The Art of Baby Wearing

baby wearing

A recent ad depicted a mom wearing her baby and presented baby wearing as something that moms do to make themselves “look good,” even though it causes them pain*. The ad has been pulled after criticism, but it made me think of how misunderstood this practice is.

In the past year of wearing my baby I have had the strangest comments come my way!

“Does she like it?” (this is asked as the person asking the questions has their own children screaming from the shopping cart while my child is snuggled quietly against me).

“How in the world do you tie that thing? What is it anyway?”

“How does she breath in there? Is it safe?” (This when my daughter was a newborn and in her Moby wrap).

Some have been positive comments too:

“Oh! That is so cool! I wish I had those when I was having babies!”

“Awww. You can hug your baby as you shop! How special is that!?”

I first heard of baby wearing when I began researching adoption. It came up in an adoption article and was presented as a way for adoptive parents to bond with their new baby. Intrigued, I looked further into this concept of wearing your baby, and what I found made a lot of sense to me.

A baby is carried in a mother’s womb for nine months, snug and warm. Birth pushes them out into this cold, isolated world, and those of us in the Western culture then plop the baby into a crib, a swing, or a bassinet, where they spend the majority of their day. From constant connection with a human, to only periodic contact for feeding and snuggling, it’s an abrupt change. Why do we do it that way?

Some would argue it’s because birth means the baby is mature enough to not need to be carried constantly anymore. While I would agree that birth is obviously a step towards growing up, I personally do not feel that it necessarily means baby no longer needs regular and consistent human connection. Instead, I adhere more to the belief system of carrying a baby nine months in the womb and nine months outside of the womb.

“But it will stunt independence and milestones,” some argue. Does it? Or does it instead facilitate such a close bond with baby and mom (or even dad) that our little ones actually have more confidence to step out and explore when they are out and about?

If baby is worn every second of the day, every hour, sure it will prevent milestones. Tummy time is a good thing, and so are times when they can learn how to roll over and crawl. Baby wearing doesn’t mean the baby is always in a sling. It does mean, however, that the transition from connection from parent to independence is made much more gradually as the baby grows up, not instantaneously, the day they are born.

Baby wearing has many other benefits as well.

First of all, it really helps baby get adjusted to day and night cycles. Newborns sleep a lot, but they still can learn a mama’s pattern of living while being worn. The older they grow and become more alert to the world around them, the more they begin to adapt that Mom moves a lot during the day, and then at night, she grows still.

While being worn helps a baby adjust to life schedules, it also keeps babies in much closer contact to their parents while they are being worn, thus exposing them to verbal words and even daily tasks. I wore my daughter as an infant, and that included while I fixed our meals (though I always took her off when dealing with the stove top and removing things from the hot oven) and now that she’s one, she still wants me to put her in the sling while I bake. She has learned that she loves watching me dump things and mix things. And all the while, I am telling her what certain things are and what I am doing and why. I also praise her for being “such a good helper.”

The same goes for doing laundry, dusting, vaccuming, and even shopping. Speaking of shopping, until I got the world’s best baby carrier (which I’ll talk about in a moment) I tried to put my daughter in the shopping cart a few times when she got bigger and harder to carry. First of all, I wasn’t aware how disgustingly dirty those carts were until I actually put my baby in one. Second of all, she wasn’t impressed. She decided it was much better being worn. Third, it seemed to expose her to a lot more people who do not have the common sense to not kiss my daughter’s face or pinch her cheeks or rub her head, even though they are complete strangers! I only tried that three times and then we were back to baby wearing while out and about.

Babies who are worn are usually more content. I wondered if this was really true, but then my best friend’s experience proved this concept. When she was pregnant with her fifth baby I told her about baby wearing. She thought it was an awesome idea and practiced it with the baby once she was born. She has stated repeatedly that this baby has been the most quiet and content baby of all her children — and she firmly believes it’s due to baby wearing.

Baby wearing is also great for that post baby weight! I mean, wow, think of the calories you burn while carrying your baby around while living your daily life. I actually attribute baby wearing to me getting back in shape sooner after pregnancy. I couldn’t work out but I still had to “work out” while wearing my girl.

Lastly, baby wearing is awesome to help baby bond with other family members. It may be that your little ones are adopted (or going to be soon) and wearing your baby will give you that time and connection that you missed out on while they were in the womb. If you did carry your baby, it helps dad and even older siblings get some bonding time after the baby is born, as well as getting baby used to their voices and even smell.

There are many different baby wearing options out there, but here is a quick (very basic) run down of carriers:

Wraps. These are usually a long piece of material that can be wrapped around your body in a variety of ways for the different life stages of a baby. They have the versatility to hold a newborn in a cradle hold, an older infant in front, or a toddler on the hips and back. They even allow twins to be worn. Although confusing at first, wraps are easily learned and tying them becomes second nature very quickly.

Sling Carriers. These usually have a large “pouch” and wrap from one shoulder, down around your waist area. They usually have rings in which you adjust your material, though some have padded shoulder straps instead, keeping baby in snug against you. They too allow a cradle-like hold for newborns, and then later, a hip carry for an older infant.

Asian Style Carriers (Mei Tai). Typically a square piece of fabric with strips that tie around the upper body and waist, this type of carrier can carry a baby on the front and back.

Hip Style Carrier. I just discovered this sling and think it is the best ever, now that I have a toddler. It is put out by Scootababy and carries up to 40 lbs. It is designed for hip wearing only and is much easier to use than a wrap (though I can not compare it to a sling carrier, as I have never used one of those).

The options are endless, not only in the styles, but in the fabrics and colors of the carriers, too. The best thing a parent can do, who wants to get into baby wearing, is ask for feedback and advice in forums, such as on Baby wearing moms are quick to share their favorite types of carriers, and usually their favorite baby wearing stories as well.

Baby wearing isn’t for everyone, but for those that go that route, they can’t imagine any other way of life for them and their little ones.

*Baby wearing may have to be put on hold, or may need a doctor’s advice, if you have back problems, you sustained complications during delivery, or you had a c-section. Please speak with your doctor if you have experienced any of these things.

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