Okay I’m guessing you have questions about this “baby wearing” I keep referring to.
What is babywearing? Why do I keep talking about it? Why am I calling it babywearing when it’s just carrying? Am I weird? Why do I do it? How can you do it too? Does it spoil your baby?
What is babywearing? Babywearing is just that–wearing your baby on your body. This involves using a carrier of some sort, which I’ll get to. I prefer wrapping, but there are so many kinds! The basic idea is not a new one. Wearing your baby is as old as, well, babies. The style I prefer, wrapping, involves using one piece of fabric to hold baby on your front, hip, or back. It allows you to be handsfree and close to baby. You can respond to his needs instantly. It has the most remarkable calming effect – but we’ll get to that. The babywearing phenomenon of late may be due to the popularity of the teachings of Dr. Sears, the Attachment Parenting guru, and a general return to more “natural” parenting styles. It is also highly recommended by Dr. Harvey Karp, popular fussy baby guru and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. Dr. Karp’s book is a revelation for any parent, and his methods are being used by medical professionals in hospitals across the country!
Why do I keep talking about it? Umm, because it’s awesome!
Why am I calling it babywearing? Well, I didn’t coin the phrase. It is called babywearing (let’s call it BW now) within the community of those who practice it, and it’s a really friendly community. I am a member of a few online groups and the atmosphere is generally really supportive. In fact, just today on a walk I met two other BW moms – one of whom owns a store in Anaheim! It’s hard to find these products in stores, so I’m very excited.
Am I weird? Have you met me?! I’m super weird.
Why do I do it? I’ll answer this in terms of why anyone BWs. The advantages are great for mother and baby (and father and baby!) The physical closeness has amazing physical side-effects. Struggling with breast milk supply? Try wearing your baby and see how your body responds to the physical closeness. Your baby comes from constant contact with you and the instantaneous meeting of his needs into a world where he is expected to be on his own for much of the day. Of course you can’t hold baby all day, and he will adjust to that, but BW allows you to wear him for much more of the day than you could with your arms occupied with him. When Jacob was struggling with colic, wearing him in my Moby wrap was a GODSEND. The closeness to me was comforting to him – physically, the hormones your body secretes when you are close to baby make you both feel calm and secure, like Prozac! – but also the position of his body as a newborn with his knees tucked against his trunk, helped his stomach to calm. Also the gentle bouncing as I walked, cleaned, and cooked, reminiscent of the womb, was both comforting and helpful for his hurting belly. Also, I was able to get so much more done! It’s a million bagillion times easier to grocery shop while wearing your baby. Rather than filling your cart with the car seat and not being able to buy much [and of course you would put the car seat IN the basket and not in the child seat, which is extremely dangerous], you have both hands and the cart free and open to get things done! Plus, you can navigate through tight aisles without a bulky stroller. Carrying a car seat is so bad for your back. They are heavy! Wraps and buckle carriers (and others) are ergonomic and comfortable. It’s also a great workout. I know that’s the least of your concerns as a new mom, but I spent a lot of hours bouncing my colicky baby and have noticed a difference in my leg muscles. The wrap was my safeguard against a really fussy day or night. If things were going south, I could wrap him up and he would clam instantly, usually falling asleep soon after. I am wearing Jacob as we speak, while softly bouncing on my “desk chair” AKA yoga ball.
Can you do it too? Absolutely! I can point you in the right direction. Sites like TheBabyWearer.com and Paxbaby.com have a lot of resources. The best way to get started is to try on some carriers. If you know me IRL (that’s “in real life” for those of you who aren’t computer geeks) you can of course try mine on. If not, PaxBaby and others will rent to you. You’ll pay for the rental, which will be shipped to you along with a return envelope complete with postage. Super easy. Here are the main types of carriers:
- Stretchy wrap: Great for newborns. Inexpensive, soft, snuggly, washable, easy to adjust and learn wrapping (because they are stretchy, you can tie the wrap on before putting baby in it, and stretch it into position). My Moby wrap falls into this category. Around $40 and easy to purchase at stores like Babies R Us and now Target, I consider these things a “must have” for any new mom. The early days of your baby’s life are the most crucial for closeness, bonding, and milk production, plus this wrap is cheap and easy, and your baby is light!
