A Babywearing Story…

15 years ago I was a teen mom. I was lost. I was 16 and now I had this baby. She was brand new and it felt like a clean slate. Panic set in when I realized this life didn’t come with an instructional manual. This LIFE was in my hands. Her first cry, I panicked. “What do I do?!” “what does she want!?’

She wanted to be held close. I had so many things to do. I began to feel overwhelmed. I felt the baby blues coming in heavy. My mom gave me a baby carrier. I knew I wanted a carrier but I wasn’t sure how I would afford one. It didn’t seem like a necessity. My mind immediately changed when I strapped the carrier to my body. The sway of my body put her right to sleep. The room felt calm. My anxiety went down and then I realized…. I WAS HANDS-FREE! That set in motion so much for me. Just that day I felt I accomplished so much. I was able to do dishes, cook, and finish my essay for school. I also noticed my mood changed. I wasn’t crying as much, I felt happiness. It felt like the world was opening up to so many possibilities. I credit Babywearing and breastfeeding with helping me survive motherhood in high school. I was able to finish two years ahead of schedule. 

My story isn’t uncommon. Babywearing has helped families all over the world hold their babies and get things done. Babywearing is an ancient practice of holding your baby with a cloth in order to continue to live life. It also has been accredited with helping with the bonding of non-birth parents with their babies. Adopted families regularly use Babywearing to facilitate that bond between parent and baby. There are circumstances where chest feeding isn’t possible so Babywearing is used in place of that. 

The act of holding your baby promotes oxytocin. It is called the bonding hormone. It is a chemical messenger released in the brain in response to social contact, but its release is especially pronounced with skin-to-skin contact. It promotes bonding and creates the desire for more hugging holding and loving. It is recommended to wear naked baby topless for the first 6 weeks for skin to skin. This allows for the parent to be hands-free and mobile if they choose to.

When breastfeeding, babywearing assists in the production of prolactin because of skin to skin. The baby is close to the breast and is sending messages of “I’m here and I’m close. Give me milk.” The fatigue a nursing parent is feeling is from the prolactin hormone. This hormone is produced to promote milk for the nursing parent and fatigue so that the nursing parent has no desire to do anything except nurse.

Babywearing ensures that baby is in tune with their mother. As your baby lays on your chest, your heart synchronized. Beat for beat, breathe for breath.   Each movement the wearer makes ensures that the baby learns to regulate its own movement. It stimulates the baby’s own physical responses and exercises their own vestibular system. The wrap essentially acts as a transitional womb where baby can learn their own bodily movements and functions. 

Black Babywearing Week was created out of the necessity to see Black faces in this Babywearing industry. Black Babywearing Week was created by 6 Black women, Diamond Redden, Nikki Potter, Shaylene Costa, Nashira Bennett, Julianna Bradford, who wanted to celebrate Black folks in the Babywearing community. Babywearing is a rooted ancestral practice in the Black community. Babywearing is a practice indigenous folks and Black folks made a staple in the Americas. The practice was bought here as a tool for our survival. Just like we nurses white babies as enslaved folks, we also wore them on our backs. It is important folks recognize and acknowledge the history! 

While Babywearing was created out of a need for our ancestors we have taken that and flipped it. There are numerous types of carriers, different finishes, and all types of patterns. Never forget the importance of Babywearing is told to hold your baby and bond. This is a short time in your life. This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Let’s get back to our ancestral roots and create some magic. 

Diamond Redden

Diamond Redden is the Co-Founder of Black Babywearing Week and Mammissi Birth Servies, a WOC-based doula company. She is a mother and doula, and a holistic healer.