I have a confession. I advocate for babywearing, I teach baby wearing, I work at a baby wearing store, and I help parents find the right carrier for their needs, but I only have one baby carrier. Just one. I have had a total of 6 carriers in my 11 years of babywearing, but I've never used more than one at a time. A few of the carriers were gifts, one was an emergency replacement for a sling that was lost, and one has been on loan for 2 years (I should just make it official and gift it to them). But for the most part, I have used one carrier day in and day out for years at a time in all sorts of activities with babies ranging from infancy to preschool.
When we had our oldest, Rachel, 11 years ago, I knew that I wanted to baby wear but products were hard to find. My mother-in-law bought us a Baby Bjorn at our request and we were very thankful. It was way out of our price range.
Rachel lived in the Bjorn for the first three months of her life, at which point I listened to my aching back and bought a ring sling for $20 that I found at a local farmers market. It was made out of quilting cotton in a red and gold pattern with thick white plastic rings, and a box pleated shoulder. I wore Rachel every single day in that thing until she was 2.5 years old and I was six months pregnant with her younger brother. We took the bus, did groceries, went on an 8 hour plane trip with it, we went to play group and the library and for long walks. It served as a sunshield, a play blanket, a changing pad, and a makeshift highchair seat. It saw us through the excruciating depths of severe post-partum depression. Even when I wasn't able to make eye contact with my baby, I was able to carry her in my arms and close to my heart every day, all day until I got help when she was 13 months old. Some days, wearing her and nursing her was all I was able to do for her.
When Samuel was born, he went right into the same ring sling that had carried his older sister, after a lovely peaceful homebirth. It took us to CHEO at 24 hours old, playgroup, shopping, he slept in the sling while I made crafts and cookies with Rachel. A friend at playgroup once remarked that she had never actually seen him because even at 6 months old, he had always been asleep in the sling whenever we were there. Carrying my baby in my trusty sling allowed me to focus on Rachel and keep our little home and family running smoothly. Samuel was born in the depths of a very cold winter, so I bought a cheap men's down parka three sizes too big for me and it allowed me to keep Sam and I covered and warm while I took Rachel to the bus stop or outside to play. This worked just as well the next two winters when Sam was 12 and 24 months. It wasn't flattering, but I decided that warm was chic. At some point, I forget when, I misplaced our red ring sling and quickly realized that I couldn't function without one. By this time, baby carriers were easier to find and I knew that my local health food store carried a new local brand, Maman Kangarou, in their baby section. I found a handsome sling in a grey and blue striped slightly gauzey fabric, for around $30. Money was extremely tight, perhaps even more so than when our first was born, but I knew from experience that this was a very smart and worthwhile expense. I think I skipped buying meat that month to compensate. Of course, I found the red sling about a month later, but I preferred the fabric of the new one, so the red one became my backup and it stayed in the car.
I stopped carrying Sam in the sling sometime around his 3rd birthday. Around that time we also discovered that I was suffering from secondary infertility and part of my coping mechanism was to get rid of a lot of baby things. So, both slings went in the donation box at St. Vincent de Paul. I could have sold them, but I wanted another mom to be able to access them at the lowest possible price. I knew that they were both still in very good condition and would serve another family well, and I didn't need the $10 that they would have sold for.
When Samuel was about 4 years old, we were happy and surprised to be expecting another baby. I had given away or sold my old slings, crib, stroller, change table, baby bath tub, carseat. The only things I replaced were the sling and the carseat. I bought a Maya Wrap Ring Sling.
We welcomed Nicholas, all 5lbs of him, a wee bit early and at a time when Rachel was in school full days and Samuel was in half days, so I was at the bus stop in the winter with a low birth weight baby three times a day. I just popped him in the sling, and put my rain or huge winter coat over top of him and off we went. It was so easy. A friend gave me a fleece pouch as a baby gift and it was very cozy, but didn't get used much as it was hard to adjust. I gave it away recently.
When Nicholas was a few months old, I realized that I wasn't in my early 20s anymore and that carrying him in a one-shouldered carry for more than an hour was starting to give me headaches. Nothing else had changed. I was using a ring sling just like I had with the other two, but it wasn't working as well this time.
So, I tried on all the soft structured carriers that were available in the city and decided on the Manduca because it was the most comfortable and fit my long, skinny four month old who couldn't yet open his hips enough to sit straddling me. The infant insert in the Manduca was exactly what he needed, the zip out body accommodated his long infant torso, and the long waist and shoulder straps fit my 6 foot tall body the best.
I bought the Manduca when Nicholas was about 4 months old and just 10lbs. He is now a month away from his fourth birthday and 31lbs. He hasn't asked to be carried in about two months and I think that our baby/toddler/preschooler wearing days are coming to an end. In his first year, though, the Manduca was used probably 4-8 hours a day, and about 8-12 hours a week in the second and third years. He didn't nap anywhere else, ever. We were a much busier family and I loved how quick and easy the Manduca was. It was so easy to strap him on and do chores or the groceries, or pick up the big kids at the bus stop. It took us on hikes at Mer Bleu, berry picking, apple picking, museums, camping, farmers markets, and Canada Day. Nicholas always had the best seat in the house, and I always had two hands for the big kids or the activity. The Manduca was always comfortable for me, and I never had to fiddle with it to get it just right. Those first years with Nicholas were some of the most stressful in our marriage, for other reasons, and I needed to not have to think about unnecessary things too much. When I had to leave my 12 month old with a caregiver for the first time, I was able to show her how to use it and she napped him in the carrier when I was gone. It helped him feel secure and cared for regardless of who was carrying him.
I am not someone who accessorizes very much. I have a sort of 'uniform' that I wear most days (leggings, tunic, scarf, tall boots in winter, sandals in summer), I wear pretty much the same make-up everyday, and I am happiest when I have a schedule. I like not having to think about too many things every day, and I like not having to make too many decisions. I like when things run on their own, when they just work. The Manduca, and the ring slings, filled a need in my parenting tool box and what worked best for our family was to not mess around with a good thing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
After I bought the Manduca, I stopped using the ring sling very much. I loaned it to a friend when her third baby was born and she needed her hands free. It's been at her house for almost two years, I think.
So, while I have had more than one carrier, you can see that I never really used more than one at a time. That was partly because of our budget and partly because of my personality. We all parent differently, use different tools and prioritize different things. This is a good thing. It's fantastic that we have the freedom to do so, and that we have access to great products to help us in our parenting. I made the best use of both my financial resources and personal resources, and I saw it as a good thing that I didn't have more at my disposal. I have learned to embrace simplicity through my parenting, and to focus on the relationship. I have learned to listen to the whispering in my ear, and to love someone else's drool dripping down my back. At 11 and 8 years old, I can calm and center my older children by holding them next to my left hip which is where they spent their first two years. When Nicholas wants a hug or a cuddle or to play, he jumps on my back, which is where he spent his first three years.
So, yes, I have one carrier. I tell parents every day that its not complicated, to follow their gut and that there is no wrong way to babywear.