It’s International Babywearing Week!
I can’t imagine my life as a mom without babywearing.
I had the WORST carriers with my first daughter in 2000. Awful. I tried to make them work. I really did. But I didn’t know anyone else who used them or who I could ask about them so quietly they went away. I knew they were good & I know other people had made them work, but I had the wrong ones. Cheaply made bought from big box stores. W-R-O-N-G, just wrong.
In 2002 I bought a Maya Wrap sling from my doula and boy what a difference! I used it from day one & didn’t stop until my son was 3 1/2. He was a big ‘ole chunk of a kiddo too! I learned to breastfeed hands free in that sling & it saved me! My favorite story to tell is we were living in Europe & went to Rome one spring. My son spiked a fever & vomited the night before we left. We decided to still go & if I only saw Rome from the hotel room, so be it. It was the only time we had to go. I thought to pack the MayaWrap in the bottom of my backpack. While he did ok, he did need to sleep while he spiked another fever as we toured the Vatican. He slept, all 3 1/2 years & 30+ pounds of him, on my chest for several hours while we walked the tour in that sling. It is my pride & joy & I will never part with that sling. I bought a solarveil sling too. I was hooked. I even started making my own slings. Babywearer for life!
As a doula I was exposed to the many new carriers available as my clients had more & more babies. And I began to collect them. I bought an Ergo Organic that sat in the closet for many years waiting for a new addition or for me to start teaching classes. In 2009 our 3rd baby was born a tiny peanut, all 2160 grams of her. I started wearing her while we were in the KinderKlinik (NICU) in my new Moby Wrap. I knew all the benefits of kangaroo care and babywearing & used every one of them to get us out of the Klinik. These benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Better self regulation of baby’s body temperature, respiratory rate & heart rate – overall healthier babies, this is especially important if your baby has any health problems, prematurity or is small at birth. Simply wearing your baby does things that no machine or medicine can regulate quite like it in most cases.
- Happier babies – Humans are not self sufficient at birth. This is one of the reasons babies like to be held. They know where they are safe & warm & near their food supply & don’t like to be separated from it. This is why babywearing is so great during the newborn period. Babies cry less when worn. The baby can be where they want to be the caregiver can still have hands free to continue doing what they need to. So instead of putting that baby down, place your baby where they want to be, right on your chest.
- Happier more confident parents – Babywearing is a tool to help bond with baby whether that’s mom, dad, grandparent, sibling, caregiver, you name it. It eases some of the stresses of having a new baby and allows a parent (or whomever) to be more confident in their abilities. In my eyes, this is invaluable. Babies respond to physiological changes in the wearer, but also respond to facial expressions and touches that are so readily available when baby is ‘right there’ and the wearer can give these cues constantly when wearing baby. And the wearer can respond to the baby’s needs in an instant. If you have to go back to work relatively soon after the baby is born, babywearing allows you to reconnect after a long day while still allowing you to attend to the baby’s needs and the needs of the household. This applies to both parents. Babies really like to be on dad’s warm chest feeling the vibration of the adam’s apple.
- No more Tummy Time – yup, you get as much if not more benefits while wearing the baby upright on your chest than if you do structured tummy time to strengthen the neck muscles. Babies learn quickly they can check out the whole wide world while being worn and they do. When they’re done, the tuck their little heads away & relax. Another self regulation technique learned.
- As babies grow older you can keep them safer when you wear them whether that’s at the store, at a festival, big family functions, the farmer’s market, the airport or Aunt Madge who wears too much lipstick and too much perfume (you get what I mean). It also keeps older babies from being overwhelmed when presented with these situations.
I’m not sure she came out of the Moby Wrap for the first few months. That’s how everyone expected to see her, in the wrap. It was a permanent fashion accessory for many, many months, if not the first year instead of the scarves etc. I wore before she was born. Yes, I still used my Maya Wrap as well. My husband discovered the Ergo when I started attending births again which he found to be an important tool because, like our first two, she also had severe separation anxiety. Babywearing didn’t alleviate all the anxiety, but it did help her to relax and helped my husband know she was ok & would calm her for a while. I picked up a Hot Slings pouch, ok, 2. Both the sized and the adjustable. And this spring I picked up my first woven wrap, a NeoBulle while at the La Leche League conference in Paris. I told myself it was because I had forgotten any kind of babywearing device, which I had, but I’ll admit I really wanted a woven wrap too. I’m still getting the hang of back wrapping with the woven, but despite Little Miss Independence I keep trying to learn.
Please note that wearing your baby facing out on the front is generally considered unacceptable. Not only can your baby not self regulate outside stimulation, but it’s not good for their spinal and hip development. And if you’ve ever really looked at a baby facing out, they don’t look as comfortable as a baby facing in. It’s because they’re not, but they don’t always know that. It’s also not comfortable for the wearer. The alternative is to wear them on your back. It’s much healthier for them and for you.
Overall, it’s important to know what carrier is appropriate for your size and your baby’s size and age and it’s important to wear your baby safely. Know what babycarriers are safe to use. Anything that hides the baby’s head (not intentionally as with the hoods you can snap up) or you can’t adjust so you can kiss the baby’s head are usually not considered safe. I could write a whole post just on safety, but I’ll link you to a fantastic site that says it all instead. The Babywearer has a fantastic page on safety.
So if you haven’t tried it, but want to, try to find a babywearing or attachment parenting group in your area. If you can’t find that, check with local doulas, midwives, breastfeeding groups. At least one of them will know at least one person who is knowledgeable about babywearing. And there is a plethora of video clips online to walk you through wearing your baby, step by step.