“I have a confession to make. I like my pram; sometimes I choose it over my sling. Does that mean I’m not a real babywearer?”
“I feel guilty if I pick the pram for days out when I know the sling is so beneficial.”
“I feel selfish if I use the buggy, but sometimes my body needs a break.”

Slings and prams and guilt often seem to go hand in hand; as if there wasn’t enough guilt involved in being a parent in the first place.

slings and prams and guilt

I hear phrases like these from time to time, and while I am delighted that these families have discovered the good things that come from using a carrier, I feel sad that guilt has started to creep in, and that divisions are developing. There is more than enough guilt in the world for parents; how they choose to feed, how they choose to dress their children, and now it seems, how they choose (or don’t choose) to carry. I am really keen to prevent any “mommy wars” regarding carrying from springing into life, so here are my answers to this sort of situation.

Carrying DOES matter. Carrying your child is an important and necessary part of the “fourth trimester” early months of life, it is part of the essential bonding (imprinting) process whereby attachment is created. Secure attachments with a loving caregiver are the bedrock of future positive mental health and the springboard into healthy emotional relationships in later life. For young babies, loving touch and holding are one of the major means of providing this sense of being loved and being secure. Few of us are able to resist the urge to hold our crying children, to provide them with relief and to be their safe space, it is instinctive in us. We should all spend a lot of time holding and loving our babies and allowing them to learn to love us back.

However, modern life is demanding and society encourages us to think that early independence is desirable; that children should not “hold us back.” It is important to care for all members of the family; baby, siblings and parents equally; and this is where using a sling can help. A baby needs to be carried; a sling will allow this to happen while life can continue around them. A sling can mean the childcare can be shared with other adults, a sling will allow a parent to get out and around without the need for lots of equipment.

That said, there are many ways to keep a child close without the need to use a sling 24 hours a day. In-arms carrying, cuddly play, breastfeeding, bedsharing, piggybacks, reading stories with baby on your knee and so on are all ways to be in close contact. It is indeed vital to keep up with regular close contact well into the 2nd year and beyond as our children’s brains are still learning about love and attachment – it’s an investment in their future mental health. However, once babies begin to take control of their own bodies and learn how to move they need the freedom to do so.

Prams and buggies are a perfectly valid, convenient and useful way of transporting your child around and there is no reason to feel you are disadvantaging your child by using one instead of the sling today, or depriving her of something, especially if she can see you and remain in communication. You can meet her needs for closeness some other way later in the day. There is no reason to “ditch” the pram if you find it helps you in your parenting. A pram is (like the sling) a tool for getting around and carrying things, and may be easier in many circumstances, just as a sling can be easier in others (eg public transport, busy shops, off-road exploring). There are many ways to carry other things when your baby wants to be up; special bags that fit around the sling.. or a buggy!! Many families use and love both types of transportation, choosing what will suit the situation best.

Some children may just prefer the space of the pram; this is not a rejection of you, but may just be an expression of their personalities or their wish to explore what they can do with their limbs. It may be that your little boy feels too hot in the carrier that you have, or just fancies a change! Your toddler may also enjoy being able to see the world from a different perspective. If your baby loves the pram and doesn’t want to go in the sling today (assuming of course it is a comfortable and well fitting one – see here if your baby seems to hate the sling), that’s just fine. You are being responsive to your child; there is nothing to feel guilty about.

Sometimes YOU may just prefer the pram over the sling, especially if you are feeling a little claustrophobic or touched out, or just tired. Maybe you have two children, or more, and the buggies are the best option!

We don’t live in the same supportive communities these days and it can be hard for one (or two) people to shoulder the load of responsive parenting alone 24hours a day, we all need a break sometimes. “Villages” of old would share the carrying/ feeding/ entertainment more widely, which provided a much better balance of life than many of us are able to find today. If you want to use your buggy, use it and enjoy it, you can cuddle your baby later (or you may have already used the sling today.) Do not feel guilty that you are not being the best parent that you could be.

Do not feel guilty if you feel you just can’t carry today. There is no such thing as a perfect parent and social media sharing doesn’t present a true picture of people’s lives; it can look like others are using their carriers hour in hour out, day after day from their photos, but these don’t show the in between hours or days where the sling is not in use (and the pram is!) Sometimes prams are an expression of our personalities too, just as the carriers we choose can be…

snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold

All safe and responsive carrying is good

; the sling you choose to use is not important, as long as it is safe and comfortable. A buckle carrier is as valuable as a mei tai or a woven wrap or stretchy or a ring sling. Even brands of buckle or wrap is irrelevant; what matters is that you and your child are together, in close contact, safe, and enjoying each other’s company, or sleeping in contentment.

If you are a sling user, this is a great opportunity to avoid creating a culture of guilt and judgement. The parents you see using a pram to quieten a crying baby may well have found this works better for sleeping than their sling. The mum you see pushing a pram in crowds may feel her baby is safer inside the pram than being bashed by passers by in a sling. A parent carrying a heavy toddler in their arms after a melt-down may well have chosen not to use their sling today. iIt is important to be kind and recognise that one moment is not a whole life, and we do each other a dis-service if we unintentionally spread the message that either prams or slings are superior, or if we stare and make comments about others that could be overheard.  All safe slings are of great value, and we should be cautious about what message we send to the new parents around us.

I’ll finish by reiterating that carrying IS important. We should all carry our babies and spend as much time in close contact with them as we can, be that in a sling, in arms, hand holding and so on. We should try to carry our children as much as possible, as there are many good reasons to do so. That does not mean that we should feel guilty if we choose to use prams or buggies as well, or if we choose to use one kind of sling over the other.

Oh, and of course it is fine to come to a sling meet/sling library session with your pram! And no, you definitely don’t need to feel embarrassed if you see me out and about and you are using your buggy!