Reclaiming My Heritage By Babywearing

When I first got pregnant, I never imagined that I’d want to wear my baby. Did I want to have an attachment to that baby and bond with him deeply? Yes, of course, but I never thought about how a piece of material would change my life for the better then and even now as I write this.

My babywearing journey started in 2011 after the birth of my oldest. I was gifted a stretchy wrap at our baby shower and so I read the directions and pulled up a YouTube video and learned how to wrap my baby. I remember being so satisfied with it and being able to do laundry or make myself lunch while having my baby content and close to my body. When I had my second baby, it was much the same. We used the same long piece of stretchy material and I wore him as well. I needed free hands to play with my oldest and so babywearing was a godsend in those moments. I even borrowed a more structured buckle carrier and wore my second in that style as well. I was beginning to pull back these layers of babywearing and it all felt right. My third is where things began to really take off. I remember wearing him in the stretchy carrier, but then I won a ring sling. A bright yellow ring sling with white dots (I still have it). A dear friend of mine came over and taught me how to wear him in it and the rest was really history. 

I began to research more about wraps and about the different carriers at my disposal. I quickly realized I didn’t have the money for this hobby, but I also knew I wanted to learn more. My friend who taught me to use the ring sling mentioned a local babywearing group that met once a month where I could try different carriers and material. Sign me up. I think my third was six weeks old when I went to my first babywearing meeting and all of my hunches were correct. I loved babywearing. I loved the instant zap of oxytocin I got when my newborn was snuggled against my chest. I loved being able to smell him and kiss his curly haired head. What I didn’t know is that this was just the beginning of really finding my way in my own world as well.

Soon after those first meetings, I began helping out people that needed to wear their babies and was offered a volunteering spot in the babywearing group. I soon after became certified to educate caregivers on the benefits of babywearing and show them how to efficiently wear their babies on their bodies. It was (and still is) so rewarding. Not only was I expanding my own knowledge, but I was helping caregivers to connect with their babies in different ways. My third was probably worn a majority of his first and second year and I’m not exaggerating. He was a baby who needed touch constantly and not in a negative way. He never cried and was so happy, but needed cuddles and touch to feel comfortable in his body. We later learned that he was (is) Autistic and so looking back I’m so glad that I had babywearing to help him regulate his body. I always wonder what signs we would’ve seen earlier if he hadn’t felt as secure on my body. 

As I got deeper into the world of babywearing, I started to research African carrying methods. I knew that my ancestors were one of the first to practice attachment parenting in the form of body carrying, but I wanted to know more. I had done a genetic spit test and found out that I was mostly West African and that brought me to learn more about “backing”. I quickly got a Kanga and started to practice with my third. It was like a part of me was unlocked. I used to feel like I was playing a part when I wore because I never saw people like myself wearing their babies. From there, I found groups like Babywearing While Black on Facebook and I found a whole community of Black caregivers wearing their babies unapologetically. There was no box I had to fit in to wear my baby. I didn’t have to have an expensive carrier. My ancestors literally used large pieces of wax fabric. I felt so connected to my heritage, something I’d not had growing up. 

When I had my 4th baby, he was up within the first 24 hours. Having him on my body not only helped him through his hardest days, it also helped me. I could imagine my ancestors carrying their babies and it helped me to navigate the early weeks of postpartum. I was able to also call on my village to help me and I don’t think I would’ve done that if I had had connected so much to my heritage. They used their villages to support them. 

Today I am still babywearing, but I have more of a focus on teaching. I consult people so they feel as confident as I did when I was first babywearing and found another way to support my baby with my body. I don’t think I’d be as confident as I am today if it wasn’t for babywearing. Babywearing saved my sanity at times, which in turn saved my life.

Babywearing connected me with my roots and confirmed what I finally figured out later in life…that I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams. Babywearing is for me and it’s my birthright.

Kaytee Crawford

June 6, 2022