If you’re a new mom who has managed to maintain a social life as Munich reinvents itself into a hipster city, then you’ve seen the babywearers. You can find them shopping the Fußgängerzone, not giving a second thought to the gravel at Tollwood, and being careful not to drip barbeque sauce on their babies at street-food markets.
Germany’s trend of carrying a baby instead of pushing a stroller is a culmination of two recent cultural developments – a reform of German family policy over the last decade combined with the long incoming renaissance of babywearing in the Western world.
Germany – the Next Generation
At the end of 2005, Germany started its first Große Koalition in almost fifty years, a mother of seven was appointed Familienministerin and on January 1st 2007, the Elterngeldgesetz was born.
Replacing the Erziehungsgeld covering the first 24 months of the child’s life with 300€ per month – regardless of the mother’s previous income – the new and improved Elterngeld pays 67% with a maximum of 1,800€ per month of the mother’s OR the father’s income, which they can distribute among themselves for 14 months over a period of three years. The goal: incentivizing parents in Germany to have children – and meine Götter, did it work!
Since 2007 the birth rate in Munich has continuously broken the record from the previous year, contributing to the Hebammen– and Kita-Crisis we are all familiar with. One thing is for sure, there are babies everywhere right now in Munich, so don’t even think about going to Familientag at Oktoberfest with a stroller!
Return of the Sling
The other development is subtler: the rise of attachment parenting and the renaissance of the baby wrap have contributed to the booming trend. Carrying a baby in some form of sling is something humanity has been doing for millennia, but since Queen Victoria made the pram fashionable in England at the end of the 18th century, knowledge of babywearing has dispersed.
In Germany, carrying a baby was revived in the 1970’s when a mother named Erika Hoffmann had twins and her hands full. She started using a sling a friend of hers had brought from Central America and was met with such enthusiasm from other mothers that she created the company Didymos – now one of the most renowned baby wrap producers worldwide. At about the same time, Dr. Sears introduced his 7 B’s of Attachment Parenting, including the newly coined term “babywearing.” Parents who were concerned about the physical and psychological development of their babies began to wear their little ones.
How to be Germany’s Top Babywearer
So, what do you get when you combine a baby boom with return-to-the-roots parenting styles? A practical and stylish trend you don’t want to miss! Here are suggestions for strutting your babywearing stuff…
- Wear your sling as an accessory. With fashionable designs and a large product market, who wouldn’t want to babywear? There are now carriers and wraps to suit every style and personality… whether your garb is casual or dressy, sleek or vibrant, preppy or punk. Some babywearing brands have been featured in Vogue magazine and there is even a Trachten wrap available from the Bavarian babywearing company Kokadi. So, whatever your tastes, there is a wrap for you!
- Use your wrap or carrier to get in shape. Sporty mommies can find babywearing exercise classes called Kanga training in the Munich area, so you can get your baby and your groove on. The muscles of your postpartum body will recover in sync with the growth of your baby, so even walks and hikes with your little one will give you the extra edge to feel the burn.
- Use babywearing to beat Munich’s lack of elevators and scary escalators. Nothing is more practical for the Munich public transportation system and cobblestone streets than going stroller-less. And a wrap, sling or carrier is a must if you’re planning to brave airport terminals and international flights.
Editor’s Note – Need help finding the right wrap, sling or carrier for you? Check out the Tuchfühlung, a shop near Donnersbergerbrücke which offers a great selection of soft & structured carriers you can try. You can find an English-speaking consultant near you using the Tragenetzwerk e.V. interactice map. And of course, don’t forget our very own babywearing consultant, Doula Darby, will be offering more consultations and classes in English in 2018.
Darby loves that moment when the person with whom she’s speaking German realizes… hey, this chick isn’t German! She’s been here for half her life – and even if she hides it well, she’s a Nevadan cowgirl at heart. She came to Munich to study German literature and ended up staying for good. Having children in Munich brought her back to her undeniable cultural roots and although she’s faced various challenges as a mother of children both on earth and in heaven, she finds strength in her calling as a doula, babywearer and cheerleader for fellow kick-ass, expat mothers. Find her here.
Photo credit: All images property of Doula Darby