Mum “babywears” her preschooler so that mother and daughter can feel the warmth of each other’s bodies and chat at eye level.
The practice of ‘babywearing’, part of the ‘attachment parenting’ movement, has been popular for years.
However Finnella is no baby. She is a lively, walking, talking four-year-old, who weighs more than 19kg. That’s about as much as 19 bags of sugar.
Finnella has a six month-old baby brother, Indiana, who Hayley also wears in a sling strapped to her front, adding another stone to her load.
When Hayley’s out and about, she can look like a rather comical ‘pack pony’.
While many may question the need for a child of Finnella’s age, weight and height to be carried in this way, Hayley believes sling wearing her daughter is not only convenient and practical, but allows them quality one-on-one time, which is advancing Finnella’s vocabulary and making her feel loved and secure, shares Daily Mail.
‘When I carry Finnella on my back, our heads are at the same level and she can look around and talk about what we’re both seeing,’ says Hayley, 33, a drama therapist from Whitchurch, Hampshire. ‘It’s so lovely to be able to be so close and chat away.’
While most parents would be glad of a pushchair when their toddlers start walking, ‘toddler wearing’ is the latest trend among those who ascribe to the philosophy of attachment-style parenting, which also advocates co-sleeping and feeding on demand.
For Hayley, who has 20 slings of different colours and styles, the advantages of carrying an older child are countless.
‘It provides special bonding time,’ she says. ‘It works especially well when we’re in busy places such as out shopping or at a market, when it can be quite intimidating for Finnella to be down on the ground.’
Hayley claims the carrier also works wonders for taming toddler tantrums. ‘I just lift Finnella onto my back and she’s immediately distracted and soothed and will go limp and quiet,’ she says.
‘It’s her safe, secure space, and she can often fall asleep in there if she’s tired or feeling poorly. If we’re out for a long walk, it’s perfect for giving her little legs a break.’
‘The sling provides older children with a secure space to come back to and is really just a comfortable, practical way of cuddling and holding your child for longer, which can only be a good thing,’ says Michelle McHale, founder of Attachment Parenting UK, which helps teach parents to trust their instincts and be sensitive to their child’s needs.
‘It builds strong physiological and emotional habits within the child for comfort and gives them positive memories and associations.’
Lauren Gordon, a 27-year-old stay-at-home mum says she still carries her three-year-old son, Dilon, in a sling and swears it’s the reason for their closeness.
‘I love the strong bond we have, and that has definitely been added to by babywearing,’ explains Lauren, who split from Dilon’s father when he was a baby.
‘Just being able to hold him and cuddle him for longer periods when he wants to be close is great, and it wouldn’t be possible without a sling.’
Katie, 33, believes the sling is responsible for boosting the conversational skills of her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Daisy.
‘She was an early walker and talker. In fact, she has been early with everything and is very bright,’ says Katie. ‘I’m sure this is, in part, down to babywearing, with her always being so close to my husband Dave and I.
‘When we’ve got her on our back, we’re physically close and can have a proper conversation and talk much more than if she was three foot lower in a pushchair.
‘She sees things as Mummy does and feels much more a part of things.’
Paediatric osteopath, Coby Langford, is worried about mothers putting excessive strain on their bodies at a time when they are vulnerable.
‘Mothers after giving birth are especially vulnerable because their ligaments are weak and lengthened, their muscles are tight and exhausted from carrying a baby for nine months, and their core stability is completely non-existent.
‘This is why women have so much back pain anyway after giving birth.
‘So carrying heavy weights at a time when their backs and spines are most vulnerable is not such a good idea.’
Dr Amy Tuteur, an obstetrician gynaecologist and author of Push Back: Guilt In The Age Of Natural Parenting, says ‘The idea that babywearing promotes bonding is ridiculous,’ she says. ‘Bonding is going to happen regardless. It does not need to be chivvied along by constant physical proximity to the mother.
Do you or someone you know practice extended babywearing?
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