Why We Wear our Babies

The other day, I mentioned to a pregnant friend that baby-wearing is a good way to maintain and increase mothers’ milk supply, and she said:

“Babywearing? Yeah, it looks like it works for some people, but I’m not into that. I’ve already worn him.” and she motioned at her belly.

While I absolutely understand that feeling, I remain a huge advocate of baby-wearing, and Boba recently posted an awesome article explaining exactly why baby wearing improves physical, emotional, and developmental health for babies and toddlers that I think everyone (parent or not!) should read.

In Strollers, Baby Wearing, and Infant Stress, the author delineates several advantages that baby wearing provides that stroller-use and over-use of car carriers and other baby devices do not offer. Over-use or inappropriate use of strollers and carseats can actually damage a baby, emotionally, developmentally, and physically, and the well documented and cited article explains just why this is so.

But, Amy, Carseats are not the Devil!

Oh, yes. I agree. Carseats are definitely not the Devil. There is a time and a place for the use of baby contraptions like strollers and carseats – but the benefits of babywearing and dangers of over-use of carrying devices like strollers and “baby buckets” are definitely overlooked or dismissed by many. This is what the Boba article, and my post are trying to raise up.

Just like my advocacy of breastfeeding, I intend to inform and empower parents, family members, friends, and parents-to-be about the facts and about my experiences – so that I can facilitate responsible and informed decision making.

I use a stroller when I go on walks with my 17 month old, and I carry an umbrella stroller in the car in case I need to stroll him (or Abbey) on an errand or outing. But most of the time, especially during Joseph’s infancy, and for much of Abbey’s life, I have embraced baby wearing as the functional, snuggly, practical, and beneficial option that it is!

Our Baby Wearing

Most of my baby wearing is in an Ergo carrier, but I also love my hand made (by me!) ring sling, and my (also handmade by me) Mei Tai carrier. All of these carriers have different uses and different pros and cons to their function and features. I enjoy having all three to choose from (plus the baby wrap that I borrowed from a friend for newborn baby carrying), and there are many different comfortable and ergonomically suitable carriers for different body types, needs, and desires.

 

 

I bought an Ergo used from another mama for about $60 a little over a year ago, and It has definitely been more than worth the upfront cost! We use it on hikes, at the grocery store, at casual functions that are too large for Joseph to toddle around the whole time, and sometimes for walks around the neighborhood. The Ergo, I think, was most useful in situations where I needed Joseph to be content being worn for a long period of time – at the grocery store, for example. And on hikes. And at functions, like a family function on base where there are lots of people and lots of things going on.

Nursing in the Ergo was doable, but not my favorite way to baby wear and nurse while he was little. As he got older, loosening a shoulder strap to allow him to latch on and nurse was a lot easier, so as a toddler, I think the Ergo is my favorite carrier.

I also made a ring sling with directions provided by Jan Andrea of Sleeping Baby Productions when Joseph was an infant, and I still use it to this day. The ring sling was particularly useful while Joseph was teething. I could carry on with chores or cooking or playing with and parenting Abbey while Joseph cuddled up against my chest and snuggled away the gum pain. I found that the ring sling was also the most comfortable for both of us for baby-wearing naps, when a lay-down nap was impossible.

When he was a crawling but not yet toddling babe, I found it to be the perfect hip carry for me. Adjustable, yet sturdy and easy-in-easy out, I could lift Joseph into the ring sling with ease when he needed to be carried, and then let him easily out when he wanted to explore.

The ring sling was awesome for nursing during church as well. With the long fabric tail, I could simply loosen the sling through the rings, let Joseph latch on, and then keep any stray peeking-out body parts covered, so that no one was distracted from the church service by my nursing.

The handmade Mei Tai (that I made with directions from Still Learning Life) was my favorite carrier while Joseph was a tiny infant. It was still chilly here in Maine when he was born, and when I sewed it (from directions found at Still Learning Life), I lined the Mei Tai with minky fabric, creating a soft, cozy, cuddly place for him to rest against my chest and stay super warm while we went out to the park for playtime, ran errands, or participated in an outdoor activity while he was still little.

