Contributed by MoorMum Katherine from Ilkley – thank you!
Babywearing means carrying your baby close to your body in a sling or carrier. Using a carrier rather than a pushchair when out and about is an easy and convenient way of transporting your baby, especially around shopping centres and other places with lots of stairs, or when walking in the countryside.
However, babywearing is about more than just that. Babies benefit greatly from being kept close to their parents’ bodies, and parents benefit from that closeness too.
Carriers don’t have to be limited to trips outside the home. They can also be utilised at any time when it suits you and your baby to be close to each other. They are especially useful when you need your hands free for other things, such as caring for your toddler or doing housework. You can even breastfeed your baby hands free in a sling with a bit of practice!
Being carried close to a parent’s body is a natural way for a baby to spend much of its time. It is only in certain parts of the world and in fairly recent time that babies have been placed away from their caregivers in carseats, pushchairs and cots for much of the time.
There are many benefits of babywearing. These include development of a more secure bond between baby and caregiver, improved social development because baby is close to you and more involved in the adult world from the start, the soothing effects from being close to the parent’s heartbeat and the motion as you move around, and higher progesterone levels in the mother which lead to more intimate bonding and easier breastfeeding and can even reduce the incidence of postnatal depression.
Carried babies tend to be calmer because their primal survival needs are being better met as they can smell, touch, hear, taste and see the caregiver, and the natural motion babies experience when carried contributes to healthy neurological development, gastrointestinal and respiratory health, muscle tone and balance (inner ear development). It also decreases the risk of positional plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) which is caused by spending extended time in an infant car seat or sleeping on the back.
Carried babies have been shown to cry less and to spend more time in the quiet alert state which is when babies do much of their learning. And when babies do cry, using a carrier can provide an ideal way to soothe and settle them.
My babies were all very wakeful and cried and fed a great deal in the early months. Using a carrier around the house helped me to get things done and when things started to get too much I could go for a walk. The baby would be soothed by the motion and being close to me but at the same time I could detach my mind and get a break from the intensity of caring for him or her.
Using a carrier is also a great way for dads to bond with their baby. My husband had his own camouflage print carrier which our son loved to snuggle in.
Many parents who babywear also choose to practice what Dr William Sears, a US pediatrician, has termed attachment parenting. In addition to babywearing some of the other tools which are used in attachment parenting are co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding. You can read more about attachment parenting here.
There are a number of carriers you can use for baby wearing, see our Baby Carrier section for reviews by local mums.
If you’d like to ask Katherine a question about Baby Wearing, please contact us. Or, if you would like to talk to other mums about their experience of Baby Wearing, why not post a new thread in our Baby Chat section.