- Woven wrap: Similar to a stretchy wrap except that they are not remotely stretchy! This is a good thing, because, as your baby gets heavy and wiggly, the stretchiness will not be your friend. They are not only more secure, but less hot than the jersey knot used for a stretchy wrap. They are so strong that they can be used as a hammock (really – I’ve seen pictures) and can hold adults! There are a lot of wrap styles; you can pick something that is aesthetically pleasing to you. There are tons of different holds, and you can wear your baby on your front, back or side in wrapping variations, one of which is bound to be comfortable to you. They are hand woven and made under fair-trade and ethically sound conditions.
- Ring sling: a one-shoulder wrap made from cotton, linen, or a converted woven wrap. Easy to get baby in and out of quickly without tails dragging on the ground or parking lot as you run errands.
- Structured carrier: a carrier with buckles and straps that can be worn on your front or back. Only one or two on the market are safe for front-facing your baby, although you cannot do that for long in any carrier, as it’s not the best ergonomic position for baby. This type of carrier is popular with dads, as it lacks the learning curve of a wrap, however if you share it, know it will have to be adjusted between wearers. You may be familiar with the ever-popular Baby Bjorn, and a soft structured carrier is similar to those, except that the position of your baby’s legs and hips in a BB and select other “popular” carriers is not safe for their hips.*
- Mei Tai: a cross between a structured carrier and a wrap, this kind has a seat and shoulder straps, then ties around the waist or chest with long pieces of fabric.
- Slings: padded and tube-style: These aren’t comfortable to me, and padded slings can be very dangerous! Of course many moms and dads love them, and Dr. Sears himself advocates a padded sling. If they work for you and you learn how to use them safely, go for it! They can be inexpensive, too, which is a plus.
Does it spoil your baby? I think this is the most important question for some of you. I know you’re thinking it, because many of you have asked me about it. Babywearing has elicited a lot of attention on Jacob and I, and questions about the negative effects of BW have been one of the most common types. Behind praise for the cuteness of my baby (always appreciated) and people complimenting me on how comfortable he looks and my “ingenuity” in wearing him, the third-most-often-heard comment is that he is not “safe” in the carrier because he is being spoiled. “Does it make him want to be held ALL THE TIME?” The answer is a resounding “no!” I actually believe (and there is research to back this up) that BW increases your child’s sense of independence simply because it fosters such a confidence and trust in your baby that you will respond to his needs. Sometimes I think that Jacob has an internal measuring cup of physical affection. If I have not filled this measuring cup, he is whiny and clingy. He’s trying to tell me that he needs affection. I believe that babies at this young age are incapable of manipulating you – they respond only to physical or emotional needs, and all behavior stems from these needs. That is not to say that they can’t have bad habits, etc, but for the purpose of this discussion, let’s not go there. 😉 Anyway, when Jacob has spent time cuddled against me, viewing the world from my perspective, a much less scary one than that of a baby looking up on everything, he feels safe and secure. He knows I am a constant presence in his life. Because of that, when I put him down for independent play time/Korey needs to get some stuff done time, he is content and happy. He plays alone with toys on the floor while I shower, do the dishes, etc. This is fantastic! He’s not sleeping, not eating, and not crying…he’s just existing, and he’s happy. There are more scientific reasons that babywearing is rad and great for babies, but I’ll stick to what I know from personal experience. My Jacob is a HAPPY baby. If I have to do something potentially scary (like vacuuming) and I am wearing him, he pays no mind because he instantly feels safe. We have worn him hiking, at Josh’s bike races, at the fair, in loud stores, etc, and he will sleep or just hang out through loud noise and bright lights without startling. It’s awesome.
*If you have questions about a carrier you have, feel free to ask me. I don’t know the most, but I know how to point you in the right direction! Certain brands are known to be unsafe, as well as certain carries in all brands (like forward facing – or wearing baby on your back in a stretchy wrap). Make sure you’re using an ergonomically secure and safe carrier for your developing baby.