A few weeks ago I was Facebooking and came across the cutest image of a new celebrity couple happily and lovingly carrying their newborn down a New York sidewalk. Shockingly, the article accompanying this picture was devoted to how selfish, ignorant and basically evil these parents were. Their crime? Using a forward-facing baby carrier. Gasp. Unfit parent alert.
Not only did the article declare these celebrity parents “inadvertently cruel,” but other users also jumped on the bandwagon and, as often happens with the parenting/social media combination, many mommies eventually turned on each another. “You think it’s OK to wear a crotch carrier?” “You are uninformed and irresponsible.” “If you want to deform your child, go ahead and wear him forward facing.” “When your child has hip dysplasia and spinal abnormalities, don’t come crying to me.” I mean, these mothers unleashed the HOUNDS on each other over slings. Slings, I tell ya!
From Bjorns and Ergos to K’Tans, rings slings and mei tais, I know my way around a sling. I have used more types than I care to count. I think I was always convinced I would find one that was easier, cuter, cooler, or more comfortable than the ones I already had. Or maybe I just like new things. Regardless, my son was always a snuggler and liked to be kept close and would stare up at me, adoringly, when worn. Just the other day, he said, “Mom, if you were a kangaroo and had a pouch, I would have you carry me all the time.” He’s almost five, mind you, and I believe him.
On the contrary, my daughter has never been cool with baby wearing or slings. In fact, I think she was just never cool with being a baby period. She is still throwing elbows and wriggling out of snuggles and holds. She was born to be free and has places to be. That being said, I wasted a lot of money on my awesome Galaxy Grey Ergo that I lusted after while pregnant. My daughter spent maybe a total of 10 (twisty, turny, and fussy) hours in it over a year’s span. Try as I might, she just didn’t like to be worn. Carried? Yes. Nursed? Indeedy. Worn? Nope, especially not with Mommy all up in her grill. That is until the powers that be led me to a carrier my daughter did like (which was not a sling at all): a nameless, lightweight (thankfully), hiking carrier I got at a yard sale for $10. It was padded, snuggly and high profile, so she was on my back and eye to eye with the adult world- just where she has always wanted to be.
While I am obviously all about researching topics to exhaustion, being educated and informed, and doing what is best and safest for babies, I am also all about allowing others to do what is right for them without judgment, disdain, or downright rage. I am also all about easing the ever-increasing stress American parents feel about raising their children the “right” way. Have you seen the movie Babies? If a parent in Mongolia can tend to the herds outside while chickens roost on her baby inside, your kids will be fine if you go to Starbucks with your baby in a forward-facing sling or take that extra minute to shave your legs in the shower.
Regardless of how you feel about baby-wearing, when did it become okay to determine a parent foolish and incompetent because you disagree with the way they do things? We should never pretend it is acceptable to take any parent’s beautiful and proud moment on a sidewalk and desecrate it with our opinions and ideals. While we should gently caution and advise one another if something is harmful or dangerous, we should also support and respect one another and our right to parent in our own unique way. If we continue to tear each other apart, chances are we will be more damaging to each other then any sling is to our children.
Our goals should be to safely carry our babies and to kindly carry each other as we grow into parenthood.