What if I Don’t Want to Wear My Baby?

My babywearing journey with postpartum anxiety

I was excited to try out the stretchy wrap I had painstakingly researched. I watched a video, I got my newborn baby on securely. We were super cozy, he was happy. We went on a nice walk on a beautiful spring day and when we got home I could not get him off of me fast enough. I pushed the feeling away, I ignored the sense that something was wrong, I must have just been hot.

I had been waiting my whole life to have a baby of my own. I was the 2 year old who covered up trucks with blankets, the 8 year old who played with nothing but baby dolls, the 13 year old families trusted with their newborns, I was the college aged nanny who read parenting books and magazines, professionally I was a NICU nurse who cared 1lb preemies, THIS is what I had dreamed of my whole life.

Image of a white woman wearing oversized black sunglasses.  She stands inside a very large greenhouse wearing her baby in a yellow ring sling.

I had so many expectations of how motherhood was going to go, I had dreamed and planned, researched and read about taking care of the baby, but I had not prepared to take care of myself. I was not prepared to have him come 3 weeks early when I was not yet ready, I was not prepared to have breastfeeding struggles, I was not prepared to not love every second, and I was not prepared for a baby who was not going along with my plans.

In my life I had always been able to work harder, do more, find a way to make something work out, but working harder was not working, working harder was making me feel worse.

My mind was racing, I had no appetite, I was compulsively cleaning and researching about breastfeeding and I was really struggling with the constant touching, which is why babywearing was challenging for me while in the depths of this time.  I loved my baby and wasn’t depressed, but something was wrong. I found support, I learned that I wasn’t alone and I started medication and therapy. 

When I think of our baby wearing journey, I realized how much it was linked with my recovery from postpartum anxiety. Like all other aspects of parenting I had to lean into my child and myself and find a compromise for our specific relationship.  

Image of a white woman with her hair in a ponytail. She sits in front of a window with a snowy landscape beyond.  Her baby sleeps, worn in a front carry in a black soft structured carrier.

The memory of the day pictured above is forever etched in my memory.  Fussy baby, better but still anxious mom who was obsessed with cleaning the house and was frustrated that baby wanted to be held and I just couldn’t accomplish what I wanted to do with a baby attached, so I just STOPPED and embraced the push that forced me to stop.

This was a shift for me and I learned to embrace babywearing as a tool, but also embrace my own personality and stop trying to be someone I was not.  The journey through parenthood is all about discovery. Learning who this little person is, learning more about yourself, finding the balance of how you all fit together in a family. As much as I wanted to dive into the world of wrapping, I had a fiercely independent, active little boy who was not patient with my learning curve.  So we embraced ring slings and buckle carriers for easy and quick up and down, but still played with wraps when everyone was in the mood. We went to meetings to just see friends and talk and I stopped feeling inadequate for not being able to master a double hammock or parent with a baby constantly connected. I was also forced to learn more about my own need for space and boundaries; accept my need for time alone.  Wrap naps don’t work for me unless entirely necessary. I need a break from the physical touch as much as I need the quiet time. We found our groove, our happy medium and still fully embrace babywearing for transportation, cranky days, snuggle days and just for fun.

Image of a white woman standing outside under shady trees, a small river seen behind her.  She wears her baby in an orange wrap worn off center with a ring at the shoulder.

For some, babywearing is a complete lifesaver.  I have heard from many moms who got through their own perinatal mood or anxiety disorder by wearing their child and that is wonderful.  For others they just never find that it is a good fit for them. For most, it is one of many very valuable tools that help with connection, bonding and survival.  The babywearing community has given me so much more than just knowledge, it has given me another opportunity for personal connection to other caregivers and for that you don’t need any specific expensive tools or knowledge you just need to show up and create your own village.  In my experience babywearing groups are incredibly open and accepting of all caregivers and if you want to join along with your stroller and a beautiful wrap as a blanket, they would love to have you.

Image of a white woman standing indoors wearing her toddler on her back as he leans in toward the camera.

If you think you might be experiencing a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder please reach out.  Postpartum Support International has a helpline and you can find local resources on their website.  https://www.postpartum.net  PSI is not a crisis line.  People in crisis should call their physicians, their local emergency number, or one of the National Emergency Hotlines listed.  

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 or National Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741741

Brunette woman is sitting with a newborn in a brown ring sling with a windmill print, she has her arm around her smiling brunette toddler.  Emily Winters is mother to 2 boys and a former NICU nurse turned lactation consultant after her own journey with breastfeeding struggles and maternal mental illness.  She has a passion for helping families find balance and support during their parenthood journey.

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