A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Jack Wearing: My Baby Wearing Story

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder babywearing her son.

It wasn’t an accident that I became to be called The Badass Breastfeeder. I have always had a reputation for being tough, cool and ornery. I never pass up an opportunity to flip someone off, tell a creepy dude at a bar to go fuck himself or put a coworker in their place when trying to manipulate me. As a social worker I have been known as a fierce advocate for my clients, not afraid to disagree with a lawyer or judge and I have executed many manual restraints with aggressive teenagers while wearing a pair of high heels. I have always been a social and outgoing adult. I have always had a lot of boyfriends and a huge group of friends. I have never been one to snuggle up one on one. I’m not much for cuddling. I have never enjoyed holding hands. I have always known this about myself. I am not ashamed of it and it never occurred to me that I would ever think that much about it. It’s just something that my friends and husband comment on and laugh about.

While planning for my baby’s arrival the first thing I wanted on my registry was the Baby Bjorn. I thought it was so cool to see babies strapped to the chest of their parents. You could strap the baby on and strut around and show off. It had me written all over it. Once Jack was born I used it a couple of times to limp my way to Starbucks. (You know that feeling after delivery of so much pressure that you imagine all of your insides are going to come pouring out of your vagina?) He usually fell asleep. I didn’t use it long because it killed my back. I heard other Moms talk about the Moby so I ordered one. I loved the way it looked. I thought this was going to be the start of something amazing. After I struggled through the graduate courses it took to learn to get it on I enthusiastically put Jack in it. To my surprise he started fussing. Like the good new Mom that I am I freaked out. I quickly took him out. I kept trying, but he kept fussing. I was so sad that this was not working out as planned (I was still too new at this to realize that nothing works out as planned and you will end up working a million times harder than you thought and need to do some serious self-reflection on your own life to figure out how to proceed).

I came to the conclusion, as many new Moms do, that he didn’t like being that close to me. The Moby held him much closer to my body than the Baby Bjorn. I thought he didn’t like being smashed right up against my bare chest. Well, I fought through breastfeeding and so I thought I would use that same tenacity to fight through this as well. I decided that each day I would put him in it for a few minutes to get him used to it. So each day I would strap him on and go for walks and bounce around the house and pat his behind. I was so anxious during these times. As soon as he fussed I worried and squirmed around trying to find a new position in hopes that he would settle down. I watched the clock and waited for the minutes to go by. Sometimes he would get so fussy that he would just break down into tears. Then I would take him out.

Strangely enough he would stop crying when I took him out, but he wanted me to pick him up. He was happiest with me holding him on my hip, no carrier, just me and him. This was beautiful and all, but my arms were getting very tired and he was only getting bigger and fast. It didn’t feel right to put him down so I struggled through my day one-handed. I learned to cook like this, straighten up the house, and get dressed. It seemed smoothest to have him in my arms off to the side on my hip. On walks he seemed happiest to be in his stroller and doze off.

I started to attend La Leche League meetings where the leader told me that I could carry him facing out once he could hold his head up. She said that he might fuss less in this position. I was very excited to hear this because I had read some articles stating that the face-out position was not good for baby. I carried him this way a few times and he did seem to like it better. Meanwhile I was on another mission to learn as much about baby wearing as I could. I learned that in fact this face-out position is not ideal for young babies. It leaves them overstimulated and unable to see Mommy. The position leaves their legs to dangle putting pressure on their spine, hips and crotch. I learned about how carriers such as the Moby and Ergo (to name just a couple) were made to keep baby’s knees higher than their butts (relieving that pressure), the fabric spreads all the way to the backs of their knees for support and they are much more comfortable for Mommy.

As I did this research I also learned that baby wearing was not just a cool way to carry a baby. It is actually another way to bond; to form attachment between Mommy and baby. I learned that baby wearing is as old a practice as human beings and is practiced all over the world. I learned that I had been misreading Jack and his dislike for the carrier. The truth is being close to me, very close to me, was exactly what Jack needed and wanted. The truth about baby wearing is that these babies cry less. Premature babies that are worn gain weight faster and Mommy helps regulate their breathing and heartbeat. Baby is stimulated by Mommy’s motion while being worn. Baby wearing helps Mommy gain confidence as she becomes more in tune with her baby’s needs and cues. Mommies that wear their babies have less postpartum depression. Daddies that wear their babies are more in tune with their babies. And it’s convenient for taking care of chores and doing recreational activities and navigating a crowd.

So why wasn’t I seeing this with Jack? Well, remember all those boyfriends I didn’t want to cuddle with? I once again had to dig deep. This closet I keep thinking is finally cleaned out is bigger than I thought! Jack likely became upset in the Moby because he felt me become anxious. It was likely me that felt uncomfortable with him so close; with that level of intimacy. I had never held anyone that close to me before. Now here I am trying to hold my baby to my chest. It felt wrong, too close. So my initial reaction to his fussing was to chock it up to him not liking that closeness either. It’s funny now to think back at the things I told myself about my baby. “He needs to self soothe,” “he doesn’t like to be so close to me,” “he much prefers to face outward” “he likes the stoller, he can nap in it!” I thought of my baby as a grown adult with extreme likes and dislikes, with the need to take care of himself, with a set of sophisticated tools to get through his day.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder babywearing her son.

Jack likely didn’t fuss in the Baby Bjorn or on my hip because these were not as close and did not make me anxious. As fast as I learned this about myself and baby wearing I bought an Ergo. A purple Ergo. It’s oh so pretty. Then I took a deep breath and brought Jack in real close and haven’t let go. The stroller is dusty and people at the zoo look at me crooked, but I know that this is right for us. I know that I am growing leaps and bounds as a mother and a woman. I have never held someone this close to me and I am just fine with that. If I could get him any closer I would.

Choosing baby wearing is a tool for bonding and attachment. Your baby’s brain is developing at the speed of light at this early age. The closer he is to you, the healthier this development. If you choose to practice this, which I highly suggest you do, keep these things in mind. 1. Make sure your baby can breathe. 2. Knees above butt while seated in the carrier. 3. Fabric should spread from knee to knee. 4. Use common sense. If it doesn’t seem safe it’s not!!! You can learn more at www.babywearinginternational.org.

Abby Theuring, MSW