Baby Wearing

Baby wearing is essentially a means of 'transport' for a baby, but if you chat to those who've done it, you'll discover it's also much more than that!

There is nothing like the sweet smell of your newborn baby. During those first few days. All you want to do is hold them and take in every single moment.

As your baby grows, it tends to get a bit trickier. Life goes on, you have things to do, places to go and maybe even other children who also need your time and attention.

Wearing your baby provides a way to carry on with your daily life, while keeping your baby close to you.

Many cultures and tribes throughout the world have been wearing their babies for centuries. It's not a new practice. Dr William Sears, well known for his attachment parenting style, advises parents to wear their babies instead of wheel them. He and his wife Martha are the people who came up with the term "babywearing".

A Skill You Learn

My youngest Twincess still loves it as a Toddler. Here she's almost two and a half years old.

Depending on the type of baby carrier you choose (especially if you use a wrap type of carrier like the one I'm using in the picture), it will take time to learn how to tie and use it correctly and safely. But it's like learning to tie your shoes. Once you've mastered it, you can do it without thinking about it too much.

Babies are unique little creatures as you know. So taking the time to discover what your baby's preferences are, will most definitely be worth the effort! For many parents and/or caregivers, once they find the perfect fit, it becomes a way of life.

Instead of crying to be picked up, the baby lets you know when to be put down.

Wearing your baby has a way of changing your mindset about what babies are like in reality. You realize that when your baby is close to you, he/she is content.

All of these things, not only apply to a baby, but to a toddler and even an older child. The need to be touched and held remains with your child and you learn to change and adapt, as needed.

Make it Work for You

You do not have to wear your baby 24/7.

When you get tired and need a break or just need to have your own space back for a while, you can put your baby down with peace of mind.

You eventually do find the balance that works for you and your family.

One thing you are guaranteed of though is a happier, more peaceful home with less crying.

Baby Wearing Benefits

Baby Wearing Benefits For Baby

  • Crying spells are less frequent. There is a direct correlation between the time a baby spends being held/carried/worn and the time they spend crying. They are calmer, more content, less demanding and happier overall when being held. Using a baby carrier just helps to lengthen the time that a baby is carried every day.
  • Psychologists and anthropologists who have studied the behaviour of mothers and babies who are constantly together, have learned that they shape each other's behaviour. Mothers are more responsive to their babies' needs and babies are reassured and comforted as soon as they need it.
  • Quiet and alert babies learn better. They are in an ideal state to interact with people and the world around them. There is definitely an educational advantage because they are able to observe daily life from a place where they feel secure. Being worn, they are able to study facial expressions, learn verbal language and body language faster. 
  • Motion is important to a baby. It stimulates their vestibular system, which is the parts of the inner ear that controls balance. This helps to improve muscle tone, necessary for motor development, brain development, gastrointestinal and lung health. 
  • The risk of flat head syndrome (Plagiocephaly) is decreased. Many people don't realize that this condition is quite severe in babies who spend unnecessary time in car and other types of seats or hard carriers where they are in a supine position. Even more so than sleeping on their backs on a soft mattress, which is recommended to prevent the likelihood of SIDS.
  • When babies don't need to cry every time they have a need - like being hungry, wet or dirty, scared or bored - trust in their parents increases. 
  • Contrary to belief, these babies actually become independent sooner and easier. You can NOT spoil a child by holding or carrying them 'too much'!! 
  • Knowing you are close by is sometimes all a baby wants and needs. Babywearing is the perfect aid to provide the closeness, and allow you to carry on with normal daily life. They are soothed by the rhythms of your walking, by hearing your heartbeat and your breathing.
  • Premature babies and babies who gain weight slowly, benefit the most. Research proves that babies gain weight faster when they are provided with skin to skin contact. Kangaroo Care has ensured the survival of many tiny babies, and although it's a little bit different from baby wearing, some benefits remain the same.
  • When babies are near their source of milk and comfort, they need to use less energy to get attention when they're hungry and this is why they can use their energy for growing instead.

