I’d like to share with you my experience with baby-wearing. I live abroad in a
developing country. Baby-wearing here isn’t a trend or a philosophy among trendy well-
educated moms; it’s a coping technique. It’s a matter of convenience and safety among
impoverished mothers and grandmothers (and the occasional foreigner like me!)
- In the city, where sidewalks abound and grandmothers are the primary caregivers while
mothers head off to work, babies just get out to have fun. While the sun is shining the
park is awash in strollers and sunbathing infants, but few people need to take their baby
to run errands. The babies are usually confined to a stroller, sitting on a lap in the car
(only trendy educated moms use car seats around here), or perhaps held snugly in
- In the countryside, however, babies are everywhere. They might be cuddled on to
grandmother’s back by two wide embroidered straps or sit enthroned in a wicker basket
that she wears like a back pack. The lithe older ladies even have a way to carry an
older child piggyback where they tuck both hands behind them, under a tiny tushy.
They can walk for miles (no exaggeration) with 30 pounds of wiggling kid behind them.
Babies and toddlers don’t have the stamina to walk down a mountain into town, and
it’s not safe for them to be wandering around a terraced field while their caregiver picks
vegetables. Wearing a baby here is a matter of safety and a way to accomplish day to
- When we realized we were going to be parents again, we thought carefully about
baby transportation. We debated between a sling and a backpack. Notice I did not
say we debated what kind of stroller to buy. That was out of the question. No cute
little grandma lives at my house. My husband and I work alternating schedules so if
groceries were to be bought, bills were to be paid and errands were to be run, they
would be accomplished with baby in tow.
- Around here even an umbrella stroller is a nightmare. Imagine standing in the rain,
unstrapping the baby, then picking her up. Now while holding the baby and the
umbrella, you get to take down the stroller and wrangle it into the trunk of a taxi. I don’t
think so! And the bus is even worse! If you have a stroller in one hand, and baby in
the other how do you intend to hold on when the bus driver decides play dodge the
pedestrian? We needed a good way to secure our girl safely to her Mama and we
needed one quick!
- We started with the sling, a breastfeeding go-to, then transitioned to the backpack
when she was weaned. I needed a way to keep our little girl safe now that she was
walking even running. Walking through the open-air market, you might easily slide
through rotting vegetables, dodge a fish flopping away from an eager shopper, or have
a narrow miss with a motorcycle carrying half of a hog on the back. It’s not a place for a
loose toddler! She rode on my back not only for our daily errands but hoofing it across
international airports and hiking through one of the world’s largest remaining areas of
protected rainforest. Back in America to visit, the idea of putting her in a stroller for a
walk around the mall seemed really foreign.
- So, the next time you’re thinking about “baby-wearing” remember it’s as traditional as
it is international. All over the world women are wearing their babies, not only for the
benefits to emotional health and the convenience of housework with baby in a sling, but
as a basic means of safe transportation. Take a moment and remember “modern” isn’t
always better. Then will you say a prayer for them? Pray that without the car seats or
even the cars that we take for granted, they and their babies will still be safe.
- I’m Helene Smith, a wife, teacher, mother, blogger and expat. You can find
me at www.maidservantsofchrist.com blogging about God’s relationship with
women in the world and in the word!