoping for.


Summary


In a parenting world full of noise, contradiction, and opinions, be true to yourself and your values. Make choices that help establish a lifetime of solid connection, trust, and safety for yourself and your child. Maybe babywearing could be part of creating that journey for your family, as it has for mine.


Kato x


References

1. Uvnas-Moberg, K., & Petersson, M. (2005). Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth, and healing. Zeitschrift fur Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie, 51(1), 57-80. https://doi.org/10.13109/zptm.2005.51.1.57

2. Reynolds-Miller, R, L. (2016). Potential therapeutic benefits of babywearing. Creative Nursing, 22(1), 17-23. http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1078-4535.22.1.17

4 views

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page