In Cities, is Babywearing More Practical than Political?

Is babywearing political or practical in cities?


I’ve visited the Bay Area before, but never with a child. Along with a yoga mat (I planned on attending yoga on the labyrinth in Grace Cathedral), I also packed onesies, sippy cups, and our stroller. As my daughter is nearing her first birthday, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to “wear” her for longer periods of time before needing to give my back a break. This saddens me, as I enjoyed the many days spent with her strapped to my chest while walking all around our home town, easily taking her along to any destination without needing to worry about stroller accommodations, alternate routes for stairways, or easy soothing (she was her most calm and peaceful when close to my chest).


While I was drawn to babywearing because it turned out to be the easiest way to incorporate my new baby into my existing lifestyle and because I found the physical closeness as enjoyable as she did, I soon realized that as a “parenting choice,” babywearing is about much more than choosing your favorite wrap. Before long, I became aware of the rhetoric surrounding babywearing in the mainstream media and on blogs focused on parenting practices. Babywearing – as a visible extension of Attachment Parenting – was laden with connotations often used to infer meaning (however accurately) about a parent’s take on child rearing.


And even within the babywearing community, there seemed to be an implied system of codes by which to operate and strong opinions in favor of some methods and wraps over others. An art professor friend of ours swore by the Nojo Wrap – the original ring sling designed by Dr. Sears – and teased us about our “yuppie” Baby Björn carrier that we had received from my parents. Another friend lauded the Moby wrap while yet another introduced us to the benefits of the tightly woven German-made Storchenwiege. The latter, at a whopping hundred dollars plus left me thinking that the not-so-economical Moby came as a real steal. In the end, I used two hand-made Moby knock-offs gifted to me by friends, a Maya ring sling found for twelve bucks at a consignment shop, and our pricey but much adored Baby Björn Comfort Carrier splurged on by my parents.

Parenting philosophies aside, my husband and I became babywearing fans. It just made sense to us. And so, with her growing girth, we were a little sad to pack the carriers away and opt for the stroller more often than not. It would be the stroller that would come along with us for our trip to San Francisco.


As I struggled with walks on narrow and uneven sidewalks through the city, I remembered why I loved wearing my daughter so much; just try taking a stroller through Chinatown and you’ll see what I mean. And I soon came to notice that many more mothers (not so many fathers, sadly) were wearing their babies rather than pushing them around in awkward four-wheeled contraptions. I eyed them enviously as I pushed my stroller between hurrying pedestrians in the Financial Disctrict and wrestled it around sidewalk cafe tables in the bucolic North Beach neighborhood.


Which made me wonder, are all those parents devout Attachment parents or simply individuals who have come to recognize the benefits of babywearing? In a busy city and on densely packed urban streets, babywearing reads as more practical than political. And in the end, isn’t that what parenting is all about?


“Happy parenting” strikes me as borne of practicality and of finding suitable solutions to everyday tasks that makes life a more enjoyable for parents and children alike. Labels and monikers aside, aren’t parents just in search for practical solutions that make navigating this often difficult job a little easier and a little less stressful? If so, babywearing – whether as an ideological statement or otherwise – just makes sense.

About Ruxandra Looft

Ruxandra Looft is a writer and editor based in Des Moines, Iowa. Originally from Romania, she’s called Germany, Austria, and Canada her home before settling in the Midwest. She holds a PhD in German and Comparative Literature and writes about parenthood, academia, and life on two wheels on her blog Simply Bike. Find more of her writing on her website and on Twitter @Simply Bike.


13 thoughts on “In Cities, is Babywearing More Practical than Political?”

  1. I think you are right-on with this observation. I had my first son while living in the center of Munich and wore him pretty regularly until he was eighteen months, in spite of the fact that he was a big baby. It wasn’t political – it was practical! Strollers are a major pain in the city – I would pay more attention to the stroller than I would the child! Nevermind getting on and off public transit with a stroller and always needing to search for an elevator or escalator and narrow aisles in the grocery store! – UGH. Just thinking about it makes me shiver. (And I did develop great arm muscles from lugging around all those groceries without a stroller-turned-grocery-cart.)

    Fast forward to child #2, born in the sprawling city of Denver. I RARELY wore him. It just didn’t make any sense when we were always in and out of the car. But then, he also didn’t spend much time in the stroller, either. It was all about the car seat.

  2. I think your observation is spot on – I live in a major city and all my friends with kids carry them although they do not ascribe to any specific parenting philosophy. It’s all about being practical and mobile especially on public transit. When I have kids, I plan on doing the same things as long as my back can hold out!

  3. Now that your little girl is getting bigger, I HIGHLY recommend getting a soft structured carrier such as the Tula, Boba or the ever popular Ergo Baby to switch from a front carry to an easy back carry. These carriers are not as bulky as a framed backpack carrier (like the Kelty) and are super practical in cities (and for hikes around town, long walks, etc)

    I know the price might not be highly desirable at about $100 or so, but these carriers will last until your little one is about 45 lbs, and they’ll last for years (I’m currently using an older version ergo from 2004!)

