Slingababy… Babywearing Consultant? Baby-Carrying Consultant? 

12 Sep
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So I have already mentioned how the Slingababy Consultant training made me question everything right?! 

I really wasn’t exaggerating… I had this idea in my mind that I would do down to the training, learn some stuff, tick off a box in some sense and come home and write a blog post about the experience as I continued on my merry way. Well in typical kiwi terminology, “yeah, nah”… 

Since last night when we had our last day of training, got awarded our certificates, shed tears collectively about embarking on this amazing journey and in such great company, I have had both my mind racing, but also kind of stuck… I know my brain needs a bit of time to “rewire” some of my thinking… 

But I wanted to share some of my journey with you guys so far, and give just show insight into the extent of how much this last week has made all 18 of us trainees rethink things… Much more broadly than just ways you may carry your child! 

Today there has already lots of discussion between some of us, just about using the word “babywearing”…     

The term “babywearing” was coined by Dr William Sears in the mid 80s, prior to this time from what I can tell, it’s unclear if there was a universal term for the act of carrying our children. Many different cultures had different terms, and then some others seemingly had no term at all and some others used the same term for the method of carrying their children as they did other items… 

Dr Sears isn’t only well known for his affiliation to babywearing though, he is also very well known for his work around “attachment parenting”, which obviously goes rather hand in hand in his perspective, which is all well and good, but… Does every parent who utilises a sling, wrap or carrier consider themselves an “attachment parent”? Should they be?? 

Of course not. But by using this term are we in a way contributing to making this practise in modern Western society feel somewhat like an “exclusive club”, with some people in “the know” and others may feel on the “outside”…? It isn’t very inclusive language when you think about it like that… 

Then another aspect to consider is also the kind of imagery we create with our language. We wear clothes right, we might wear slings, wraps or carriers but do we wear our children or do we carry them by wearing these devices? 

This aspect of the conversation is not actually a new topic to be explored. People have expressed in the past concerns about how this kind of language is somewhat disrespectful or maybe just inappropriate to refer to our children as an item which we would wear. 

“Why don’t we think to question this term? We know that children are not socks or handbags (or even fur), they are human beings. And yet we use an expression that perpetuates the objectification of babies.  Carrying babies is one thing. Wearing them is quite another.”  – (Janet Lansbury, 2010)

Would using the term “baby-carrying” be more clear about what we actually mean? Using a sling, wrap or other carrier of which we wear to carry our child? And while we are at it, why is it just babies? Couldn’t we all agree that a “baby” is a child aged approximately between 0-18 months old, yet don’t many of us wear or carry children older than that? Is that maybe a bit patronising to our bigger kids who want to be worn? 

I don’t want for my soon nearly four year old son to be labelled a baby just because he appreciates the closeness of cuddles in a sling sometimes or will be worn for sections of huge 7km hikes on his dad’s back because his legs got tired 5km down the track… 

Core and intrinsic to Lorette’s teaching this week has been about caring and kindness. Being inclusive and being respective. But also questioning things and thinking about the relativities we are creating through our language use. This concept of “consultants” in this field in New Zealand is a new concept in and of its self. 

After this week, New Zealand now has 5 times the amount of us as it did a week ago and even in our relatively small population on a global stage, that really isn’t very many of us! This industry as a whole is still being defined itself. 

I think these kind of core, fundamental questions need to be thought about and discussed though, especially as more and more discussions pop up around cultural appropriation, ethics and social justice in the international babywearing community. 

Do you think society has got the term right for the act of carrying our children in a wrap, sling or other carrier? 

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  1. Rochelle
    4 years ago

    Interesting and relevant to me. My husband and I both use our Tula to carry our 16 month old all the time. We hardly ever use the pram. We enjoy carrying him so close, but to be perfectly honest the main reason we do it most of the time is – it’s easy! Every time I see someone struggling with a huge pram in a tiny shop or cafe, or on uneven or muddy ground, I think, why? Why bother with a pram when you can throw on a carrier? It’s SO much easier! We’re heading overseas for a short holiday soon and the travel agent told me, you can take a small stroller on the plane for free. I was honestly confused for a moment… a stroller? what’s that and why would I want to take one? Oh yeah, some people don’t have a carrier and have to cart a stroller or pram everywhere they go! Stuff that! We’ll take our Tula and that’s all we need. So, I would say, no, not all parents who carry their babies are a stereotypical attachment parent/hippie/earth-mother etc (!!!), and the term “babywearing” probably does put some parents off, as it does sound a little “hippie”. I honestly can’t understand why everyone doesn’t have a carrier, and perhaps the nomenclature is something to do with it?

    1. Jess Williamson
      4 years ago

      Interesting Rochelle! Thanks for sharing!

      I also love this project – which is about a man called Kevan being carried in a backpack by his friends on a trip around Europe without using his wheelchair… I noticed not once does he say he is “worn” by his friends… It would sound a bit werid if he did in a way maybe? It’s just interesting why we call it what we do and if we should or not? I think we too often just accept that things “are” a certain why in our societies but not very often consider or question why? Or what implication that has as a result…

      I have decided to refer to myself as a Sling and Carrier Consultant which was one of the many options each of us chose, others in a similar position have decided to refer to it as “baby-carrying consultant”, “babywearing consultant”, “Sling consultant” among other things…

      I think of it more as using a device to carry our children but also accept and acknowledge that many of us have to come to know it as “babywearing”…

  2. Amber
    4 years ago

    Hi Jess, firstly a massive congratulations on becoming a ‘babywearing consultant’. I couldn’t think of anyone better to share, teach and demonstrate the love and closeness that ‘baby wearing’ brings to parents and children (in addition to bring very practical).

    I love Janet Lansbury and agree with your thought provoking blog post; the words babywearing or babycarrying do not describe how wonderful wrapped cuddles are with your little one. Let’s come up with a new name for this treasured act of carrying our young (and expensive addition of buying gorgeous carriers and wraps!!) xx

    1. Jess Williamson
      4 years ago

      Thanks Amber, and thank you for your lovely words… It’s an interesting concept how much power our words and language can have around our meanings and interpretations isn’t it?! I am actively trying to talk more about “carrying children in carriers” as apposed to just saying “babywearing” but I really think it’s very interesting that we can have a discussion about other terms that might suit our own personal use better.. Hope you guys are well xxx

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