2019-01-02 / Local News

Bringing babywearing to the Jewish community—and beyond

MEET TOVAH KURLANSIK…
By REA BOCHNER Voice Staff

FAMILY: Husband Rafi; children Judah, 9, Benjamin, 6, and Hadassah, 3

SYNAGOGUE: Sons of Israel

HOBBIES: Watching “The Office,” Karaoke

FAVORITE FOOD: Sugar

FUN FACT: For 20 years, she’s been accidentally receiving the actress Tovah Feldshuh’s emails

FAVORITE BAND: The New Pornographers

When Tovah Kurlansik was pregnant with her oldest son, Judah, in 2009, she registered for the Baby Bjorn, which was then the hot baby carrier on the market. “On the day of his bris (circumcision ceremony), I needed to put my makeup on, but he needed to be held. So I broke out that Baby Bjorn, put him on, and I thought, ‘Hmm. This is really nice…’”

From that moment, Kurlansik, who grew up in Moorestown and now lives on the west side of Cherry Hill, began researching babywearing, the practice of carrying babies in a sling or carrier. She discovered that it had been around, well, forever.

“People have been wearing their babies since the beginning of time,” said Kurlansik. “You think we went out of Egypt with Bugaboos?” Her research showed that the benefits of babywearing were remarkable: Aiding in baby’s physical and emotional development, boosting breast milk production, promoting bonding, and allowing caregivers to be “hands-free.” Kurlansik found babywearing groups on Facebook and the internet, and attended real-life meet-ups with other babywearers, where she learned about the wide variety of slings and carriers available.

Quickly, she found the perfect carrier for her and her baby— Kurlansik prefers a woven wrap—and discovered a passion for teaching other women about babywearing. She became a certified volunteer babywearing educator with the now-defunct Babywearing International, doing home visits to new moms to teach them how to wear their babies. At first, Kurlansik said, “it was just for fun, because I loved babywearing and I thought it was a really important skill to teach people.” But when the market took a nosedive and her husband’s job was impacted, Kurlansik decided to turn her skills into a business called Worn This Way.

Even then, it was a labor of love. “I get my newborn fix,” gushed Kurlansik. “My favorite thing is this moment when the baby snuggles in and puts his face on the mother’s chest, and she takes this big, deep sigh and says, ‘This is so nice…’ That drug alone will keep me in the business.”

Four years ago, Kurlansik was invited to teach babywearing workshops at The Village: South Jersey Breastfeeding and Wellness, then a new business founded by Jewish mom Avery Giordano and Jen Duckles. Kurlansik has been teaching there exclusively ever since.

Babywearing education has allowed Kurlansik to stay connected to the South Jersey Jewish community she’s been a part of since childhood. “When I do my classes at the Village,” she said, “I constantly see people who say, ‘I was in JCC Camps with you’ or ‘I was in BBYO with you.’” Kurlansik and The Village also were sponsors at the recent Bump2Baby Expo at the JCC.

Part of the connection has to do with the new generation’s attraction to babywearing. “Today, people are embracing multiple roles,” she said. “You can be a working woman and an attentive mother. You can be a father who’s a provider for your family, but also a super hands-on dad.” Which is why babywearing has such an important role to play. “It’s not limited to the one who carried the baby; it’s for the nanny, the daycare provider, the grandmother, and it’s for the father or partner especially.”

Ultimately, Kurlansik hopes to see babywearing become even more normalized. After all, she said, “Babies were born to be worn.” 

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