Anyone who has read my blogs, or who follows my Facebook page will know that my babies are not babies anymore. My ‘carried baby’ is now 3 but he is carried almost daily and over recent days has been carried even more than normal. A combination of the heat and not sleeping very well (probably also heat related) has meant Isaac has wanted cuddles with his Mummy and Daddy just that bit more. I have no qualms in carrying him when he needs it or when it makes my life that bit easier.
There are plenty of 3 year olds who are still transported by their parents in a pushchair, and also countless who get a piggy back or ride on a carers shoulders. Why should being carried in a sling be a seen as any different? All babies, no matter how old need and want that security. The research has shown that those who are carried develop secure attachments which helps promote brain development and independence. Anyone who witnesses my two boys running off to play in the park or cycling so fast I can’t keep up will know they are not clingy; they are secure in the knowledge that I am there and that they can explore.
You can imagine my disgust at a recent photograph that has been circulating on social media of a Mum carrying her 5 year old while out shopping. Although uncommon, carrying my 5 year old in a carrier is something I do on occasion. The photograph was secretly taken by a shop assistant and then shared on her Facebook profile shaming the mother for carrying her child and pushing her baby in a pushchair. This photo has been shared in several groups I am a member of and has attracted attention from around the world. One post on Netmums Facebook page had over 300 comments when I last looked.
There are several reasons why I dislike this photo and why I will not share the photo itself in this post; although you can read more about it and see the picture here. Firstly the photograph was taken and shared without permission by an employee as she worked. Who thinks this is a good idea? And why did she have her phone with her anyway? Secondly, the comments she wrote in attributing the photos were full of hate and disgust. It is nobody’s right to question how I or the mum in that photo parent our children. Finally does it really matter if the 5 year old was having a carry. Would the shop worker have snapped a photo the mum if she had her little girl on her shoulders or was giving her a piggy back? Exactly what is the difference here? The only thing I can see was that she was being carried in a standard size sling (a Tula Baby Carrier) rather than a specifically made toddler or preschool carrier. But the Tula has been tested to use to 45lb, (my 5.5 year old doesn’t weigh that), so there is nothing unsafe about carrying an older child in a standard sling as long as within weight limits and comes sufficiently up their back to stop them falling out and this sling does.
Carrying our big kids is clearly something lots of the mums and dads I work with do. Our toddler and preschool carriers (weight wise many go to 24kg which is way past preschool) are some of the most popular I have. People hire them for holidays, long walks, day trips and sometimes just so they can have a cuddle without having to hold the full weight of their child; ideal if you have disabilities or medical conditions for example. I asked the patents in my Facbook group to share their stories and their photographs in celebration of their big kids. Here are just some of their stories and reasons to carry their big kids.
Firstly we have Jeni and her little one, she said that sling cuddles are important because:
“Hands free, slingy cuddles are still great at 26 months and totally beats a buggy in city centres. This is us in NYC last month.”
“tired and grumpy and needed a rest.”
Jillian carries her 4 year old when needed, although on this day trip Daddy got the duties and his back saved his arms.
“We still wear our almost 4 year old because sometimes little legs get tired when we’re out on adventures and nothing beats a Daddy (or Mummy) slingy cuddle (and it’s loads easier than carrying her in your arms!!) “
Sarah T said one of the reasons why she carries her older child is because “They say they definitely want to walk. They don’t want you to take the double buggy, then they get tired….and other times it’s just a lot safer in large crowds. I don’t want her to be trodden on, or possibly worse, to escape!” Surely that is a good enough reason to carry our children.
One of the most common reasons we found were because our big kids were poorly. Here is Becky J’s husband carrying her little boy (3.5 years in the photo) because he was unwell with chicken pox and wanted some fresh air. In this photo they are using a standard size baby carrier (an Ergo Baby Carrier) just like the mum was in the photo which prompted this blog.
Thank you to all the mummies who shared photos and their reasons for carrying older children. I hope that the person who took the original photograph to criticise a mum just going about her normal business will realise that #carryingisnormal no matter what the age of our babies, after all no matter how old our children are they will forever be our babies. I have collated some of the other photographs in this video.