21 July 2011
Attachment Parenting Part Four: Babywearing
I’m so excited to be up to the third (and my favourite) ‘Baby B’ of Attachment Parenting! Babywearing has been an important parenting tool in various cultures around the world for centuries. Far more than just a way of carrying your baby from place to place, babywearing involves consciously keeping your baby in a sling as often as possible - wherever you go, whatever you do, baby is right there with you nestled close to your heart.
Because a baby in a sling is literally attached to you for long periods of time, and easily included in your day-to-day activities, babywearing has got to be one of the easiest and most practical ways of building up your bond with your little one. With baby in a sling, you can cuddle, settle and enjoy your baby handsfree while getting things done, caring for older children, or even just enjoying a cup of tea! And a sling is so much more convenient and flexible than a pram or baby capsule for getting out and about at the shops, on public transport, or heading outdoors when it’s cold or wet. Depending on your sling, you can even breastfeed your baby while walking down the street. Yep, I LOVE babywearing!
But it’s not just great for parents; babies love being worn, too. Research shows that ‘sling babies’ receive more physical touch, are more settled, and have mothers who are more responsive to their cues than their non-sling counterparts. A baby or toddler who fills their ‘emotional tank’ with lots of physical comfort during the day is also likely to find it easier to separate from their parents for nap-time or night-time settling. Babywearing can be particularly beneficial for babies who suffer from colic or reflux (as it enables them to stay upright and in-arms), as well as for mothers struggling with a low milk supply (the proximity of baby can stimulate milk production hormones). Of course, not all babies enjoy life in a sling, but so many do to that it’s definitely worth giving it a go!
Aside from a baby, the most important equipment for babywearing is the right carrier or sling. Many new parents love the idea of wearing their baby, only to find that an aching neck or uncomfortable baby puts an end to their good intentions. Because babies only get bigger and heavier, as well as the fact that a woman’s body continues to produce relaxin (a hormone which loosens joints and muscles and thus enables injury to occur more easily) for up to 2 years postpartum, the right carrier, and the right position for baby, are crucial for successful babywearing.
While having one is better than nothing, the most common clip-together chest carriers (rhymes with Schmaby Schmeeorn…) and rigid backpack carriers are best avoided. These carriers place the majority of baby’s weight on the parent’s neck and shoulders, which is at best uncomfortable as straps dig in and at worst can cause chronic pain. Additionally, the baby’s position in these carriers rests their weight on their tailbone rather than their bottom, which is believed to be potentially damaging to little spines .
Babywearing should be comfortable, easy, and fun for everyone. Experienced babywearers will all have their favourites but most families find that investing in a couple of different slings and carriers is key to a long and happy babywearing journey. Ask your babywearing friends or check out a couple of the sites below for ideas!
William Sears, M.D., and Martha Sears, R.N. The Attachment Parenting Book, Chapter 6: Babywearing
Babes In Arms