When I had my first son, I knew everything about parenting.
OK, I didn’t. I didn’t know a thing.
Phew. There, I admitted it.
But when I had my second son, 17 months later, I knew all there was to know about parenting.
I’m not going to pretend I knew everything then, either, but I did do things a bit differently with son number 2 than I had with son number 1.
One of the biggest things I did differently was embrace babywearing.
What’s that, you ask?
Babywearing simply means holding or carrying a baby or young child using a cloth baby carrier.
My friends wanted to buy me a ticket to Woodstock and make sure I had some recycled sandals.
It’s not like that at all, people!
And truth be told, it was as much as having my hands free for my 17-month old as it was having my newborn up close next to my body. We called my sling, the cloth wrap I wore Luke in, the “papoose.” Luke was often not happy at all if he wasn’t in the blue denim sling I wore him in for hours and hours every day.
(Before you argue with me, he’s 9 and has no attachment issues, thank you very much)
Experts say some of the benefits of baby wearing include:
• Happy Babies. It’s true carried babies cry less! In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during evening hours.
• Healthy Babies. Premature babies and babies with special needs often enter the world with fragile nervous systems. When a baby rides in a sling attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes—walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses. Research has even shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not.
• Confident Parents. A large part of feeling confident as a parent is the ability to read our babies’ cues successfully. Holding our babies close in a sling allows us to become finely attuned to their movements, gestures, and facial expressions. Every time a baby is able to let us know that she is hungry, bored, or wet without having to cry, her trust in us is increased, her learning is enhanced, and our own confidence is reinforced. This cycle of positive interaction deepens the mutual attachment between parent and child, and is especially beneficial for mothers who are at risk for or suffering from postpartum depression.
• Loving Caregivers. Baby carriers are a great bonding tool for fathers, grandparents, adoptive parents, babysitters, and other caregivers. Imagine a new father going for a walk with his baby in a sling. The baby is becoming used to his voice, heartbeat, movements, and facial expressions, and the two are forging a strong attachment of their own. Baby carriers are beneficial for every adult in a baby’s life. Cuddling up close in the sling is a wonderful way to get to know the baby in your life, and for the baby to get to know you.
•Comfort and Convenience. With the help of a good carrier, you can take care of older children or do chores without frequent interruptions from an anxious or distressed infant—which helps 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. Climbing stairs, hiking, and navigating crowded airports all can be done with ease when you use a well-designed baby carrier.
But of course, never put safety second.
Make sure your baby can breathe. Baby carriers allow parents to be hands-free to do other things, but you must always remain active in caring for your child. No baby carrier can ensure that your baby always has an open airway; that’s your job.
1. Never allow a baby to be carried, held, or placed in such a way that his chin is curled against his chest. This rule applies to babies being held in arms, in baby carriers, in infant car seats, or in any other kind of seat or situation. This position can restrict the baby’s ability to breathe. Newborns lack the muscle control to open their airways. They need good back support in carriers so that they don’t slump into the chin-to-chest position.
2. Never allow a baby’s head and face to be covered with fabric. Covering a baby’s head and face can cause her to “rebreathe” the same air, which is a dangerous situation. Also, covering her head and face keeps you from being able to check on her. Always make sure your baby has plenty of airflow. Check on her frequently.
3. Never jog, run, jump on a trampoline, or do any other activity that subjects your baby to similar shaking or bouncing motion. “This motion can do damage to the baby’s neck, spine and/or brain,” explains the American Chiropractic Association.
4. Never use a baby carrier when riding in a car. Soft baby carriers provide none of the protection that car seats provide.
5. Use only carriers that are appropriate for your baby’s age and weight. For example, frame backpacks can be useful for hiking with older babies and toddlers but aren’t appropriate for babies who can’t sit unassisted for extended periods. Front packs usually have a weight range of eight to 20 pounds; smaller babies may slip out of the carrier, and larger babies will almost certainly cause back discomfort for the person using the carrier.
Baby wearing was such a great experience for us that I highly recommend you try it. Bottom line, you have to do what works for you.