‘Babywearing’, the term given to carrying your baby close to your body in a wrap or carrier, is an age old practice that has been passed down through generations and across different continents. Each different country has traditionally had its own different type of carrier unique to their own climate, and in many cultures today babywearing is a way of life; it is a necessity for many parents who need to carry on with physical work so after babies are born. So in this age of cars, public transport, prams and various other modes of transport, why would we continue to carry our babies in our modern culture? We can just as easily strap them into a buggy and stroll down to the park, can’t we? Yes, we can. But babywearing is about so much more than making life a little easier when you need to take baby along for the ride. Allow us to share with you the true beauty of babywearing.
An easy life
Starting with the most obvious, carrying your baby means that you can have an easier life. Rather than spending hours rocking a crying baby, you can simply pop them into a carrier and go about your business instead. Yes. You can wash up with a baby strapped to your chest. You can brush your teeth, you can walk the school run, you can hop on and off the bus with ease. Babywearing means that you can take your baby with you wherever you go, and not need to worry about folding and unfolding heavy prams and pushchairs. It means that you can have two arms free to do the grocery shopping. It means no more frantic face washes in the morning while the baby cries in the car seat by your feet.
Babywearing makes for an easy life, but this is only the beginning. It is a fringe benefit, if you like- just another reason to love it so.
Close enough to kiss.
When you wear your baby on your chest, you need to make sure that he/ she is close enough to kiss. This is for safety reasons (please see this article, from the babywearing magazine Close enough to Kiss, for the TICKS list and more information) and is important to remember. Beyond that, having your baby this close is essential for many other reasons.
● Bonding. Wearing your baby close to you, so that you can smell the top of his/ her head, and kiss the soft skin whenever you like is an act so intimate and so precious that it is little wonder babywearing has been attributed to strengthening the bond between parent and child.
● The fourth trimester. The first three months of a baby’s life is often referred to as such, because many believe that a newborn baby is not quite ready for the outside world after just nine months gestation. Replicating as many conditions of the womb as possible can help to soothe and settle your baby immensely, and babywearing is known to help. Babies love to be held closely, wrapped tightly next to a warm body. Not only that, but being able to hear your heartbeat helps to calm an unsettled baby too.
● Post Natal Depression. If you’re suffering following the birth of your baby, you may find that babywearing helps to alleviate some of the symptoms, because it can help to increase a mother’s self confidence in her ability to care for her baby. On top of that, babies that are carried are likely to cry less and more likely to sleep, thus reducing mother’s stress further.
It’s not just emotional. Although the reasons already stated do seem to be more than enough reasons to babywear! There have also been lots of studies done into the health benefits of babywearing and we’d like to share them with you.
Colic, reflux and wind. These common conditions can be the bane of some baby’s lives! Being held upright in a baby carrier can help to relieve symptoms and, of course, being close to you will help to calm upset babies too. If your baby is close to you in a sling or carrier, you are more likely to be aware of discomfort or pain that is being experienced too, making you more of a responsive parent as a result.
Physical development. Any warnings you’ve heard about babies that are carried being late walkers and unable to control gross motor skills are nonsense. Studies have found that babywearing actually promotes and aids physical development, because baby is more in tune with the parent’s own physical movements. Bending, stretching, walking and other movements are stimulating baby, and helping to regulate his/ her own movements too. In addition, premature or low weight babies have been known to gain in strength and weight from babywearing, simply due to the way that being carried allows baby to control bodily functions and movements.
Ear infections can be prevented through babywearing. Yes, really. And babywearing also helps to regulate baby’s temperature too. Studies have found that thermal synchronicity can occur through carrying baby. This means that if baby is too cold, mum’s own body temperature rises to compensate. A flexed position on mother’s chest is also much better at conserving heat than a horizontal position.
Breathing is regulated when a baby is carried close to a parent’s chest. This is fabulous news if baby has an irregular breathing pattern; by being close to and listening to a parent’s breathing pattern, baby will copy this pattern and therefore regulate his/ her own breathing.
Stress reactions are also improved with babywearing. Your baby’s responses to certain situations are more controlled, simply because you are there.
Your physical health also benefits from babywearing. Think about all the walking, bending, stretching and lifting you’ll be doing with a small baby attached to you. You’re more likely to walk to the shops too, rather than pop baby into a car seat for a drive.
Your baby’s emotions
Emotionally, babywearing is superb for new parents. And for babies? Even more so. Your baby is more likely to cry less and to feel more confident (that his/ her needs are going to be met quickly) and secure. Babies that are carried have also been shown to be more aware and vitally stimulated than babies who are not. In everything that you do, your baby is at your height and eye level, experiencing it all with you. And as baby relies on the senses so heavily, it’s easy to see why this would be so beneficial. Studies have also shown that babies who are carried develop other skills more quickly too- speaking, listening and general communication is improved, and the ability to learn fast is enhanced.
If you need more reasons why you should be babywearing, or if you’d like to try it out before you invest, do take a look here to find your local sling library. These facilities are excellent places to meet like-minded parents, and to chat to experts that can help you to perfect your carry.