Raising the Next Generation of Babywearers: Siblingwearing

Our first in this three part series about passing on the babywearing tradition to the next generation focused on children’s books featuring babywearing followed up with a post about fostering a love of caregiving in children with little lender libraries and doll slings.  This week we give you unadultered cuteness in the form of copious amounts of children wearing younger siblings.

I hail from a blended family: 2 stepsisters about my age, 1 brother who is 5 years younger, and 1 half-sister that is nearly 20 years my junior. I can hardly believe that little sister of mine is approaching 12 years old this year (what did I just type?!), and I wish I had known about babywearing as a college sophomore, excited to play an integral role in the caregiving of a younger sibling. Even without it, she and I have a solid relationship but if you are looking for ways for your big kid, teenager or even adult children to bond with their younger siblings look no further than your baby sling.

Siblings wearing babies
[Image description: white boy with brown hair wearing his baby sister on his back in a purple wrap. Both are looking directly at the camera he with a closed mouth smile and she with a slightly skeptical look.]

The sibling relationship is a special one and may, in fact, be one of the most important ones the affect who we become as adults. After all, it is the most enduring one most people will experience as children eventually separate from parents and spouses and friends are met later in our lives. (1)

“We know that having a positive relationship with siblings is related to a whole host of better outcomes for teenagers and adults,” says Laurie Kramer, a professor of applied family studies in the department of human and community development at the University of Illinois. Kramer continues, “We know from longitudinal studies that if kids start off their relationship with a sibling on a positive note, it’s more likely to continue positively over time…. It’s not all that important whether you’re spaced closer together or farther apart, or if you have a brother or a sister. What’s really much more important are the social behaviors that children learn in their early years that they can use to develop a positive relationship with a sibling.”(2)

Siblings wearing babies
[Image description: white girl with brown hair in pigtail buns on top of her head and a red and white polka dot bow wearing a white toddler girl on her back with long brown hair and a large holiday bow in a light green soft structured carrier.]
[Image description: A bond white girl resting her face against the forehead of her infant sister while being worn in a cream colored wrap. They are outside on a porch with fall themed decor in the background.]
A child who wears their younger siblings in a carrier will experience many of the same benefits that an adult caregiver will: increase confidence in caregiving abilities; promote attachment between caregiver and infant; more comfort and convenience than in arms carrying. And babies who are carried by older siblings will cry less and find comfort in the closeness of a loving caregiver.

Image of bespectacled light-skinned smiling black boy wearing his younger sibling in front wrap cross carry using a green wrap.

Keep in mind that children who babywear need to practice the same safety precautions as adults. Editor of UK website Close Enough to Kiss, points out the following considerations parents should make when allowing older children to use a baby sling: “That the sling you are using fits the child well; That the infant in the sling is not too heavy for the child; That the sling is used in accordance with the T.I.C.K.S guidelines; That the sibling wants to do it.” (3) That last one is important. While these photos are precious, don’t try to force a sibling to use a sling- or even hold a baby sibling- if they just aren’t into it. When my younger sister became an auntie at the ripe old age of 9, she didn’t want to touch her newborn nephew much less hold or carry him in a sling. However, she was happy to make faces at him from a safe distance and now my toddler adores is aunt who chases, wrestles and plays with him. There are many ways to foster these relationships and babywearing is merely one.

Image of Afro-Latinx child wearing a younger child in a front wrap cross carry using an orange tone wrap. They are both looking at each other and smiling.
Siblings wearing babies
Image description: A white boy wearing a baseball hat and his baby sister on his front in a light blue wrap. He’s looking at the camera and all you can see of the baby is a foot sticking out of the bottom of the carrier and the top of her head with a large pink and white polka dot bow on a head band.
[Image description: A blonde white girl standing on a porch  while wearing her infant sister in a cream colored wrap on her front with the tails reaching her knees. The girl is turned away from the camera and both are turning to face the camera.]
I hope you have enjoyed this series on the Raising the Next Generation of Babywearers as I have. It is truly a joy to see children develop these important social skills and emulate their caregivers. Ten years ago when Babywearing International was first founded, using slings to carry children was not common practice in the United States even though the tradition remained in practice in cultures and countries all over the world. Now, I see caregivers using carriers everywhere I go. On my run last to the factory outlet near me last weekend I saw no less than four babies in carriers and wraps in the 30 minutes I was in the store. That’s amazing and wonderful! We are truly normalizing the practice for the next generation and I hope that 10 years from now to see even more carried babies. 

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

References

(1) Hall, A. (2014, August 22). Proof There’s Nothing Quite Like A Sibling Bond. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/22/sibling-bond-relationship_n_5688921.html

(2) Cicoria, B. (2010, January 15). Siblings play formative, influential role as ‘agents of socialization’. Illinois News Bureau. Retrieved from https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/205739

(3) Jeffrey, R. (Ed.). (2017, January 5). Babywearing Siblings – How To Encourage Sibling Bonding. Close Enough To Kiss. Retrieved from https://www.closeenoughtokiss.co.uk/sibling-bonding/