Benefits of Babywearing

Squishy little newborns. So tiny, so helpless, so sweet. So dependent. So darling.

Many animals are ready to walk with or cling to their mothers within minutes of birth. Although still dependent on their mothers for nourishment and protection, many animals are born much more developed than humans- much more ready for the outside world.

babywearing benefits history baby sling baby carrier baby wrapWhy are humans so different? Well, in order for humans to walk upright, over time we have evolved narrower and narrower pelvic outlets. Humans also have evolved large brains- now our babies must be born significantly more immature in order to fit through the pelvis. Compared with the gestational development of our primate cousins, humans are actually born about 3 months “early”, hence the term “4th trimester”, which is used to describe the first 3 months postpartum. Our babies are born completely dependent-  in fact, they have trouble even regulating their blood sugar and temperature unless held skin to skin with their mothers. For about as long as humans have walked the planet, babies have been carried by their mothers or caregivers.

babywearing cultural sling wrap carrier benefitsPhotos taken from a collection of babywearing photos called Ethnic Baby Slings and Carriers, with photos by Linda De Volder,

What are the benefits of babywearing?

happy baby slingHappier Babies! Babies who are worn tend to cry less than their non-carried peers. In fact, carrying/wearing your baby just 2 hours per day results in an average of 55% less crying during evening hours when babies tend to be very fussy.

Physical Development. Babies who are carried benefit from an easier transition to life outside the womb. The body rhythms (movement, breathing, heartbeat, voice, warmth) of their caregivers help babies to organize their own physiological rhythms, from breathing, to blood sugar, to digestion, to sleep patterns. Babywearing also helps prevent plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome), which can result when babies spend too much time in car seats, bouncy seats, swings, and laying on their backs.

boba baby carrier learning Mental Development. Babies who are carried are more involved in their parents’ day-to-day lives, and spend more time in the quiet-alert state, the state where babies learn the most. Adults interact more frequently with carried babies, and babies are able to more easily learn about their caregiver and their world, by being engaged in and able to observe facial cues, body language, verbal language, behaviors, etc. Why limit your baby’s experience of the world to streets and sidewalks? There is a beautiful world to discover and explore!

Easy for Caregivers! Babywearing allows parents and caregivers the freedom to take baby where strollers are cumbersome- small shops, up and down flights of stairs, over rough terrain, for hikes in nature, anywhere the caregiver wants to go! Caregivers can attend to older children, work, chores, or hobbies, all while keeping baby content, and with both hands free.

boba wrap baby bonding contentEmotional Development. Carried babies and their caregivers experience enhanced bonding, and babies develop more trust in their caregivers, resulting in a more secure emotional attachment and earlier independence than non-carried babies. Babywearing is a great way to involve baby in your life, while avoiding the over-stimulation that can lead to babies shutting out their surroundings.

Not all baby carriers are created equally (or safe!)

baby bjorn infantino crotch dangler danger spineSome forward-facing baby carriers, called “crotch-danglers” by babywearing instructors, are not ideal for either baby or caregiver. They force a baby’s spine into an unnatural arched position, placing strain on a baby’s developing spine and hips. Picture yourself hanging in this position, with all of your weight by a strap between your legs- not comfortable, and not good for your spine! This is why climbing harnesses are designed to hold you in a seated position, to preserve the tucked angle of your pelvis and prevent an arched lower back. Crotch-dangling carriers also are not designed for comfortable babywearing for the caregiver, and can rarely be used for long without the caregiver experiencing back discomfort or pain. In addition, babies worn facing forward cannot turn away from excessive stimuli, and can easily become overstimulated, forcing them to withdraw and “tune out”, putting an end to learning and feelings of security.

A good carrier or sling is safe and comfortable for baby & wearer.

safe babywearing position spine hipsWhen being worn, babies knees should be at or above the level of their hips, and should be worn on your body in a similar position as you would normally carry or hold them without a carrier. Babies should be worn high enough to kiss if on the front of the wearer, and care should be taken to avoid the chin-to-chest position if wearing baby in a cradle-hold position. A good carrier, used properly will satisfy all these safety requirements, and give the wearer a comfortable carrying experience, from birth to childhood. Of course, there can be a learning curve involved with babywearing! Going to an educational babywearing workshop is a great way to get hands-on help. Enchanted Forest offers regular babywearing workshops in Truro and surrounding areas, check them out if you are interested in learning more about babywearing, or need help with a new position or carry!

carseat holderForget poorly designed “high-tech” gizmos and gadgets that you’ll soon stop using because they’re just ridiculously useless. All your baby needs is YOU, and a simple, but well designed sling or carrier can help you and baby be close and free together, wherever you are!

babywearing baby carrier baby sling baby wrap

From Jan 1-7, 2012 save 10% on a Maya Wrap Ring Sling at Enchanted Forest! Regularly $84.95, now just $76.45 while quantities last. And as an added bonus, you’ll receive DOUBLE your Customer Rewards Program store credit! That means you’ll save $8.50 on your sling purchase, and automatically earn $8.50 in store credit at Enchanted Forest, to be used on a future purchase. Sale cannot be combined with coupons, and all sales final.

References:

  1. Hunziker, U. A. and Barr, R, G. (1986). Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 77, 641-8.
  2. Barr, R. G. (1990). The Early Crying Paradox: A Modest Proposal. Human Nature, 1, 355-389.
  3. Barr, R. G., Konner, M., Bakeman, R. and Adamson, L. (1991). Crying in !Kung San infants: a test of the cultural specificity hypothesis. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 33, 601-10.
  4. Brazelton, T. B., Robey, J. S., Collier, G. A. (1969). Infant development in the Zintandeco Indians of Southern Mexico. Pediatrics, 44, 274-290.
  5. Lee, K. (1994). The crying pattern of Korean infants and related factors. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 36, 601-7.
  6. LeVine, R.A., LeVine, S., Dixon, S., Richman, A., Leiderman, P.H., Keefer, C. and Brazelton, T.B. (1994). Child Care and Culture: Lessons from Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  7. Anisfeld, E., Casper, V., Nozyce, M. and Cunningham, N. (1990). Does infant carrying promote attachment? An experimental study of the effects of increased physical contact on the development of attachment. Child Development, 61, 1617-1627.
  8. Whiting, J. W. M. (1981). Environmental constraints on infant care practices. In R. H. Munroe, R. L. Munroe & B. B. Whiting (Eds.), Handbook of cross-cultural human development, New York: Garland STPM Press.
  9. Ludington-Hoe SM, Swinth JY. (1996). Developmental aspects of kangaroo care. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 25, 691-703.
  10. 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.
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About enchantedforestmama

I’m Andrea. I'm a mother, a birth doula, a placenta lady, and a belly-caster, and a wicked-eco-friendly-products-for-parents retailer. I love all things fertility/ pregnancy/birth and gentle parenting, all sorts of craftiness, hiking, camping, gardening, and whatever outdoorsy stuff I can get, music, good food, advocacy and environmental and human rights issues, my love, my son, my friends, my family, my planet. Oh, and chocolate…
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