If you’ve heard other adoptive parents talk about babywearing and you’re wondering what it’s all about, keep reading. It’s exactly what it sounds like: wearing your baby or toddler in a sling or other carrier so you’re in constant contact. While babywearing is practiced by many parents, adoptive and biological, it’s especially beneficial for children who were adopted, either at birth or during older infancy or toddlerhood.
Babywearing is an encouraged practice in adoption because it fosters attachment and delivers physiological benefits to your child. Added bonus: free hands for Mom!
Bonding, attachment and then some
Babywearing is a great way to promote bonding and attachment between you and your baby or toddler. Being in such close proximity and in constant contact fosters attachment -- on both ends.
Additionally, many adoptive parents will tell you how difficult it can be to get anything accomplished with a new child at home, especially because of the importance of meeting needs in a timely manner. Babywearing is a great solution -- you're able to give your little one what she needs and have free hands to take care of your to-do list. Laundry, dishes, preparing dinner … you name it, you'll be better able to do it when you're not trying to balance a baby on your hip.
Beyond the basics: physiological development
Katie Prigel Sharp, LMSW, an adoptive parent, social worker and co-owner of Heart of the Matter Seminars, encourages baby wearing because of its physiological benefits. "It stimulates the vestibular and proprioceptor systems in a way that helps with sensory development," says Prigel Sharp.
What does that mean? Basically, wearing your baby allows for natural movement that promotes positive development. Prigel Sharp notes how strollers that face away from parents not only prevent interaction, but also subject your tot to bumping and jarring, as do the car seat-style baby carriers that many parents use. "Most kids come through that relatively unscathed!" she says. "However, if you're parenting a child that spent time in less than optimal care or had a hard start in life -- even prenatally through drugs, alcohol or toxins -- you want to be on your toes and remain proactive."
Can babywearing slow development?
Some parents worry that babywearing might interfere with their child's developmental milestones, such as walking. Prigel Sharp encourages parents not to allow those types of concerns to deter them. "Sure, I suppose anything could be overdone, but I've never heard of a child who didn't learn to walk because she was worn too much!"
Not just for babies
Finally, even if you adopt a child who is too big to "wear," or if you did wear your child but she has physically outgrown it, Prigel Sharp says, "Take the key principles of babywearing -- physical proximity, staying attuned to the child and being in constant conversation – and apply them to big kids, too." The purpose behind babywearing remains important well beyond the years your child is small enough to wear.