16 November 2009

Babywearing, walking and a bit about shoes

I've been passionate about babywearing since reading The Continuum Concept by Jean Leidloff when I was pregnant and from four days old (when we first left the house; to do some charity shopping and go for an all-day vegetarian breakfast with Nozy) Sunnyboy was carried in slings and baby-carriers.

He was walking independently at 11 months and by 15 months he was ready to be walking out and about in the streets (farther than the corner shop or to visit neighbours) and got his first pair of shoes. Prior to that, outside in the garden or at the park, he went barefoot (or wore soft slippers or just socks) and still does for most of the year, but for walking in the streets and for the winter he needed some shoes. Out of curiosity at 13 months I had taken him to get his feet measured at Clarks. I'd already done quite a bit of research on shoes for babies and told the assistant that I was interested in getting his feet measured but probably wouldn't buy any shoes for another few weeks. She obviously thought I was a bit daft and informed me that he needed shoes "to help him walk and help his feet grow". That statement, and the research I'd done, convinced me that I wouldn't be trusting the shoe industry to give me advice on children's footwear. I decided he was still too young to need shoes so didn't buy any until he was nearly 15 months.

Then at 15 months, with his new shoes and shopping bag, Sunnyboy started walking as far as he wanted to to different places locally and over the next few months he began walking to work and other places regularly, while for other journeys and long distances we continued to use slings. We were still babywearing on a daily basis until Sunnyboy was over 2 years old and then gradually he needed carrying less often, and eventually was walking more places than he was carried.

December 2007

Now at 3 1/4 years Sunnyboy is getting so big he unlocks the door and switches off the light before we leave the house, and he can walk for miles (I don't drive so we walk everywhere or occasionally take the bus). I always take the hip sling out with me still but Sunnyboy rarely needs a carry much more than about once a week, and then only for a short while. When he was a young baby I loved that babywearing meant Sunnyboy had constant human contact and was able to feel my warmth, breathing and heartbeat (preventing him from being scared or over-stimulated by the noises and activity in the environment around him), and that by being carried he was always there at eye-level during everyday interactions and conversations and was able to see the world from an adults height. I've realised that another important benefit of babywearing was that from birth Sunnyboy also experienced walking through the movement of his mother, and walking long distances is now both natural and enjoyable for him.

November 2009

He still takes off his shoes as often as he can and is happiest barefoot.

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  1. I always like the way how you talk about sunnyboy. "happiest barefoot" now I love that too! Especially when there is water around haha~

  2. Sunnyboy and I have that in common. I love to go barefoot, but I don't do it as much anymore. I generally reserve my barefoot outdoor adventures, though, for the beach.

    What a great story, and I enjoyed hearing your rationale for the shoes, carrying, etc.


    Sheila :-)

  3. Great post. I've been wondering about a good hip sling for toddlers.

  4. The idea that kids need shoes to learn how to walk seems beyond ridiculous. I remember reading somewhere that babies have as much sensitivity in the bottom of their feet as they do in their hands so that feeling things with their feet is essential to learning about the world.

    Whenever I am inside I much prefer to have my shoes off!

  5. What a darling little boy and you are right about the shoes.

  6. I agree with you on shoes. Sunnyboy is lucky to have you as his mum =)

  7. I agree with you. Baby wearing is so good for children. Native Americans and ancient tribes always carried their babies with them. I have a sling that I use regularly.

  8. I don't think I wore shoes until I was two:)

  9. We are a bunch of barefooters here too.

    When my second youngest brother was 3 we went for a walk to look at some cows that had been decorated and placed all over downtown. We walked for 3 hours and he walked the entire way until the last little bit on the way home. Of course now that he is 12 he doesn't want to walk places a lot of the time.

  10. Your experience almost exactly matches mine! It was amazing to see my little boy on his first walk on his own feet outdoors: When he got to the corner, he did NOT walk into the street but stopped and looked around, because he knew from riding on my hip that that's what you do when you get to a corner!

    I hurt my back when he was 20 months old and had to use a stroller for a while, and it made such a striking difference to our relationship and his behavior that I wrote this article: Stroller Madness.

    He is 5 now, and I still see big differences in his safety sense and stamina compared to children whose infant travel was in stroller or car rather than sling.

  11. Becca, I just read your Stroller Madness article and really enjoyed it. Thanks for the link. :)

  12. When we lived in Miami Sasha spent most of his time barefoot, if we went in the street he would wear those little baby leather shoes with the little pictures on, I forget the names. He wore them until about 3. Then we moved to the farm and neither of the children wore shoes. They have some crocs that they wear if we go to the beach, and the crocs boots if we go to the stables so they don't step in all the kaka, but most of the time they are barefoot, my children even run over thorns, small stones, get bitten by fire ants and it doesn't phase them. Continuum Concept is a great book, my children are very much as she explains,,, so skilled with knives because I allowed them to be, it just takes practice. Sania was cutting bananas since he was able to sit up and hold a knife. He just turned five and swings a big axe so well, chops weeds with a macheta, there isn't much the boys can't do because I never stopped them - I was there to guide them. It's so strange when I visit the cities and see how little the children can actually do, they are weak in the body movement. The farm has been wonderful for the boys.