As a mother, you are expected to do almost everything as soon as your baby is born. You are not just expected to take care of your little one, but there are a lot of things that you should be accomplishing on a daily basis. But how will you manage all these when you have a baby in tow? How will it even be possible when you need to breastfeed your baby very frequently in the first few months? Does it even work? Well, for me, it did! I worked out everything because of babywearing.
When I gave birth to my 3rd child, my older kids needed me much more than ever. Their school work overwhelmed them as much as I was overwhelmed with my responsibilities with the new baby, my older kids, and our home. But you know what made everything work? I can say, it is babywearing.
What is babywearing?
Babywearing is the practice of carrying an infant by using a sling or a carrier. It has been practiced by the nomadic people who wear their babies as a form of transport when they were traveling along with their infants. It is claimed that babywearing has been practiced for 100s of years, but it probably dates back 1000s of years.
It recently gained popularity in developed countries like the USA, Canada, and European nations. The change has been brought by those advocating attachment parenting emphasizing its benefits not only to the infants, but especially to the mothers.
The length of time you can babywear really depends on you and your child. There are some who babywear until toddlerhood while others prefer only during infancy. But whatever choice you make when it comes to babywearing, you will always be at an advantage.
What are the benefits of babywearing?
You carry your baby from conception until it is time for him to go out and see the world. This is the reason why your baby may still be adjusting and wants to be constantly held during his first 3 months of life or what is called the 4th trimester. When you babywear, it is like giving your baby a very smooth transition from womb to the outside world.
Babywearing can actually address the needs of your baby while you’re doing the other things you need to do. This is only one of the many benefits you will reap when you babywear. Among the other advantages are:
- Babywearing promotes the maternal bond between you and your baby.
- Babywearing can lessen your baby’s crying spells. Have you experienced non-stop crying that only ceases the moment you carry your baby in your arms? Your baby will most probably find comfort whenever near you so putting him near your chest may eventually lessen his fussing. They are also calmer, stay quiet, and may even sleep longer based on my personal experience. In fact, I consider babywearing as a perfect sleep training method because my baby slept well through the night after a day of tucking her in my chest with an ergonomic carrier. However, more studies will be required to validate the claim, whether babywearing can actually stop the crying spell altogether.
- It is much easier to calm your baby because of his proximity to you. Whether he feels hungry, frightened, or he simply wants a cuddle, you can easily give him that because you are holding your baby very close to you. You will also provide the much-needed warmth when you do babywearing in winter.
- NICUs take advantage of the benefits of babywearing. For preemies, you will be encouraged to do Kangaroo Mother Care (KC) to establish skin-to-skin contact with your newborn to stabilize him. and is said to be better than an incubator. The wrap-type can be your baby’s preemie carrier while some medical professionals can improvise one by using a simple cloth or a blanket.
- Imagine yourself at a grocery store alone with just your baby. Isn’t it easier when you can hold your baby and use both hands to get stuff? Isn’t it awesome having your baby right in front of you or perhaps babywearing on the back while pushing your cart? The convenience of moving hands-free and doing quick errands will definitely save the day!
- A sling or a carrier is much better than assembling and folding a bulky stroller all the time. Plus, your baby will feel happier close to your heart than lying or sitting on his stroller.
- You may be one of those that are not really comfortable having other people touch your little one. Well, the carrier or the sling that you are using will serve as your baby’s “protection.” Everybody loves babies, but due to the pandemic, you should be extra cautious by securing your baby in his carrier to avoid the extra attention.
- If you are breastfeeding, babywearing can allow discreet feeding. You may even finish breastfeeding without being noticed. And yes, you can do it in a public place without the unnecessary attention that breastfeeding usually gets. And, before I forget, did you know that babywearing can actually increase breast milk production?
- Your baby will get to see your facial expressions, hear your voice much clearer, and will get acquainted with your body language sooner. This is a very important aspect because he will learn to distinguish appearances, voices, and his surroundings at a very early age.
- Babywearing can help with your baby’s physical progress because it can help your baby’s neck and head control and hip development. It may also reduce the risk of flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly, caused by sleeping on their back or the car seat for a longer period of time.
Babywearing and mom’s mental health
Babywearing ultimately paves the way to ensure that skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby will take place. Where else is the safest haven for your little one other than your chest which is closest to your heart? But babywearing can also provide a positive effect on you when it comes to your mental health after giving birth.
Baby blues usually go away 3-5 days after giving birth and tend to have less serious symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, trouble sleeping or eating, and irritability. However, if you feel those symptoms for 2 weeks or longer, you may have postpartum depression. It may affect your behavior and your well-being thus it will take a toll on your life as a new mother and what you do every day. Postpartum depression is a serious mental illness that needs to be addressed by medical professionals.
