Why bother with babywearing?

November 29, 2008 § 9 Comments

There are many benefits to babywearing, including bonding, warmth, trust, responding to baby’s cues before they need to cry to be heard, a gentle transition into motherhood, helping a toddler chill out, and the one most people talk about: getting things done by being hands free. I don’t advocate “getting things done” in the first couple of months for several reasons. You could wear yourself down and get ill (or mastitis, thank you very much) and you need your energy to withstand time. I also think that trying to get things done, even when baby is sleeping, can backfire when baby is older. Babies love to see what an adult does during the day. Leaving the chores for when baby is asleep keeps them from understanding the world around them.

When you wear your baby in front (facing you) they will most likely drift off to sleep without you doing much of anything. Going for a walk can easily put baby to sleep in the sling and allow you the much needed fresh air. This can be a godsend in moments of frustration or simply when you feel like you’ve exhausted your emotional resources to tend to your baby. That can especially be the case with women with postpartum depression. I’ve never had it so I don’t speak from my personal experience, rather from other’s experience. When a mother who has ppd can’t even look at her baby, talk to her or engage her cooing, wearing her baby becomes a way baby can thrive. Being worn, the mother can mother (through her body’s warmth) while she tries to cope with her feelings. Even a mother without ppd benefits from wearing her baby. When you have two babies, it is easier logistically to wear the littlest one and get food and read a book to the older one. Nursing while standing up in the kitchen making a sandwich for the older baby has saved me a number of times.

Most will agree that babywearing is a skill to master. However, to master it you don’t have to learn everything that’s out there. Just learn the skills you need to do the tasks you want to do. I wore bilingual baby in one carry with one tie (in the Moby) for about 4 months. After that, I ventured into Mei Tai world with just one carry and that lasted me for an even longer time. There are several places online where you can seek help.

thebabywearer.com

The Babywearer is a forum where you can talk with other babywearers from all over the world about how to carry your baby, how to tie a knot, what carrier you should get, etc. If you have a question, this is the site to go to for help from other families. I do have to add that the opinions of those on the forum are just that. Some opinions you may not use and some (most) you’ll probably get to use over and over. It’s all first hand experience. There are also pages that you can enter without signing up for the free membership but I recommend entering the forum and sticking with one sub-forum at a time. Otherwise, it can be quite overwhelming. If you want a suggestion on where to start, leave me a comment and I’ll try to help you navigate the site.

wearyourbaby.com

This site is a wealth of information. Tracy Dower runs this site and is awesome! I love looking at all the videos she’s put up. She’s a huge fan of the SPOC (simple piece of cloth) and there’s even a video of her tying her baby on with a pair of sweatpants! Let me draw your attention to her babywearing safety page, benefits of bw’ing page, and diy page where she encourages you to use what you have. It can be very empowering to find out you can use that wide shawl, blanket, or sarong you already own to wear your baby. Women over thousands of years have been doing this. Check out the flickr photo pool showing traditional babywearing. It’s very inspiring.

What kind of carriers are out there?

The most versatile is the wrap. There are stretchy wraps like the Moby and Baby Bundler, and woven wraps like the Didymos and Ellaroo. The thing to know before buying a stretchy wrap is that you may come to a point where your baby is sort of sagging in the stretch of the wrap and because they end up so low on your body it’s not as comfortable as it once was. That said, the Moby is less expensive than these high quality woven wraps, and if you don’t want to make your own woven wrap, they end up being a great entry into babywearing (it was for us). You can do a lot of different types of carries with a Moby- though the back carries tend to be less comfortable with an older child because of the sag. There is a learning curve on learning to tie the wrap but it can quickly become your favorite, since you can do so much with it.

The easiest to “master” is a pouch. You put it on and put your baby in. No tying at all. Most, like Hotsling, are one size fits all (tho there are adjustable pouches) so you will most likely be the only one using it. It’s great for toddler who want to go in and out of the sling all day long and it easily folds up into a tiny heap of fabric. Also an easy carrier to make at home, granted you follow instructions on making a very sturdy seam, as it is what holds the weight of the baby.

One of the most beautiful is the Mei Tai. It is also an easy one to master. It’s like a wrap but you don’t have all the fabric in the straps. It’s a great back carrier- which is what it was traditionally used for. I’ve only used it as a front and back carrier. I’ve never tried to actually use it as a hip carrier, though I know how to do it. It’s not the most comfortable. I used this carrier through my entire pregnancy with my toddler and found it incredibly comfortable and easy to get on and off. Sometimes the straps are padded, sometimes they’re just really wide, like a wrap. The body varies in size. Some are huge and can be folded to accomodate a younger baby and unfolded for a toddler, while others are smaller, which you may like as well.

