I was fortunate enough to recently embark on a week-long trip to Europe with my children (ages 6 years and 19 months), husband, and in-laws. In a period of nine days, we experienced three countries, four cities, two transatlantic flights, two shorter flights, two train rides between cities, and rides on trams, subway trains, water buses, and a gondola. We visited countless museums and churches, ascended bell towers, and ate a lot of gelato. We didn’t bring a stroller, carseat, or any other baby gear except a soft-structured carrier and a pouch sling. The ways in which babywearing helped make this trip possible and enjoyable are too great to innumerate, but here are the top ways babywearing made this an awesome, doable trip.
|With toddler in SSC about to climb some stairs at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy|
1. Stairs, stairs, and more stairs: As many know, Europe has a lot of stairs. Every few feet in Venice, one must cross a bridge with stairs. There are stairs—and often no easy access to elevators—in subway stations, train stations, and within museums. We even boarded the huge airplane for our flight back to US from the tarmac… using stairs. While a free-ranging toddler (or one trying to wriggle free from your arms) or a stroller are less than ideal in these settings, a carrier makes stairs a non-issue.
|Mom, toddler, and big brother all stand atop one of the many bridges in Venice, the canal can be seen below|
2.Naps on the go: In addition to normal napping, babywearing allowed my daughter to conk out whenever needed as she adjusted to the 6 hour time difference. She could sleep contentedly on my back (or front), and we could keep sight-seeing or go out to dinner—a win for everyone.
3.Art museums and glass shops: No one wants a one-year-old running free when priceless works of art or breakable merchandise abound. No better way to contain the child and still experience the artwork than to toss the toddler into a carrier. An added bonus is that having the baby up at your level allows you to share what you are seeing with one another.
|Toddler in front in SSC pointing to art with brother at art museum with religious icons in the background|
4. Transportation: This trip involved a lot of transit time in a variety of vehicles, and babywearing helped us get through the airport, to the train station, or onto the water bus with ease. It freed up our hands to carry bags and kept the baby content and contained as we traveled around.
|Toddler in front in an SSC on a gondola ride in Venice, Italy|
|Toddler in SSC next to 6yr old brother on train to Florence|
5. Climbing stuff: Some of the most fun things we did on this trip, especially from the perspective of my 6-year-old, involved climbing bell towers and the Duomo (dome) in Florence. Taking my toddler up the hundreds of steps through narrow passages would have been basically impossible (and unsafe) had she not been securely strapped to my back.
|Toddler barely visible on back following 6yr old in a dark narrow staircase climbing the Duomo in Florence, Italy|
|Toddler grins in SSC in dark hallway climbing Duomo in Florence|
|Mom with sleepy toddler on back and beaming 6yr old boy atop Duomo after climb, |
the city and mountain view spreads below
|Toddler can be seem reaching towards the view atop the bell tower in Florence with a church dome and the city beyond|
6. Crowds: August in a crowded time of year in Europe, and keeping my baby close and safe in a carrier (and not needing to fight my way through the crowds with a stroller) was invaluable.
|Toddler enjoys a snack from the safety of mom's back during the trip|
7. Sharing: As is always a benefit of babywearing, having my daughter up on our level, where we could tell her about what we saw and listen to her reactions to what she was experiencing, meant that she came on this trip as an active participant (albeit a young one), and we got to share the places and sites with her up-close. Fun examples include when she noticed an elaborately decorated ceiling in the Vatican Museum and proceeded to point it out to us from my back saying, “See? See?” and her signing “horse” (with sound effects) when she noticed statues of horses.
|Back wearing underground in the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey|
|Toddler on mom's back as they stand before the lit Colosseum in Rome in the evening|
8. Peace of mind and lack of worry: This one is difficult to articulate, but having babywearing as a tried and true option made situations on this trip that might have seemed complicated or problematic with a toddler, non-issues.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and babywearing was an invaluable asset that helped make it that way.