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So, something big is happening here that I’ve been sitting on for a little while as I’ve been processing and working out the rolling out of the decision. In a nutshell, I’m changing my business name and from now on, I’m operating as “Carried” for my carrying courses and under my own name for doula work and other services. I’ve been wanting to implement this change for several weeks, but Facebook has been denying my name change requests for my page, so I’m now at a point where I’m just going to share this with you all and create a new page – if you want to continue following me, I’d love that. If this revelation puts you off, it’s ok – we’re not in alignment with each other, but hopefully one day we will be.

The change of my business name has come because I’ve come to learn that using “Tribal Babies” is actively hindering social justice. I have been in contact with an agency – InterChange –  to consult with them about getting some more personal education on cultural appropriation and hopefully organising a CPD event for later next year. They were happy to talk about it, but wanted to make some enquiries about my business name before proceeding further. The questions they put to me opened my eyes to another perspective, and triggered me to do research about the word “tribe” and its use by white people.

For those of you who don’t know, I named my business “Tribal Babies” as in 2011 I “found my tribe” and the woman we all looked up to as our wise woman called us “Tribal Mamas” in honour of this – a group of mamas who found their tribe. When I was setting up my business at the end of 2011, I couldn’t settle on a name. The only one that felt like it fit was “Tribal Babies”, as my business was about the things us “Tribal Mamas” were all doing.

For many people though, the word “tribe” or “tribal” conjours up different images – more so if they don’t know of the word as a term for a community/people who feel like family. Things like poor, underdeveloped, primitive, national geographic, developing countries, back to basics, half naked etc. come to mind. It all seems so obvious to me now, and I feel foolish for not thinking beyond the fact I named my business because of my parenting and friendship support network.

The thing is, impact trumps intent of course. I named my business for my own reasons. What others take it as is the impact it makes. For people who it conjours up any of the stuff I mentioned, it’s perpetuating that image and it would be irresponsible of me to carry on using this name now I know better. For people of colour who know the true history behind the word “tribe”, it can bring upset, offence, annoyance, reminders of persecution etc. One big thing I learned was that many cultures don’t even call themselves tribes, they call themselves “people” or “nation” and that much of the time it’s been white people either describing these communities as “tribes”, or even going so far as to divide peoples into “tribes”.

Seeing the bigger picture and impact of what I’m actually perpetuating has been an eyeopener, especially given the fact that everything my business has been about has been to do with or endorses/promotes things like babywearing, breastfeeding, normalising birth, elimination communication, bedsharing, natural term weaning, home ed etc. These things are things things that are seen (in varying degrees) in England and other Western countries as being different/strange/weird, so you can probably see now how having the “tribal” tag attached to these practices further stigmatises the word.

I’m sorry to any person or peoples I’ve offended by using this as my business name. I know intention doesn’t trump impact, but please know that in my awareness I’m committed to change.

So, I’m holding my hands up, and admitting I’ve done wrong. I now know better, and so am committed to doing better. I’ve made the decision to operate under my own name as this is me. This is who I am. I’m not hiding behind a company name any more. I stand here accountable for my actions, and maybe just being me will help me to think longer and harder about the choices I make going forwards. With regards to my carrying consultancy course, that will operate as “Carried”, so if you work with me you will complete the “Carried Consultancy Course”.

It will take a while to implement the changes in full, as there are many things I need to do for the full transition to happen, and I have a whole site and lots of online course modules to move over, as well as rebranding, but my first step is changing the logo name on this website, and my Facebook page name as these are immediate ones.

Babywearing has brought so many positive things into my life – friends, acquaintances, a gateway to learning about other parenting practices, a business, nearly 5 years of volunteer work with families in Suffolk, and so much more. In the past year it’s brought me a valuable gift – insight into the harsh realities of this world that I’ve been unaware of on this kind of level for so long. I’m humbled, and incredibly grateful for the learning that’s ensued (and will continue to for the rest of my life), grateful that people who are marginalised are standing up and demanding their voices be heard, however uncomfortable that may be for many uninterested in the realities of so many people in this world. We can make changes for the better if we admit when we’ve done wrong, do better when we know better, leave our egos at the door and replace them with courage and conviction.

It’s terrifying putting this out there, acknowledging I’ve done wrong and knowing that there will be people who look at me thinking “you’re a fool to have never considered this” and yet others who think I’m foolish to think there’s a problem with this name. But you know what? I can look at this as a profound learning experience. My mind’s been opened up more than I could have imagined (thinking I was open-minded and aware of such issues anyway!), I’m actively searching for more stories from people who live with systematic racism against them every single day, I’m able to let go of not needing to please everyone…..what’s right is more important than people liking me. The already-wide-open door to my children’s heritage is illuminated so brilliantly, realising it’s not for me to do what I can to share it with them, it’s my responsibility to immerse them in it, to go the extra mile to make sure their roots aren’t forgotten and buried. So for all the inevitable scariness of change, the growth and learning experiences from this eclipse it.

