Ellie Jo is a well traveled baby. Ok, yes, she made a cross-country trip and then a trip halfway around the world before she was two months old. But she also travels every day.
For the first two months of her life, Ellie Jo wasn’t quite sure which way was up. We were in the States visiting family and none of us were exactly settled. Baby picked up on this and she never wanted to be out of our arms. She slept on my chest every night. She took her naps snuggled up in the Moby wrap. She was always being held by a grandparent or uncle or auntie. The only time she wasn’t held was when she had to ride in the car. Oh how she screamed during each and every car ride.
Now that we are settled back in Rwanda, wearing Ellie Jo serves a totally different purpose. She is a happy, adjusted three month old. She loves social interaction and exploring the world around her. Wearing her facing forward in the ring sling (pictured) is the easiest way to keep her involved. She loves going shopping and running errands because there are so many people to meet. Everybody stops to pinch her cheeks and talk to her. She soaks up the English, French and Kinyarwanda and smiles at everyone.
When nap time rolls around I tie her into our mei tai carrier. She falls asleep in minutes and I go on with my day. The only time I have really felt panicked since her birth was once when we were out at night and I thought I’d forgotten the mei tai. I knew that I could sooth her to sleep in my arms, but comparing that to the ease of putting her in the carrier…it made me realize just how much I depend on it. She’s asleep in the mei tai as I work on this blog post.
I purchased all of my carriers in the States and that seemed to surprise Americans. They assumed it was a lifestyle I had picked up from living in Africa. Then, when I returned to Rwanda I was told by a Ugandan friend, “Did you know that the women here carry their babies on their backs?” I smiled. Women with babies on their backs wave me down when they see me wearing Ellie Jo. We compare our sleeping babies.
When I was shopping for my carriers this summer I decided to try looking on Craigslist and at consignment stores. Just about the only carrier that I could find at those places was a “bag” style sling. They were bulky and uncomfortable and I thought that it was no wonder they were in “like new” condition. Parents rarely part with comfortable mei tais, ring slings and wraps unless they find their carrier stash is just too big (it happens!).
Around the same time, media outlets in the States began reporting that all carriers are unsafe because of tragic deaths in those (now recalled) “bag” slings. The CPSC issued statements warning parents of the danger and many parents are now confused about this “dangerous” trend of babywearing. How unfortunate that a single poorly made product is casting such a long shadow over a variety of carriers and lifestyles.
Babywearing is a worldwide phenomenon. It creates a connection between my mothering and that of the mothers around me. Cultures around the world appreciate that the safest place for a baby is next to her mother’s heart. I hope that this appreciation can continue in America as many people work to raise awareness of the safety of babywearing.
In the meantime, Ellie Jo will continue to earn her “well traveled” title as she, step by step, travels the world.