In our last post we discussed, how not only parents can benefit from babywearing, but other caregivers as well. Today´s blog is an interview with Katharina, one of our interns in the German Tula office. She is a former au pair and shares her experiences with babywearing.
Please explain to us, how you came to have experience with Babywearing, when you do not have any kids of your own?
When I graduated from high school, I was unsure what I wanted to do with my life. One thing I did know was that I didn´t want to go from being a student at school straight to being a student at university. I decided to take a gap year and become an au pair in the US. I stayed with a wonderful family and took care of 3 little boys. The youngest one was only 4 months old when I arrived. My host family used a baby carrier for all 3 kids and introduced me to the world of babywearing and showed me how to use a carrier. Soon I figured out what a game changer a carrier can be.
How did Babywearing help you with your daily life?
Handling multiple children can be tough. You want to pay the same amount of attention to all 3 children, but that´s not always possible. My little guy went through some phases, when he was very fussy and demanded to be held for hours. It was a huge relief to be able to carry him in the baby carrier, while playing with the other two kids. Then I wouldn´t have to tell the big kids “oh I´m sorry. I´d love to do puzzle with you, but I´m busy taking care of your baby brother.” Also preparing dinner and other daily tasks are so much easier when you have both (free) hands.
Did you have doubts or worries when you first tried babywearing?
The short answer is yes. Whenever I´m taking care of a baby, a part of myself is honestly terrified of doing something wrong. Little kids have no other way to communicate but cry. Especially when you don´t know the baby well enough, it´s difficult to interpret what they are trying to tell you. Are they hungry, thirsty, tired, looking for attention or are they hurting? When using a carrier for the first time I was scared of setting it up in a wrong way and hurting little one as a result. As an example, I was afraid I would accidentally make the straps too tight, so they would squeeze the baby´s legs. It really helped a lot to have my host mum show me how to properly adjust the carrier, so it could fit me and the baby. She ensured me that when you carry your baby the right way, there´s nothing to be worried about.
Is there any occasion or outing with the baby carrier, that is particularly memorable to you?
One of our favourite places to go on free afternoons was the nature reserve close to my host family´s house. On most of the trails it´s not possible to use a stroller. So I packed all our stuff (food, water bottles, nappy changing things, baby food and my personal things) into my backpack and strapped the little one to the front of me. The two bigger kids were very active and could easily walk for two hours in a row. I cannot imagine what it would have meant for me to either carry the baby in my arms for this amount of time or to have to try to push a scroller through the mud. That would have been no fun. The boys´ favourite part about our extended walks were those little wooden obstacle courses, they have on side of the trail. Here I could (thanks to the carrier!) easily hold hands, when the wood was slippery, and even walk across some of the obstacles myself. As my little one got older and started walking, I got to appreciate having a baby carrier even more. He was now able to walk for a part of our hike by himself, but not for as long as his big brothers. So I encouraged him to walk by himself until he got tired. Then I got the baby carrier out of my backpack and carried him for the rest of the way.
Do you have any advice for other caregivers?
If you are working for a family and they own a baby carrier, go ahead and ask if they can show you how to use it. Even if it turns out that babywearing is just not for you, it´s worth giving it a try. There are so many benefits to carrying your baby.
When the family you are working for doesn´t have a carrier, you can always encourage them to look into the possibility of babywearing. There are so many great resources, like sling libraries, where they can learn all about the topic. Maybe you have tried babywearing in the past at a different job and can share your experience with this family.
What is the biggest benefit of babywearing to you?
In 2 words: Free Hands. And the ability to spontaneously go out to discover a new place without having to worry about the route not being suited for your stroller. Instead of spending time researching on whether the place you want to go to is accessible by stroller, you can spend that time with your children. I think kids are a great gift, but with them you have a lot less freedom. You are no longer just responsible for yourself, but also for the little, fragile creature you created. It might sound cheesy, but to me a baby carrier gives you back some of that freedom.