Babywearing is found across all cultures and countries. Whether it’s a simple piece of fabric wrapped strategically around your body or a more structured carrier, the purpose is the same; to hold your baby close and carry her while you go about your day. Baby carriers make it easier and more comfortable to carry your baby.
Babywearing takes practice. Babywearing International advises that “parents and caregivers often benefit from thinking of babywearing as a skill they can learn, rather than as the result of a product they can buy.” With so many baby carriers on the market, there are lots to choose from. Mixing in your preferences with those of your baby may send your head spinning.
Regardless of which carrier you choose, there are some basic benefits and safely tips.
BENEFITS OF BABYWEARING
- Less Crying Studies have shown that babies who are carried cry less. On average, by 43% overall, and 54% in the evening.
- Physical Development When a baby is held close to a parent or caregiver, the stimulation he receives from their breathing, heartbeat, voice, warmth, and general movements (walking, bending, swaying) help regulate his own rhythms. Research has shown that touching and holding premature babies causes them to gain weight faster and be healthier.
- Get to Know Your Baby By having your baby so close you’re able to learn how to read her cues. You will learn how she is trying to communicate her hunger, boredom, or need to be changed. As you respond to her needs before she cries, she is developing trust and a sense of security in your relationship.
- Combats Depression Carrying your baby provides positive interaction between you and your baby that helps develop attachment and increases your confidence of being able to meet your baby’s needs.
- Comfort and Convenience Everyday tasks become easier when carrying your baby. Not only is your baby happier but your hands are free! Unfriendly stroller areas (like stairs, airports, crowded buses and stores, and hiking) all become accessible.
- Learning Babies need to have quiet, alert time to learn. Babies who are carried spend more time learning and receiving sensory stimulation which positively affects brain development.
- Everyone can do it! Fathers, grandparents, babysitters and other caregivers can all experience the benefits of babywearing by getting to know your baby, and your baby can get to know them.
KEEPING IT SAFE
Whatever carrier you decide on, learn how to use it properly and safely. There are some general guidelines that you can follow, but ultimately use common sense and remember you are responsible for your child’s safety. Some of our favorite carriers include soft structured carriers such as the Ergo and Tula; Ring Slings; woven wraps; and mei tais.
If you are overwhelmed with the available choices, contact your local BabyWearing International chapter.
- Always make sure your baby can breathe Her chin should not be curled into her chest, as this restricts her airway. She also needs good back support. Never let any fabric cover your baby’s head or face and check on her frequently.
- Never engage in a shaking, jumping or bouncing motion while wearing your baby (i.e. when jogging, running, jumping on a trampoline, cycling) “This motion can do damage to the baby’s neck, spine and/or brain,” explains the American Chiropractic Association. Do not use a carrier if there is any risk of falling (i.e. when riding a horse, skating, bowling, sailing).
- Never use your baby carrier in a car as a replacement for the car seat
- Use carriers that are age and weight appropriate Soft carriers and backpacks are generally for larger babies and toddlers, while slings and wraps can accommodate newborns and young babies. Most carriers have a weight limit; please check the manufacturer’s instructions on your carrier for details.
- Frequently inspect the fabric, seams, buckles and straps of your carrier to make sure everything is in working order
- Regularly check the position of your baby to ensure he hasn’t shifted unsafely in the carrier
- Be aware of the weather and protect your baby accordingly Your baby’s arms, legs, and head need sun protection. Hot weather may cause heat stress and cold weather could cause frost bite. Do not wear your baby in a sling under a coat, remember that her face should not be covered. There are coats and ponchos designed for use with a carrier.
- Be aware of what your baby can reach Even when worn on you, especially on your back where you can’t see, your baby wants to explore her surroundings. Little hands can grab things quickly, so make sure dangerous items like knives (while cooking) and breakable items are always out of reach.
- Storing items like keys, wallets and cell phones can be dangerous Loose items can become choking hazards, can cover their faces or poke them. Some carriers have specifically designed pockets for these items. Cell phones should not be stored next to your baby.
- Never cook with heat or hot liquids with your baby in a front or hip carrier Even if your baby is on your back you still need to be careful in the kitchen.
- Keep any loose fabric, tails of slings or wraps tucked safely in They can be fire hazards around stoves and fires or get caught in doors, escalators or elevators.
LEARNING HOW TO USE YOUR CARRIER
Most carriers are fairly easy to get the hang of, but it’s still important to pay extra attention as you are learning to use a new carrier. Back carriers seem to be the trickiest, so please take your time and use extra safety measures for you and your baby.
- When trying a new carrier it’s usually easier if you and your baby are both rested (or at least your baby!) and happy.
- Support your baby with your arm until you’re familiar and confident with the carrier Continue to support him when you bend or lean over as extra precaution.
- Practice with a large, heavy doll or sack of potatoes Practice both getting the baby in and out as well as moving around the house. Pay attention to doorways and your balance as you lean over.
- Use a mirror (or another person) as a spotter when first putting your baby into the carrier
- Start low to the ground, or sitting on the ground
- If your baby is small you’ll be able to naturally build up your endurance However, if your baby is older it may be a good idea to take it slow and wear her for shorter amounts of time gradually building up to longer sessions as your body and muscles adjust.