by Kristin Birdsey of Education Station and Preschool
You know those commercials where they ask where the easy button is. I truly connect with those silly 30 second spots because as small business owner, I’m always looking to make elements of my work easier, streamline processes, and still provide the highest quality of service for my customers, who can be some of the most difficult around. They don’t always ask nicely or stay on schedule; they literally scream for their needs to be met, often without warning. You see, I own a daycare/preschool, and when a baby needs something her only method of communication (in the beginning) is crying.
I’ve not yet had the experience of being a mother, yet those baby cries can still pull on my heartstrings. It’s visceral and it can be almost overwhelming if you really start to think about the importance of your interactions with these brand-new humans. I want so much to be responsive to each individual child and her unique needs; however, much like mothers everywhere, small business owners wear a million hats. In my search to do it all and do it all well, I discovered baby wearing and it has been a game changer.
My adventures in baby wearing began with a hand-me-down baby Bjorn (the baby-backpack as I lovingly refer to it) and a very practical need. All licensed childcare facilities in the State of Florida are required to maintain a ratio of 1 adult to 4 children when infants are involved. The first time the 5th baby arrived a full hour before the next infant teacher was scheduled to be there, I first thought no-big-deal, I’ll just go in the room and be the second teacher. Then I remembered the reality of: the breakfast that still needed to be made and distributed to 50+ other children, the ringing phone, the walk-in tour, and the 37 emails I needed to answer. Some of us call it life.
Baby-backpack to the rescue! I took the most fussy infant at the time, very inexpertly strapped up, and went on about my business. The infant settled down almost immediately as I made breakfast. I talked to him about all the ingredients I was combining. He listened intently when I answered phone calls marveling at the buttons on the cordless phone. He drifted off to sleep as I typed away responding to emails. An hour had passed in no time, the second infant teacher came in as scheduled and took him. Everyone won. I couldn’t believe it, but I found the easy button!
At first, I almost felt guilty that I was dragging this kid around with me to do my business chores. Then, I did what good teachers are trained to do and reflected on the strategy I implemented. Wearing this little guy gave him the individual attention he needed in the moment, exposed him to different forms of enrichment (yes, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of breakfast preparation and listening to adult phone conversation can be enriching activities for infants!), and I felt both empowered and productive as a caregiver (self care is critical for all caregivers). This baby wearing thing wasn’t a one-time fix; this was a legitimate tool! The babies loved it, their parents (the paying customers) loved it, and I loved it!
Flash forward a few years, I learned the lingo, read some of the research, obviously grew my stash (which has grown to include a few SSC and a woven wrap), and routinely espoused the virtues of baby wearing. I have even mastered transferring a baby from being worn to being buckled up in a car seat. When I keep my niece and nephew, we don’t go anywhere without some baby wearing device. Even my boyfriend feels comfortable and confident wearing my 6-month-old niece having seen first hand how convenient, practical, and beneficial it can be. As I begin to envision what my life will look like when I become a mother, baby wearing is an integral part of the story.