I’m happy to share that I am still working with InterChange, and that my course materials on Cultural Appropriation and the Babywearing Industry have been met with their approval. I look forward to sharing more information about a CPD webinar later in the year on the subject, direct from InterChange, in the coming weeks.

Thank you to those who have been supporting me through this learning and change, and to those of you who have read this with an open mind and heart.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment or drop me an email. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to carrying on moving in the right direction.

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Have you ever wondered if babywearing could be bad for your back? Maybe a concerned family member or friend has warned you against using slings/carriers because they’re worried about the effect it may have on your body?

It’s an understandable concern, especially for those living in a primarily sedentary culture like we are here in the UK. Our postures tend to suffer from how we live and move (or the lack of movement in our lives), so to be aware of how our bodies react to the normal practice of baby carrying is a good thing!

The good news is, babywearing and carrying isn’t inherently bad for your body. If it were, our babies would be able to walk from birth. The fact is that we are primates and we are designed to carry our young. As human primates, we don’t have an abundance of bodily hair like other primates such as apes and monkeys do, so our bodies are designed to carry in a different way. Instead of our babies clinging onto fur, they cling onto our bodies with the assistance of either our arms or a baby sling/carrier.

Unfortunately our bodies have ended up adapting to the invention of the pram, as well as many other ways of being that contribute to poor posture. There are obviously many benefits for caregivers for using prams (including personal space, carrying heavy bags etc.), but the fact we as a society have moved away from what our bodies were designed to do (carry babies), has meant that prams have helped to contribute to poor posture.

If you take a look at people pushing prams, you’ll often see they are slouched over, handle bar too low for their height, pushing a weight that is far from their centre of gravity. This can make pre-existing postural problems worse, and introduce problems to a good posture. If you use a pram, making sure the handle bar can be set to the right height for your height will help your body out.

While babywearing-specific research is still in its infancy, there is a good amount of research about how various load-bearing activities may impact on the body. Research into backpacks and how wearing them can affect the body is of the greatest interest here, as wearing a backpack is the closest example we have with wearing a baby.

It’s been shown that having more of the weight lower down the body is better for comfort, stability and flexion. This makes so much sense when you think about how the primary caregiver usually has a body genetically designed to have wider hips, meaning babies and children naturally sit around the waist/hip area. In fact, it’s been shown that the lumbar part of the spine (lower back) has resilience to increased loads placed upon it, meaning that the lower spine is more readily able to adapt to heavier weights without sustaining injury.

Of course, too much of anything can have negative effects on our bodies, so the key is to pay attention to what our body is telling us over any “rules”, warnings or advice we’re given. Work out what’s best for you and your body, and identify if you have any current problems that may be making a certain way of wearing more comfortable for where your body has transitioned to. Always consult a medical professional if you have any concerns.

On top of this, paying attention to any postural problems you may have will help you in adjusting your carrying to make it more comfortable if you’re experiencing discomfort with adequately tightened carries. Front carries with a slumped-forward posture will no doubt make your posture worse if you’re not correcting it as you go along. Those experiencing this postural problem may find that back carrying helps to “straighten out” their posture, and those with a “sway back” problem may find front carrying is more beneficial for their body.

I’ve mentioned how baby carrying is completely normal for us as a species. The thing is, in England at least, we’re so out of the loop of what “normal” carrying means that it’s become something that we need to relearn. One thing you can do is look at how you carry in-arms and mimic that when you use a sling/carrier. Also, paying attention to cultures who haven’t given up baby carrying as a norm, and study how and why they carry can give you a fantastic insight into what positions may work best for certain situations and why. Also, doing research into your ancestry is a brilliant way of tracing back the roots of your family’s babywearing culture!

As with everything when it comes to baby carrying – one size does not fit all! If you have any questions or concerns, you can either email me or contact your local babywearing educator.

If you’re a carer or babywearing educator interested in learning more about how the wearer’s physiology impacts the carrying journey, take a look at the Carried Consultancy Course and/or email me for more information.

 

Some research/further reading links:

The Effects of EMG activation of Neck, Lumbar and Low Limb by Using Baby Carrier with Arms during Walking – http://www.koreascience.or.kr/article/ArticleFullRecord.jsp?cn=DGMHBK_2010_v5n3_323

The effects of body posture by using Baby Carrier in different ways – http://www.koreascience.or.kr/article/ArticleFullRecord.jsp?cn=DGMHBK_2013_v8n2_193

Increase of load-carrying capacity under follower load generated by trunk muscles in lumbar spine – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17539579

Soldier load carriage: historical, physiological, biomechanical, and medical aspects – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14964502

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