  4. Oh, I should also mention that all of these backback style carriers are fairly easy to get the baby in and out of, even I your own :)

  5. I completely agree–babywearing in the city does have a lot to do with practicality. We used a stroller for our older son (we lived in a much smaller city) but now that we’re in a larger city the carrier is much easier. This is especially true when you have something else to carry and a little hand to hold!

    We recently started using an Ergo (borrowed from a friend) and it has been great. At the moment we’re still using it on the front but soon will likely switch to the back.

  6. I’m in Boston and I wish more parents would wear their babies here – especially on public transit! MBTA has discussed “stroller bans” in the past on transit. trains and buses would be less crowded if a 6 month old in a travel system stroller wouldn’t be obstructing aisles or taking up the space for 2 people (funny how much space someone so small can take up in a stroller on public transit!) Also, I often see people trying to navigate strollers in touristy areas where there is brick & cobblestone sidewalks. Babywearing would be SO much easier!

    I also second the issue with elevators. I also happen to be a parent in a wheelchair. I often find myself in lines of strollers waiting to fit into an elevator where often only one stroller (or wheelchair) fits. And malls? It’s so hard to navigate through clothing racks in a wheelchair. many stores its near impossible. Shopping at Gymboree would be a lot easier babywearing, then trying to fit a stroller through those narrow aisles!

    And I blogged last year about babywearing as a parent in a wheelchair! Here’s my take on it from that perspective:

    I love that when my daughter wants to go out, she runs to grab a babycarrier to bring me as a hint. :)

  7. babywearing makes sense even in the suburbs going car to store/park/etc when you have more than one child. just try pushing around those ‘travel system’ while chasing a 2yo through the play structure! Not.

  8. I have found baby wearing to be so much easier in most situations. It was amazing when I took my daughter to the academy of sciences. Also, I have done 2 races since I had her(walking). One with a stroller and one with her in the Ergo. I found it much easier to maneuver around people at the start and finish line with her on me than in the stroller. If for no other reason, it makes her happy. I can’t argue with that.

  9. I hate having extra gear to worry about (I even try to avoid carrying a purse!) So trying to navigate with a bulky stroller sounds miserable to me. Even if I wasn’t an AP parent, I’d be all about babywearing.

  10. For me, it is probably 40% desire to be close, and 60% convenience. I have done both ways, since I didn’t know much about Babywearing when my older son was a baby. I remember having to find elevators in malls, trying to maneuver up and down sidewalks, being banned from small store aisles that I just couldn’t fit the stroller down. I bought my first mei tai when he was nearly 2 years old, and I never used a stroller again.

    My 25-month-old has been in a stroller (with me) 4 or 5 times in his life. He is about 35 lbs, and still gets worn daily, for up to 2 hours at a time, so I was a bit confused when the author said she was having trouble carrying her nearly 1-year-old. But, the Bjorn explains it. I had Snugli-type, front pack carriers when my older son was a baby. By the time he was 16 lbs, at 2 months old, I couldn’t carry him anymore in them. Yet, I carried him in my mei tai until he was 45 lbs, at 3.5 years old.

    Getting a good carrier (or 15, if you’re me) is essential for long-term Babywearing. My Boba carriers, woven wraps, and mei tais are super supportive for pain-free carrying. I have ring slings for quick trips, too, although I have used them for up to an hour as well.

  11. I live in Oakland, and we hardly used a stroller at all until our little guy was a 30 lb toddler. I used to joke that pushing a stroller down the crowded streets of a big city, well, it’s like driving a semi! You’re in everyone’s way, you’re constantly trying to maneuver around stuff – major hassle!

    I second the recommendation that you consider a soft structured carrier like the Ergo, in back carry mode. Much more comfortable with a big baby or toddler, perfect for the busy streets of San Francisco. :-) I didn’t buy one until my son was already huge, so I was worried I wouldn’t get much use out of it, but I loved it and used it all the time, until he was more than two and I’m looking forward to using it again with our little one on the way. Well worth the money!

  12. I also suggest getting a good SSC or Mai Tai to back carry, my son is nearly two and if you can get over that hump of a growth spurt about 1 the slow way down, he’s been the same weight for almost a year. We have a bamberoo and I still wear my son on my back all the time. And I’m only 4’10” and 130lbs. I’m tiny!

  13. One thing that really urked me when taking public transportaiton in the city is if several moms with strollers were on the bus the collapsed strollers would take up all the wheelchair spaces. Some drivers would just tell the perosn in the wheel chair to wait for the next bus, otheres would have enough wit to tell mothers who were capable of carrying their babies they needed to remover their strollers and make room for a passanger. Most would end up cursing in front of their children and leaving the bus, a few would ask someone else to hold their baby and put the stroller on ther lap. I would be sitting in one seat wearing two kids with another person sitting next to me instead of taking up three plus seats because of a stroller.

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