Babywearing is the practice of carrying your baby in a carrier. This catchy term was coined in the 1980s by Dr. Sears. The practice of babywearing is much older, going back centuries in many cultures. There are a variety of ways to wear a baby, all with many benefits to both baby and caregiver. I tried to narrow it down to just 5.
1. Babywearing is SAFE
Just like any other baby-care device, caution must be taken while wearing a baby in a carrier. Newborns (0-3 months) in particular are vulnerable as they cannot yet protect their own airway.
- Always be sure that your baby is secured tightly with their back supported in the upright, tummy-to- tummy position.
- Never cover baby’s face, it should be visible at all times.
- Make sure baby’s neck doesn’t tilt down in the chin-to-chest position, you should be able to put a finger or two under baby’s chin.
- Finally, baby should be high up on your chest, close enough to kiss.
2. Babywearing is good for your baby
Let’s start at the beginning – skin-to-skin at birth: Years of research show that at least 1-2 hours of skin to skin contact with mom or a caregiver at birth can do some amazing things for a newborn. It can help reduce neonatal infections, stabilize temperature, and help with breastfeeding initiation to name a few! The benefits of being in the arms of a caregiver at birth is only the beginning. Benefits of babywearing include improved reflux (painful spitting up), heightened immune function due to contact with flora on mom’s skin, lower rates of positional plagiocephaly (“flat head”), and improved head control. One study showed that worn babies also smiled more at the age 3 months.
I love this quote from Dr Rosie Knowles, a physician in the UK: “A baby’s natural habitat is his mother’s body, she is the source of love, nourishment, safety and warmth.”
3. Babywearing can help reduce crying
There was an interesting research study in the 1980s that showed babies worn for at least 3 hours a day from birth through age 6 weeks cried 43% less than babies who were not worn, and 54% less in the evening! Most likely wearing your baby helps reduce crying because a caregiver wearing a baby is more likely to catch those early subtle cues communicating hunger or discomfort and therefore able to respond before baby is crying (one of the last cues given).
4. Babywearing is good for the caregiver
Babywearing can give new parents a sense of confidence in parenting. When you are close to your baby and more aware of their cues, you can begin to feel more sure of what they need when they are fussy. Breastfeeding moms often notice increased milk production the more they wear their baby. Babywearing should also be comfortable for the caregiver. If your carrier is uncomfortable, there is likely a different style or fit that you will enjoy more.
Most new moms have some degree of baby “blues”. These are sad feelings from being overtired, recovering from childbirth and feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of parenthood. Unfortunately, some parents even become clinically depressed. Although it is not the whole answer, babywearing can help reduce the risk of postpartum depression. This is thought to be due to a hormone called “oxytocin” released from the brain in response to touch. Oxytocin also helps with milk production. It makes sense that a mom with good milk supply, a baby who cries less and a sense of confidence as a mother will be less likely to feel depressed. If you do feel depressed, please talk to someone you trust like your midwife or doctor.
Babywearing also allows a caregiver to be hands free. This is especially useful when you have older children who also need your attention! It is a beautiful thing to be able to wear your baby, knowing he feels safe and secure, while doing housework or playing with your toddler.
5. Babywearing is a great way to bond with baby
Some parents may worry that holding or wearing a baby may lead to a more needy or clingy child. The research, however, shows the opposite! A baby who is regularly held close to their parent feels more safe and secure and will boldly explore their surroundings knowing they have a safe place to return to. So don’t worry – your crying baby who loves to be held is not being “manipulative”, nor are they being spoiled, if you wear them as often as you both would like. In fact, by nurturing your child you will foster in them a sense of confidence and independence that will last beyond the baby years.
Parenthood can be difficult. Wearing your baby is one tool that can help facilitate a happier, healthier baby and parent.
“Why Babywearing Matters”, Dr Rosie Knowles, Pinter & Martin 2016
Schon RA, Silven M. Natural parenting- back to basics in infant care Evolutionary Psychology 2007
Hunzinker UA, Barr RG. Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized control trial. Pediatrics 1986.
Anisfield et al. Does infant carrying promote attachment? An experimental study of the effects of increased physical contact on the development of attachment. Child Development 1990.
The content provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. This information is intended for residents of Canada only.
Jill Bailey is a local mom of 4 busy boys, a Babywearing Educator and a Family Physician with a special interest in pediatrics. She has enjoyed wearing all her boys, but her interest in babywearing grew after the birth of her 4th son in June 2016 when it became a beautiful necessity. Realizing that the Orangeville area had no Babywearing group, she took the Canadian Babywearing School Educator course in November 2016 and started a local group. She hopes to empower local parents to wear their babies safely, comfortably and confidently.
Join Jill’s Facebook community “Orangeville and Area Babywearers” for more support and information about monthly meet ups. At meet ups they discuss safe babywearing and spend time trying on different carriers. Their goal is to give you the skills and confidence to wear your baby safely and comfortably.