"Babywearing holds me together."

Sometimes, the best medicine doesn't come in tablet form; it comes in the shape of ancient traditions, an understanding of biochemistry, and a piece of cloth. Here is the story of a woman I know, respect and admire. She has a very inspiring and encouraging message; about how wrapping helps her to cope with a complex mental health challenge.

Looking back now it seems naive for me to have thought I could get through pregnancy and birth mentally unscathed. In my early twenties after being sexually assaulted and going through the justice system I had massively struggled with my mental health as I tried to find ways to cope. But over the last few years things had been better, symptoms less frequent and life just that little bit calmer.

However that calmness was not to stay. Our first pregnancy ended in a missed miscarriage, and I can date the steep decline in my mental health to then. So much of what happened triggered the old stuff. When four months later we got pregnant again I knew I was in a bad place but couldn’t find the words to tell anyone.  At every midwife appointment I saw someone different. Without trusting them there was no way I could open up, and so things went on and things got worse. Eventually at 20 weeks things were really at rock bottom. I opened up to my Dr, who I trusted and who knew my history and through perinatal mental health ended up under the 1:1 midwife team. They  quite literally saved me. Though they didn’t and couldn’t, take away my mental health struggles they gave me the care that allowed pregnancy and birth to inflict as little extra damage possible. Together we even began to plan a home birth that had the potential to create a space for healing.

My son had other ideas!

At 33 weeks my waters broke and not long after, he arrived, breech and by c-section, leading to a ten day stay in hospital under the neonatal unit. With my brain where it was and adrenaline pumping through my body, oxytocin was pretty non-existent at his birth. We didn’t get to do any skin to skin for 24 hours and breastfeeding took weeks to establish as we initially fed by NG tube. There is so much I feel sad about around his birth, though I am also grateful that through the support of my midwife the birth had not traumatised me more. I also knew looking at my son that I could love him, something I had been worried about since we discovered we were having a boy. But I didn’t know how to love him, and I wasn’t in a place to do much but try and get through each day. 

I had always known that I wanted to use a sling with my baby. I live in a city where they are common and I like to go on walks in the hills. So a few days after we got out the hospital we booked a consult at our local sling library. 

With high amounts of care and patience the consultant showed us how to use a stretchy wrap and a soft Mamaruga Zensling (a buckle carrier that fits from birth upwards) and we hired both.

That day changed everything. It may have been two weeks after he was born, but I know it is that day when I really began to bond with my son.

The minute I got him in the stretchy wrap things changed. I didn’t know why at the time but at that moment I felt like things might be ok. I guess some might say it was the oxytocin finally arriving.

I just call it magic.

From that day on Z was a sling baby, he lived most of his life in that stretchy wrap carried by both me and his dad. It helped us in so many ways practically, but most importantly with my mental health.

To begin with it allowed me to just be with Z without worrying where my brain was at. If he was in the wrap, he was safe even if I was struggling. It also definitely calmed him and reduced his crying, this was a god-send for my brain which is constantly on hyper alert. With Z in the sling we could also get out into the hills which has always been one of my coping mechanisms. Most of all it allowed me to create a space where me and my son could be together without trying too hard.  

Breastfeeding infant mental health mother-baby dyad

That special space was the single most important resource I could find in helping me keep going onwards. It held me (and us) together.

As Z grew and grew he began to feel a bit big for the stretchy wrap. Though we had also hired a buckle carrier which was working well for us, I knew that losing the stretchy wrap and just using the buckles was not an option for me. I loved our buckle carrier, but the magic just wasn’t there in the same way. So one day when Z was about 4 months I tentatively approached one of the peer supporters at the sling library and asked if she could show me how to wrap Z in a  woven wrap.

If the stretchy had been magic, the woven was the same, just a million times over.

Tightening that fabric around me and him did something to my brain that nothing else had done up to then. Wrapping Z I feel calm. I hired one immediately.

It wasn’t just me appreciating the therapeutic value of the wraps. The psychologist I saw at the maternity hospital was surprised when I told her how much wrapping Z was helping me, she thought the close contact might have been overwhelming. She didn’t know about the magic (or the oxytocin…). She was happy though, because she had been working with me to try and find ways to keep Z safe when my brain shattered and wrapping him was now my number one defence! The wrap both protects him physically and mentally from what is happening to my brain. If he is in the wrap he does not know when I cannot respond, he just feels me there with him.

I fear as he grows and I can wrap him less he will begin to notice the times when mummy is ‘gone’. But for now a lot of the time the sling protects him from that, and for that I am so very grateful.

babywearing holds me together
babywearing holds me together

Z is now 9 months old. Slowly my mental health has got to a better place, but it’s still not back to where it was before I got pregnant the first time. I see many mountains I’m going to have to climb as Z grows and I’m trying to work out how to do that. I take each day as it comes, some are better than others. Most importantly right now I still wrap him everyday. And when things are really bad it is still that magic space I go to to help.  I also now use a half buckle meh dai when we are out and about. Its a great compromise for me as it has the quickness and easiness of the buckle carrier but still retains a little of that magic that comes from wrapping.

If you are reading this and also struggling with your mental health I want to offer something that might help. But I know for every one of us who struggles the challenges and the mountains we have to climb are different. I don’t know what exact things will help each person.

But if you are a new mother, or a new parent and you are struggling I really advise getting down to your local sling library and seeing if any of the slings they have there, wraps or otherwise, have some magic they can bring to you. 

We have to start somewhere and for me I can’t think of anywhere better than in that special space with your child that a sling creates.



Thank you for sharing your story, my friend. It’s my hope and belief that as we share our experiences and tell our stories of how we climbed those mountains and conquered those challenges, we give hope and encouragement to others. We heal in community, not in isolation.

babywearing and mental health