Parenting theories aside, my biggest argument for baby wearing is convenience! Carrying around a 20lb+ infant carrier after having a c-section was hard, but carrying around my 6lb infant in a 2lb carrier was not. My baby stayed asleep longer due to hearing my heartbeat and feeling me next to them, I can nurse my infant in the carrier, and I can keep others who feel they need to touch my infant away (if you are reading this and you haven't had your baby yet, you will soon find out that people just assume they can touch your child as they see fit). Babies can also be worn during light exercise (no biking or running); a growing trend is “mommy and me” classes for yoga or ballet!
The science: Wearing babies helps physical development; the baby is more in tune with the movements and breathing with the caregiver while being worn, which relaxes and gives security to the baby. It also helps with the development of their vestibular, or movement, sensory system. Research shows that premature babies who are "kangarooed", which is based on being touched skin to skin and being held, gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not. Additionally, it helps to create a higher sense of attachment and can decrease anxiety or overstimulation in babies. Toddlers are also good to wear: Creating a sense of security is important, but most toddlers like to see the world at a higher level. Keeping track of toddlers is also difficult to do; however, carrying them on your back can provide a sense of security for yourself and less stress while doing everyday activities like grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, or exercising and needing to walk/move fast. Over stimulated toddlers are generally easier to soothe while carrying them and your back makes a great napping place.
“Carrying your baby will wreck your body”: The truth, carriers often distribute weight evenly compared to carrying baby in your arms. Parents who carry a baby on their non dominant arm often have tight hip flexor muscles and neck tightness on that side of the body. The babies oftentimes will end up with a mirror image of tightness in the hips, abdomen and neck. Oftentimes, carriers are ergonomic for both the wearer and the baby, ensuring safe and comfortable wearing while preventing physical difficulties.
“You’ll spoil them”: The truth, babies who have a strong attachment to their caregivers establish trust, have their needs met, and have a bigger sense of security, which reduces the amount of crying. Babies do not have the critical reasoning skills or brain development in order to "manipulate" or trick their caregivers, so responding to cues and attending to baby when you are needed will often reduce negative behaviors later.
“Your baby won’t hit the sitting up or walking milestones if you carry them all the time”: The truth, all babies will hit milestones in their own time frame. Carrying a baby upright in a carrier also helps them exercise their neck muscles that help control their balance. Tummy time doesn’t always have to be on the floor, it also can be sitting upright in a carrier their tummy to yours. Many babies cry less when in carriers doing tummy time, because they are close to their caregiver. Helping them feel more secure fosters their growth; however, it is important to follow the recommendations of your pediatrician and give your child adequate floor time to foster walking is helpful. Finding a routine throughout the day to introduce and have tummy time will increase your baby's tolerance and help them to learn those physical developmental skills.
Types of carriers: The basics!
There are many types of carriers and navigating through which one you should choose can be difficult. There are so many brands and styles of each, we won't be able to go into depth on that here. There are always new companies coming out, so we will do our best to test and review them for you. I would recommend looking up a local International Baby Wearing (IBW) group; most groups have lending libraries that can show you multiple types of carriers and how to use them, along with Certified Babywearing educators to answer any questions you have.
Front Carriers: they are a structured carrier with buckles and straps that face baby in or outward and hold the baby in a vertical position with limbs hanging out.
Pros: Very easily accessible at many retailers and very user friendly and fairly inexpensive.Pouches: A fabric shaped tube that is worn over one shoulder that can be used from birth until 2-3 years of age. Fabrics are usually stretchy or woven, cotton, fleece, or silk, and may have some padding.
Cons: most are not ergonomic, short life span, limited positioning, not easy to nurse a baby in, does not grow with the baby, cannot do back carrying with it.
Pros: Simple, very inexpensive (sometimes you can get them free for the cost of shipping), portable, stylish.Ring Slings: I caution the community on these carriers. When looking for a ring sling to purchase, make sure that the fabric is a sturdy strong fabric (not pieced together in the middle), no holes, and the rings are a solid ring and does not have a split where the ring was soldered together. Ri
Cons: Not adjustable, harder to carry heavier babies, exact sizing is important for the wearer(s).
Pros: Fully adjustable from Birth to ages 2-3, multiple carrying positions, ability to breastfeed discreetly, very compact & portable, stylish and customizable, inexpensive, quick to maneuver and get baby in place.Wraps: These are very long pieces of continuous fabric that the wearer weaves around and ties around oneself to secure the baby. They can be utilized from birth to any age (depending on the type of wrap) and can come in a variety of fabrics, weaves, and styles. Wraps come in a various amount of sizes. Size 1-8 and range from 2 meters to 5.6 meters. The longer the wrap a person has, the more versatile it is, however it is not necessary to have the largest size wrap to do all carries unless you are a larger person.
Cons: There is a learning curve to them, with heavier babies it can be difficult to carry for longer periods of time.
Pros: Comfortable, versatile, even weight distribution, ergonomic positioning, breastfeeding friendly, portable, long life span, budget friendly.Soft carriers: These include the Asian Baby Carriers (Mei Tai, Podegis, and Onbuhimos) and other tie around carriers that tie around the waist and over the shoulders securing on the front, back, or hip. Some can be used from birth, while others are only meant for older babies and toddlers.
Cons: large learning curve, the amount of fabric can be overwhelming, and woven and hand woven wraps can be very costly.
Pros: Versatile, comfortable, easier than using a traditional wrap but is as comfortable as a wrap, even weight distribution, can be stylish, portable, long life span, cost effective.Soft Structured carriers: These carriers are like the Soft carriers and have buckles or straps to fasten them to the wearer. They differ from front carriers because they usually have all natural fabrics (not nylon, polyester, plastic, or leather) but may contain padding just like a front carrier. These carriers are versatile and can be used from birth (with an infant insert) to 3+ years old.
Cons: Slight learning curve.
Pros: Versatile, comfortable, easy to use, generally ergonomic, breastfeeding friendly, stylish, long life span.
Cons: Some people don’t like buckles and extra padding, some good high quality ergonomic carriers can get costly. Some are extremely warm in summer months. You'll want to consider using a Frogg Togg towel to keep yourself and baby cool.
Although baby wearing can seem overwhelming at times, the goal is for a parent to be close and connect with the child’s cues. There are many options as well. I would recommend checking out a local babywearing group near you for input, troubleshooting carriers, and for socialization with like minded parents.
Happy Baby wearing!
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Which baby carrier is your favorite type? What do you think would be best for a new mama?
References and Helpful Links:
"Current knowledge about skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for pre-term infants". J Perinatol. 1991 Sep;11(3):216-26.
School of Babywearing: http://www.schoolofbabywearing.com/
Babywearing International: http://www.babywearinginternational.org/Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post. Ramblings of Mama will only make recommendations that we feel are beneficial to our readers. The information provided in this post is the expressed opinion of the author and is in no way reflective of the beliefs of any current or previous employers. The information presented above is NOT to replace the advice of your physician, therapists, or medical team, and it is for informational purposes only. Please speak with your physician or other medical providers prior to taking any supplements, following suggestions, or participating in any new exercise programs. This disclosure is done in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Links enclosed may contain affiliate links. If you have any questions or would like your product or company featured on Ramblings of Mama, please Contact Michelle