When you and your baby have physical contact, you will be able to increase your oxytocin level or your “love hormone.” When this happens, the maternal bonding naturally takes place leading to a happier disposition, thus lowering the risk of postpartum depression in general.
How do you safely babywear?
One of the most important aspects of babywearing is ensuring you do it safely Here are some safety guidelines that you should know if you decide to babywear your baby:
- Your baby should be in an upward position and be securely fastened, but comfortable towards your body or whoever is carrying him. This prevents him from falling that can happen if the carrier or the sling that you are using is not tight enough to secure your baby.
- If your baby is still unable to support his neck and head on his own, choose a carrier that enables you to carry your baby inward-facing so you can provide the much-needed support to his head and neck.
- When you babywear your baby in an inward-facing position, you must constantly check whether your baby is breathing with no signs of difficulty. To do this, you should be able to see your baby’s face and kiss his forehead at all times as a sign that your baby is at a good level towards you.
- Choose a carrier that can support your baby’s hips, legs, and thighs to prevent hip dysplasia. Most babywearing advocates and consultants recommend that your baby should be in the M-position because this is the ergonomically correct way of babywearing. Nowadays, ergonomic carriers are readily available in the market, ensuring that you and your baby can babywear safely.
- Check yourself too. Does babywearing cause some pain in your back, shoulder, or hips afterward? If yes, reposition your baby or check on the straps that may be too loose while you babywear. More often that not, the strains are caused by incorrect positioning or straps that are not correctly tightened to your body.
- Always be on the lookout for your carrier and slings. Check for damages on the buckle and harnesses before putting your baby and heading out.
- It is also a must to wash your carriers and slings often for hygienic purposes.
- Take extra self-precautions when you babywear. Avoid drinking hot beverages that may spill, picking something up bending your hips that may cause imbalances, and avoid compromising activities such as running down the stairs or walking along slippery walkways. Accidents can happen anytime so being extra cautious is important.
What is the best carrier for you and your baby?
Since babywearing became popular, many carriers and slings have become available on the market. Some think that all carriers and slings are just the same. But, this is not the case. Over time, different carriers and slings have been developed to address various needs of you and your baby.
Here are some carriers that you can choose from:
- Wrap: I personally used a nylon and spandex wrap for my newborn. It is a soft and stretchable and can hold my baby towards my body comfortably. I did not worry about how my baby was positioned because she was secured to my chest. Since most wraps are made of fabric, this is ideal for babywearing in hot weather. I also used it as a breastfeeding carrier because I can easily turn this into a cover when feeding my baby. The only downside though is I needed an extra hand to be able to put the carrier on to my body because I could not adjust it from my back.
- Ring sling: This type of carrier is also made of fabric with 2 rings at one end. The rings will be used to fasten and adjust the fabric for that perfect snuggle of your baby to your body. You may feel uneasy using the ring sling, thinking that it can unfasten at any time causing your baby to fall, but ring slings are generally safe to use. Ring slings are usually made of cotton and you may even find a ring sling made of silk thus making it more fashionable than the other types of carriers. However, this kind of carrier is not recommended if you are experiencing back and shoulder pain as it may cause more muscle strain on one of your shoulders.
- Soft structured carrier (SSC): It is also called the buckle carrier. This has been my favorite because it is so easy to use compared to the wrap. It comes with padded shoulders and waistband, comfortably hugging your body in an ergonomic fit. You may adjust it as soon as you put your baby in and his weight is distributed across your body. SSCs are pricey compared to wraps and rings slings but you can use it from birth (by using an insert) until a certain age, so you can get your money’s worth in the end.
- Mei Tai Carrier: This is a combination of a wrap and the SSC. This is made of soft fabrics with durable waist and shoulder straps secured by tying the fabric instead of a buckle. This is suitable for your newborn until he reaches toddlerhood and all you need to do is to adjust the fabric. The only challenge is learning the correct way of tying the fabric for your baby’s safety and to equally divide his weight across your body.
- Backpack carrier: This type of carrier is designed for older babies and toddlers who can sit unassisted. If you have an active lifestyle and enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking or walking, this can be the perfect baby carrier for you. It has a lot of pockets and can serve as your backpack when traveling. But it is bulky and heavy and may need a lot of space for storage when not in use. Also, be sure not to do babywearing in the car when you are out on an adventure, as car seats are still the safest option for your baby.
Time flies quickly. And before you know it, your baby does not need to be carried and may run free on his own. Babywearing gives you an opportunity to enjoy your little one, conveniently, without putting aside your other responsibilities. So, savor each moment while you still can as where else can you let your little one feel loved the most other than somewhere close to your heart?