Every year, families around the world get together to celebrate ‘International Babywearing Week‘. What is it, you might ask? And why the need to celebrate what is actually something simple: carrying your child? Is there anything novel about that?
For thousands of years, women carried their babies everywhere: in the house, at work, outside… It was the best – and possibly the only way – to keep them safe and warm. Then it became usual to place babies in various contraptions away from their mothers – from buggies to car seats, rocking chairs, cots, even walkers. As usual with these things, you might have noticed that the tide is turning. More and more parents (re)-discover that it is practical and convenient to carry their baby. And it is actually a good thing.
Parents can be at a loss to understand their newborn. Why is he fussing? Is he hungry, tired, does he need a clean nappy? Carrying your baby close helps you understand his signs much quicker, establishing the early foundations of communication and satisfying his needs before he gets to the full-on cries. A much nicer experience for the whole family.
The extra cuddles and closeness give the baby just the reassurance he needs to transition from the womb to the outside world. It can be bright and noisy out there but snuggled up against mummy or daddy’s chest, it’s alright. The closeness allows baby to sense his parents’ reactions much better and gradually makes sense of his experiences.
If you have to be separated from your baby for work or other reasons, carrying him closely in a baby sling while you are with him – perhaps on the way to nursery – is a good way to catch up on closeness. It is also true for working fathers who might not be able to see their little one as much as they want during the week. A baby sling is not just for parents: try lending a baby carrier to your childminder and show her how you use it. She will be able to comfort your baby throughout the day even if she has other children to care for.
‘Babywearing’ is not just for newborns and babies. There are numerous child carriers who have been designed to fit toddlers. They allow you to carry your child right up to about 20kg (45lb). You can help him catch a nap on your back in the middle of a busy day, or encourage him to walk independently knowing that if he gets too tired, you can pop him on your back. A baby sling is a good way to keep young children safe in busy surroundings – at the market or when you’re travelling on public transport for example. Perched on your back, they have a good view of their surroundings (probably less scary that if they were much lower on the ground, surrounded by what must surely seem like giants!).
So why celebrate International Babywearing Week? Because parents all around the world are choosing to parent their children a different way, a way that suits the whole family. Because carrying their baby or their toddler in a comfortable baby carrier allows parents to live the life they want to live with their child.
To find a babywearing event near you visit: www.babywearing.co.uk
This blog post has been written by Oliver James, psychologist, Guardian columnist and author. His books include ‘Affluenza’ and ‘How Not to F*** Them Up’.
Here Oliver describes the subject matter of his latest book ‘Love Bombing: Reset Your Child’s Emotional Thermostat’ – having had the benefit of trying Oliver’s Love Bombing technique with my own son, I can heartily recommend this book if you are struggling with your child’s behaviour.
Nine year old Tim hated himself, he told his mum Marianne he was ‘rubbish’ at everything and became more threatening towards his talented older sister.
Marianne was at her wits’ end, having tried everything suggested by her son’s GP and teacher, including a stricter punishment regime. My advice was to try the opposite – a technique called Love Bombing.
It entails giving your child a very intense, condensed experience of feeling completely loved and completely in control. It works best with children aged three to the onset of puberty and can be applied to depressive children such as Tim, as well as classic cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or when a child is aggressively defiant. It also works well for shyness or academic underachievement. But there does not have to be any ‘problem’, it would improve the well-being of both parent and child in almost every case – over 100 parents have done it (put ‘love bombing oliver james’ into google to see thousands of threads).
Interestingly, a significant number of the parents who found it useful had used strict routines with their babies or toddlers. They reported feeling that the Love Bombing seemed to reset their child’s emotional thermostats as well as enabling them to parent in a more loving and effective fashion (for a more detailed account click HERE and for my view that strict routines with babies are harmful click HERE).
The child is told that they are going to have a period when they can do whatever they like, within reason. during this time, they have the exclusive attention of a parent. the child is in charge of where they go and what they do, including meals and bedtimes, and told he or she is loved, along with lots of cuddles, as often as possible. The period can be 48 hours, a single day or shorter bursts. Whatever the duration, the experience needs to be rekindled daily for half an hour for lasting effects.
Perhaps surprisingly, children are more willing to accept boundaries afterwards. the opposite of stricter discipline is often what is required when a child is playing up. they are feeling needy and deprived, loveless and powerless. Give them an intense period of feeling loved and in control, and the neediness and anger dissolve.
Almost all the arents who have done it report a more biddable, calmer child. parents who have been sucked into a nagging, niggling pattern become more authoritative.
Marianne took Tim away for 48 hours to a hotel. he chose it and they spent time watching TV and messing about. a week later she said, ‘it definitely worked. so far we haven’t had any major unhappiness.’ eighteen months on, the self-loathing was extinguished. tim recalled, ‘the best bit was just being alone with my mum.’
As part of a professional couple Marianne could afford a hotel. but dozens of parents have found ways of doing love bombing that require little or no cost.
It might sound like just spending ‘quality time’. this is something entirely different. Going that extra mile into the love bombing zone can save you a huge amount of grief – and it can be a whole lot of fun.
To learn more about Oliver’s Love Bombing technique visit www.lovebombing.info.