We need a massive shift in the way we live our lives to achieve the results needed to rectify the dangerous path of climate change. I believe that babywearing, as a parenting choice, can be an eco responsible, and indeed plastic free option, which can lead to all sorts of other eco responsible decisions and can actually be part of what brings about that shift in the way we live our lives, that is so dearly needed.
Here are my thoughts on how babywearing can be an eco responsible, plastic free or plastic sensible choice, and how we can reduce, reuse and recycle our slings.
Connection, attachment, healthy brains and resilience.
Babywearing is, for me, ultimately about connection. It's about laying foundations of love. It's about building on your bond, because proximity (being physically close to your child in the sling) builds connection and connection builds attachment. Through secure attachments we have children who grow up with healthy brains, who are able to handle stress in a healthy way. Who are able to turn to us in times of trouble. This is life long in its impact, and will be even more necessary with the uncertain future we are facing. We need our children to be resilient and heart and mind healthy. (This is not to say that a sling is the only way of doing this, but is definitely a helpful practical tool to enable this, and help mitigate the pressure on parents to do this in the societal structure we have at the moment, where families are, in most cases, left on their own to figure it out, which isn't really how bringing up children is designed).
A note too on society and what it's telling us at the moment. We are told that we should have independent children from a very young age. Meaning our children are able to self settle, self sooth, sleep on their own and generally not need us and it’s seen as a failing by us if they do. But really we know that we need to be in this together. To solve the problems our world faces, this is a team effort. And so we want interdependencewith our children not independence - we're in this together.
“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.” Pope Francis Laudato Si (13)
“If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.”
Babywearing can give a sense of freedom. Freedom to go places of awe and wonder with our children (through the forest, along the beach, up a mountain, stargazing...). It can bring us to a place of connection with nature, because we can be out in nature in complete freedom, with our family. From which springs love, concern and a desire to preserve our natural world.
It gives us the option of saying "I can make this journey on public transport instead of using my car, I can walk this instead of using my car". Those newborn days where many babies hate the car seat, using a sling instead and ditching the car can be liberating. Win win. Its exactly what I did with Anna for her first year and a half. It meant I was free to travel around without the constant stress and worry because she was crying in the back of the car without me.
Allows us to fall down the eco rabbit hole.
Since joining (in particular) the online babywearing world, I have been introduced to so many eco ideas. Joined all the save the planet Facebook groups (who in the babywearing world hasnt heard of or shopped with babipur...) Cloth nappies might even be the next step which often comes hand in hand with those babywearing and entering into it as parenting life style choice.
Part of our power to change the world lies in our consumer choices. In terms of which sling to buy, we can consider the ethical and environmental standards of a company as part of our decision making process. I'd like to share with you something from one of our favourite companies.
“Integra ethics are fundamental. We ensure the exceptionally high standards of our products and carefully source all elements. We at Integra choose vegetable inks, recycled card/paper and carbon neutral couriers. Integra offers fair working conditions, proudly supporting our staff through parenthood and family life. All Integra carriers are made in Somerset, UK. We are continually mindful of our carbon footprint. Our packaging is intentionally minimal – resulting in light and compact packaging. We take our responsibilities to the environment, and each other, consciously.”
Once we've decided that babywearing is something you want to do, making a decision about which one to buy is massive. Firstly, please do come along to a sling library to at least try some on. Find ONE that works for you. Often, before a baby is born we hit the shops, pick up the cheapest carrier on the shelves, or a popular brand name carrier, and assume it'll be fine, because they're all the same right?? But actually you find that one is no good to you, and ends up in landfill as you replace it with the one you find by coming along to sling library.
So challenge me when you come to sling library, which slings fit the ethical bill...(star rating coming soon)
Try a woven wrap
The ultimate plastic free sling is going to be a woven wrap. And many companies are now producing wraps using organically produced fabrics and often using cotton alternatives (to avoid the high water and energy consumption of using cotton) such as hemp. And at the end of the babywearing life of a woven wrap it can be passed on or made into a family heirloom which can be treasured for years to come.
If a buckle carrier is for you, there is so little plastic in the carrier. Again with care, these can last for years and years, and can be passed around friends and family. Manufacturers are creating more and more adjustable carriers meaning they genuinely last from newborn to toddler. So no need for multiple slings. That's a consumption of product saver in itself. And see point 1. Babywearing is so good for us, baby, our family and the world, that a bit of plastic is worth it in my opinion. We can get so caught up I’m trying to make the “right” decision that we trip up. We need to remember the bigger picture here, and that is, babywearing is good for baby, us, our family and the world.
Reduce, reuse and recycle.
I think we have become very used to being able to buy whatever we like. Everyone owns what they want and need, even if that product already exists. And if you're at the beginning of your family, or your baby is very little and you've found a sling that is going to work for you long term, buying one is a great idea. But if you're needing a sling for a shorter period of time, or won't be reusing it, consider borrowing one long term perhaps from a friend or even hiring one from a sling library.
And if you’re going to buy one, consider second hand. Let's face it, there are many many slings out there. Often at bargain prices. Find the one you want to buy, hit the Facebook sales groups and buy a Preloved one. Which is going to look like what a brand new one will in a matter of days. (Check out our buying second hand slings guide here).
I would also challenge the desire to buy and own lots of different slings, especially if bought new. We need to change the rate at which we purchase things. To slow down the consumption of products. We do not need ten wraps, five buckle carriers, three ring slings and a sling in each car. We might want them and love them, but we don’t need them.
So even a day out can create a lot of need for a baby or small person. And so jumping in the car can seem like an easier option to carry all the baby stuff. But with a bit of careful planning, getting a bag that works for your chosen sling and living on a wing and a prayer that you really won't need 5 outfit changes, it can be done. My preference is to use a large over the body bag, in which I can squeeze in my phone, keys, purse, nappy and a drink. A rucksack is another great option for front carrying. Better still get one second hand in a charity shop!
Think through snack times and bring your own which can be plastic free
It's about ditching the convenience of grabbing a snack when out. I know that's hard. And organisation is not my strong point at all. But eating out is going to involve plastic, more than likely.
Similar to snack time, bring a water bottle. Especially important for summer babywearing when it's hot and we need to be really mindful or hydrating to be able to stay cool and avoid dehydration while carrying (which is going to be a bit hot and sweaty - nice).
A note on Exclusive babywearing.
It is entirely possible to exclusively babywear. What I mean is, if pregnant, and beginning a family, choosing a sling over a prom/buggy is doable. I do not have a problem with buggies, but they simply do have a higher carbon footprint than a sling. I have exclusively carried Anna for 2.5 years now. Partly because i don’t have room to store a buggy in my house right now, partly because I wanted to see if it could be done, and partly because I just love carrying her.
I want to end with one of my favourite quotes.
“There is no single effort more radical in it’s potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children.” Marianne Williamson
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