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Babywearing is not a new phenomenon; though the way parents wear their babies has changed over time. Since times immemorial, parents, mostly mothers, have been using their shawls and scarves to carry a fussy baby around to soothe it as they tend to their chores. This ancient practice is fast gaining popularity in the modern world too.
Video: Babywearing – Benefits, Types & Safety Tips
What Is Baby-wearing?
Babywearing involves carrying or wearing the baby in a sling or a baby carrier. It is a practice that helps you keep your baby as close as possible while you engage in your day to day activities. It is a traditional practice that is slowly making its way into modern society. Today, we do not only see mums wearing their babies but dads have joined the bandwagon too.
Benefits of Babywearing
The benefits of wearing your baby are many and the most obvious benefit is convenience. If your baby is with you, you can easily finish your daily tasks without worrying if your baby is safe or not. Also, you can easily take your baby to many places where prams and strollers cannot go, like stairs, escalators, etc.
Apart from these, there are several other benefits that babywearing offers. Some of them include:
- Supports breastfeeding: When you hold your baby close, you will be able to understand the signs of hunger more easily. Some carriers are designed to enable you to breastfeed your child while in the carrier. This results in less crying and crankiness in general. It makes you more aware of your baby’s needs and that helps in developing a closer bond between you and your baby.
- Say goodbye to crying: While your baby will not stop crying completely, the frequency will drastically reduce. It is believed that carried babies cry and fuss less.
- Help to avoid cranial and spinal deformities: Babies who spend a lot of time in baby swings and car seats run the risk of developing cranial and spinal deformities. When you carry your baby properly, it allows for the proper formation of the postural muscles, spine, and cranium.
- Babies learn to regulate physiological functions properly: Babies who spend a lot of time close to their mothers are able to regulate their physiological functions like heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature better.
- Improves physical and emotional development of the baby: Wearing your baby in a carrier will help in improving your baby’s IQ as they are calm and can take in their surroundings better. Long term benefits include good health, psychological independence and security.
- Babywearing adds to tummy-time: Tummy-time helps in the emotional and physical development of the baby. It teaches them to keep their head high, grasp things that are important for developing motor skills, and also helps them observe their surroundings.
- Emotional development: Babies develop a strong sense of trust and security when they are carried. They bond with the caregiver and they are also more likely to become independent at a younger age.
- Enhances learning abilities: When you are carrying your baby, your baby is spending a lot of time in the ‘alert’ and ‘quiet’ state—something required to learn new things. Many studies claim that babies who are worn have better auditory and visual alertness as compared to other babies. Many studies also show that speech development is more advanced in carried babies as they are exposed to adult conversations.
- Prevents flat-head syndrome: Over usage of equipment like car swings, bouncy seats, and baby swings suffer from the flat-head syndrome, also known as plagiocephaly. You can prevent this by wearing your baby and avoiding putting a lot of pressure on the back of your baby’s small head. Wearing babies promotes their natural head development.
When to Start Babywearing
You can begin babywearing right from the first day your baby is born but only if you are doing it properly and with a suitable wrap. It can be easily be started after 1 month of age. You can keep using them as your baby grows and becomes a toddler.
Types of Baby Carriers
Baby carriers are of different types. While some baby carriers can be made at home, most types are commercially available. Let’s look at some of the most commonly used baby carriers:
1. Babywearing Slings
This is probably the most commonly used baby carrier. It consists of a long piece of sturdy cloth that you need to wear over one of your shoulders and around your torso.
This is the best choice for the newborns as smaller babies can easily lie on the fabric. As far as larger babies are concerned, the sling will function as a hip carried seat for them and they can sit in it. You can also use a sling as a back carrier for your baby and this is an absolutely safe thing to do.
Slings are commercially available as well and they can be padded or non-padded. Some even come with rings for adjustment.
2. Babywearing Wraps
A babywearing wrap usually goes over both your shoulders and around your torso. It consists of one long piece of fabric and comes in varying lengths. You can use this to carry your baby on your back or on the front. This can also be used as a hip carrier. Wraps are among the simplest options you have but it might take you some time to get adjusted to them.
3. Soft-structured Carriers
These carriers are made of padded materials and are very soft. The soft padded fabric is sewn on a more structured seat that comes with buckles and two shoulder straps. These are more ergonomic than the others and are perfectly suitable for outdoor activities. You can use these as back and front carriers. These are more convenient to use as well.
4. Mei Tais
These carriers are also soft-bodied and come with shoulder straps and a tie waist. This is the traditional Chinese baby carrier that consists of a rectangular cloth with straps coming from all the corners. The carriers are commercially available and you can use them both as a back and as a front carrier. They can be used as hip carriers too and can easily be customised.
These carriers consist of a piece of fabric that forms a pouch for the baby to sit in. They come with a single shoulder strap. A pouch is the best choice if you are looking for something compact and something that you can wear easily.
6. Ring Slings
Ring Slings are one-shouldered carriers. A piece of cloth is passed through rings to make one. A ring sling is used for the hip to tummy or tummy to tummy carries. Ring slings are compact too and are an ideal choice for busy mothers
Things to Consider While Choosing a Baby Carrier
Choosing a baby carrier is not difficult. However, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. They are:
- Comfort for you and your baby
- The positioning of the baby
You need to ensure that you are comfortable while wearing your baby and your baby is comfortable too. Remember, that there will be days when you may have to wear your baby for multiple hours and so make sure that the carrier you opt for is comfortable.
Also, it is convenient if you can fix the carrier so that it adjusts to another caregiver, be it your husband or anyone else who takes care of your baby. Try and choose a carrier that can be adjusted to accommodate the size of the other caregiver.
