Babywearing: So Many Benefits!

Sweet sleeping baby snuggles in the Ergo.

Sweet sleeping baby snuggles in the Ergo.

by Christina Owen

It seems as though the more children I have, the more I learn. Or, the more children I have, the more I need to learn to survive. I never wore my daughter, my oldest. She was fine in the stroller and I didn’t know any better. When my middle child was born, I lived in a very urban area, where I walked and took the bus everywhere. I wore him out of survival, in my homemade stretchy wrap, at least until he was big enough to sit up in a stroller. I knew more, but I still didn’t know better. Oh how things have changed.

I then got pregnant with my third child. I knew I would be wearing him right away, all the time. Anyone who has multiple children knows that there is a direct correlation between how many children you have and how much (or little) sitting around you are able to do. Older kids like to go places and participate in activities and need their parents there. The only way to accomplish those things, and retain any semblance of sanity, is to wear your baby.

There are many benefits of babywearing. Research has shown that babies who are worn by their mother, or another caregiver, cry less and are not as “demanding” than babies who are placed in a swing or bouncy seat. After being in the womb for nine months, listening to his mother’s heartbeats, hearing her voice, and falling asleep to the swaying of her movements, a baby does not want to suddenly be away from his mother. I also found out from having a December baby in Minnesota, that if I put my baby in a wrap and then put a coat over the two of us, not only were we both plenty warm but we were also much less likely to get the odd stranger who wanted to touch the baby. That was an added perk during cold and flu season.

Another reason I found to wear my baby was that I was much more aware of his needs. If your baby is in a car seat –  or any of the other million contraptions that are available for putting babies in – you aren’t as aware of her cues. When you are wearing her, you will notice at times that she will start squirming, getting restless, and will quickly realize that she has a dirty diaper. At other times, she will start sucking on her hand or nuzzling into the breast and you will know she is getting hungry. It is so important to be aware of these cues, especially for a mom and baby just starting out their breastfeeding relationship. Having your baby close, and sensing her cues much faster, you will hopefully be able to avoid trying to latch on that frantically screaming newborn. Besides, who doesn’t want to have their baby up high and kissable all the time while your hands are completely free?

As I mentioned before, wearing my baby allowed me to attend to my other children. I never worried about being home for naptime. We were able to go to the Children’s Museum, the park, or the grocery store and I was able to have my hands available while he would sleep or look around. Wearing your baby allows you to fold laundry, do dishes or go for a walk, all while he is snuggled up to you, sleeping or even nursing. I even purchased a water wrap so that I could take him to the pool or even shower on those particularly difficult days.

I am a fan of baby wearing for all of those reasons and more. Wearing my baby has let me be with my older children while still bonding with him. It allowed me to meet my baby’s needs, and go about my day. He cried less often and that made us both happy.

Types of Carriers

There are so many types of carriers out there that it can seem overwhelming, trying to figure out what to purchase. Here is a breakdown of the most basic types of carriers.

Wraps
There are two main kinds of wraps – stretchy or woven. A stretchy wrap, like the Moby or Boba wrap is usually made of a jersey knit material. These are really great for the newborn period up to about 18 pounds. After that time, your baby will start to sag and it will become less comfortable for you to wear. In a stretchy wrap you can only safely wear your baby on your front or on your hip.

The woven wrap is usually handmade or machine woven material, either 100% cotton, a blend of cotton and linen, or a combination including hemp, bamboo, silk. The woven wrap tends to be the most versatile of the carriers, since you can use them from birth to toddlerhood and beyond. There are many different kinds of carries you can do with a woven wrap, including many newborn options.

The only drawback to wraps is that there is a little bit of a learning curve with them. It takes time and practice to learn how to wrap correctly and safely. Wrapping and tying all that fabric around you and your baby isn’t necessarily for everyone.

Soft Structured Carriers

Soft structured carriers have padded shoulders, buckles, and a waistband, so that the weight of the baby is distributed on your waist rather than on your shoulders or back. These are considered the most “daddy-friendly” of carriers because there is much less fuss than other types of carriers. Some examples of these are the Beco, Ergo, and Boba, among others. The time you can start using these ranges among brands. Some need a special insert in order for you to wear your newborn in it. For most of these, you can wear your baby until 30-35 pounds.

Asian-Style Carriers

The main kind of Asian-Style is the Mei (pronounced “may”) Tai. This is a combination between a wrap and a soft structured carrier. It has a body similar to the soft structured carrier, but also ties around you. It is simpler than a wrap and can be worn on your front, back or hip. You can use these starting from birth, but your older toddler may outgrow the body of the mei tai.

Slings

A ring sling is a one-shoulder sling that can also be worn on your front, hip, or back. The ring sling is great for nursing in and is a great “poppable” carrier, meaning that it is quick for getting baby in and out of. The only disadvantage is that is only worn on one shoulder which can be uncomfortable for some people. A pouch sling is a sized sling that should fit you from shoulder to hip. These are simple carriers and are also quick for getting your baby in and out. It is very similar to the ring sling.

There are so many reasons for wearing your baby. In the early days it is so important to have your baby close to you, for breastfeeding and for comfort. Choosing a carrier can seem overwhelming because there are so many options but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. There are a couple of places in the Twin Cities where you can try on different carriers before you buy them, such as Peapods in St. Anthony Park. All Things Diapers in Blaine also has a rental program for carriers. I have loved carrying my baby. When he is tired and fussy, I pick him up, put him in the carrier. Within minutes he is calm, and often fast asleep.

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