Babywearing: It’s a convenient way to get from A to B and works wonders for growing brains.
Benefits of babywearing:
In a society with prams, carseats, Jolly Jumpers, bouncinettes, exersaucers and other baby-containing devices, why wear a baby?
There’s the convenience factor, of course. Prams are a pain on buses and stairs, in crowded places and on hikes. And holding a baby “free hand” gets tiring quickly, not to mention rendering at least one arm unusable. Front-carrying is a great way to breastfeed conveniently, and invisibly, while on the move and a good front carrier is a marvellous disguise for a post-baby tummy too.
But the benefits to parents are slight compared with the benefits babies get from being constantly cuddled. To appreciate the awesomeness of babywearing, let’s start by looking at the phenomenon in its most-studied form: kangaroo care.
KMC (Kangaroo Maternal Care) was developed in an attempt to keep premature babies warm. Most premmies end up in incubators — those clear plastic fish-tank contraptions. Not surprisingly, most babies don’t like it and, despite the high-tech thermo-regulation, they don’t always stay warm.
In 1978, in an effort to stem Colombia’s staggering 70% mortality rate for premmies, Dr Edgar Rey started giving babies back to their mothers. The mothers wore the babies skin-to-skin, 24 hours a day, and the babies stayed warm. Not only that, they began to thrive.
A later study confirmed that compared with incubator babies, KMC babies cry less, sleep more, breathe more efficiently, breastfeed more often, gain weight faster, have fewer periods of apnoea (cessation of breathing) and ultimately leave intensive care sooner. Pretty impressive for a treatment as low-tech as snuggles!
And babywearing doesn’t just make babies happier, it makes them smarter. Very small babies learn by touch. Though we don’t quite understand how, being exposed to small variations in balance, the movements and rhythms that come with being strapped to an adult, somehow helps babies’ brains mature.
When they get a little older, babies benefit enormously from being more or less at adult level. A child-level view from a pram is good for observing dogs and clutch handbags, certainly; but being closer to adults’ speech and expressions helps babies to become socially attuned, or “humanised”.
Thing to remember when you buy Baby Wrap
- Don’t buy a bunch of different carriers before you start — they can be expensive and you may use only one or two. Borrow a selection of different styles from friends and try them out (with a live baby, if you have one handy.
- Be aware of safety issues. It is recommended babies be worn high with straight backs. Pouch-type slings that hold baby in a “C” shape with curved spine are not recommended, as they can interfere with baby’s breathing. Babies should not have their faces obscured or squashed into fabric and avoid overheating baby with too many layers.
- Additionally, don’t buy a knot-fastening carrier in slippery fabric, because the knots may come loose. And when babies reach the grabbing stage, remember that they are very close to hot drinks!
- Carrying the baby high is not only safer, but easier on your back. For front carriers, the top of the baby’s head should be close enough to kiss.
- Sometimes a baby (or mother!) needs a few tries to get comfy in a carrier. If the baby doesn’t like a particular carry or carrier, try again a few weeks later. The baby’s neck strength, a slight difference in positioning and so on might be enough to change the baby’s mind.
- Finally, and most importantly, don’t buy all your slings and wraps in girly fabric if you expect your husband to wear the baby!