What is babywearing?
Babywearing is using a sling or carrier to “wear’ your baby. It’s an ancient practice still used all over the world and “discovered” in recent years in America.
Some use it as a mere matter of convenience while others love the attachment benefits involved for both parent and baby.
What are the benefits?
- Close contact between parent and child promotes the release of a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the love or bonding hormone and, among other benefits, it increases attachment, lowers the risk or effects of postpartum, as well as helps stimulate milk production in a breastfeeding mother.
- As well as increasing attachment, an infant’s brain learns to self-regulate its body systems by being in close proximity with a parent.
- It’s beneficial for a baby to be worn at eye level as it increase their chances for social interaction. If a baby is worn facing a parent, they learn to respond to strangers or strange situations by looking to the parent’s face for cues.
- Babies cry less when worn! There are many needs being met at once. There’s less anxiety, as the phase where the child believes that he/she and her mother are one person is crucial to later independence.
- Some carriers make it easier to breastfeed discreetly, covering chest and child in such a way that onlookers can’t tell that baby is having lunch.
- It’s just convenient! You can free up your hands and comfort baby at the same time. It’s much easier than pushing a stroller (and perhaps a screaming baby) through crowded malls and around clothes racks. You can go places that you can’t go with a stroller, faster, and give baby some bonding or a good nap at the same time. Housework is easier too (be careful around hot stoves though!) When losing the baby weight I would strap baby in the carrier and we’d work out together, which was otherwise impossible with him crying underfoot.
- Fathers can get in on the action too! The bonding and comforting benefits (aside from breastfeeding!) apply equally to dad.
According to Klaus, Klaus and Kennell’s Bonding, babywearing for as little as 3 hours a day reduces infant crying significantly, and by 13 months, babies who have been in soft carriers regularly are significantly more likely to be securely attached than babies who are carried in hard carriers.
What to watch out for
Front-facing carry is not recommended by attachment experts, as it prevents a baby from being able to turn away when over-stimulated, or being able to see their parent’s face for social cues or comfort.
There’s some question about the narrow support bridge in some carriers such as the Bjorn. It can be bad on a baby’s spine to have all of his weight supported in one small area. The best carriers distribute weight more evenly, making things easier on both parent and child.
Infant slings: The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently sent out an advisory warning about the use of some infant slings because some infants have suffocated in them. Even if an infant isn’t in mortal danger, the use of these slings can press the baby’s head forward in a position that blocks the airway and decreases the oxygen levels in their bodies. As well as the possibility of poor health outcomes, this could cause distress to the child. No Attachment Parent wants their child to be in distress. According to babywearinginternational.org, “A baby carrier should mimic how you would hold a baby in your arms. A normal in-arms holding position is fairly snug to your chest and somewhat close to your face ("Close Enough to Kiss"). “ For more information on safely wearing an infant sling go to http://babywearinginternational.org/pages/InfantSlingSafety.php
What are the age limits of babywearing?
There’s really no age limits to babywearing any more than there are to breastfeeding (please stop both before college though!) It depends on the type of carrier or sling that you use and what its weight limits are, how much your child weighs and how much you can hold, and how ready your child is to be mobile independantly.
What types of carriers are best?
Ask that opinion on an Attachment Parenting board and you may get many answers. These are some of the top responses that I’ve seen, in no particular order:
Ergo (this is what I used)
Or you can make your own as seen in this terrific easy guide at crunchywannabe.blogspot.com
Do you have a favorite carrier? Tell us in the comments section!