Long before the term babywearing was coined, Indonesian women have always carried babies around using a long piece of unsewn kain batik (batik cloth) referred to kain gendong in certain dialects. [NB: Other countries and cultures also have this, such as among the Mayans, but since I live in Asia, my point of reference is Indonesia.] I have always been fascinated with the Indonesians’ method — the cloth would be wrapped once around their body, with the cradled baby inside it, then twisted around the other end on their back.
How I envied them for the freedom that it gave them; they’d be carrying the baby but still have full use of their hands. I tried it several times but never quite got the hang of it, with the twisted portion of the kain batik would always end up getting untwisted. It always felt like the baby could fall off anytime and so I just gave up all hope of ever learning how to use it.
Then towards the end of 2005, just a few months before giving birth to the twins, I stumbled upon Hotslings on the internet.
I loved how versatile the sling could be. Cradle carry for newborns to 4 months…
Front carry for 2 to 4 months…
Hip carry from 6 months onwards…
I loved the simplicity of Hotslings — there were no rings or snaps to fiddle with. And the fabric colours and designs were soooo gorgeous, some of them even reversible with a solid-colour side and a printed side. Plus the fact that the slings were sewn (double stitched at that!) gave me a feeling of confidence that I never had with the kain gendong.
After some sleuthing, I managed to buy one through a lady in Singapore. I ended up loving it sooo much that I bought another one — a pre-loved, reversible one this time — all that way from the US, from a website dedicated to babywearers. I also bought a third one that was made of a special mesh material, specifically meant for swimming, i.e. taking a dip in the pool/sea while you are wearing your baby.
And that was how I got completely won over by the practice known as babywearing. What a feeling it was, cradling my child close to my body (one twin at a time), with both hands free to use the computer, open doors, tidy up the house! Liberating, yes. Exhilarating, too. Because every time one twin goes into that magic pouch, he’d fall asleep soundly for as long as four to five hours in a stretch, something that I was never able to achieve on the first 3 months after birth. I’d only need to put a baby into the sling and walk around like normal. After a few minutes, the baby would be sound asleep. Plus, I’d get some exercise during that walk! And if babies could purr, I could have sworn that Twin2 would purr contentedly whenever he was ensconced inside that sling, his tiny body warm against mine, his ear close enough to listen to the cadence of my heartbeat, his body swaying as my body moved just as it would have felt when he was still inside my womb.
As the twins got older, I moved on from cradle carry to front carry. I’d let each twin sit cross-legged (bersila) and facing outwards, watching the world from the security of that little pouch like a baby kangaroo.
(Pic from Hotslings site)
Later on, I switched to hip carry but that phase didn’t last long because the twins started walking at 11 months old and loved their new-found freedom.
Needless to say, the twins’ strollers ended up hardly being used — I had my Hotslings; my Indonesian nanny had her kain gendong. The sling took up very little space in my bag and didn’t need complicated folding as strollers would. It also doubled up as a cover-up for when I was breastfeeding. Oh how I wished I’ve known about babywearing way back when I had MyEldest!
Fast-forward to November 2010, I was browsing through the internet, looking for gift ideas for friends who are expecting babies. On an impulse, I googled up Hotslings and my jaw almost dropped to the floor when I found out that Hotslings, Inc. has closed its doors sometime around August 2010. Hotslings owner and creator, Kristen DeRocha, was quoted as saying: “The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) warning against slings really sent everything into a tailspin even though it had nothing to do with our products.”
I mourn this huge loss to the babywearing community and I join hands with other Malaysian babywearers in this statement:-
Babies die or get hurt in cribs, playpens, car seats, and strollers far more often than in slings. We don’t want to ban the production of any of these things either. What we should all work toward is writing a code that we can all agree on to ensure that the PRODUCT is safe, not ban products which CAN be used incorrectly.
We need to start by getting the right people to work with the CPSC in order to ensure soft baby carriers are not “thrown out with the bathwater.” We have just the right team assembling in the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance. The top names from the slings and carriers world are teaming up with Dr. Sears and other experts in an attempt to save the businesses that have grown out of pure and simple love for our children.
Save the slings.
I refuse to say goodbye to Hotslings. So I only bid it au revoir, until we meet again!