A baby carrier, the bush, and the bond between father and child.

A baby carrier, the bush, and the bond between father and child.

And the man take the child

up into his arms

Takes her over the breakers

To where the water is calm”. (Paul Kelly).

Paul Kelly’s lyrics beautifully encapsulate, among other things, the trust and solace that a child can obtain from being held by a guardian. I would like to hope that my son feels this as I scoop him up and we take one of our frequent trips into the bush behind our house.

Hamish was a reflux baby, resulting in very little sleep for anyone and lots of stomach cramps and vomiting for the little man. After trying every trick in the book, we found the best solutions were to a) keep him upright, and b) distract him by taking him outside. He quickly grew to love the outdoors, first of all out on the deck in my arms where he could feel the breeze on his cheek, and then trips around our yard with our old dog Greasy Pete leading the way. Going out on to the deck or finding the dog for a pat quickly became the go to solution when the cramps kicked in.

As a new father and an outdoors person, I found the early stages of parenthood quite restrictive, often being awake for 20 hours a day but not actually achieving anything as Hamish needed to be held all the time to sleep or be happy. As soon as the first rays of sunlight would show themselves through the trees each morning, Hamish would be wrapped up snugly and out we would go to the bush behind our house. Our little man went from miserable and cranky to calm and happy, wide eyed with wonder at the simple yet vibrant beauty of the Tasmanian bush. For short trips I would simply hold him close, while if we had a bit more time, I would strap him into our Boba 4G carrier and head up the hill for a couple of kilometres of sight seeing.

At around 3 months of age we had Hamish allergy tested and found that he was wheat and dairy intolerant. Three days after my wife changed her diet, we had a new child. Gone were the cramps, wind and vomiting, and Hamish became a settled and happy baby. The one thing that didn’t change was his love for the outdoors, nor my love for spending that time with him. Almost a year later and we still have at least two trips a day into the bush, once in the carrier for a longer trek, and the other time with Hamish leading the way on his stumpy little legs. If we needed any confirmation of his love of these trips, it comes in the form of him now trying to prise open the back door to get out. Once out in the yard, he heads straight for the back gate which he shake impatiently like a prisoner released on remand.

To start with these trips were simply a way to distract Hamish from feeling miserable, but now each one is an adventure in itself. If he’s in the Boba, he laughs and babbles and reaches out to grab leaves or feel the rough ironbark trunks. When he’s on foot it really is a journey of discovery. He often races ahead, only to fall over into the grey sandy soil or stop suddenly to pick up an interesting rock or stick. I name the plants and objects that he comes across and allow him to touch them and feel the different surfaces. I’m not sure he understands what I’m saying but believe that these tactile experiences are fantastic for his development. Reinforcement of this belief came while watching a film called Project Wild Thing, a documentary in which a man tries to restore and inspire children’s (and their parents) love of the outdoors. One of the achievements in the film is the education of young mothers of the importance of taking their child outside right from birth. Studies show outdoor time helps children grow lean and strong, enhances imaginations and attention spans, decreases aggression, and boosts classroom performance. In addition, children who spend time in nature regularly are shown to become better stewards of the environment.

When people ask us why did we start our business www.babycarriersaustralia.net.au I like to point to the special bond that between my son and I that has been forged by our love of being outside experiencing nature. Obviously the business is our livelihood, but to sell products that can help foster the relationship between parents and child and to get them out into the daylight makes it more worthwhile.