Sunday, 18 March 2012

Slings or Pushchairs? A UK Mother's Day List of Pros and Cons

This is a special post for UK Mother's Day :)

I found myself in a Sling Meet saying something that as a Mother™, I Should Not Say. It was this:

"To be honest, I don't give a sod how beneficial it is for my baby or not. It's me who has to use it, so sell it to me, tell me how it's going to make my life easier, and then I'll think about it"

We mostly use a expensive sling (we use a £95 Ergo, but there are loads of others out there to suit every size, shape and wrapping ability!) and a cheap pushchair (£40) which were both bought new. Below are my experiences of various situations you can find yourself in, and the advantages and disadvantages of using both types of child transportation. The internet is full of gubbins about how one way or the other is beneficial or not to your child. These are my experiences with my child, and how both methods of transport can make your life easier as a parent. Or not.

You are a Dalek. Discover how poor wheelchair access is in your current location. See my brief complaint about the access to my local station on my first trip into London with the Chap.
As normal.
You are confined to accessible routes. Little opportunity to ever feel you’re really in the great outdoors, if that’s your thing.
You have legs – off you go! Once you’ve tackled the first stile and you’re confident with that, you’re laughing.

Christmas Shopping
Those who favour the pram for this usually own a pram with a large capacity tray beneath and the gumption to drive your pram like a tank along the high street. Can be highly effective.
Greater manoeuvrability, particularly in crowded shops. A godsend if you’re in the sort of shopping mania where goods are left on the floor of shops (Primark being a particular example in the UK) where driving a pram over that stuff is a right old faff. You can also use your familiar routes in shopping centres – stairs & escalators hold no fear for you.
Grandparents / Family
May quibble over the type of pram you buy…
You may have to bear the disappointment of grannies who have been waiting a long time to push their grandchild to the shops.
You may also have to spend some time explaining why you’re not using a pram.
Awkward. May not always be somewhere you can put your pram. Bus drivers and other passengers can sometimes be delightful and really helpful, other times they can be just plain rude.
Step on bus. Pay fare. Take seat.
Locate rain hood, try to remember how to fit rain hood, put it on upside down, get wet, swear, turn rain hood right way up, realise that now the child is dry you have no free hand to hold an umbrella. Hair now ruined.
Use an umbrella as normal. Hair remains intact.
Weird looks or comments
Probability for this happening because you’re using a pram – low.
Probability of this happening because you’re using a sling – high. Mostly people are nice – “Ooo, he looks comfy in there”, or just curious and ask you if it hurts your back (unless you’ve got them on your back, and then they want to know how you get them up there). It’s never happened to me, but I have had friends who have had people bitch at them in the street (e.g “He’ll never learn to walk/ he’ll grow up clingy”). Just smile and carry on…
Younger babies may not want to be laid down while you cook and may kick up a stink to be held. Older, cruising – walking toddlers may spend a lot of their time pulling on your trouser legs and howling because they want to see what you’re doing.
Once you’ve mastered the back carry, it’s not a problem. Use your common sense – if you have one that likes to lean and grab, do your chopping away from any pans of scalding liquid!

I had a lot of unpleasant gynaecological gubbins to go through in the first 6 months post baby (to those expecting, please let me stress – this is not typical!) . Attend surgery, wheel in pram, derobe, assume all manner of inelegant positions for impersonal rummaging.
If you’re baby is pre-rolling, place child on floor, carry on. Much more awkward if you have a roller/crawler/walker as they are not contained and can begin to roam…

(depends where you go and what you want to do. We like to go and look at points of historical or cultural interest, sit about in cafes or do a bit of shopping)
Bulky and takes up luggage space in cars, and can often be the last thing to appear after plan travel.

Unfamiliar areas can include cobbled streets (cue much bouncing if suspension isn’t all that great), stairs, restricted access to certain monuments & museums. We went to France and found out how poor wheelchair access can be… How bad? Bad. Versailles claims you can take in prams and then makes you park them just inside the door, and we took our pushchair to Dijon and found that the whole of the upstairs of the Duc’s Palace is off limits if you’ve got wheels…

Parasols are available to keep out the sun.
 A sling also takes up much less luggage space, and doesn’t need to go in the special whoojit on planes.
You might like to consider the thickness of the material of your usual sling and hire something thinner from a sling library if you’re going somewhere hot. The people who run the sling library should be able to offer advice to find the best sling for your needs.

You might like to consider using an umbrella or parasol as well as the usual sunhat, suncream to protect your child.
Can be awkward navigating ticket barriers, getting down to station platforms and negotiating the actual trains.
As normal, off you go, off you go!

If the baby is asleep, you don’t have to move them. Pushchair can also be used as impromptu highchair.
If they are asleep, learn to drink coffee sideways (so as not over the head of your child).
The whole business I found to be just plain awkward. Some people can sometimes do something clever if you use a SPoC (single piece of cloth sling), but we don't have one and so never managed it!
Can be used to rock the baby to sleep? Never tried it, so can’t really comment…
Putting him in the sling and wandering around the house with him gave me some much needed peace and quiet. Don’t know how it works, but it worked like magic. Worth the price of the sling on its own to save my sanity at times!
You’re up there, they’re down there. You can still have a nice chat, though.
The contact and ability to sniff or kiss your child’s head at will is very pleasant, particularly if, like me, you can’t breastfeed but want more snuggly bonding time.

Do what works for you, and what makes your life easier. For me & the ChapDad, it's been a sling, and I'd recommend them to everyone. But then I would say that - our house is at the top of a set of steps.

Happy Mother's Day!

1 comment:

  1. I know right?! so many people think you're/we're performing some kind of hippy AP OTT statement .. it's just easier!

    and you didn't mention those horrible bobbles on the path for blind people... GUARANTEED to have to push baba over those just as he's fallen off to sleep. not good.

    all terrain babies ftw!