Similar to the Mei Tai is the podeagi (pronounced poe-DAY-ghee). I love my podeagi because of the blanket. It totally envelops my baby boy. I know he’s warm and I know he’s safe. The tying is just like the Mei Tai so it was quick for me to figure out.

Ring slings weren’t the easiest for me to conquer but little by little I’m finding better ways to get a handle on it. There are different kinds of shoulder padding which can make it more comfortable, depending on your taste. Mine is completely unpadded. I’ve tried on the most padded ones and feel unsafe using them in a cradle carry because they seem to eat up my big boy. I’m sure as a hip carrier it might be different. The trickiest part for me was to adjust the rails (top and bottom of the sling). I do like it as much as my wrap but there are days when that’s all I want to use.

Soft-structured carriers, like the Beco or Ergo, are quick to master and have a ton of padding in the waist as well as the shoulder straps which can be more desirable if you’re going on a hike. We have an Ergo and it is the carrier that bilingual papi uses the most. It has clips and there’s no tying involved. It’s great as a front and back carrier and some use it with the infant insert for their newborns. It’s really popular these days, and for good reason. It’s nicely made and plain (though they’re starting to use prints, too) for every day use. This carrier is not intended to be used with the baby facing out, so be warned if that’s what you’re looking for.

Which brings me to…

What carrier can I put my baby facing out?

There’s a divide in the babywearing world on facing baby out, away from the wearer’s body. There are carriers like the Baby Bjorn. These are the carriers I see more babies facing out in. I’ve heard the comment that, “my baby just has to face out, otherwise he gets uspset” a lot. Here’s what Didymos and Ergo have to say about facing baby out. There are others who figure facing baby out, when done a certain way, isn’t as bad as some say. Zolowear has a video on their site showing how to do a kangaroo carry facing out. Though Kelly, maker of the Kozy Carrier (a Mei Tai) shows how to carry your baby facing out, she also says, “I recommend parents use this position sparingly, so that baby gets used to also facing in as that is generally more comfy for the wearer for longer term use.” She, as would I, prefer a high back carry for a child who wants to see out. This also eliminates your need to decide if you should carry your baby facing out and your responsibility to do it correctly.

If you still want to face your baby out, make sure of a couple of things:

Baby’s bum is lower than their knees.

Baby is leaning back, toward the wearer.

Avoid baby hanging from their crotch. This youtube video shows exactly what I mean. The babywearer is using a Moby to put baby facing out, just like the booklet that comes with your Moby shows. She has baby dangling from their crotch. You can see that baby’s knees are lower than their bum and she is not reclined, but rather leaning forward.

I wish I could find a video of someone settling baby in correctly. If you’ve watched the youtube video at least once, try these instructions on adjusting baby. Place them in the X of the wrap and spread the fabric from knee to knee as much as possible. One way to make it more possible is to adjust baby so that they are reclined against your front. Then, instead of pulling baby’s legs through the cummerbund, pull the cummerbund up around baby’s bum, leaving their knees above the bum, if that makes any sense.

Don’t leave them facing out for long periods of time, especially when you’re out and about in a busy place. They may like to face out a bit but give them a break now and again and face them toward you. Other options for your “need to face out” baby is a high back carry with a wrap or Mei Tai or a hip carry with a pouch, ring sling or shawl. The nice thing about the hip carry is that they can face out and turn in all in one. I would find bilingual baby turning in when strangers wanted to say hi to her on the street and looking out when she found something interesting. It was also the carrier bilingual papi used the most around the house so that bilingual baby could see what adults do during the day. Plus, remember that when baby is facing you, they can still look to the side and see stuff.

Still, I’ve gotta plug a secured high back carry. It’s much easier to accomplish any task (I just can’t do dishes with my baby boy in front- my arms aren’t that long), pick up a toddler, bend over to put away toys and safely cook. I’m sure that as my little boy gets bigger I’ll be doing more back carries. For now, at 3 months old, I carry him in high back carries when he’s asleep- when he’s awake he still just nurses and pees.

I hope this hasn’t overwhelmed anyone- I know a bunch of you already know this stuff. Remember that you only really need one sturdy carrier to get you from birth to the toddler years, and you only need to learn one way to carry them. There are many reasons to bother yourself with babywearing. I may not have touched on a reason you feel is important but perhaps give it a try. Start with what you have around the house. Start with one carry you like and give it a go and let me know if I can help.

Happy Babywearing!

________________________________

Update: 12/02/08, 6:30pm

Thanks to the concern raised by Sarah V in the comments, I have re-evaluated this entry and removed some of the original text.

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§ 9 Responses to Why bother with babywearing?

  • Megan says:

    I also babywear for safety. While pushchairs are great for many reasons I feel that they are unsafe as they are not a part of the parent/caregiver and you can not be fully aware of what the baby is doing.
    Also a pushchair and roll without a parent holding it and end up in a danger….so many different accidents waiting to happen.
    Babywearing you can act fast and your child is right there with you.

