Carrying your child in a sling or carrier has many well documented benefits yet it often seems that society is still playing catch up. Parents using slings report experiencing negativity from friends, family and even complete strangers. Being judged for a choice you are making for your child can be hard, especially if that choice feels right for you.
Why the negativity?
When deciding how to deal with negativity to your choice to carry your child in a sling – or any parenting choice- it can be useful to consider why they feel the need to express the negativity in the first place. The vast majority of comments fall into these two categories:
1) That is not what I did/would do and I feel judged or think you are weird
Regardless of whether you intend to judge someone else for not carrying their child, some people will allow their own insecurities to coax them into putting down your choice. Remarks from these people are often phrased in a ‘I could never do that’ or ‘It never harmed mine to go in a buggy’ way.
2) Lack of understanding
They simply don’t understand why you want to carry your child. Sometimes people react with ridicule to something that unfamiliar to hide their lack of knowledge. ‘Look at that woman with two heads!’ or ‘Can’t afford a pushchair?’
What can you do?
When you are approached in a way that feels negative try to examine whether the intent was to cause upset. Is this a misunderstanding; a case of ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome? Is what they are saying intended to be harmless, but coming across as judgmental? Take a step back to see if this helps you to gain an insight into the situation rather than going into defensive mode straight away.
If you have established that it was not merely a poorly phrased or insensitive remark, you can then decide whether and how to respond. A stranger passing in the street may not be worthy of response; it does not matter what they think of you. However, a negative remark from a family member can have a much bigger impact.
Tried and tested responses
These are some tried and tested responses to negative remarks. Choose the one that suits you and your situation best or have fun making up your own!
‘I love carrying him; it makes both of us happy.’ The truth and nothing but the truth. There are so many reasons to carry but this is the most important and it is one that people should be able to accept.
‘Carrying her is so easy. I wish slings had been so easily accessible when you had babies.’ This is great for those who you feel may have wished they had carried their children. It works in two ways. It gives an excellent reason for carrying and it empathises with them.
‘I am sure carrying him has made him so much more confident, just look at how he loves to play with his train. Would you watch him whilst I make a drink?’ If you feel that the person expressing the negativity is worried they won’t get to interact with your child, this can redirect their attention. Please note, using this technique with a child who will scream when you leave their sight is probably counter productive!
‘Carrying her is great exercise and I have never been stronger.’ A concern for the parent’s back is often borne from an inability to understand how a soft sling distributes the weight evenly over your body. They can’t imagine themselves being able to comfortably carry a child as heavy as yours.
‘Have you seen his latest trick? He can blow bubbles!’ Sometimes its not worth arguing or trying to explain. A non-confrontational way to move forward is to focus the attention on your gorgeous baby. Regardless of what they think you are doing what you believe is best for your baby and you are in the ultimate position to make those decisions.
A huge thanks to Anne McEwan: Babywearing consultant and educator.for this guest post.