At about 2 months old, in a Hotsling*, in a cradle hold position.
Labor began during the first snowfall of the winter of 2005 in New York City. It was five weeks early, and my husband was away on business in Florida. I had the beautiful, natural birth I was hoping and preparing for, and my husband made it back in plenty of time. But those early days and weeks were challenging. Our son was healthy, but tiny at 4 lbs, 1 oz. There was a brief NICU stay, and lots of "experts" were suddenly part of our lives, well-intentioned but nipping away at my confidence and internal wisdom. Our baby seemed like a fragile, bird-like creature when we brought him home. I felt awkward holding him in my arms, and, as is common with many preemies, breastfeeding did not come easily. I was in a constant cycle of nursing, pumping, bottle-feeding, repeat. I was one stressed-out new mama.
Babywearing is what turned the tide, renewed my power as a mother, and helped me bond with my son. Fortunately, I had researching babywearing during my pregnancy, and knew about the world of slings and carriers, even made contact with our local babywearing group. It was led by Bianca, now co-owner of MetroMinis. I sent a desperate email out to them after the birth, and a member - Marina - was dispatched to my home (her then 3-year-old in tow), to show me carriers and watch me nurse. She offered gentle help, guidance, and friendship, and I could feel a shift begin.
In a tummy-to-tummy position in a Kangaroo Korner fleece pouch
The first carrier that really worked for us was a Kangaroo Korner fleece pouch.* I put my tiny baby in an upright, tummy-to-tummy position, and we were both snuggly and comfortable. I had felt ridiculous pushing him in a big stroller contraption; he seemed too small and I was too anxious to want much physical distance from him in those early days. In the fleece pouch, I didn't even have to bundle him in the oversized outerwear we had on hand. I simply zipped a down parka over the two of us.
Freedom. Mobility. I was thrilled to realize I could travel all over New York City on subways and buses with my son in slings. And I did.
Around six weeks, I attended my first gathering of the babywearing group. I remember watching the other moms nursing, seeing how comfortable and easy it was ... and another shift began for us. I held my baby the same way. We were exclusively breastfeeding - no more pumps and bottles.
Then I started using a stretchy wrap carrier (mine was a Cuddly Wrap, which is similar to the Moby Wrap). I had initially shied away from it, thinking it was too complicated or unwieldy. Turns out it was easy to tie. I was even more comfortable with this two-shouldered carry. I could do anything while wearing it - prepare dinners, comfort him, put him to sleep, and go about my business at home and out.
I didn't worry about my baby anymore; I felt his every breath. I knew what I wanted for him, myself, and our family.
There were more carriers to come. I was in love with this way of living. And they are still a big part of our lives now: five years and another child later. But I hold those early days very close to my heart, and I am grateful for them.
Thank you, Leigh, for inviting me to write this story, and for inspiring so many mothers to babywear!
Around 5 months old, in our Cuddly Wrap
*Unfortunately, both Kangaroo Korner and Hotsling are no longer in business.