Clean house and carry the baby all at once: The 'kanga' is key to hands-free childcare.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Google "baby sling," and up come thousands of links for ergonomically correct, all-natural, sure-to-get-your-kid-into-Yale carriers. There's the Baby Bjorn and the New Native Baby, the Rockin' Baby and the MamaRoo, the Freedom Sling and the SlingEZee. There are celebrity endorsements (Cindy Crawford used this one) and promises galore (reduce crying by 51 percent). There are even debates: Pouch versus Ring Sling? Wrap versus Pack? What about the Papoose? It's a daunting world, really, for American baby carriers-to-be.
The solution? Move to Africa. Here, there's one way to hold babies: On your back.
"You just wrap the baby like this, and then tie it like this, see?" explains Nomvula Nyembe, a housecleaner who, though she has no children of her own, has carried dozens of young relatives. She demonstrates the necessary tucks and turns with a towel. To American eyes, it looks a bit complicated. She laughs. "It's not hard," she says.
Basically, she says, you lift the baby onto your back, piggy back style, letting the little feet fall to either side of your mid section. Then you bend over, so your back is almost parallel to the ground, and balance him there on his tummy. Meanwhile, you use your hands to sling a cloth over your back, almost like a jump rope backwards, tucking the bottom edge under the baby's bottom. You then pull the edges of the cloth to the front of your torso, under your arms. The ends are knotted around your chest or secured with a big safety pin or tucked one edge over the other, like a bath towel. The tension of the cloth creates a slinglike seat for the baby, pressed close to your back. Of course, it helps if you have curves – to eliminate slippage.
Then you go about your business.
"Nothing disturbs him there," she says. "He sleeps well." It's hard for a baby to wiggle in this position. And you rarely see one crying.