I don’t know about other metropolises, but getting around in London by public transport is a nightmare with babies or toddlers in tow. Most tube stations don’t have lifts, which is why you can’t really use the Underground network with a pram or buggy, unless you bring your other half or are happy to ask for help wherever you go. The trains are a little better, as long as you don’t travel during rush hour when there literally isn’t any physical space to put a buggy. And the buses, well theoretically you can board any bus with a pram, but if their pram contingency is already used up (not more than two per bus), you’ll be kindly asked to wait for the next bus and hope there will be space. If there isn’t, well you’ll wait some more. Back in the days when I used to get around with our pram and had to go to an appointment on a bus, I had to leave the house at least 20 minutes earlier, just in case I’d have to wait for a bus I’m allowed to board.
…And then there are the stairs. Ever stood in front of a shop realising you can’t go in there because there are stairs and no one around who could help you carrying up the pram? Yes, I am a lazy person and all this thinking, planning and giving up plans became a real annoyance after my first few months of motherhood. This is when I ditched the pram and put my baby into a sling. It was a revelation. I felt free as a bird; able again to go wherever and whenever I wanted to.
Not only was I able again to explore London without planning the trip in the evening before, also I have two free hands again. And I can carry luggage. I travel to Switzerland on my own with my daughter a few times a year, and I wouldn’t know how I would be able to carry my baby and suitcase to the airport with a pram, without spending forty quid for a taxi.
My daughter is 17 months now and aside from the practicalities of not using a pram, over the time I’ve realised that the benefits of carrying a baby/toddler go a lot further. Children in prams experience the world from another perspective than adults – they’re passive spectators, located halfway between the ground and where the action is. And if they’re facing forward in the pram, they’re not even able to maintain eye contact and study the face of their parent, which is what they’re most interested when they’re small. When carried, on the other hand, the child is on the eye level of the adult. She can experience whatever the adult experiences. Words and mimics can be exchanged much more easily, and, maybe most importantly, they get to interact with strangers. People waiting on the bus say hello to my daughter, the staff of our local supermarket love it to chat with her – basically wherever we go people talk to her. And when we go to the shops, my daughter loves handing the products to the cashier, followed by giving the money or pulling the credit card out of the machine. Playing an active part in life makes children happy and calm. Interacting with people helps babies and toddlers learn to understand the social aspects of life. And being physically close on outings helps parents and child (re)connect. Urban babywearing – the best thing that has ever resulted from my laziness.
Franziska Wick, BabyCalm & ToddlerCalm teacher