Baby Wearing Benefits For Parents

  • The best baby wearing benefit for you, is that it makes your life so much easier! You have both hands free to do whatever you need to do. Cleaning, preparing meals, running errands, and other activities carry on as usual. 
  • You feel more competent when your baby is content. The more confidence you have, the more you are able to enjoy your baby.
  • The mother's level of oxytocin is increased, which leads to deeper bonding, easier breastfeeding, better care for baby and a decreased chance of postnatal depression. It is also easier to feed your baby on demand and discreetly this way.
  • Leaving the house is a breeze. You just put on your carrier or fold it up and put it in the nappy bag and off you go. No big and heavy strollers to make your way through crowds or shopping isles. You can go places you wouldn't be able to with a stroller, like hiking for example (as one of my twin mommy friends did in the pictures above).
  • The weight of your child is spread evenly over your upper body when using a carrier, so your own body will thank you for this. Sore muscles, back and neck pain are much less common during baby wearing than when you carry a baby in your arms.
  • Strangers are less likely to touch your baby without invitation. (This was one of my biggest frustrations with the twincesses as babies. Curious people don't always think...)
  • It's even therapeutic for you and for your baby.
  • And one of the best baby wearing benefits is that it is a great way to get back into shape and stay fit. One mama created a special workout you can do while babywearing, called The Babywearing Workout. Here one of her videos...

Baby Wearing Safety

When used correctly, a baby carrier can be safer than carrying your baby in your arms.

So please, always read the instructions for your specific carrier and then keep to those guidelines for use, age and weight restrictions. Injury (or even worse death) shouldn't happen, because it is totally preventable.

Number One Babywearing Safety Rule

If it's not safe to do while you are pregnant, it's not safe to do while you are wearing your baby.

Baby Wearing Safety Tips

  • Most experts recommend that you practice with a doll/teddy bear and only then with your baby, but while sitting down on the floor or bed. 
  • While you get accustomed to wearing your baby, you can use your hands to support him/her.
  • Build your strength gradually to avoid sore muscles. As small as they might seem, babies tend to get really heavy after carrying them for a while - speaking out of experience! Switch shoulders (if that's the type of carrier you are using) and learn proper lifting techniques to avoid back injuries. Using a carrier designed with your comfort in mind, will lessening the strain on your body. 
  • Make use of mirrors, car and store windows to ensure that your baby is secure and comfortable. You can also ask someone to help you check. 
  • Take the weather into consideration. If it's hot, do not overdress your baby and always use a sunblock on exposed body parts. 
  • Only try new positions or carriers when you are both content and well rested.
  • When breastfeeding in the carrier, make sure it doesn't dig into your breast tissue (this can lead to mastitis ).
  • Use your common sense and follow your instincts.

Safety Guidelines

  • The most important baby wearing safety rule is to never ever use a carrier in the car. It is not a car seat!
  • Be aware of your baby's breathing and make sure there are no fabrics, blankets, burp cloths or any other objects near your baby's face, you can rest assured that your baby is getting enough oxygen. Studies have actually proven this.
  • Even though some recommend carrying babies from 0-4 months in a cradle position, experts studying baby wearing safety are now realizing it is an unsafe option. Positional asphyxiation is the term used to describe what happens when the chin presses onto the chest and the airway is blocked. Since these babies do not yet have the strength to control and lift their heads, they can suffocate within 3-5 minutes... without ever making a sound. That is why it is so very important to check them often and see that their breathing is regular and their colour good. An upright position is always preferable and there are carriers, which allow this for position newborn babies. 
  • The proper positioning of your baby's hip, pelvis and spine is also important. Because a baby is constantly growing, many experts suggest that you choose a carrier that will not put all of your baby's weight on their crotch. A narrow band of fabric under the crotch area is not a good idea. Preferably use one that spreads the weight over the hips and thighs. The carrier should also support the baby's neck, back and bottom.
  • Only wear babies who are co-operative. A wiggling child is at risk of falling out and getting hurt. If you are using the carrier to calm your baby down, support them with your hands until they are settled and you are sure they are safe.
  • Your baby should always be carried high enough for you to be able to kiss them, regardless of the type of carrier. No style of carrier should be worn lower than your abdomen or hips. A good rule of thumb is that your baby's bum should be at your belly button or higher.
  • When your carrier needs to be knotted, tied or clipped in, make sure you do it correctly and securely, as instructed. Slip knots should generally not be used. Square knots, reef knots and granny knots work best. Some also recommend twisting the fabric for added baby wearing safety. And remember to keep an eye on toddlers and children who might be able to untie these.
  • Be aware of tripping hazards so you won't fall with your baby. Remember your centre of gravity changes, so you could easily lose your balance. Often you'll be able to regain your balance so that you don't fall onto your child, but it's always good to just be aware of this.
  • Remember to give yourself more time to move around, so that you don't bump your baby into counters, doorways and walls.
  • Keep an arm's length away from potential hazards. Babies can reach for and grab things that could hurt them. This is especially important to remember when you use the back carry position and cannot see what your baby is doing.
  • It is also best to never drink hot drinks, cook or use sharp objects like knives, while wearing your baby. Do not jog, run, jump or do similar activities that shakes or bounces your baby. You can damage your baby's neck, spine and/or brain this way.
  • Inspect your baby carrier regularly for damage or signs of wear.

