Wearing our babies has been such an incredible blessing to us and our little ones. It has been an instrumental part of our (my husband and I) parenting experience, as well as a huge part of our lives, as I ran a successful babywearing business and spent countless hours doing workshops and one-on-one Babywearing tutorials with new parents.
Babywearing is the act of holding your baby close to your body with the use of a piece of cloth or modern carrier. It is one of the oldest and most global traditions in parenting. On a whole, North Americans, hold their babies less than parents in any other part of the world, but traditions are slowly changing and more of us are adopting this ancient and meaningful art.
There are so many benefits to Babywearing – less crying, easier breast feeding, better digestion, better sleep patterns, closer bonding and a healthier development of security and self-esteem as baby grows. Parents who wear their babies are more connected to their childre, more peaceful, and able to cope with the transition of adding a new baby to the family far easier than non-wearing parents.
Babywearing also helps develop your infant’s brain, vocabulary, and social skills as they grow and spend more time actively involved in face-to-face communication while carried at the parent’s eye level. Despite the skepticism, babies who are carried more often also develop better balance and agility and walk sooner than other babies.
In the past few years of working with Moms and Dads wishing to wear their babies, I’ve learned it really is best to start wearing your baby when he or she is only a few days (or hours!) old. This way, they are introduced to Babywearing right from the start and accept and enjoy it as a part of everyday life.
Tips for newborn Babywearing:
- Get help. If you know someone who wears or has worn their baby, ask them to help you. If there is a local Babywearing group, join it (most are free). If there is a local Natural Parenting or Babywearing shop – visit them and request a tutorial. Hands-on assistance is the BEST way to start. Most Babywearing parents are passionate about what they do and are thrilled to help a newcomer, so don’t worry about looking silly if you have little or no experience.
- Don’t stress. When you first start Babywearing, there will be a learning curve. Take it easy and don’t get frustrated if it’s not perfect the first time. The more upset or flustered you get, the worse it will be for baby. Babywearing is supposed to be calming and enjoyable – start wearing your baby at a time when they are calm and sleepy, this will help give you time to practice while they are content.
- Find the right carrier. Everyone has their own preferences. I personally love wraps (a long piece of fabric used to tie baby to your body in a native and very natural way). They are great for versatility, as you achieve any position. Other popular styles include, ring slings, mei tais, simple pouches, and soft structured carriers. If you can borrow from a friend, do so. As a Babywearing advocate, I have at least one style of every type of carrier in my home for the purpose of lending out. I know many Moms like this (I said we were passionate!). Figuring out how your baby likes to be held (in a cradle position or in an upright tummy-to-tummy hold) will also help you decide what type of carrier is best, based upon how you wish to hold your little one. Their preference may evolve, so choosing a versatile carrier is key, unless you don’t mind having more than one!
- Be aware of safety. Stay away from carriers sold in mass at ‘big stores’. The most common carriers used by new parents are the type that dangle baby by the crotch with straight legs. Brands like Baby Bjorn and Snuggli (popular front-pack carriers) are widely available, but are not safe for your baby. Because they have a small strip of fabric that only supports baby’s crotch, there is a very dangerous amount of pressure put on the base of the infant’s spine. The posture of the baby is too erect, not natural, and can place undue strain on his/her neck, back, and tail bone. This can have effects that last for many years, including spinal misalignments, hip problems, and muscular stress. Also, avoid any kind of bag sling, such as the “Slingrider”, which are incredibly dangerous due to their poor design. It is almost impossible to achieve safe positioning for breathing and circulation in a store-bought bag-sling that crunches baby up in a ball. Babywearing, when done properly, is very safe – but it is our responsibility as parents to be informed about potential hazards.
- Mamas – nurse in your carrier. When you nurse while wearing your baby, it releases the perfect endorphins to help you relax and enjoy the moment. Also, because nursing is such a peaceful, comforting activity for babies – they will quickly conclude (if they didn’t already) that babywearing is a calming, enjoyable event. It also comes in very handy to be able to nurse in public. I used to breastfeed our children in the middle of huge summer festivals while doing babywearing demonstrations to a crowd and no one ever knew I was feeding them. It’s the ultimate freedom for a nursing Mom.
- Encourage your hubby/partner to wear your baby. There is so much strain on us as new Moms, especially if baby’s not sleeping, nursing is challenging, we’ve had a difficult birth, etc. When Mama is the only person who can ever calm the baby it can be extremely trying and exhausting. After a good feed, allow Daddy to hold the baby in a wrap or carrier. Babies are often soothed in the same way they are by Mom when worn by another caring adult. It is also reassuring for Daddy to be able to truly help calm and comfort the new baby and can reinforce bonding at a time where most together time is between baby and Mother.
- Enjoy every moment! Babywearing can be so blissful it sometimes seems spiritual. There is nothing more beautiful then holding a newborn close, curled up on your chest in the same way they were cradled in the womb. It truly is the best transition from Mother’s tummy to the world and it is a beautiful gift we can give our children and ourselves.
Babies grow so quickly and these precious moments are fleeting. Hold them close when they are young, nurture their body, mind, and soul with the gift of wearing them next to your heart. The effects will last through toddlerhood, childhood, and beyond.