I also used it a lot his first Winter- and the hood came in handy several times to keep him from getting snow on his little face. I’m looking forward to wearing Joseph in it again this winter – both up here in Maine for Fall and Winter festivals, and also when we go to visit Grandma and Grandpa and our other family in Texas over Christmas.

The benefits

The benefits that I have personally experienced by baby wearing my Silly Bears are:

 

  • closeness and maturation & regulation of mother’s milk supply
  • comfort and calm for baby during times of stress or teething pain
  • hands-free parenting of an older child
  • having hands free for chores and other work (including blogging and knitting)
  • Connectivity and inclusion of baby in activities and movement (i.e. baby experiences first-hand all the things that you do, instead of being relegated to a stroller)
  • correct physical development of baby’s head, neck, hips, and back.
  • facilitation of nursing, including nursing discreetly in places where I felt obliged to do so (i.e. church, or in someone’s home who preferred additional discretion)
  • availability of nursing on demand (i.e. I didn’t have to quit an activity with Abbey in order to nurse Joseph or make Joseph wait to nurse while I attended to Abbey’s needs)
  • Baby wearing by daddy facilitated family togetherness, inclusion of children in tasks and outings (hikes, errands, etc) and fatherly bonding.
  • Providing an alternative napping place when the opportunity for lay-down naps were unavailable.
  • efficient and comfortable traveling with two children (especially while unaccompanied!)

I think the most important things to remember about babywearing are:

  • Listening to your baby’s needs AND your own
  • babywearing to your comfort level
  • finding a carrier that is right for you
  • having several carriers available for different uses
  • carrying safely and correctly (close enough to kiss, chest to chest, no forward facing carries, etc)
  • understanding that babywearing, like all other parenting practices, is not all or nothing, and can be easily balanced with safe and appropriate stroller and carrieruse.

Other Babywearers and their experiences

Shannon at The Artful Mama wrote about finding the right carrier to meet the needs of her toddler son, wearing him in a homemade woven ring sling while she was pregnant with #2 .

This Babywearing Retrospective from Lyndsay at Our Feminist {Play}school highlights the different carriers that she and her son enjoyed using during their baby-wearing days.

Kelly at Kelly Naturally had a similar experience to mine – loving a solar veil ring sling and Ergo carriers as her favorites and wore her son comfortably to three years of age!

For nursing mamas, Lauren at HoboMama has a wonderful description with video and detailed instructions on how to nurse your little one in a Mei Tai (I have done this same trick and LOVED it). She also links to various Mei Tais available on the market and her tutorial on how to sew your own!

Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama even compiled a post full of babywearing photos from around the world that is a fantastic read.

 Do you wear your baby? Why or Why not?

After reading the Boba article on Babywearing and Infant Stress, what do you feel is the most compelling benefit to baby wearing, for the child?

Join the discussion below!

Comments

  1. Great article Amy, and thank you for sharing my blog as well. That Boba article was intense, but so interesting!

    My 2nd baby was born early (36 weeks), and I am convinced that skin to skin & babywearing was one of the most important things that helped him develop and grow well – not a day in the NICU. The close comforting touch of Mama is miraculous for babies.

    I have to say I still have times when I wish I could carry my 5 year old & 7 year old. Sometimes, kids just need to be held by their Mamas.

    Thanks again for spreading the word. It’s important!

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  1. [...] at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares “Why We Wear Our Babies.” Amy has enjoyed wearing both of her children and talks about the carriers she’s used [...]

  2. [...] at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares “Why We Wear Our Babies.” Amy has enjoyed wearing both of her children and talks about the carriers she’s used [...]

  3. [...] at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares “Why We Wear Our Babies.” Amy has enjoyed wearing both of her children and talks about the carriers she’s used [...]

  4. […] at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares “Why We Wear Our Babies.” Amy has enjoyed wearing both of her children and talks about the carriers she’s used […]

  5. […] at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares “Why We Wear Our Babies.” Amy has enjoyed wearing both of her children and talks about the carriers she’s used […]

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