Further, you need to decide whether you want a carrier to suit your baby’s current stage or also plan to use it when he grows up. As your baby’s weight increases, you will need more back support, so keep that in mind while looking for a carrier. Opt for one that can accommodate higher weights.
To sum up, here are some tips that you need to keep in mind:
- Types: Now that you already know what the different types of baby carriers are, it is important that you choose the one which best suits your purpose. Try out a few of the available options to know which type suits you and your baby the best.
- Your comfort: Buy carriers that come with well-padded and wide straps and sturdy fabric so that your baby’s weight gets distributed evenly. This will prevent your shoulders, neck, and back from getting strained. There will be times when you will have to share the carrier with another caregiver. So, invest in one that can easily and properly be adjusted. The structured carriers usually come in both regular and XL sizes for plus-sized parents.
- Your baby’s comfort: In the case of front carriers, you need to look for carriers with padded leg holes that offer enough space for your baby’s thighs. However, the leg holes should not be very loose, as your baby might slip through them. Your baby might want to sleep in the carrier too, and it makes sense to look for a carrier that comes with a padded headrest.
- Sturdy: If you are opting for a front carrier, make sure the one you choose comes with straps and a seat that would support your baby securely. The belts and buckles should be durable and should be in proper working condition.
- Convenient: The carrier should be easy to use and adjust. You should be able to put your baby inside and take him out easily, without anybody’s help.
- Nursing-friendly: Do you want to nurse your baby while wearing him? It is easier to nurse your baby in a wrap or a sling as compared to front structured carriers.
- Weather-appropriate: If you are living in a tropical country, the carrier should be made from light fabric. Avoid dark-coloured carriers as they heat up easily.
- Easy to clean: Babies are messy, so opt for a carrier that you can easily clean.
Risky Baby Carriers
Avoid forward-facing baby carriers and carriers where the baby’s legs dangle. These types of carriers do not support the correct posture and can cause hip dysplasia.
If you are opting for outward-facing carriers, do not use them too often. You will find it very difficult to obtain the correct position in the case of an outward-facing carrier. It is also not a very safe option for an overstimulated infant. Also, your baby might face difficulty if the baby falls asleep in an outward-facing carrier.
An outward-facing carrier will put a lot of unnecessary strain on your back as the baby will be dangling from your body and you would not be able to carry the baby for a long time.
How Safe Is Babywearing?
Babywearing is absolutely safe and there is nothing you need to worry about. Make sure you go through the manufacturer’s safety guidelines before using one. Apart from that, there are a few other tips that you need to keep in mind, which have been listed below.
Tips to Carry Your Baby Safely
Keep in mind the following babywearing tips in mind while wearing your baby:
- Make sure that your baby’s airway is clear. The baby should not be in a position where you have to remove the fabric to see his face. Your baby’s chin should not be resting on his chest. It should be tipped up. His face also should not be pressing against your chest. Ideally, his ears should be against your chest.
- The carrier should be such that the baby stays in an upright position or the way you hold your baby yourself. Of course, this is not applicable when you are nursing your baby. While nursing your baby, you can hold the baby in the cradle position, but make sure to bring him back to the upright position after feeding is over.
- Wear your newborn baby in a tummy to tummy position. The legs can be in or out and this depends on the carrier you have chosen. If you have a chosen a carrier when the baby’s feet need to be inside, ensure that his weight is not his feet but on her bum.
- Practising is important so that you get used to it. Practice close to the ground or over a soft surface till you become confident of carrying the baby around.
- It is important to check the carrier for signs of damage on a regular basis.
- Also, learn how to position the baby in the correct way. The knees of your baby should be positioned higher than his bottom and her legs spread—this will help in the proper development of the baby’s spine and hips. You can wear your newborn in the cradle position but ensure that his face is high and visible.
- Toddlers and older infants need proper support, as they are riding their legs out. The carrier should be such that the baby’s knees are placed slightly above his bum.
- If your baby was born premature or was born with low weight, consult the doctor first before wearing him.
- Whether you are using a wrap or a sling, make sure to check on your baby periodically. He should not be in the curled-in position nor should his face be pressed against the fabric. This can lead to suffocation and that can happen in a few minutes.
- Position your baby in such a way that you are able to see your baby’s face and your baby is able to see you as well.
1. How long can I wear or carry my baby?
You can wear your baby for as long as you want. If you have opted for the right carrier and you have positioned your baby in the right way, you can wear your baby as long as both of are comfortable with it.
2. How much do baby carriers cost?
The cost depends on the type you are looking for. A babywearing wrap is the most economical choice you have. Slings are cheap as well. The structured ones are usually more expensive.
If you want to save money, you can consider making your own carrier as well. Check online to know ‘how to make a baby sling?’
3. Where to buy baby carriers?
Try to buy the carrier from a physical store as you will get different options to try out. Select the one that suits you and your baby the best.
4. Can I buy a used baby carrier?
If you want to buy a used baby carrier, it is best to buy it from someone you know. If you are buying it from someone unknown, make sure to ask for proof of purchase, so that you can be sure about its safety and quality.
5. How safe is it to wear a baby carrier?
Wearing a baby carrier is absolutely safe, as long as you buy the right one.
6. How long can I use a baby sling?
You can continue wearing your baby in a sling till he reaches the weight limit which is around 18 kilograms.
Rewarding for both baby and parent, babywearing is one practice which is here to stay. If you are not already wearing your baby, make sure you explore the many options available and invest in a baby carrier which is just right for you.