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Sunday, September 21, 2014

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Surviving a Clingy Baby: Babywearing in the Tula

"Oh, you were a happy baby. You just wanted to be held all the time."

When my parents talked about what I was like as a baby, of course I thought how cute and appropriate it was that I was a cuddler from the start. It really wasn’t that bad being my parents, because who doesn’t love a snuggly little baby? Sheesh, they had it easy.

Then I gave birth to that cuddly little baby I had dreamed of, and I had to learn how to live life like a marsupial without a pouch.

From the beginning, because of latch issues, he regularly nursed for over an hour, took a rest, and then wanted to take another crack at it. When we learned he had something called tongue tie and it could be easily fixed, I was relieved. I thought maybe I could take a shower and not hear him screaming for me as soon as I got out. Or I could get outside the house for thirty minutes without having to nurse him while I was out. I hoped for some kind of rhythm to our day that allowed me to be unattached to him long enough to feel just a little in control and like I was more than a milk source.

​​My son’s tongue tie has been fixed for a long time now. He is over a year old and still a voracious nurser. He’s learning baby sign language and for a while he thought my name was “milk.”

The amount of physical touch my son demands can be exhausting. It doesn’t end when we’re out and about. Often I have hefted and wrangled the stroller and infant carrier out of the car, only to have him demand to be held once we got into the store.

Babywearing was not a trend or a philosophy or anything more than a practical necessity for me in the beginning. Once I learned how to comfortably carry my son in the stretchy wrap, I was able to leave the house. I could nurse him while pushing the stroller and walking through the zoo--all without flashing anyone. I could go to the store and not worry about not having enough hands to hold all my stuff and pay the cashier and open the car door. Although my son was once again attached to me, I felt a sense of joy and relief when he was strapped to my body, because doing things and caring for his needs were no longer at odds with one another.

Once he weighed about 18 pounds, I felt the wrap putting an unhealthy strain on my back and shoulders, and I started to look into a soft structured carrier that could serve my koala bear boy’s needs into toddlerhood. After reading many reviews and side-by-side comparisons, I purchased the standard Tula. I was won over by their fun and beautiful print options and the fact that it’s good for tall babies like my son.

The Tula is one of the best investments I have made in baby gear. Not only does it allow me to quickly run stress-free errands with my son, but it has enabled many unexpected tender moments.

One day I was scheduling my next appointment at the doctor’s office while wearing my son in the Tula. The receptionist said to me, “That was a really sweet moment you just shared.” I had already moved on to thinking about the calendar when her remark called me back to the previous seconds, when my son had leaned back in the Tula to look me in the eye and try to reach his little lips to my face. I smiled and kissed him on the forehead and we both went on to look at other things. I was so thankful that she had pointed out that moment to me. It made me stop and think about the incredibly tender bond I was fostering with my boy by finding a way to give him the closeness that he craves.

My boy is sensitive and affectionate. I worry that one day, when he’s older and more independent, he will be told that he needs to toughen up, and his kisses will no longer be given to me so freely. For now, I’m able to enjoy the blessing of having a snuggle baby. I keep the Tula in the car, ready to go, and I look forward to when I pop into the store and get to steal kisses from my cuddly curly-haired toddler between the aisles.

Bio: Amber Elbon lives in the Seattle area with her creative husband, curly-haired one-year-old boy, and sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. ​​

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