  • trisha says:

    I love this summary of babywearing! You have explained all the reasons that parents wear their children in such a reasonable manner. Thank you for outlining the reasons some parents choose to face their child 0ut while wearing. I personally don’t agree with a small baby facing out when in a busy place. On one hand, I applaud the parent for holding the child close, (as opposed to facing out far away in a stroller) but the positioning for both parent and child, so umcomfortable looking! In my experiance, parents who use only front-facing don’t babywear very long. What do you think?

  • Leila says:

    Megan, wearing a baby for safety is a great reason, too- especially when you’re clumsy.

    Trisha, thanks! I try to be reasonable. I’d hate for people to listen to that Motrin ad. I’m gonna address your question in another blog post.

  • Sarah V. says:

    Is there any evidence that delaying feedings in the way you were talking about (i.e. just a few minutes now and again while you finish something up, not trying to put a hungry baby off for ages in order to keep to a strict schedule) does make for earlier weaning?

    I’ve been reading more about this subject recently after seeing a letter in the British Medical Journal about best breastfeeding patterns to recommend, but it’s also something I’ve read about in the past. I’ve seen anecdotal evidence that scheduling too strictly in early weeks may lead to a failure of the milk supply around 4 – 6 months (this seemed to happen a lot with Ezzo babies, from what I’ve read), but couldn’t find hard evidence even of that. I’ve come to doubt whether getting the baby to wait for a few minutes now and again is really the kind of problem that you’d think it was on reading some breastfeeding resources.

    I think this is an important question, because when nursing my first child I did try always to nurse him as soon as I could and for as long as he wanted. The result was that I never seemed able to get away from feeding him long enough to leave the house or take a shower. It was exhausting and overwhelming and, although I was determined to the point of pig-headed stubbornness to keep nursing, I can easily see how other mothers in that situation give up. My second child was also nursed very frequently, but I really didn’t hassle much about getting on and doing something else, like going for a walk, if she’d had a very recent feed and wanted another one – and that simple change in attitude just made things *so* much easier and more relaxed, I can’t tell you. I think the kind of “all or nothing” attitude often seen towards getting breastfeeding to work may be doing way more harm than good.

  • Leila says:

    Sarah,

    I don’t know if there is any evidence for what I wrote. It’s just my theory. I think the need to respond quickly is especially evident in the first three months of baby’s life. By then, a pattern of response might have already been established.

    With my first baby, I found people wanting to hold her a lot, which is fine. What bothered me was that when she would cry the person holding her would try to distract her from her hunger (difficult with a newborn) or say things like, “Let mommy finish what she’s doing”, which really irritated me. Hence, I have a really narrow view on people postponing a newborn’s nursing.

  • Sarah V. says:

    I can understand if that isn’t the way you wanted to do things, but I’d be very wary of making that into blanket advice. After all, the advice that you should try to avoid delaying feedings by even a few minutes *could* be harmful, by making the whole thing so difficult for new mothers they give up on nursing, or exhausting them to the point where it’s hard for them to make milk. In the absence of any evidence that it’s helpful, I think it’s probably advice best avoided.

  • mudspice says:

    I read this a couple weeks ago and I have to say, at first I kind of didn’t get it. But I thought about it in the days following, because, honestly, despite me being on my third child now and being used to wearing my babies, I hadn’t really ever thought about it in terms of the psychological aspect for the baby to be able to see the parent. Even in my sling, I realized that it is difficult for my little one to see me, even when she’s facing me.

    So I thought about it a lot. And then I started watching an amazing video course on attachment parenting, called the Power to Parent by Gordon Neufeld. Well. One of the things he mentioned was that in all indigenous and tribal cultures, nobody had to teach them how to parent. And nobody ever had to teach them attachment parenting. They just do it instinctively. He said if you need a real live model of attachment parenting, just look to them.

    So I thought a lot about that. And I realized that one thing they all have in common is that they all wear their babies on their back. And as I thought about that, I realized that I didn’t have a proper baby carrier for that. Well, I didn’t have a baby carrier that was comfortable enough for me to carry Fiona for extended periods of time. Especially when I was in the kitchen, she would just get in the way if she was in the sling.

    And then I thought again about your post about babywearing. I mentioned it to my sister, who also has a baby, and we talked and thought and she went out yesterday and bought the Ergo. And I tried it out and bought one today. The amazing difference is that Fiona can actually look up at me and we can communicate and talk while she’s sitting in the front. Not to mention how comfortable it is!

    So thanks for getting all those thought process rolling in my heads. It really did open my eyes!

  • […] facing baby carrier, ergo baby, ergo baby carrier, front baby carrier A couple weeks ago I read a post about baby wearing. I have to say, at first I kind of didn’t get […]

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