It's no secret that taking care of a baby is not always sunshine and rainbows. There are growth spurts, teething, the need to develop and promote a sense of attachment, stimulating your baby... SO many things besides diaper changes and feedings. And then on top of that you have to find a way to keep your life up and running. So how is one supposed to tackle these challenges you may wonder. The answer is simple: Babywearing*.
*if you have a baby with special needs, a baby who was born prematurely, or restrictions of your own please consult with your pediatrician/physician and a babywearing consultant near you. There are also babywearing groups that can be of assistance if you do not have a consultant nearby.
There seem to be many misconceptions about babywearing in the "mainstream" world. (I've written about some of my "favorite" ones HERE.) Truth is, babywearing has been around for centuries, and provides extensive benefits for not only babies, but for caregivers-especially mothers-as well. One of the fundamental components of babywearing is that it allows you and your baby/babies to be so close together and in constant contact. Not only does that mean that you can take your baby with you wherever you go, but also that you will have FREE HANDS practically every time you wear! (From time to time, you may have a sleeping or feeding baby that requires a hand.) Translation: You can eat, shop, tidy up, tend to older children, even shower (using a water sling and obviously common sense in regards to safety) and have your baby right there with you. Baby carriers are not there to "care for" our child(ren), but rather to help facilitate your being able to do so. And when you wear your baby, they are up close and kissable. They are closer to your eye level than if you were to carry them in arms or push them in a stroller, which means that not only can they see what you are seeing, but that you are likely to be more inclined to conversate with them. And whether it's about their surroundings or just about how your day is going, studies have shown that talking to your baby/babies helps their brain develop more rapidly and also helps prepare them for success in the future!
Add to all of the above the fact that babywearing supports and encourages physical development in your baby as well. As you wear your baby, they are given more opportunity to work on lifting and controlling their neck and back muscles. Picture in your head a baby doing "tummy time" on the floor. They start in the early days with their head to the side, and over time learn how to control and strengthen their spine-starting at the neck. Now picture a baby being worn up right in a carrier. They are already supported and "sitting" and have a much more interesting view than the floor. Your baby is naturally going to want to look around (especially if you are pointing out things around you and telling them about it), They know you are right there with them, which helps them feel safe, secure and encourages them to explore their environments. Everything that a baby does during "tummy time" can be done right there in a carrier. The wearer is their "floor" and everything else is just an upgrade from being on an actual one.
If you don't do tummy time and leave baby laying on their backs for the majority of the time, you may put your baby at risk for positional plagiocephaly. Furthermore, you may not be providing your baby with the most comfortable position for their backs to be in. Baby's backs naturally for a C-shape at birth, and with the proper carrier and positioning, you can support and encourage spinal development much more consistently. An ergonomic carrier* will help baby have enough room to "sit" properly and have their backs/body's fully supported. Finding the right carrier for this purpose can also put your own back at ease because wrap/carriers allow you to distribute your baby's weight across your body which makes it a whole lot more comfortable. We all know that babies start to weight our muscles down and "feel heavy" after a while if we carry them in arms/on our hips, ESPECIALLY as they get bigger/older. So why not prevent putting all that stress on our bodies and reach for a wrap or carrier? It's the safest place for a baby to be anyways. If you were to trip and fall with your baby in arms, what can you do to break your fall? If your baby was in a wrap/carrier, you have two free hands- with which you can break your fall, grab onto something nearby and possibly prevent a full-fledged meeting with the ground below you, or wrap your arms around your baby and provide protection and "padding" to keep them safe.
*just because a carrier is not ergonomic carrier does not mean it is unsafe. Narrow based carriers (NBC) do not cause hip dysplasia unless your baby is already pre-disposed for it. Please SUBSCRIBE to my blog for updates and more info about NBC.
And it's not to say that carseats or strollers aren't safe, but having to constantly bend over and lift to load/unload a stroller and then your baby doesn't help our backs any. It's nearly impossible to shop, push a buggy (cart) AND push a stroller. And whew... just think about how stressful and inconvenient it is to tote around an infant seat-or 2. (And remember, it's unsafe to put infant seats on the top of the buggy so now what?) Sometimes one of the first things you will hear people say as they begin to venture into the babywearing world is "X amount of $ for a baby carrier?!?!?! Are you nuts?" But here's the cold hard (and sometimes unfortunate) truth about raising babies: it costs money. Most people find a way to get their strollers and car seats (and upgrade them as their baby/babies grow), even if it's second hand. (Please use caution when buying used car seats.) But when it comes to a carrier, all of a sudden it's absurd to have to pay money for it? The thing is, you don't have to take out a second mortgage to pay for wraps/carriers. There are plenty of B/S/T (buy/sell/trade) options, WAHMs (work at home mom) that make slings*, and/or lending libraries that allow you to try different wraps/carriers so you can take explore your options before investing. And, if you babywear, chances are you can save money on the other "accessories/ equipment" that you won't need. (For ex: infant seats if your baby is big enough to start in a convertible, perhaps a gently used stroller instead of a brand new travel system, skipping the tummy time mat or pack-n-play since baby will be with you so often. Just throwing ideas out there.) And don't forget that you can always B/S/T later. Also, babywearing can be done well into the preschool years so be mindful of the size/weight regulations when exploring you are shopping for a wrap/carrier. If this isn't enough to blow your mind, I've been saving the best for last!
*when shopping WAHM, be sure to read reviews, ask about materials they use, if their products are testing through BCIA, if they use sling rings (if shopping for a ring sling), etc etc. As with anything else, research and know about the product before you put your baby in it. Never hesitate to ask an trustworthy outside (preferably knowledgeable) opinion.
Perhaps the most integral aspects about babywearing is how it can help babies success later in life is the attachment/bond they share with their parents/caregivers. As if having your baby close to and with you whenever you wear isn't enough, did you know that babywearing promotes the release of oxytocin- "The Love Hormone?" For a baby, oxytocin- amongst it's MANY functions- aides in digestion, calms/soothes, and reduces stress. "...When the oxytocin level goes up, the stress level is reduced and parents’ affection and appropriate stimulating caregiving is increased." (Click Here to read more about oxytocin from Ergobaby and for the source of the above quote.) And of course less stress means more crying- for all involved parties.
When I first found my way in the world of babywearing, I have to admit that it was a selfish decision on my part. It was the only way I could figure out how to "juggle" having two babies in my care at the same time. (Two babies, two boobs, no problem! Two babies, two hands.... not so much.) It was only AFTER I fell down the rabbit hole when I learned about how beneficial babywearing can be, not only for me but for the girls as well. The first time I wore my girls, the "high" I got from it is something I will never be able to describe in words. I literally felt like I was on top of the world. Come to find out later on that it was the oxytocin that had made me feel like I had discovered the meaning to life and that I was invincible. And my first time wearing had left me wanting... no NEEDING more. I only hope that I can help encourage, empower, and educate others about how to meet their babies needs, and keep their own sanity so they can watch and enjoy the beauty of their little(s) as they grow and thrive.