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Vegan Babies and Toddlers

One Mother at a Time
by Mary Eileen Finch

Babywearing: One Mother at a TimeMom what are you doing? We don't need anything from this aisle," my daughter questioned. I smiled down at her and said "It's just a shortcut," as I turned the cart while trying to see above my massive, pregnant belly.

I wasn't in a hurry. I had seen someone I knew and by habit had turned away to avoid engaging in small talk. No, I'm not a snob—though that's something I'm mistaken for a lot. The truth is that I'm terribly shy and feel really awkward around people. I have trouble making eye contact. Saying just a few words to another person makes me sweat. The thought of speaking in public almost makes me pass out.

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However, after the birth of our third child, my life changed. I discovered the amazing benefits of babywearing. I wore my son everywhere; we shopped at the grocery store in a wrap, we walked around town in a mei tai, we ran errands in a pouch, we danced to music in a ring sling. Every time we went out I would keep my eyes peeled for another babywearing mother, desperate to find another woman to discuss slings with. It never happened. Instead I got strange looks and insulting comments.

"Your baby looks really uncomfortable in there."

"Why would you mess with that thing when you can just leave baby in the car seat—you know they make car seats to fit in the shopping cart nowadays."

"That's ridiculous. I'd never let my baby control me like that. My baby knows it has to stay in the car seat."

I complained to my husband and he replied, "It's not their fault, no one ever showed them how."

I thought about that and decided that someone needed to teach them. Hopefully someone would do it soon—all those sad looking babies whimpering in their car seats at the store bothered me.

A friend sent me a study that mentioned that American babies are held only an average of three hours per day! That did it; I could no longer hide behind my fear of public speaking while babies were out there trapped in plastic containers because their mothers knew no other option.

"I'm going to start teaching free babywearing classes!" I burst out to my family. My husband raised his eyebrows in disbelief and admiration. My eight year old daughter jumped up and asked if she could help. My seven year old son gave me a hug in sympathy. My baby boy snuggled down deeper in his wrap with a contented sigh.

I made the necessary arrangements with a local pregnancy center for my first class. I printed out an outline, washed all my slings and headed off. I drove around the block three times before I got the courage to park, walked up and down the sidewalk before going through the door, and finally made it inside the classroom where I faced a room full of mothers. I'd like to say that it went perfectly, that all the mothers couldn't wait to use a sling, that my words flowed like satin.

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But it wasn't so. I was so nervous that I could barely talk above a whisper. I stuttered, mispronounced words, and dropped a baby doll that I was using as a demo. I forgot half of what I wanted to mention and kept losing track of where I was in my outline. I read a lot straight from my papers, too scared to make eye contact. No one asked any questions, a few mothers walk out, and everyone looked bored. "I can't do this!" I screamed to myself. "It's too hard and no one seems to care."

After the class while I was packing up my slings a young woman hesitantly walked up to the table, a newborn baby sleeping in her arms. "My baby screams if I put him down. Will one of these help with that?" she asked. I almost cried as I handed her a ring sling and explained all the benefits. She put on the sling and placed her baby inside. "Oh how comfortable and look—my hands are free!" She smiled in relief and asked where she could get one and how much it would cost. I gave her a list of websites that sold them but she shook her head. She didn't have a computer. "Just take that one. I never use it." I lied. She walked away with a bounce in her step, her baby smiling up at her face. And I realized something that warmed my heart—that was the first babywearing mother I had seen in my town!

I continued the classes, each time getting less and less afraid. I started a babywearing donation program so that low income mothers could get slings. I opened a natural parenting store so that local mothers could try out all the different types of slings before buying. I was asked to speak at hospitals, baby showers, moms groups, churches, pregnancy centers, and schools. The word spread about how wonderful babywearing was. My father-in-law, who lives in the next town over, called me. "Hey Mary, I just saw a woman walk by my house with her baby in a sling. That's the first time, besides you, that I've ever seen that happen."

Do I still get nervous? I sure do. But now I have other mothers to talk about babywearing with and I no longer hide down the aisles at the grocery store. In fact, when I've got a baby wrapped to me, I tend to strut through the store hoping someone will stop and ask me about my sling. Chalk up another benefit to babywearing—it can help you overcome extreme shyness.

How about you? Would you like to see more mothers in your community using slings? Here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Call your community center and ask if you can offer a babywearing class. Community centers love to provide free classes!
  • Call your local hospital and ask to speak to the childbirth educator. She would probably be more than willing to let you come and do a demonstration for her class.
  • Stop by a pregnancy center and show off babywearing to all the moms.
  • Print cards off the No Mother Left Behind website and pass them out to every mom you see who is walking around trying to carry her baby in a car seat!
  • Wear your own baby everywhere you go!!
For more information:
  • Visit TheBabywearer.com
  • Read Mothering Magazine's Babywearing 101 (Note: Mothering has just launched it's digital subscription service and the free sample issue contains Babywearing 101. Get your free issue here.
  • Shop for a cool sling to wear your baby at vegan-friendly KidBean.com.
Mary Eileen Finch, CD (DONA) lives in Arkansas along with her inspiring husband, Jason, and their three adorable children, Rebecca, Jarod, and Alex. She is a certified labor doula and a vegan of seven years.
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