Why Wear Your Baby?
Babywearing has certainly made my life easier. I didn't really babywear my first son. I has a front pack for him but it wasn't comfortable and I didn't wear him for long as he also quickly grew out of it and I wasn't aware of other options. My son was very usnsettled and I was endlessly taking him for walks in the stroller to calm him which didn't always work. It was stressful, especially in the evening when I was tired too. I was relieved when he finally grew more settled and easier to manage. But even them sometimes it would have been great to have a carrier. He was quite cuddly but heavy to carry in just my arms so I didn't carry him as much or as long as he would have liked.
With my second son I had a ring sling and stretchy wrap. I loved the freedom it gave me to play with my older son or help him with whatever he needed. It was also great for out and about too. I could pick my sleeping son out of his car seat and into the ring sling without waking him and easily transfer him to a position where he could look around when he woke later. It made going into shops with narrow aisles easy and if I was out for the day and my son didn't want to stay in the stroller he didn't have to. He would often have a nap in the ring sling while I went shopping and I found it easy to breastfeed him there too which saved a lot of time. I continued to carry him (although less as he grew older) until he lost interest at around two and a half. I'm glad I was able to share some lovely memories with him. My son remembers being carried around the garden looking at plants with me.
When my daughter was born I branched out into mei tai's which I found great for wearing for long periods. I often used ring slings too once I discovered she hated lying down in the ring sling, not the sling itself. She preferred to be carried upright in a tummy to tummy carry (which is the recommended position for small babies now). As a toddler she would ride on my hip in the ring sling as I picked up my son from kindergarten if she didn't feel like walking. The sling was a lifesaver if she was sleepy. The tiny foyer of the kindergarten where all the parents waited was far too small for a stroller so if I didn't have a sling I'd have have to pick her up and carry her in my arms anyway.
I found slings invaluable when my fourth child was born - with two children in school I was always busy especially in the morning when trying to get four children ready to go out. (It was like herding cats!) I carried my daughter even more than her siblings, in many different types of carriers (including podaegis and wraps), and really enjoyed experimenting with different fabrics and styles. I finally got rid of my heavy double stroller as I hadn't used it years. I carried her exclusively until she was around five months old, only occasionally using my single stroller for my preschooler or to carry my shopping.
My fifth child was so much fun to babywear. I played with all the carriers! Plus it was so nice to enjoy snuggles with him and I could get a lot done while he napped on my back. I wore him until he was five and a half although the last few years only occasionally, usually when he was overwhelmed or sick. Now my babywearing journey is over I can look back and see how special it was to me. I loved it not just because it was useful and practical but because of the closeness and the beautiful memories I will always have.
Additional benefits of babywearing are listed below. You can find the references on the links page. This article also has a very good explanation of the physiology of babywearing.
Benefits of Babywearing
- Wearing your baby is an easy and convenient way to meet your baby's need for touch. Meeting your baby's need for touch helps your baby to feel secure and content and later helps to build good self esteem.
- Babywearing promotes attachment through increased physical contact. Physical contact with a baby increases oxytocin in the mother, a hormone related to bonding and breastfeeding.
- Being carried upright may aid babies who suffer from reflux.
- Worn babies cry less. Infants are calmer because babywearing allows all their basic needs to be more easily met.
- Babywearing promotes a state of 'quiet alertness', in which babies are very receptive to learning.
- Babies experience the rhythm of their caregiver's walking, breathing, and heartbeat which has a balancing and soothing effect.
- Babies receive a lot more visual stimulation than when just lying on their back in a cot or stroller.
- Babies are able to closely observe other people which aids their socialization and language development.
- Helps promote independence. Securely attached babies are more easily able to separate from their parents when they are ready.
- Carried babies spend less time on their back which decreases the likelihood of flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly). Babies sleeping in a bassinet or cot must sleep on their back to decrease the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but in a carrier even a young baby can be carried in an upright position. I have experienced this with my own children. My first child was who not carried and was often laid in a bouncy seat to watch me do chores developed a noticeable flat spot on the back of his head. As I had other children I ended up carrying them for longer periods each (because I was busier and had access to better carriers) so my second has less of a problem with a flat spot and my last three children had none at all.