Adriane and I first met and bonded over our love of babywearing and the greatest Mei Tai ever. When I joined the staff at Caribou Baby as a babywearing educator, we had even more time to chat about parenting, but especially our favorite topic - babywearing! It has been really central in both of our lives as parents, and something we love teaching. So when the time came to register for the 2014 Babywearing Conference, we were in.
Being an obsessed babywearer, I have been looking forward to the 2014 Babywearing Conference ever since I missed the last one in 2012. I seriously can’t imagine something more fun. But for the past six months every time I've told someone about this crazy exciting trip of mine, I get met with a blank stare. You can see the confusion, “ummm there is a CONFERENCE about babywearing? What for? What do you DO there?” I get that. I probably would have had that same reaction before my enjoyment of babywearing turned into an obsession, and my profession.
So, newly returned from this conference, I thought I would share some details, answer those questions, and share a bit of the awesomeness that Adriane and I encountered in our five days in Tempe, Arizona. If you too are wondering what on earth happens at a babywearing conference, read on!
In some ways babywearing is very simple: place your baby on your body with a piece of cloth, and go about your day. But since there's another very small human involved, there are some things we want to be clear and safe about. Namely, keeping that airway clear. But, as one of the presenters said, babywearing is also an art. There are many ways to choose to place that baby on our body, all of which have to do with your personal preference, immediate needs, physical shape, your baby’s age, and just how you're feeling in the moment.
The topics presented at the conference reflected the wide diversity of attendees and participants; from brand new babywearers, to mamas who have worn multiple children, to educators and retailers.
Some of the topics covered were basic carries, advanced techniques, effective teaching techniques, tips on outreach to make babywearing help accessible to every family that wants it, and research on the developmental benefits. There was even a class in emergency babywearing where we learned ways to make everyday objects like towels, sheets, and even a sweatshirt into a safe carrier!
Babywearing is fantastic for all it helps us do more easily, but there is also a phenomenally rich community around the topic as well. This community is spread all over facebook, real life babywearing meetups, and an online forum called The BabyWearer. In these places parents (mostly mamas) swap carriers, share advice and tricks, give support, and generally share their daily experiences of the hard work of raising young children.
And the babywearing community is one of the few places where I’ve seen women consistently support and build each other up. Such a tight knit community jumps at the chance to meet in real life! When we arrived in Tempe it was like Facebook had come to life and all the mamas we see daily in our feeds were walking around in real life and available for actual hugs rather than just online support.
We are always talking about how carriers are like pots and pans, each style has it’s own useful niche and sometimes a small assortment of carriers can be really useful for all the various situations life throws at you and your baby. The conference was a great way to try out and learn about a wide variety of carriers. At “big shares” everyone shared the carriers they had so people could try some new styles. And vendors were present showing off their particular carriers. This was especially great for us to try out some new brands and make sure we are carrying the best range of options possible! It was especially fun to talk to Alex, the rep from Beco, and try out their new toddler carrier that is in the works! We both got to try it out and give feedback about how to make it a better carrier. We love the Gemini and Soleil and were so excited to see that a larger carrier might be added to their line!
Obviously a community and profession focused on keeping babies and kids snuggled with their grownups is really welcoming to the little people! The conference was like a giant playdate with lots of babies and kids everywhere you looked. Big kids that were used to younger siblings often reached out to play with and take care of the babies, and babies just found sheer love in playing with one another. All of which made it a little easier for their grownups to listen to the presentations! It was really inspiring to see this giant mass of mothers and fathers learning and playing with their kids nearby, and carriers at the ready for needed naps or moments to refocus their little ones. The whole conference was a fantastic lesson in how babywearing can help us meet our needs and the ones of our little ones at the same time, so we can all move through life together.