Written by contributor Emily McClements, of Live Renewed.
I loaded up my groceries and climbed into the driver’s seat of my car. I reached to put my seat belt on and then looked down. Oops! I was so used to my huge nine month baby bump, that I had forgotten I was wearing my son. There he was, fast asleep against my chest in my Moby Wrap. I was so comfortable, he was so quiet and content, that I had almost forgotten he was even there.
With both of my children, I began wearing them almost as soon as I brought them home from the hospital. I loved having my babies close to me, and they loved it as well. I fell in love with babywearing, and want to tell everyone I know how wonderful it is.
The transition of adding a baby to the family can be an overwhelming one at times, with dealing with the needs of a new baby, feeding them around the clock, all while figuring out how to do what used to be fairly routine tasks like running errands and housework. And as baby gets bigger and older it doesn’t get much easier. They become so active and into everything, and yet are still so sensitive and dependent.
Babywearing is the natural parenting practice of carrying your baby in a sling or a carrier, which is growing in popularity because it helps parents to ease through some of these transitions. But, babywearing is not just a cute way to carry your baby around, it also has emotional and physical benefits for both mama and baby.
How Babywearing Benefits Baby:
1. Connection and Security
Babies come out of the peaceful environment of the womb and are quickly met with the seemingly crazy environment of life outside the womb. Babywearing provides security for babies as they experience the familiar movements and sounds that they knew in the womb: hearing your voice, feeling your cadence while walking, hearing your heart beat, and experiencing your rhythmic breathing. It also provides comfort and connection for them through remaining with you and close to you as you go about your day.
Older babies and toddlers also benefit from the comfort and security of babywearing. As they grow, and learn, and explore their environments, babywearing can provide a safe “home base” where they can be close and connected to mama, or dad, too. This is another benefit of babywearing: it’s a great way for dads to get involved in caring for their baby, and for nurturing their connection with him.
Because of the connection and security that it provides for a baby, babywearing is soothing to babies and helps to reduce crying and colic. Babies who are worn throughout the day have less need to cry to receive attention from their parents, and when they do cry, they are usually soothed easily through babywearing. I often found that when my babies were fussy that wearing them would help to settle them down and stop crying more quickly than anything else I tried.
Wearing your baby in a sling or carrier can also help to ward off the fussy “witching hour” that many babies have. Anticipating a baby’s colicky or fussy times and putting them in a sling or carrier before they start to cry can distract baby, soothe them, and even help them to forget to cry.Photo by Summer
3. Enhanced Learning
Babywearing is stimulating to both babies and toddlers because it allows them to interact with the world in the same way that their parents do, by being upright and on the same level, rather than lying in a car seat or sitting in a stroller. Because babies cry less while being worn, they have longer periods of content alertness in which they can take in stimuli from their environment.
Babies that are worn are able to see what their parent sees, hear what they hear and say, and even do the things that their parent does, right along with them. This leads to enhanced learning and better cognitive development as babies are more involved in the everyday actions of their parents day to day life.
4. Increased Verbal Skills
Along with enhanced learning, babies who are worn are able to pick up on language at an earlier age. They are able to see and hear as their parent speaks with others. Because they are up at their level, it’s almost like they are in on the conversation.
Both of my kids have been early talkers, and I attribute much of it to the amount of time I spent wearing them. Babies who are worn learn speech patterns as they watch their parents form words with their mouth, and can begin practicing sounds and words at a younger age.
How Babywearing Benefits Mom:
1. Connection to Baby
Just as babies benefit from the comfort and security of being worn, mamas benefit from the increased proximity and connection while wearing their babies. Babywearing encourages the production of a mother’s nurturing hormones which increase her ability to read and respond to her baby’s cues, and can also help to reduce postpartum depression.
I found that wearing my newborn felt almost like I was pregnant again. I cherished the moments of having my baby so close and snuggled up with me, and I loved being able to keeping him near me, even as he grew older and more independent.
One of the hardest transitions when having a new baby is the tension between caring for your baby and doing other things that need to be done, such as running errands, housework, even caring for older siblings. Babywearing is the best answer to this for a busy mom.
I have worn my babies in so many different situations, everything from blueberry picking, to dancing at a wedding reception, to just nursing at home hands free so I could play with my older daughter. It allows you to take care of and comfort your baby by keeping them near you as you continue with day-to-day routine.
Using a carrier or a sling to carry your baby is also much more convenient in situations where strollers would be cumbersome, such as at the beach, in a big city with lots people, or while traveling. Babywearing is the most convenient way to stay connected and close to your baby through all of your different activities.
3. Weight Loss
Wearing your baby turns even regular activities, like housework or grocery shopping, into a workout. By starting when your baby is a newborn, you will ease your body into carrying around a extra few pounds, and as your baby grows, your body will respond accordingly to the added weight. Before you know it, you will easily be carrying around a 15-20 lb baby or toddler.
I credit babywearing as one of the main reasons that I lost all my baby weight, and more, after my last pregnancy. It is an easy and safe way to incorporate exercise into your day, even right after having a baby when regular exercise is not recommended.
4. Discreet Breastfeeding
Babywearing provides a way to discreetly and privately nurse your baby in public. It’s also great for hands-free nursing for times when you may need to be doing something else.
Whether using the cradle hold in a ring sling and the tail of the sling as a cover, or an upright position with a mei tai or soft structured carrier, breastfeeding while wearing your baby does require some adjusting and practice to find the position that works best for you and your baby. But once you do, you will love the freedom of being able to nurse your baby on the go, in all different types of situations.
Babywearing has benefited me and my babies in all of these ways, and more. For my family, babywearing has been the best way to navigate the different activities of our life while still caring for, connecting with, and nurturing our precious little ones.
How has babywearing enhanced your life with little ones? What is your favorite benefit of babywearing?