As a new parent the two things you find you took advantage of the most are your hands. When you have a newborn, all of a sudden the things you used to be able to do with ease become monumentally more difficult while holding a newborn. Babies like to be held and they don’t care what you’re doing while you hold them as long as you continue to hold them while you’re doing it. What if I told you, new mama, that there was a way to get things done AND keep your baby close to you and happy? You would be ecstatic, wouldn’t you?
Here it is. Are you ready? Babywearing. Yep, that’s it. Babywearing. It doesn’t matter what you use to wear your baby (there are a bunch of different carriers and it can be overwhelming to choose one!) Your baby just wants to be close to you. Babywearing is a traditional practice that is used in many cultures to keep your baby or toddler close to you while you conduct your daily activities.
So what’s all the hype? Did you know babywearing promotes bonding, supports breastfeeding, can help combat postpartum depression, makes caregiving easier, and can be a Godsend for a high needs child. There are many studies showing that carried babies sleep, feed, and grow better. In fact, one study even found babies that are carried cry less.
One of the greatest benefits of babywearing is that anyone can do it! You, as the parents, the grandparents, a nanny, a postpartum doula, anyone who cares for your child is able to produce the same benefits of babywearing.
There are many different types of carriers, as I mentioned above, so it can be hard to choose one. However, you can ask yourself the following questions to help you decide:
· How long do you plan to babywear? Do you need a carrier only for the first few months or do you need one that will last all the way to toddlerhood?
· Who will use the carrier? Some carriers are size specific so it can be hard to share among a variety of caregivers. If you plan on sharing with many people, consider one that is easily exchanged and requires minimal adjustments.
· Do you want to purchase one carrier for the entire time or are you open to different carriers for different ages and stages?
· What is your budget? Many carriers cost between $30 and $175 and there are options at every price point.
You will also need to consider the different types of carriers:
· Wraps—these are the most traditional and simple of all carriers. You can get them in a variety of different lengths and fabrics such as knit jersey, gauze, cotton, linen, wool to name a few. These can be used to carry all ages and stages and even in a variety of positions. They are infinitely adjustable to meet the needs of everyone, but they can be intimidating to learn at first. Wraps come in a variety of patterns which also makes them aesthetically pleasing and the lack of snaps and buckles makes it easy to snuggle a child of any age.
· Ring Slings—This is a modern adaptation of a more traditional carrier found in Mexico, Indonesia, and other countries. A pair of rings is attached to the end of a piece of fabric. The other end of the sling threads through the rings to adjust the baby to the wearers body. The weight of the child is what helps secure the fabric and keep it from slipping. These are also available in a variety of fabrics. The longer tail end can be used as a nursing cover, a sunshade, or a place for older children to hold on to. These slings are a great choice for newborns as well as older babies and toddlers that want a quick up and down carry.
· Pouch Slings—this is a simple tube of fabric that is worn over one shoulder like a sash. It’s like a ring sling, but you cannot adjust the size of the sling. These are easy to use, easy to stash in a diaper bag or purse, and inexpensive. These are not easily shared between caregivers and it’s important that it must be correctly fitted for the person wearing it.
· Mei Tai—Pronounced “may tie” is the most popular modernized carrier of the traditional Asian style carriers. It’s a panel of fabric with two shorter straps that go around the waist and two longer straps that go over the shoulders. Modern mei tai straps are usually padded to provide extra comfort. These carriers are made of attractive fabrics. They are also easily exchangeable among caregivers because they are tied for a custom fit each time they’re worn. They are easy to learn to wear and are multi-positional carriers. These are most ideal for older babies and toddlers, but can be used with younger infants with some adjustments.
· Buckle Carriers—soft structured carriers offer a mmix of comfort, convenience, and accessibility. Most have thick padded waistbands and shoulder straps to provide additional comfort and an ergonomic fit. They offer many different positions. The straps are all fully adjustable which allows for an easily custom fit for every caregiver. Many have additional features such as hoods, pockets, or adjustable seats. The learning curve is low because they go on and off like a backpack. Some require a special insert for infants below a certain weight, but these carriers can be used well into toddlerhood. There is a buckle carrier for every taste, budget, and body type which makes them one of the most popular.
Like any form of infant care, there are some safety guidelines you need to be aware of if you plan on carrying your baby. Make sure your child is able to breathe at all times. Airways need to be open. The best way to check for this is to carry your baby in an upright position high enough that you can monitor your baby’s breathing. It is recommended that infants are only held in a horizontal position if you are actively nursing. As soon as they are finished you should return the baby to an upright position. Make sure your carrier provides adequate support for your infant’s developing neck and back. Ideally, your baby should be held with the knees higher than the bottom with the legs in a squat position where the knees are supported. Always inspect the carrier for wear or damage before use. Examine the carrier for tears, loose stitching, or worn fabrics. Practice using the carrier, especially back carries, with a spotter and over a soft spot such as a bed until you are completely confident. Always use common sense while babywearing. You should not babywear in a situation where it is not safe to carry your infant in your arms.