Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why I Love Babywearing

What is "babywearing?"  Babywearing is "the practice of wearing or carrying a baby or child in a sling or other form of carrier."  It has been practiced for hundreds of years in many cultures around the world.  I remember growing up seeing my grandmother make her own "sling" to carry my baby brother around on her back.  Babywearing has been talked about more recently due to the Time Magazine Cover about breastfeeding and the "attachment parenting" debate.  I don't believe in all the aspects of attachment parenting (like co-sleeping which I think is dangerous) but I do believe in breastfeeding and babywearing.

Why should we wear our babies?  Wearing our babies has many benefits.  "Carried babies cry less, are able to tune into the rhythm of their caregivers breathing, heartbeat and movements, allows caregivers to become finely attuned to their baby's movements, gestures and facial expressions which is beneficial for mothers who are at risk for postpartum depression,  a great bonding tool for fathers, grandparents, adoptive parents, babysitters, and other caregivers, and you can take care of older children or do chores without frequent interruptions from an anxious or distressed infant—which helps to reduce sibling rivalry. Baby carriers are also wonderful to use with older babies and toddlers; you can save those arms and go where strollers can’t."

I've had people tell me while I have been out "wearing" my baby that they thought it was an unsafe and dangerous thing to do.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission did release a warning regarding sling carriers.  "Slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies. In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles. The sling’s fabric can press against an infant’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and rapidly suffocating a baby within a minute or two. Additionally, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airways can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate.  CPSC recommends that parents and caregivers make sure the infant’s face is not covered and is visible at all times to the sling’s wearer. If nursing the baby in a sling, change the baby’s position after feeding so the baby’s head is facing up and is clear of the sling and the mother’s body. Parents and caregivers should be vigilant about frequently checking their baby in a sling."  When the CPSC recommendations are followed, baby wearing can be done safely.  It is important to educate yourself about your sling's particular recommendations regarding positioning your baby before using the sling.

The following by Babywearing International are some great tips to safely wear your baby:
1. Make sure your baby can breathe.
2. Never jog, run, jump on a trampoline, or do any other activity that subjects your baby to similar shaking or bouncing motion.
3. Never use a baby carrier when riding in a car.
4. Use only carriers that are appropriate for your baby’s age and weight.
1. Practice with a doll or teddy first.
2. It is best to try a new carry with your baby when you are both well rested and generally content.
3. Use a spotter … but only another adult who accepts the responsibility of keeping your baby from falling.
4. Use a mirror.
5. Start low.

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing a sling is proper position of the baby to avoid developmental problems with their hips.  The International Hip Displasia Institute recently issued a statement regarding hip development and infant carrriers.  They state that certain "devices could inadvertently place hips in an unhealthy position, especially when used for extended periods of time. Any device that restrains a baby’s legs in an unhealthy position should be considered a potential risk for abnormal hip development. It is also important to assess the size of the baby and match the device and carrier to the size of the child so that the hips can be in a healthy position during transport."

Baby Harnesses

Not Recommended:

Thigh NOT supported to the knee joint. The resulting forces on the hip joint may contribute to hip dysplasia.


Forces on the hip joint with thigh-supporting baby harness.
Thigh is supported to the knee joint. The forces on the hip joint are minimal because the legs are spread, supported, and the hip is in a more stable position.

Baby Slings

Not Recommended:
Tightly wrapped baby carriers may contribute to hip dysplasia.
Baby carriers that force the baby’s legs to stay together may contribute to hip dysplasia.
Baby carriers should support the thigh and allow the legs to spread to prevent hip dysplasia.
Baby carriers should support the thigh and allow the legs to spread to keep the hip in a stable position.

It is also recommended that babies face "inward" rather than "outward" when in a carrier.  "For the first several months, the baby is more than content with being carried in the front position, facing inward towards the caregiver. From a developmental point of view, the baby’s primary tasks are related initially to adaptation to life outside the womb where it certainly does not need excessive stimulation. Quite the contrary, at the “social awakening period at around 2-3 months, the baby’s main interest will be the human face, and here the front facing inward position will continue to be ideal for most babies as they will have a clear view of the caregiver’s hopefully exciting and stimulating face. The baby can also observe the caregiver’s face when she/he is communicating with others, providing the baby with learning experiences."  It is also best for the baby to face "inward" for proper physiologic development.  "The best position to promote a healthy development of spine and hip is the spread squat position or 'frog position', as some call it. In fact, this is the very position that babies are placed in in a brace when hip dysplasia has been diagnosed, because the position stimulates the optimum growth of the hip joints. To have all the weight of the baby placed on the groin and the legs left dangling straight down is simply not optimum from a physiological developmental point of view."

I've had nothing but an amazing experience babywearing.  I used the Moby Wrap from when my baby was a week old (would have used it sooner if I had remembered to use it) until he was four months old.  I wore that thing like a t-shirt everyday.  If it got too hot, I would just wear a bra and keep the baby in only a diaper.  The beauty of the wrap is I got to get a lot of skin to skin contact (also known as kangaroo care) with the baby and I could even breastfeed hands-free while "wearing" my baby.  It also kept my hands free to do chores around the house or while I was out shopping.  It also kept strangers from trying to touch my baby when out in public.  It enabled me to go to places without a stroller.  I didn't have to wait for elevators or squeeze through tight spaces that would have been impossible to get to had I relied on a stroller.

Once my baby turned four months old, he had enough motor development to use the Ergo Baby Carrier.  I had the infant insert for that (for use when the baby was younger than four months) but I didn't like it.  I preferred using the Moby wrap for the first few months and waited until he was bigger to use the Ergo without the insert.  I started using the Ergo at four months and I am still using it with my 2+ year old.  I put him in the piggyback carry position and still get my errands done all while 30+ weeks pregnant.  Like the Moby, I have used it in places that would have never been accessible with a stroller and have been able to comfortably breastfeed hands-free with it.  My favorite memory is using it to carry my baby for 6+ hours to watch a Major League Baseball World Series victory parade.  There was no way I could have seen the entire parade without it!  We also travel a lot and it has been an absolute lifesaver while traveling.  We have used it all over the United States and Europe.

I would highly recommend babywearing to all parents.  When done correctly, it is a great bonding experience.  I cannot wait to do it all over again with my new baby.  I have enjoyed the experience so much that I may even consider wearing two babies at once!

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