Breastfeeding and Baby Wearing

Breastfeeding and babywearing are two of the greatest things you can do for your baby. Combining the two gives you a pretty powerful tool for parenting! It's a skill you have to learn, but it saves you time (and hands) later on.

It is possible to breastfeed your baby while in the carrier depending on:

  • The type of carrier you use.
  • Baby's size.
  • Baby's ability to position themselves.
  • The size of your breasts. Some large breasted women may find it a bit difficult.

Please just first make sure you've mastered the art of latching on and breastfeeding without the carrier before attempting this.

Breastfeeding and Babywearing in Public

Even though breastfeeding is a natural thing, many mothers do not feel all that comfortable breastfeeding in public. But breastfeeding and baby wearing could offer mothers more privacy.

The fabric from the carrier can be a good cover and because you are able to follow your baby's cues before they start frantically crying, people will most likely not even be aware of what's happening. You can discreetly breastfeed your baby without attracting too much attention, or any attention at all. It's less obvious than when you use a burp cloth/blanket. 

It doesn't work for everyone, but for many it may be the one little thing that helps them continue their beautiful breastfeeding journey a bit longer and with more ease.

Benefits of Breastfeeding and Babywearing

  • The biggest benefit is that the mom's level of oxytocin and prolactin is increased when her baby is close to her most of the time. Not only does this help to establish her supply, but it also leads to deeper bonding, better care for her baby, lower chance of postnatal depression and overall easier breastfeeding. 
  • If the baby gets easily distracted during feeds, wearing them while nursing is the perfect way to keep them focused and relaxed during feeds.
  • With some practice, you could breastfeed hands-free. This will also depend on the type of carrier you are using and your baby's size. Bigger babies and some carriers require that you support your baby with at least one hand to keep them positioned right and latched on correctly. This is also true for a baby who does not yet have good head control.
  • There is one downside to breastfeeding and babywearing. Some babies may clamp down when they nurse while you move around. This is a reflex, but nonetheless painful for the mother. If this is the case with you, simply take your baby out of the carrier for feeds and put them back in afterwards.
  • Mothers who are not able to breastfeed, can use baby wearing as a way to feel close to their baby. Many mothers struggle with guilt and admit they don't feel as close a bond when they can't breastfeed. Wearing your baby can be a good way to help overcome this.

The How to of Breastfeeding and Baby Wearing

  • Depending on the type of carrier, you could either breastfeed while holding your baby in the cradle position or in an upright position.
  • Wearing the right type of clothes will help make it easier. If you don't have nursing clothes, just wear a button shirt and tank top, or any other combination, so that you can keep your tummy covered. Having to pull your entire shirt up underneath the carrier is very impractical. Another alternative is to wear a tank top, put on the carrier and then put on a button shirt and/or jacket/cardigan over the carrier. 

By Elsabe Rabe (her breastfeeding journey here)

Join the international babywearing forum here

Other pages on breastfeeding problems in connection with this page

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