Babywearing is the practice of “wearing” or carrying a baby or child in a sling or carrier. Babywearing is far from new and has been practised for centuries around the world. In the industrialised world, babywearing has gained popularity in recent years, partly under influence of advocates of attachment parenting; however, not all parents who carry their babies consider themselves attachment parents but instead it’s simply a way to transport baby whilst maintaining accessibility.
Medical professionals agree that infants thrive through touch; “wearing” your baby is another way to meet this need. The benefits of babywearing don’t end there … babywearing offers many other advantages, some of which include:
Healthy Babies. Premature babies and babies with special needs often enter the world with fragile nervous systems. When a baby rides in a sling attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes—walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses. Research has even shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not. (2)
Confident Parents. A large part of feeling confident as a parent is the ability to read our babies’ cues successfully. Holding our babies close in a sling allows us to become finely attuned to their movements, gestures, and facial expressions. Every time a baby is able to let us know that she is hungry, bored, or wet without having to cry, her trust in us is increased, her learning is enhanced, and our own confidence is reinforced for these we also need to maintain ourselves healthy as a parents, so is important parents have a active lifestyle and having a healthy diet. This cycle of positive interaction deepens the mutual attachment between parent and child, and is especially beneficial for mothers who are at risk for or suffering from postpartum depression. (3) (4)
Loving Caregivers. Baby carriers are a great bonding tool for fathers, grandparents, adoptive parents, babysitters, and other caregivers. Imagine a new father going for a walk with his baby in a sling. The baby is becoming used to his voice, heartbeat, movements, and facial expressions, and the two are forging a strong attachment of their own. Baby carriers are beneficial for every adult in a baby’s life. Cuddling up close in the sling is a wonderful way to get to know the baby in your life, and for the baby to get to know you!
Comfort and Convenience. With the help of a good carrier, you can take care of older children or do chores without frequent interruptions from an anxious or distressed infant—which helps to reduce sibling rivalry. Baby carriers are also wonderful to use with older babies and toddlers; you can save those arms and go where strollers can’t. Climbing stairs, hiking, and navigating crowded airports all can be done with ease when you use a well-designed baby carrier!
1 – Hunziker UA, Garr RG. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A random-ized controlled trial. Pediatrics 77:641-648
2 – “Current knowledge about skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for pre-term infants”. J Perinatol. 1991 Sep;11(3):216-26.
3 – Pelaez-Nogueras M, Field TM, Hossain Z, Pickens J. (1996). Depressed mothers’ touching increases infants’ positive affect and attention in still-face interactions. Child Development, 67, 1780-92.
4 – Tessier R, M Cristo, S Velez, M Giron, JG Ruiz-Palaez, Y Charpak and N Charpak. (1998) Kangaroo mother care and the bonding hypothesis. Pediatrics 102:e17.
Carrying your child comes with a lot of benefits along with many misconceived drawbacks.
Benefits of babywearing include:
- Mothers’ Oxytocin is increased through physical contact with the infant, leading to a more intimate maternal bond, easier breastfeeding and better care, thus lowering the incidence of postnatal depression and psychosomatic illness in the mother.
- Infants who are carried tend to be calmer as their primal/survival need to be close to their caregiver is met. The caregiver can be seen, heard, smelled, touched, tasted, provide feeding and the motion necessary for continuing neural development.
- Parental rhythms (walking, heartbeat, etc.) have balancing and soothing effects on infants and even help to regulate babies breathing and heart rate. Thanks to this, the use of “kangaroo care” where low birth weight, pre term and infants with respiratory issues spend prolonged periods of time receiving skin to skin care from their mothers is becoming more and more popular with neonatal departments and the use of a sling to aid this is becoming a common sight.
- Infants have earlier opportunities to develop their social skills; babies are closer to people and can study facial expressions, learn languages faster and be familiar with body language.
- Independence is established earlier. Contrary to one of the most commonly perceived disadvantages that babywearing will produce a “clingy” child, having a close bond with your child will actually help them learn they have a save place to come back to whenever they feel threatened leading to more confidence and independence.
- The upright position achieved in a well fitted sling not only supports baby in all the right places without putting excess pressure on the spine or head but also gives baby the ability to strengthen their core muscles (akin to “tummy time”). Another misconception about using a carrier is that “he’ll never learn to walk if he’s carried all the time” but the truth is the opposite. You’ll have a walking/running/climbing toddler before you know it AND not be lugging a pram around inc case she gets tired, just pop a sling in your bag.
- Attachment between child and caregiver is more secure.