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Babywearing Lightens My Load as a Parent, and Gives Me More Freedom to Care for My Children
PHOTO BY Anna Patricia Rodriguez-Carranza
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    “Oh, asan ang mga anak mo?” (“Where are your kids?”)

    This is a phrase I would often hear at my workplace. People would be surprised if I came in without my kids. You see, it’s been three years since I started babywearing.

    Sometimes, I think my colleagues would fail to recognize me if I don’t have my “baby in a bag.” Whenever people stop to greet me, I think they are really greeting my kids. They would recall how one used to be so small, stuck “in a blanket on my chest,” and now I have one little girl running and another one on my “front pack.”

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    Babywearing over the years

    Fast toddler backcarry using QB woven wrap after a long day of missing my toddler (this is my first try and I need to improve tightness).
    PHOTO BY Anna Patricia Rodriguez-Carranza

    Babywearing might be a new term for us, but the practice of keeping babies physically close to their mothers has been around in traditional societies. In fact, one theory suggests that babywearing—the sling, in particular—helped our ancestors survive as the sling helped the mother become mobile while protecting the vulnerable offspring.

    Long before modern carriers, babies were worn using pieces of cloth found at home. Towels and blankets came in handy. In traditional societies, babies were even worn using cradles and baskets!

    Today, caregivers have a lot of safe babywearing options to choose from, most of which are made from textiles such as cotton, bamboo, or linen. One just needs to do thorough firsthand and secondhand research. It can be as simple as a long piece of woven wrap or sophisticated as a soft-structured buckle carrier with little pockets.

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    What I love about babywearing

    Yes, you can use your wraps and make a secure hammock.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Anna Patricia Rodriguez-Carranza

    There is much to say about babywearing. Some say it has become an “expensive” industry — something that babywearing moms like me can attest to. There are also issues regarding safety, ergonomics, and how it affects the physical development of the child. There are talks about cultural appropriation and other attachment parenting practices closely connected to it, such as breastfeeding and safe co-sleeping.

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    With all the issues surrounding babywearing, what I can speak most confidently about is how it has helped us level the field between husband and wife.

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    1. Babywearing helps us become closer to our kids.

    Newborn wrapping and toddler carrying: 4 days after giving birth to our 2nd child, my husband and I had to go back to the hospital for our newborn's BCG shot. After this, we went to the grocery for a quick errand.
    PHOTO BY Anna Patricia Rodriguez-Carranza
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    Babywearing has been the greatest equalizer in our family. It has helped us raise our children without the need for a mainstay nanny. Although there are times that we leave our children with extended family members, most of the time, our children stay with us—with me, in particular. I have never stopped working and studying even through pregnancy and childbirth, except perhaps for a few days after giving birth.

    Babywearing is just a part of the entire philosophy that our family decides to live by every day, and that is gender equality. The Philippines is still a largely patriarchal society but little improvements happen. Women are still expected to be the primary caregivers and having a career outside the home is difficult, especially with the lack of dependable childcare options.

    Although inequalities are still present, women in the Philippines are given more opportunities to pursue studies and explore a career outside the home. I consider my workplace, where I am currently finishing my Master’s thesis, to be somewhat child- and family-friendly. With babywearing, I am able to teach my students while attending to the needs of our child, especially when it comes to feeding concerns. (While feeding bottle-stored breastmilk worked for our first child, our second child refused it.)

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    Breastfeeding while on a tour!
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Anna Patricia Rodriguez-Carranza
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    2. Babywearing makes teamwork between husband and wife possible.

    Traveling out of the country is possible and convenient with our baby carriers.
    PHOTO BY Anna Patricia Rodriguez-Carranza
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    My husband also participates in childcare. I take over our children’s needs when they are awake, and at night, after dinner, he takes over the kitchen work. He wakes up to attend to the toilet and feeding needs of our two kids.

    There are days that I would feel most of the physical toll on me, considering that I carry an additional eight kilos while going about work. (Sometimes, I even have to lift two kids, especially when both fall asleep due to a long commute!) But I must say, I am a lucky wife.

    It might be less romantic than most movie-type relationships but I get all the extra help a housewife needs. For example, at times when my work requires heavy concentration, say, while writing my thesis, my husband takes over most of the domestic work without batting an eyelash. Also, we collaborate not only inside our home but also at work, specifically in the field of music education and values formation.

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    3. Babywearing helps us travel more conveniently with our kids.

    My children and I ride a tricycle on the way to school (where I also teach).
    PHOTO BY Anna Patricia Rodriguez-Carranza

    When it comes to public spaces and transportation, there are courtesy lanes and areas that accommodate PWDs, senior citizens, pregnant women, and adults with small children, although there needs to be more consistency in implementation. Babywearing has helped us get through the daily commute in Metro Manila and even outside the Philippines. While it is not the safest option when riding, it has given us mobility, especially when people do not honor courtesy area assignments.

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    “Hindi ka ba nabibigatan? Buhat mo siya buong araw.” (Isn’t she heavy? You carry her all day.)

    People often ask me variations of this question. They ask me how I can carry my baby while balancing my bags, or why I do it in the first place. It’s because with babywearing, my husband and I are practically on equal footing: I can do the things I want and need to do without sacrificing my time away from our children.

    When I am not babywearing, I feel the weight that is lifted from me, literally. I realized this on the first day that I left my children at daycare — I was free! I basked in the freedom of walking to my workplace seconds faster than my usual pace, almost tiptoeing in delight. But then, even with additional kilograms every time I go to work, I am still thankful that I am still able to work, study, and go to some of the usual places I visit.

    To me, my children are my “beloved burden,” a term I borrow from Itie Van Hout’s book, Beloved Burden: Baby-Wearing Around the World. As a family, we consider the weight of our options. Bringing our children with us through almost everything, figuratively and literally, has slowed us down, but made us thoroughly think every step we make. From standing tall to bathe in the blinding heat of the sun, the weight has helped us stoop down to rest in the cool shade of the trees. My husband and I always have our children’s best interest in what we do so, together, we lovingly carry them along the path until they need little help to create their own map.

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    Doing errands around the University with a newborn (don't worry, morning sun!).
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Anna Patricia Rodriguez-Carranza

    This piece was submitted by SmartParenting.com.ph reader Anna Patricia Rodriguez-Carranza and first appeared on her blog, “Mama, Atbp.” Edits have been made by Smart Parenting Editors.

    Anna divides her 24 hours between full-time housework and childcare, part-time teaching and studying at the University of the Philippines, and extension work with the Philippine Society for Music Education. When not (procrastinating on) writing her master’s thesis, she writes short snippets on motherhood on her Instagram, @mamaatbp and longer ones on her website, or does philosophical musings with her husband, Z.

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