I have found that toddler wearing becomes more about team work, some collaborative cooperation. At the grand old age of 18 months Anna understands what I'm saying and can get involved in the process of carrying. There are still times every day when a sling is a necessity. The school run/the dog walk/the shops/sling meet...although ideally I would love to have all the time in the world (and patience) to live life at Anna's pace, it isn't possible and she will still get tired and need cuddles.
Being able to scoop her up and cuddle her close in a sling, offering a familiar place to be comforted and feel safe, is a wonderful parenting tool. Carrying can help our toddlers navigate this suddenly wider, bigger and much more complicated world.
So here are my top tips for toddler wearing...
and hopefully those who are going through a wrap/sling strike might find some help here...
1. Get them involved
Toddlers love being able to exercise their ability to choose and have their opinions listened to. If you're lucky enough to own more than one sling, let them choose which one to use. Anna loves to pick out which wrap. She also has her "jobs" when she's up in the sling. She presses the buttons at the pedestrian crossing, she uses my contactless card when we're shopping (much to the ammusment of people working in shops). And she likes to hold the ball thrower when we take the dogs out.
I will always let Anna know the plans for the next thing we are doing. This will include letting her know that soon it will be time to go up in the sling. It helps my little toddler feel in control of what's happening and that's a good thing for her.
3. Make it fun
We have a hanging rack for wraps and slings and when I head over to grab one Anna will quite often leg it, with a cheeky laugh. So we play chase. It's fun and she is happy to jump up after a little run around. We play games while she's up too. Lots of spotting dogs/birds, pretending to be airplanes, silly walking, reaching around and playing tickle monsters....
4. Make it special
It might sound a bit twee, but I will say to Anna "shall we have our special cuddle". Then we do a special "jump" when I get her high on my back in the wrap. And we count down to it (1...2...3... jump). Anna will quite often ask for a high five or give my shoulder a kiss. These little moments are really positive reinforcements of how lovely toddler wearing is.
5. Toy Sling
You can get some really lovely toy slings. These can be a great way to make toddler wearing fun and part of play time.
6. Spend time with others who are toddler wearing .
It becomes a normal, expected part of life. We hold monthly sling walks which are really fantastic. You will be so welcome to join us (and if you're not local see if your sling library does the same!).
7. Get down when they want to (at an appropriate time) or explain why they can't...
Another communication one. When we arrive home I will ask Anna if she wants to get down. And then I will get her down. If she asks when we're out, I can explain that I need her to stay in the sling (crossing roads/middle of a shop) for now but she can get down just as soon as we're at home.
8. Back carrying
This is a game changer for toddler wearing. Although its totally possible and ok to carry on your front, back carrying can be easier and more comfortable. Practise, practise, practise. You'll get it and be awesome. Grab a spot at a back carrying workshop.
9. Being comfy
Babywearing or toddler wearing should be comfy for both you and the child you are carrying. A sturdy wrap, a full buckle or something in between, there are so many options. The key is going to be choosing something that you can get nice and high and tight, meaning that your child's weight is evenly and comfortably distributed. A sling library will be able to help you try some out.
Another comfort factor is the clothing we both wear. I prefer stretchy leggins for Anna rather than dresses or jeans. I tend to stick to a uniform of long sleeve tshirt/tshirt combo or sweatshirt.
10. Haters gonna hate
I don't know if you've ever come across someone who just has to say something like"oh isn't she walking yet", "oh you're making a rod for your back", "she'll never learn to walk", "you'll damage your back"... In these moments I imagine my sling is like a shield of protection around us. These things people say don't matter. You are doing a wonderful thing for your toddler.
They do still need it
It won't wreck your back
You won't be doing this until they're at university
No it's not realistic to expect a 2/3/4 year old to walk everywhere all the time...
Foundations of love, not rods for your back 💜