Before there were influencers, there were people in our own community, like local educators, who loved spreading the word about the benefits of babywearing. They gathered in local and online groups to help others keep their babies close. It not only provided babywearing support but, it also fostered friendships and community.
It might seem bold to call them life-changing, but in particular, Roni Elias in San Diego is credited for changing the course of parenting for so many families. As one of the founding members of Babywearing San Diego, she was also one of the first people in the US to try a Tula carrier! Roni is an avid wrapper, but Baby Tula quickly found a place in her heart, and she began to tell everyone.
She was a spark in our own backyard that seemed to ignite excitement for Tula in the San Diego babywearing “world” and beyond. People from all over were hearing from their friends in San Diego about our carriers! Ula, our founder, had a beautifully made product and a dear friend who wanted to share it with the world. The rest is history.
As we celebrate 10 years of our growth, we sat down with Roni to chat about her experience and how she helped introduce so many to Baby Tula.
Where did your babywearing journey begin?
"At two weeks old, I took my baby to a cloth diaper group. I could not get him to stop crying. Another parent asked if she could wrap my baby. Out of desperation, I handed my baby over. Sure enough, he went right to sleep. The same people who ran the cloth diaper group also ran the babywearing group starting right after so, I stayed for the meeting."
How did you go from group member to group leader?
"Right away, I learned how important babywearing was. I could feed my baby in the middle of Trader Joes instead of having to wait! They lead you to believe a fantasy before you have a baby, but it’s not always true. I knew I could help give other caregivers peace, even when baby was not being peaceful. I started going to breastfeeding support meetings just to teach babywearing."
How did you first learn about Baby Tula?
"In Jan 2012, Ula met a fellow BWSD volunteer and mentioned that she had started making carriers in Poland and would be happy to donate to our group. We invited her to the next meeting and Ula came with a bunch of carriers! She was fitting everyone and the carriers went so fast! We had a great library of carriers and many very experienced wrappers, but from that moment on, people who tried it, loved Tula."
What made Tula stand out to you?
"Many people were drawn to our local babywearing meetings because they were looking to connect. We were all going through the same things and it was a great group of people. Tula started having playdates in San Diego. Anyone hesitant to try a Tula was turned around by meeting Ula. She was so kind and humble. People loved the carrier, but they loved Ula just as much. She was one of us. She had little kids, lived with her in-laws, and was just following a dream to help more people wear babies."
Any fun stories from those early days?
"We were at a park and saw a woman who looked like she would benefit from a carrier. Ula ran to her car and grabbed a Tula. She fit the woman in the carrier. I asked if she would ask for the Tula back but, Ula said the person needed it. She did that everywhere we went. She would take her own carrier off at the zoo and hand it over to someone who looked like they needed one. We worked together to give away a lot of carriers. (laughs)"
Roni's last thoughts
"Babywearing is good for all kids! Maybe not all kids need it, but mine did. If I could still put my oldest in a carrier, I would. But, he's 5'8" and I'm barely 5 foot. (laughs)"
Where is Roni now?
Roni is still busy making a difference in the lives of families. It's been 13 years and she is still willing to give a hand (and recommend Tula) to families that need help babywearing. It's not uncommon to see Roni with a borrowed baby or with her sweet chihuahua/dachshund up in a carrier. Today, she finds fulfillment in supporting asylum seekers here in San Diego and lending her time to anyone else who may need.
Thank you, Roni for spreading the #tulalove for almost a decade.