Babywearing is the practice of wearing or carrying a baby or child in a sling or carrier. Babywearing is far from new and has been practised for centuries around the world. In the industrialised world, babywearing has gained popularity in recent years, partly under influence of advocates of attachment parenting; however, not all parents who babywear consider themselves attachment parents. Babywearing is a form of baby transport.
Benefits of babywearing include:
Mothers’ oxytocin is increased through physical contact with the infant, leading to a more intimate maternal bond, easier breastfeeding and better care, thus lowering the incidence of postnatal depression and psychosomatic illness in the mother
Infants who are carried are calmer because all of their primal/survival needs are met. The caregiver can be seen, heard, smelled, touched, tasted, provide feeding and the motion necessary for continuing neural development, gastrointestinal and respiratory health and to establish balance (inner ear development) and muscle tone is constant.
Infants are more organised. Parental rhythms (walking, heartbeat, etc.) have balancing and soothing effects on infants.
Infants are “humanised” earlier by developing socially. Babies are closer to people and can study facial expressions, learn languages faster and be familiar with body language.
Independence is established earlier.
Attachment between child and caregiver is more secure.
Decreases risk of positional plagiocephaly (“flat head syndrome”) caused by extended time spent in a car seat and by sleeping on the back. Sleeping on the back is recommended to decrease the risk of SIDS. Cranial distortion resulting from non-vehicular time in car seats has shown to be more severe than in children who develop plagiocephaly from back-lying on a mattress. Concern over plagiocephaly has also led the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend that infants “should spend minimal time in car seats (when not a passenger in a vehicle) or other seating that maintains supine positioning.” None of the babywearing positions require infants to lie supine while being carried. Infants can even be worn while they sleep, also decreasing sleeping time spent in a supine position.
Studies of parent-child attachment, parental satisfaction and infant crying all point to babywearing as an ideal solution for most parents to provide an optimum environment for attachment between parent and child.
Baby carriers and slings help increase the number of hours of day an infant is held, and there is an inverse relationship between the number of hours spend crying and the number of hours a child is held in a given day. Even 3 hours per day of babywearing reduces infant crying significantly, and at 13 months, babies who have been in soft carriers regularly are significantly more likely to be securely attached than babies who are carried in hard carriers.
Babywearing allows the wearer to have two free hands to accomplish tasks such as laundry while caring for the baby’s need to be held or be breastfed. Babywearing offers a safer alternative to placing a car seat on top of a shopping trolley. It also allows children to be involved in social interactions and to see their surroundings as an adult would.
Many sling users have found that it is easier on the back and shoulders than carrying their infant in a car seat. The weight of the child is spread more evenly across the upper body.
Slings can also be a fashion statement. They come in many different designs and colors and are available in many different types of materials, including silk, hemp, cotton, wool, fleece, and flax/linen.
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.
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.
Never allow a baby’s head and face to be covered with fabric. Covering a baby’s head and face can cause them to “rebreathe” the same air, which is a dangerous situation. Also, covering their head and face keeps you from being able to check on them. Always make sure your baby has plenty of airflow. Check on them frequently.
Never jog, run, jump on a trampoline, or do any other activity that subjects your baby to similar shaking or bouncing motion when babywearing. This motion can do damage to the baby’s neck, spine and/or brain.
A baby’s head, spine and hips should ALL be inline when babywearing
Never use a baby carrier when riding in a car. Soft baby carriers provide none of the protection that car seats provide.
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 8 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.
The quickest way to remember any safe baby wearing basics can be found here Babywearing Safely