Baby Wearing: The art and science of Carrying Your Baby. New support for an old idea
As the mother of a low-sleep need, and high sensory need baby, I myself have benefited from babywearing in many ways, and wanted to share some of the background, benefits and a few tips!
‘As long as I carry my baby she is content’
I have both lived this experience myself, and heard these words from many families I have met during my work as an NDC practitioner.
Why is it? Well we, as humans, are carrying mammals. Carrying our infants is biologically normal, it is evolutionary.
Babies are born to be held and carried; they are delicate, and vulnerable, and your body is their natural habitat. The gentle movements a baby experiences when you wear them, replicate their in-utero experience. This is where the '4th trimester' concept comes from; holding and carrying babies recreates in some part the intra-uterine environment of warmth and safety and containment and allows them to develop new skills from this platform of security.
Benefits of Baby Wearing
In many other cultures baby wearing is the absolute norm (check out this article https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210222-the-unusual-ways-western-parents-raise-children). In fact, in some Balinese cultures, babies are worn exclusively by mother, (or some other caregiver in the extended family) until they are six months old. The baby literally does not touch the ground for the first six-months, at which time there is a ‘ground-touching ceremony’!
Infant development specialists who travel throughout the world studying infant-care practices have repeatedly observed that babies who are carried in a variety of cloth-type slings or front packs seem more content than infants who are kept in cribs, playpens, strollers, pram and plastic sets.
Doesn’t every parent in every culture have these two simple desires: to make life easier for themselves and to make life better for their baby?
There are so many reasons why baby wearing can be beneficial on multiple levels (biological, developmental, psychological, sociological, long term health) for both the baby and the caregiver.
- CUED CARE Carrying aids communication, helping caregivers recognise and respond to cues early; promoting secure attachment and bonding.
- CONNECTION Soft touch increases oxytocin release. Oxytocin promotes loving connections and reduces cortisol (stress hormone) release and can help reduce stress and anxiety in both the baby and caregiver
- CARRIED BABIES CRY LESS The Esposito 2012 study shows babies are calmer when carried by walking caregiver than seated, or in a crib. This is all to do with the effect of closeness, and gentle movement of the vestibular apparatus and the parasympathetic nervous system – bringing calmness, slower heart and respiratory rates and reduced crying.
- CARRIED BABIES LEARN MORE Babies learn a lot in the arms of a busy caregiver for two reasons. Contented, carried babies spend more time in a state of ‘quiet alertness’; the behavioural states in which babies are best able to interact and learn from people and activities in their environment. Also, when worn in a carried, baby is intimately involved in the world of the caregiver. She goes where you go and sees what you see. She is up at voice and eye level, she learns the subtleties of body language and human expression. A baby worn whilst a parent washes dishes, for example, hears, smells, sees and experiences in depth the adult world.
- BABYWEARING CAN SUPPORT PERINATAL MENTAL HEALTH Babies cry less when carried safely and comfortably. Feeling able to calm babies with a sling can build parental confidence, and gives caregivers back their hands to get on with their lives, get out and about for walks and social activities (not to mention getting on with the seemingly never ending laundry that seems to come with babies).
Baby wearing can be practiced by mother and father alike, (as well anyone else who is involved in the care of your baby and educated in how to baby wear safely.) I know my husband still cherishes this both from a practical and bonding perspective.
Which carrier should I pick?
Meh dai? Woven wrap? Full Buckle or Soft Structured Carrier? Reverse half buckle? Ring sling? Stretchy?
Once you start looking into the variety of carrier styles available, it can quickly become overwhelming. Bottom line; try out a variety and chose the one most comfortable for yourself and your baby.
There are sling libraries and support groups. Check out the following resources:
- Carry Australia http://carry.org.au/
Australia's largest network of babywearing support groups. Includes directory, useful resources and more.) https://www.bubcarrier.com.au/babywearing-directory/ https://www.carryingmatters.co.uk/guide-to-slings/
Baby Wearing Safety
It is recommended that the “TICKS” principles are followed:
- Tight In view at all times Close enough to kiss Keep chin off chest Supported back
The T.I.C.K.S. Rule for Safe Babywearing Keep your baby close and keep your baby safe. When you’re wearing a sling or carrier, don’t forget the T.I.C.K.S.
When using any baby carrier, please also keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Read and follow all manufacturer's instructions for use.
- Ensure you can see baby's face at all times. Do not let baby's face press into your body. Do not cover baby's face with a blanket, sling fabric, nursing covers, etc.
- Baby's head and neck must be gently and completely supported, with chin off chest. If baby's chin is pressed tightly to baby's chest, this can restrict baby's airway. Check to ensure you can slip your finger between baby's chin and chest to check for correct positioning.
- Consult an expert if your infant was born with a low birth weight, such as a preemie or twins, or if your infant has respiratory illness or other respiratory problems. Extra vigilance is required with these babies.
- After nursing in a carrier, remove baby from breast and return baby to proper carrying position with head above the breasts and face free of fabric and turned away from the mother's body.
- Attend to and check on baby often, especially those under 4 months of age.
- Check baby often in warmer weather to ensure that baby does not over heat.
- While you are getting used to wearing your baby, support him with your hands. As you go through the learning phase of moving and reacting, the urge to support your baby with your hands is instinctive. After you become a babywearing veteran, you can safely carry your baby in the sling with one or both hands free.
- Wear baby cautiously in the kitchen. Do not wear baby while cooking or working with sharp or hot objects.
- Do not drink hot beverages when wearing baby, although wearing baby while eating is safe.
- When wearing your baby and stooping over, bend at the knees, not at the waist, and hold baby in the sling with one hand.
- Toddlers, if worn are at your reaching level, can grab dangerous or breakable objects off shelves. Keep an arm’s distance away from potential hazards.
- When going through doorways or around corners, be careful that baby’s body does not stick out past your arm and strike the wall or doorjamb.
- Do not ride a bicycle or other moving vehicle while wearing your baby. Baby carriers are not substitutes for an approved carseat.
- The baby Book Sears et al
- Esposito 2012 study The>Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA)