Black Voices in Babywearing : Jarrah Foster, Babywearing Educator and IBCLC
It was never a question of deciding to wear my baby, but more of a question of which carrier. I understood the benefits and learned all about attachment parenting in my perinatal health coaching and lactation educator course work. But for me personally, there was a depth of weight associated with the style of carrier.
The notion of baby carrying as a tradition in my own culture was a bit confrontational to my psyche. In my mind, there was a difference between wearing a wrap and ring sling vs the more modern structured/buckle carriers popularized in mainstream western culture. I honestly didn’t notice the parents carrying their babies in more traditional ways until I started working at a retail store that sold and provided fittings for carriers. The images that initially came to mind, were of slaves wearing their babies. For me, it was something black ensalved women did because they were forced to continue working while carrying for their young children. Babywearing was either a symbol of oppression or reminded me of Hollywood elites. In this retail environment, I was now exposed to women and parents from many different backgrounds wanting to carry their babies; they were in love with wraps, slings and Asian-styled carriers. The shame associated with traditional babywearing gave way to acceptance, pride and a little bit of confusion. How did I miss that things like a back carrying in a woven wrap was suddenly “cool”?
The exact answer to that question lies somewhere between my circles of influence and the what is old is new again reality of cultural appropriation, but the more important part is that my ideas changed.
The ability to be immersed in babywearing culture really helped to shift my perspective. I started to learn about the origins of babywearing throughout the world. I took pride in the ownership of my heritage, and couldn’t wait to wear my baby in all styles of carriers. It was fun seeing how the different styles and fabrics fit my body. I saw my ancestors as brave and wise women who knew how important it was to carry their children and provide that stability despite the circumstances of oppression. And when my little one struggled to sleep due to her reflux, I carried her proudly, deeply, and profoundly. This freedom and joy was intoxicating and something that I wanted to share. I became an educator so that people from all backgrounds could not only access the benefits of wearing but also so that more Black women might also have the opportunity to reclaim their heritage and have the same joy I experienced.
If there is one thing I could share with others about babywearing, it is this: While enjoying the beautiful connection it brings, consider how what was born out of necessity for some is a privilege for many to enjoy. It is a true reflection of its significance. Be bold, and carry on!
About our guest blogger:
Jarrah Foster left the corporate business world to focus on a career in maternal health. Jarrah completed her International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) education, certification in pregnancy health coaching with the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, educator training through the Center for Babywearing Studies, and training for trauma counseling with the Organic Intelligence organization.
Acutely aware of the lack of Black IBCLCs in San Diego (she is currently the only one), Jarrah focuses much of her time working with organizations in the community that provide services to Black parents. She is thrilled to be working out of the Black-owned and operated San Diego Community Birth Center in addition to her practice, Jarrah Foster Lactation & Wellness.
Jarrah added motherhood to her resumé during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic and continued to support her community in any way that she could through lactation and babywearing support. You can follow @lact_well on Instagram to keep up with Jarrah.