While baby-wearing is not a new concept in many parts of the world, it is rapidly gaining popularity in western cultures. What are the advantages? How do you do it? Find answers to these questions and more!
Close to your heart
A newborn nestled against his mothers' chest is sleeping -- soothed by the familiar sound of his mother's heartbeat, voice and breathing.
Baby-wearing, or "slinging," has been around for 1000's of years. Although there are many types of slings --padded, unpadded, formed, swaths of fabric, with rings, or knotted -- they all serve the same basic function: Keeping baby close.
There are many benefits of wearing your baby. Researchers have this to say:
- "Mother/infant attachment is not merely a psychological bond but very importantly, a physical bond. The closer a mother is to her baby physically, the greater the development of the baby's potentialities as a human being."
Dr. Mizin Kawasaki, Nurturing, Fall 1997
- A randomized controlled test reported in Pediatrics showed that carrying babies in this manner reduces crying and fussiness 43% during the day and 51% at night.
- Slinging protects babies from too much environmental stimuli. According to Dr T. Berry Brazelton, each infant has an individual threshold for stimulus which can be used for organization and learning. Stimulation which exceeds this threshold overloads the infant and sets up defenses which are likely to be costly to future development. (Nugent, 1985).
- Clinical studies have shown frequent carrying makes a baby less prone to undesirable addictions. Insecurity makes us less able to cope with life's trials appropriately and we substitute by developing unhealthy addictions -- everything from alcohol and drug use to overeating, overspending, overworking
Real life benefits
A recent questionaire given to mothers who sling their babies, brought up these real life benefits:
- Could do housework, attend to other children, shop, ride the bus, etc. without lugging a ton of equiptment along
- Keeps the baby warm
- Discreet nursing
- Baby can sleep and wake without any effort other than putting him in the sling and latching him on
- Slinging is very comfortable and versatile
- Walking around crowded places using the sling is great. No stroller that runs over people, or doesn't fit in the store
- You always know where you baby is, what your baby is doing, and who's touching your baby
- Slinging helps soothe sibling jealousy because mom still has her hands free to do things with her other children while giving the baby the attention he needs
Is this really practical?
At first, slinging feels strange. Not uncomfortable, but you may feel like you should be quiet and move slowly to not wake the baby. Within a few weeks however you can do virtually anything you want to and need not worry that your movements or noise will disturb the sleeping bundle. You have two hands free and yet your baby is close and comfortable.
Those not familiar with a baby in a sling often ask how the baby can stay in the sling without falling out. The fact is, that his own weight makes the fabric snug and creates a small pouch or pocket, which holds the baby against mom's body. There are numerous ways or "holds" for you to carry your baby in.
Every woman is different and the choices available for slings can cover any body type, weight, height and weather you may have. The most important thing to remember is that you have to find the right type of sling that feels comfortable to you and your baby. Most sling companies will offer a trial period before your sale is final.
As your baby grows, the sling is an essential part of baby equipment. Much less bulky than a stroller, it can be tossed into a diaper bag and mom/baby are ready to travel. A baby can be "Passively Active" and when placed Indian-style, or forward facing, he can observe the world from his most secure place, feeling safe and yet observant to what is going on around him. This creates a calm, confident baby that can see what he wants to yet sleep without fuss. Common concerns
Many moms face criticism and -- perhaps well-intentioned, yet misguided -- concern. Does wearing a baby in a sling cause bowleggedness? And does it interfere with motor skills? Many people feel that infants should be allowed ample floor time, so they will learn to play independently. Are these legitimate concerns?
In a word, no! Slings do not cause bowleggedness. A baby in a sling is in his/her natural position, either lying down, or snuggled up in the position of his/her choice. Studies have shown that a baby carrier forces the infant's legs apart and into an unnatural position, putting incorrect pressure on the forming pelvic area and cutting off circulation to the legs. Baby carriers also keep the baby in the full upright position at all times which is not natural for the baby or the mom.
As for it interfering with motor skills, Baby-wearing promotes the development of neural responses in the developing brain, and provides a stimulating, yet secure view of the world for the baby. A baby will let the mom know when he/she wants to get down and you will be surprised to find that it probably will be later in the first year than the mom or others think it should be. Babies grow and mature at their own rate. To force a child to entertain itself or put it in a device that creates an isolated feeling for the baby does not "train" a baby to play alone. It is not beneficial to the baby and doesn't promote bonding between the mother and child.
To interfere in developing motor skills, a baby would have to be strapped in and refused release when he/she shows interest in getting down. In a sling, this is next to impossible because the baby is "right there" and can't be ignored the way a baby can be in a stroller or other baby holding device.
Tips and tricks
1. If your baby is uncomfortable, he will squirm, fuss or otherwise make it known to you. Don't worry if your baby looks uncomfortable to someone looking at you both. Your baby will most certainly let you know if this is true. Slings come in different sizes and styles that all fit differently. Try a few before buying one kind.
2. Slings need to be snug! Your baby has to feel secure and if positioned correctly, mom won't feel like baby will fall or slip out. I found that I couldn't tighten my new sling correctly without help. I had someone pull on the tail with all her weight to make it go through the rings. It then was easier to adjust myself and I haven't had any problems with it since.
3. Do not cook or handle hot things with the baby in the sling if you are using the front holds. Talk to an experienced slingmom and practice!
4. Anyone can sling! Dads can wear babies/toddlers. Kids can wear their dolls. I fashioned a sling for my older son's doll using a receiving blanket and tying it into a loop around him, tucking in the other two corners and VoilÃ¡! A perfect size sling.
5. You can sling until you can't physically carry the weight of your child. Just use a sturdy fabric for larger children.
Here are some links to help you become familiar with the styles of slings and different positions that your baby can be carried.
A clear description of various holds for your baby
My personal favorite. No padding to hinder your adjustment. Money back guarantee. The fabrics are beautiful.
Sling Mommy sells the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder, which is a padded sling. Also has various holds to see.
Peapods Troubleshooting Page
Lots of great tips on this page for new sling moms. Even a phone number to call if you need additional help.
Why a Sling?
This site by Mother's Nature (which is an awesome store, by the way) has some great reasons for and benefits of slinging.
What is attachment parenting?
Do you question your parenting technique? Do you need tips on slinging? Wondering how to make the transition from family bed to separate rooms respectfully? You've come to the right place! Experts Katie Allison Granju and Betsy Babb Kennedy, RN, MSN, detail the general philosophy of AP.