Sisters share a babywearing tradition
We recently sat down with Maggie Shaffer, who talked to us about the babywearing tradition that became a part of her family culture when her daughter Hazel was born 11 years ago. Maggie has three children, now 11, 9, and 6, who she carried in a Maya Wrap sling. Recently, she bought herself a new sling for carrying her newborn niece, Annie.
Maggie and her sister are 16 years apart, and Maggie has fond memories of when her then-13-year-old sister, Auntie Allie, would use her Maya Wrap sling while babysitting. Now, eleven years later, Allie has given birth to Maggie’s first niece. “Any time I hold a baby, I wish I had a sling to put the sleeping baby in,” Maggie says. “If I’m sitting on the porch, if I have the baby in a sling, I can easily move to another place when the sun is in my eyes. Or if I’m holding my niece so my sister can eat a meal without the baby in her arms, if I have a carrier, I can eat, too.” Maggie bought herself a new Maya Wrap to use with her tiny niece, and she suggested that her sister buy one, too.
Maggie’s sister had originally purchased a wrap-style carrier for herself when she was expecting her baby, but she felt it was too complex, “and it didn’t have the pocket,” Maggie explained. “When you’re out, and baby goes to the bathroom, it’s great to have that diaper in there and lay your sling down in the grass to change their diaper. I can easily fit three diapers, a little pack of wipes, and two pacis into the pocket of the sling.”
Maggie’s love affair with the Maya Wrap
“My Maya Wrap saved my life with my first baby,” she said. Baby Hazel, like most newborn babies, wanted to be held frequently for comfort, for breastfeeding, for settling into sleep. “There were so many times she took her naps in the Maya Wrap while I was able to walk around and get things done,” Maggie explained. “The Maya Wrap gave me way more independence with her.”
It wasn’t just Maggie who carried Hazel in the sling. “My husband used the Maya a ton,” Maggie told me. “He would go grocery shopping – he would throw the sling on, grab the baby, walk down to the store, and come back with groceries, and I’d get a break. He’d even do chores with the baby, like yard work.”
And, of course, Hazel’s aunt used the sling, too, when she was babysitting, which is where Maya Wrap slings first became a family babywearing tradition.
“I’m a plus-sized woman. The Maya Wrap fabric is light and breathable, so I didn’t overheat when I wore it,” Maggie told me. “And when I had my second baby, Hazel was a toddler. With the sling, I could chase my toddler down the driveway with two arms free to pick her up, and I could move faster with the baby in the sling than if I was carrying him in my arms. I could prepare her meals without waking the baby.” Even though her second baby didn’t need to be carried as much as her daughter, Maggie told me, they still used it often.
Adventures in Babywearing
“One time, we took a train trip in Colorado, to go into the mountains. It was convenient to have the sling and feed the baby on-the-go, discreetly, on the train.
“Being able to breastfeed in the sling gives you so much flexibility. You don’t feel you have to hide or cover up.”
Maggie told us her Maya Wrap has also attended many weddings and events with her. “When my baby was still young, still breastfeeding, I wasn’t ready to leave her. With the sling, I could bring her and she could nap right on me. There was no need to pump and store milk, and she wasn’t disruptive.”
Maggie especially loved the pockets during outings. She gave the example of visiting the zoo: “No stroller, no diaper bag, just the sling. My diapers and wipes and a few extras fit right into the zippered pocket in the tail.”
Camping with the Maya Wrap
When Rowan, the youngest, was two months old, Maggie and her family took a fishing trip to Canada, 8 hours north of Ontario. “There are a lot of little lakes and not always roads. We park and then boat to camp. The water is mostly calm, but sometimes we can hit cross-waves and it can cause the boat to jump a little. It is much safer for me to have Rowan in the sling with two hands to hold onto the boat. If I was holding him in my arms or he was in a carseat carrier I’d be worried.”
In addition to making it easier to travel to the campsite, Maggie said babywearing made everything about the adventure easier. “There’s a lot of bedrock and really no flat ground. It’s nice to have to have to carry a seat and a stroller, not to have to balance a bucket at a campfire on uneven ground. It is just easy to have him in the sling.”
Using the sling outdoors made it easier to keep the bugs off the baby, too. Maggie sprayed her sling with permethrin, which bonds to the fabric once dry and doesn’t transfer to the skin. In this way, she didn’t have to use a DEET product to protect her baby – and as they don’t always have easy access to showers at the camp, she tries to avoid spraying products on their skin whenever possible.
Carrying On the Babywearing Tradition
Now that baby Annie, Maggie’s niece, has arrived, it’s exciting to think about where the sisters and their children will take their babywearing tradition from here. Perhaps, in a few years, Annie will have a sibling whose cousin Hazel will carry her in a Maya Wrap sling just like Annie’s mom, Auntie Allie, used to carry Hazel when babysitting for Maggie.
“I’m so grateful I learned about baby wearing from my sister 10 years ago,” Allie says. “The last thing I want to do is sacrifice baby cuddles to get chores done, and with my Maya sling I can do both at once. This way Annie never gets ‘left behind!'”
Do you have your own babywearing legacy story? We’d love it if you’d tell us in the comments!