Attachment Parenting, Babywearing

Adventures in Babywearing: The Forward Facing Debate

Eloise's first forward carry at about four months. She loved every second of it.
Eloise’s first forward carry at about four months. She loved every second of it.

I’m bound to piss off a few mamas with this one. Ever since Ergo launched the 360, babywearing debates have been popping up around the web about whether or not it is okay to ever have a baby facing forward in a carrier. Even the Ergo website recommends using the forward-facing position for limited time periods and only after the baby is six months old.

Of course I read this after I had started using the forward facing position with Eloise at four months. She was eager to look out at the world and fit nicely when I used the booster from the infant insert. However, after I read the post on Ergo’s site, I began to question my own decision. While Ergo is the only forward-facing carrier I know of that provides a safe carry for the baby’s hips, the recommendation for limited use is based on:

  • A young baby’s need to see the face of his/her caregiver for social cues in order to feel safe
  • A young baby’s need to be able to turn away from stimulation and/or nap against the caregiver when desired
  • The decreased support for the back of the caregiver when a baby faces outward

After I let this information sink in, I decided to still use the forward facing carry with Eloise but with a new-found awareness of whether or not she is overstimulated and needs to be able to turn away from her environment. Before, I would wear her to the grocery store facing outward, thinking she would like to look out at everything. Now I will start her in the inward carry and then turn her outward if she is fussing. That’s my compromise.

Despite my attachment parenting tendencies, there are times when I need the break and facing outward is the only thing that keeps her occupied. I often allow her to face outward while I eat, walk the dogs, and do other household tasks. She never stays in the position for very long, but it is a key element to maintaining my sanity, which is important because a happy mama means a happier baby.

The whole reason I think it is worth sharing all of this is because the babywearing community can get pretty aggressive about NEVER facing a baby outward, even in a carrier that is ergonomically supportive for the baby. What I don’t understand about this is the lack of support it shows for other mamas. I have yet to meet the mom who hasn’t at some point given her kid sugar, used a stroller, or let her kid watch television. Most of us have done at least one thing that might be considered detrimental in some circles but makes our lives better.

In the grand scheme of childrearing, a little quiet time spent outward facing on mom doesn’t seem like the end of the world. And, if you want to judge me for it, then I ask you to look at your own parenting and make sure you’re not serving cupcakes at birthday parties or letting baby sit on your lap while you watch that game on television. And, let’s be honest, if you can’t find a single thing you do with your kids that is questionable, then you are probably not sitting on social media judging other moms right now…

To be fair, no one has been less than kind to me, I have just been weighing the information for my own purposes and wincing a little when reading other moms go off about forward facing carriers. If it is not causing physical harm to the child, I am hard-pressed to believe time spent facing outward is any different than using a stroller, (if anything it is better than a stroller from an attachment parenting perspective). And I know plenty of psychologically healthy children who sat in strollers as young babies.

As with anything, it is important to pay attention to the cues of your individual child. I love woven wraps, but sometimes it is easier to slap on the Ergo, and sometimes my individual child is not in the mood to be facing inward anyway. So wear on, mamas and papas, wear on!

Attachment Parenting, Balance, Health, Hopes

Month Two: A Good Enough Mom

Since the beginning of our journey, our doula has told us, “Instead of worrying about perfection, be happy with good enough.” At first I did not know what she meant. I had never questioned my ability to be a mom, I figured I’d be good at it because I pour every ounce of myself into everything I care about. Ha. I should have remembered the learning curve in becoming a teacher, hard work does not always translate into greatness…

The first twinges of inadequacy crept in at the hospital, first with nursing that did not seem to work, then with the screaming in the middle of the night, and finally with the news we might have to go down to the neonatal unit, where I would be unable to sleep beside my new baby, in order to treat her jaundice. It turned out we got to go home, but when the tests came back again and we had to return to the hospital because her bilirubin levels were still rising, I fell apart.

I sobbed in the arms of my mother and all the way back to the hospital. The poor intake dude must have worried about me, such a mess over something so minor in the grand scheme of problems worthy of the pediatric unit, but I felt like I was letting my three-day old baby down by not being able to hold her through the night as she bathed in neon blue light, like we were missing a critical moment in our bonding. Thankfully, the pediatric ward is different from the neonatal unit, I was allowed to sleep in the same room, even if my inability to pick her up and soothe her felt traumatizing in my three-day postpartum, hormonal haze.

Minus the near-daily heel pricks and cruel joke of a cold the first week brought, the rest of the month passed without too much self-analysis as I recovered from birth and absorbed the sweetness of my new baby. However, month two has been a different story. Colic. If you don’t know what it is, count yourself lucky. Colic sucks. Screaming, sometimes uncontrollable, almost every evening for hours at a time. I joke as the sun sets that the vampire baby is waiting to emerge. Forget the Happiest Baby on the Block. Baby carriers like the moby and our rocking chair are our only solace, as long as we have the energy to keep moving.

Couple this with sleep deprivation and yet another stupid cold and I often feel like maybe I am doing something wrong. Last month I reported that the sleep deprivation was manageable. After eight weeks, I have changed my mind. It is survivable, but manageable makes it sound easier than it is. If it weren’t for my mother-in-law, who comes and rocks the baby sometimes for a couple hours during the afternoon, or my husband, who stays up until three in the morning rocking her in his chair, I would never get a chance to catch up. It turns out the advice of sleep when the baby sleeps only works if your baby sleeps! Accordingly, I have written this blog entry in 15 minute chunks and foregone the opportunity to do any chores to make this post happen.

She is worth it though, all of it. Her smiles, her little laugh, her intent focus on the world around her, make all the other bits disappear. She has made me the happiest I have ever been. But even with the happiness, being a mom is hard. All the worry and challenges can feel isolating. In the last few days I have let it out and found myself supported with words and hugs from the women in my life. I have realized that while concepts like attachment parenting are beautiful in writing, sometimes in our culture of mom at home by herself instead of surrounded by other baby holders, you have to put her down to survive.

So, find a mom out there and give her a gigantic hug. God knows she deserves it. And, if you are a mom, let yourself find peace in being good enough. Chances are, there is another mom nearby who totally gets it, and if there isn’t, well, I do.

What new motherhood actually looks like. Please note, I resisted the urge to make this picture more attractive in Photoshop.
What new motherhood actually looks like. Please note, I resisted the urge to make this picture more attractive in Photoshop.
The face that makes me question myself.
What our evenings often look like…
And, the moment of peace that follows and makes it all better!
And, the face that makes it all better!