Baby-Wearers of Istanbul, Unite!

When I arrived in Istanbul, two and a half weeks after Anton's birth, our home was tiny (one room and an L shaped corridor kitchen) and surrounded by neighbours who were very curious about my arrival. Ville was director of Amnesty International here and working so many hours that we were only a few months away from me begging him to resign, despite our complete lack of security. I remember so vividly my first morning on Heybeliada with Anton: I somehow managed to get us organised despite there being no floor space after I had moved the mattress onto the floor so he couldn't fall far. I stepped outside of the door and the call went out (literally) from house to house. The village women were very unhappy that Anton was in a sling (here a small soft carry cot is favoured) and because I couldn't understand their complaints they resorted to mime. I suffered the mime of the suffocating baby, and of the cripple he would become, before pushing past and away, still too hormonal to manage a confrontation without tears.

There was never a chance I would give up baby-wearing since it has given me my freedom in a city that suffers from little forethought about, or interest in, the needs of women (or the poor or in any way disabled). When any urban planning has taken place it has been by men who have given no importance to women and children being out, independent and mobile. In a country where as little as 28% of women are working outside the home it is often presumed that women with children will not venture far from their houses. Since I have had to push Anton in a pushchair (I can't carry both of them) I have, on some especially tired days, cried with despair at the physical obstacles that pass for pavements. On good days though, when it isn't too crowded to let Anton run, or the path is manageable, we can roam this impossible city with relative ease, my little ones and me.

Julia, Anton and Neve.

My big purchase for Neve was an Ergo and (using an infant insert) she has been carried for hours every day by both Ville and I. We have felt no nerves about long journeys and most of her momentary misery ceases as soon as she sees us reach for the Ergo. I felt more confident about it at the start, but a few weeks in found myself worn down by the incessant complaints people felt unable to keep to themselves. I made a few new friends on Facebook, met a cool baby-wearer at a baby group and thanks to Documenting Delight felt that I now had a community of other mothers whose opinions I was happy to hear. I also found a gorgeous picture of one of my new Facebook friends (also from the UK) wearing a sling in a forest as if it was the most natural thing in the world (well it is really). Shortly after starting this blog I realised she had one, that she is a great writer who had put so many of my feelings about being here into words, and that she rises above the limitations of this city in beautiful, baby-wearing, style.

Since we started talking Suzanne has had a new baby, so now that we meet more than virtually, both of us have one in a sling and one to push or chase. I can see that having our littlest so close and contented allows us to focus on our toddlers. Since much of my fear about having a new baby was about how it would change things for me and Anton this has been such a bonus. I love watching Suzanne walking in the city with her little new one curled against her chest. We have had concerns expressed over our choices when together too, but it is so much easier to rise above it when you have an ally. I am delighted that the two of us have joined forces.

Suzanne and T

Baby-wearing on Istiklal Street.

Baby-wearing heaven.

Beautiful baby-wearing.

Visit the Facebook page or the Twitter page of this blog

7 thoughts on “Baby-Wearers of Istanbul, Unite!

  1. In many many years down the track you will know doubt be written in the archives of Istanbul's history showing women how it's done. Lovely post. Seriously, I had know idea it was like this on your side of the world. How sheltered am I.

  2. I guess it can be hard to be a new-comer in an eastern country and doing things native people don't approve of or aren't used to! But, apart from being practical for the mother, baby wearing is so beneficial to the well-being and development of the baby! What best, than having your baby so close to your skin!!!My congratulations to you Julia for not giving up what you know is best for your children, even in a ''hostile" environment . Mothers like you deserve so much acknowledgement, and I think the best part is when you see your babies growing up to be thoughtfull, caring children, because that's what they got from their parents: unlimited, tender love and care!!!

  3. My congratulations to you Julia for not giving up what you think is best for your children !!!

  4. Again and again i realise anew how hard it is to be a pioneer . I am sorry that progress for woman in Turkey is still so slow, with the biggest obstacle often being woman themselves. I am glad, Julia . that you have found an allay, may many more follow sooner rather than later!!

  5. Thanks so much for these comments. I remember you saying to me Mum that women are often the worst enemy of other women, and over my time here this has really been true. It is still incredible to me that a woman with her hands free could see me with sling, Anton, Matti and a pushchair piled with shopping and decide what I needed was some criticism!!! I think there are probably places in the city where baby-wearing is more common and I do see visitors to the Island with slings now and there are even two other inhabitants that wear their little ones. When I met with other expat women at a baby group they all had slings to carry their babies in. So I don't feel much of a pioneer but it has been so much more of a battle than I thought this could be. I am so happy I stuck at it though as it has carrying the babies has to be one of the loveliest of life's experiences. And nowadays it is possible to create a community of supporters where-ever you live. There is nothing better than having a friend walk beside you though!

  6. Julia I have just linked to this from my blog (that was not self promoting at all by the way, well I suppose it was in the literal sense in that you were promoting your blog, but only to a person of like mind who is very interested to read it and very happy for you to post said link and many others on my blog so thank you! :) )

    I am sorry to hear that you have come up against such opposition to you wearing Neve. Babywearing has been one of the most lovely experiences that I have had with Eden so far and is so practical when you have other children to care for so it makes me so happy to read that you have persevered regardless of that opposition and that you now have an ally and feel supported in your choices even if other people do not understand it.

  7. Nice to hear about more babywearing mothers in Istanbul. I started this initiative 5 years ago to promote baby wraps. After some research in Turkey I have found that this is actually a lost tradition here to and those who criticize it, actually un-learned it from their ancestors (something that happened in many countries around the world) in believing that modern contraptions such as strollers were more beneficial and "progressive". Hopefully for all - we are making our way back! You can visit to see our wraps


Proudly powered by Blogger
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.
Converted by