Raising the Next Generation of Babywearers: Little Wearers and Lender Libraries

Our first in this three part series about passing on the babywearing tradition to the next generation focused on children’s books featuring babywearing.

Image shows an outdoor scene with Eva, an 8 year old Latinx child wearing an ergo doll carrier on her front. She is wearing a blue jumper and black pants and looking at the camera.

This week, this post will be filled with more gratuitously adorable photos of children wearing their toys as we discuss Little Lender libraries and how you can encourage your children to play babywearing with their own toys.

Doll Slings

As we discussed before, children imitate their parents and caregivers as a way to play and also to develop vital skills that will be used later in life. You may have noticed this when your children mimic you talking on the phone with a plastic banana. I distinctly remember as a child pretending to breastfeed one of my dolls after seeing my mother nurse my baby brother and bathe them with baby shampoo and baby soap bar.

Of course, all the adults got a kick out of it, but it was a very important part of my development. Seeing this practice as a child meant I was more prepared to make the decision to breastfeed my own children, because I had seen it done.

Image of a Latina toddler with curly hair and a pink bow wearing a doll on her back in a toy carrier while looking at the camera with a serious expression on her face.

You are already influencing your child’s experience of what is typical by wearing your children and their siblings each time. You are influencing other children who see you wearing children in public at the grocery store and at the playground. If you are a daycare provider and you wear your charges while they are in your care, even if their parents do not wear them at home, you are exposing them to the practice, so that one day if they decide to care for children themselves, they will be equipped with the knowledge that this is an available tool in their tool belt.

Image on left shows a Chinese boy wearing a teddy bear on his front, and image on the right shows him wearing it on his back in a ringsling.

Give children opportunities to imitate. You don’t need any special toys for your children to practice babywearing. Children are pretty imaginative. My son likes to use a plastic banana to “talk” on the phone. They can use scarves, your own carriers or their backpack. They can carry their own baby dolls, their stuffed animals, their monster trucks and their action figures.  

However, if you are so inclined, there are many manufacturers that now make doll slings and toy carriers that match the grown up sized products. The fun part is that there are just as many options for doll slings as there are full sized baby carriers.

Your mini-me can sport this itty bitty Tula or Boba Mini buckle carrier. You can also find doll ring slings as well as doll wraps.

Image shows a black and white brownskinned toddler looking at the camera. She has a pacifier in her mouth and wearing a teddy bear on her back using a doll ssc.

Bonus, doll wraps double up as grown up scarves and vice versa.

If you are from the scrappyly-inclined set and have some scrap material from your own favorite carrier, there are also plenty of online patterns for making your own doll sling to match.

Little Lenders Libraries

Several BWI chapters have cobbled together an assortment of doll carriers for the their lending library. As an added benefit of their parents’ membership, children can “check out” a library carrier to use

Babies wearing babies
Image description: a white girl toddler with brown curly pigtails and a large smile sitting on the end of a blue plastic slide wearing a doll in a Minnie Mouse carrier.

at home and practice their babywearing skills. Some chapters even include these totally cute Little Lender membership cards and a copy of one of the aforementioned babywearing books.

If you are a leader of a babywearing group and are interested in setting up your own companion little lenders library, read about the programs set up by BWI of Portland, BWI of Southern Maryland, BWI of Central Indiana and BWI of Twin Cities for ideas on how to get your program up and running. You can encourage your members and their children to wear their toys by organizing themed playdates. BWI of Rockland Westchester has periodic “Babywearing Bears” activities at their local zoo and encourage children to carry their favorite teddy in a doll sling from their little lenders library.

Image of a Malay-Javanese child wearing a teddy bear in a front carry using a doll sling.

Keep in mind that any doll slings used in your lending library must be compliant with U.S. Safety Standards for children’s toys. If you plan to make your own toy slings, you can register as a small batch manufacturer and tag the items.

Even if your children aren’t interested in pretending to carry their toys, just remember that they don’t need to copy everything you do in order to learn.

In our third and final part of this Next Generation blog series, we will discuss the impossibly cute practice of sibling-wearing. Get ready to have your hearts melt into puddles because it will be cute.

Laura Vitanova is a VBE for the Wichita, Kansas chapter of BWI and mother to two sweet and active boys.