Keep it Close to Your Heart
The art of babywearing
As the mom of an infant or toddler, your hands are always full. Whether you’re stuffing yourself with lactation cookies or chasing after a rambunctious older sibling, you’re probably dying for a way to keep your little one occupied. One of the most popular ways to be hands-free is to wear your bambino in a baby carrier or wrap.
The norm in many cultures around the world, babywearing is the centuries-old practice of using a piece of fabric or carrier to wear your baby or toddler. In the U.S., bucket car seats and strollers are used most often. However, in recent decades, babywearing has rapidly increased in popularity and is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Many parents turn to babywearing so they can continue to enjoy an active lifestyle.
“The best thing is just having both hands free,” said Chelsy Crews, who has employed five different carriers to wear her 4-month-old son, Sullivan.
“I thought it was pretty easy, especially with the Ergo and the Boba wrap,” she said, though Crews had less luck with a mei tai baby carrier.
Convenience aside, babywearing proponents say the practice has many other positive benefits throughout the stages of your infant’s or toddler’s development. According to Cathy Brant, vice president of Babywearing International, it helps newborns regulate their breathing, heart rate and temperature. When done correctly, it also helps infants develop their hip sockets and build core muscles, she said.
Babywearing may also have mental and emotional benefits for both the caregiver and the child. “Some research suggests that hormonal levels of oxytocin are higher in women who babywear, and the risks of postpartum depression are lower,” said Dr. Colleen Boylston, board-certified pediatrician and founder/ owner of Sweetgrass Pediatrics. Since infants are immersed in the activities of daily life through sounds, smells and other stimuli, all while feeling secure, developmental progress is enhanced. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babywearing not just as a response to crying, but as a method to prevent crying and promote parent-infant attachment.
Despite the benefits, babywearing can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. There are many styles parents can choose from, including ring slings, softstructure or buckle carriers, woven wraps, stretchy wraps, pouch slings, mei tais and more. Prices can vary drastically, with new carriers starting as low as $30.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to babywearing. For the health of the child and parent, it is about finding the right fit for both of you.
Boylston stresses that parents’ choice of babywearing product should be based on safety and comfort.
“(When worn correctly) babywearing reduces positional plagiocephaly, or positional ‘flat head,’ that we see when a baby spends a lot of time on their back or in a car seat,” she added.
The most important rules to follow when wearing a child include keeping their face in view, avoiding chinto-chest positioning, making sure they are snugly fit to your body and that the child’s back is supported.
By following these basic rules, finding the right carrier for your body type and adjusting the device to find the correct fit, babywearing can be mutually enjoyed into toddlerhood and beyond.