After having 12 babies over the span of 28 years of marriage, one would think the idea of babywearing would be old hat to me. But I can honestly say that it was something I only dabbled in. However, through my Postpartum Doula training with Birth Arts International, I have come to learn amazing things about babywearing; things I wish I could go back and do over with my own children.
Other cultures wear their babies while doing daily tasks, whereas here in the U.S. we wheel them where we want to go and often park them there, be it in a stroller or infant seat. But Infant Development Specialists, who study cultural practices of babycare around the world, found that babies who are carried in a variety of sling and front carriers are more content than babies kept in cribs, strollers, car seats and infant seats.
Dr. William Sears and his wife, Martha, were encouraged to study the beneficial effects of babywearing in 1985. In all their years of studying and observing babywearing and different styles of baby carriers, they came to the conclusion that what mothers in other cultures use- a sling type carrier- works the best.
But what are some of the benefits to babywearing? With practice, mom will be able to breastfeed while baby is in the sling. It helps organize problem suckers. Tense babies and babies who arch their backs while breastfeeding often breastfeed much better in the sling as it helps them to relax.
Babywearing also helps mom to care for older children. Mom has two hands free to play or read with them and that makes for a more relaxed mom.
Babywearing has medical benefits too. Dr. Nils Bergman, a South African pediatrician, uses the power of skin to skin to improve the survival of preemies in Zimbabwe from 10% to 50% by using skin to skin or Kangaroo Care. He says that a mother’s body is a newborn’s habitat and that removing a baby from the natural habitat triggers instincts that can be counter productive to breastfeeding. When a newborn is in the right habitat (touching his mother), his brain responds by triggering the program for growth, stress levels decrease, his gut begins to process food, and his heart rate and breathing normalize.
“Failure to thrive” babies benefit from babywearing. Motion has a calming effect on infants. Energy needed for growth is not wasted in crying and close proximity to the breast promotes frequent feedings.
Babywearing reduces crying and colic and enhances learning. It enhances parent-infant bonding and allows fathers to play a vital role in infant care, thereby giving mom a chance to rest. Postpartum depression is less common in babywearing moms, possibly from frequent hormonal stimulation, which has been shown to have a tranquilizing effect on mother.
Along with all of these benefits, babywearing makes life easier for parents and does good things for baby too.
Article written by Kelly Menne, mom to many, and Postpartum Doula, and Certified Breastfeeding Specialist.