Friday, May 21, 2010

Babywearing, African Style

In looking through my blog archives, I don't think I've posted this before, which is weird because it is such a big part of our everyday lives.

Years ago, before I had kids of my own, I nannied for a friend from Ghana who attended our church at the time. She had twins, 7 or 8 months old, a boy and a girl. I watched them for several days a week during most of one summer.

Her little boy in particular was accustomed to the African method of babywearing, used for centuries in countries like Kenya and Ghana. Because it would keep him happy and quiet for hours, I asked his mother to teach me to put him on my back like she did.

At first the technique made me nervous; it was so different from the commercially produced Snuglis that Americans used. Even now the plethora of Ergos, Mobys, Ring Slings, Bjorns and wraps usually utilize straps and ties and buckles and they cost hundreds of dollars.

The Lesso, a simple piece of cloth used in Africa as a sun dress, a towel or a baby sling has no straps, no ties, no buckles, and it costs a few dollars. But having practiced using it with not only my little friends from Ghana but now my own three children, I can toss my babies on my back with the best African Mama.

To my delight too, it's a way I can carry my babies for long periods of time without my stupid back screaming at me. Since the baby's weight is balanced on my tailbone and hips, it never hurts my back at all. He's safe and secure tied on my back with his little arms and legs hugging my waist.

Hubby, though he uses the Snugli sometimes, likes the back carrier too. I made an adapted version that uses shoulder straps for him since he doesn't have the *ahem* "front" that keeps the African version from sliding to the floor.

With the baby happily on my back, I walk to the park, I cook dinner (where he is safely out of the way and won't get burned), I teach homeschool co-op classes, I walk the dog and I shop in the mall. Last time I wore it in the mall I got a lot of looks and comments. I guess Americans just cannot get over the lack of buckles, straps, ties and a brand-name tag.

The ultimate irony is that when we get Little Sister, who is from Africa, she'll probably be too big to be carried in the African Lesso on my back, the only one of my children who won't be. I bet when she was a baby, though, she was carried in one too.


  1. That is so awesome! I'd love for you to show me how to strap up the babe when he/she comes!

    Baby wearing is absolutely the only way to get much done with babies, and still be connected well!

    Love it, Erin!

  2. Ooh, that looks so much simpler than my azure wrap (you have to have a degree to learn to tie it but it sure is comfortable!)

  3. I knew this piece of cloth as a pagne -- Where I grew up in West Africa, every married woman had a spare pagne wrapped around their waist -- It was a sign they were married.

    (P.S. Found you on the FB Christian unschoolers network.)

  4. Love this!!!! Reminds me of my years spent in Cote d'Ivoire. I found your blog post in a search for an image to make sure I had my own baby tied in my pagne correctly :D