Louis in the Ergo
Tommy, Lila and Louis in various Ergos; Alex and Esther in the Mobys
Sophie in the Bjorn
Back home, if you fancy carrying your baby around town instead of pushing it in a buggy, your hands-free options are pretty limited. There's basically the Baby Bjorn or the Baby Bjorn. A few daring souls might try the Kari-Me, metres and metres of stretchy material that supposedly wraps around the body to create a kangaroo-esque pouch for your prized cargo, but are unlikely to make it further than the corner shop before dashing home, scared of their baby plopping out on the pavement.
But in America, land of opportunity, the baby "wearing" options are a different story. I had only to go to my first nursing group at the local breastfeeding centre to have the entire gamut of baby slings paraded before my jetlagged eyes. There was the Moby, the Maya Wrap, the Mei Tai, the Peanut Shell, the Hotsling, the Ergo and, yes, the Bjorn. Then there was the circular discussion over the merits of one baby carrier over another. One particular group of Moms would have the same conversation each time they met about the evils of the Bjorn versus the Moby. Or was it the Ergo versus the Maya Wrap? I forget.
Baby carrying over here even has its own Mom 'n' Pop philosophy: "attachment parenting", which says that babies who are "worn" non-stop feel more secure and loved than other babies and are happier and cry less as a result. And which sleep-deprived new Mum wouldn't buy into that?
Me for one. Yup, when it comes to obsessing about carrying babies, I am, I readily confess, as guilty as the next Mom. I might have been hopelessly disorganised before Louis's birth, but the one thing I knew I wanted was the Ergo, in part because a friend had recommended it and in part because I was desperate to avoid the ubiquity of the Bjorn. Pre-birth, I read and re-read my Babygami book (a present from G'ma P), which was full of different ways to concoct your own baby sling from the nearest tablecloth or pashmina. John's sister sent me a Peanut Shell from California and I even walked to Borough Market (and back) nine days after my C-section, to borrow a Kari-Me from a friend just so I'd have all my sling bases covered. And yes, I also had, and used - and even liked - the Bjorn.
So when an online storm broke out here this week about a painkiller maker mocking Moms for wearing their babies as fashion accessories and doing untold damage to their backs in the process, I felt the Momosphere pain. The ads, for Motrin, claimed women "put up with the pain [of baby wearing] because it totally makes me look like an official Mom". The ads, which aired during International Babywearing Week, have now been pulled. Meanwhile, I've "worn" Louis round DC for the past three days straight. Does my back hurt? You bet, but five months into Momhood and I've, like, totally learned that there's literally no gain without pain. And in this case avoiding Louis's mid-afternoon stroller squawks by toting him around town has to be worth it.