Mothers throughout the world have been wearing their children for thousands of years. What mom doesn’t want her sweet baby snuggled close to her heart? But, the benefits of babywearing extend far beyond the joy of inhaling that newborn smell with every step.
For parents, wearing a baby makes life much more convenient. It frees up both hands to help with all of that multi-tasking you’re doing. It’s much easier to do chores, chase your toddler, and walk the dog when you aren’t using one arm to support a baby. Babywearing is also great for situations that aren’t ideal for pushing a bulky stroller. I love being able to navigate a Mardis Gras parade or walk around while tailgating at an LSU football game without worrying about having enough room for my stroller. Baby carriers are even supportive enough to allow you to breastfeed without having to find somewhere to sit.
Little ones also love the comfort of being worn. It makes them feel safe, and your close physical presence promotes bonding. Babywearing is great for babies who cry often. Many moms have found that the only thing that calms a crying newborn is being held. Using a baby carrier allows you to hold your baby for long periods without becoming fatigued. The best carriers even come with sleepy dust! It’s not uncommon for Etta Mae to sneak in a nap while I wear her at the grocery store or while walking around the Baton Rouge Zoo.
There are several categories of carriers available and each category has dozens of brands, styles, and patterns.
- Stretchy Wraps like the Moby are great for newborns. They consist of a long, stretchy piece of fabric that can be wrapped numerous ways around your baby. The best way to learn the different wrapping techniques is by watching videos on YouTube.
- Woven Wraps are similar to stretchy wraps, but they are made of more supportive fabrics and do not stretch. Woven wraps come in several lengths and give you the flexibility to wear your baby in the front or on your back or hip. There is a bit of a learning curve, but many experience babywearers find that woven wraps give them the most options for carrying their babies from newborn to toddler age.
- Ring Slings, such as Sakura Bloom, are pieces of fabric worn over one shoulder and adjusted by sliding the fabric through metal rings. They are great for short trips or errands because they make it easy to get baby in and out quickly.
- Soft Structured Carriers are made from a panel of fabric with straps that either tie or buckle around the wearer. They typically require less learning than other types of carriers and can be used for front or back carries. A few popular brands are Ergo, Tula, and Kinderpack.
Once you have selected a carrier, it’s important to make sure that your baby is properly positioned. You should carry your baby just like you would hold her, and she should be close enough to kiss. Small babies typically prefer a “froggy” legged position with their legs inside the carrier. Babies who are old enough to be carried with their legs out should be supported by the carrier from knee to knee. Their knees should be slightly higher than their bottoms, creating an “M” shape. Carriers that allow your baby’s legs to dangle can cause discomfort for you and put strain on her hips and spine. Outward facing carriers should generally be avoided. They typically do not provide proper ergonomic support. Also, small babies can be easily over-stimulated when facing outward.
The most important thing to consider when wearing your baby is safety. Inspect your carriers regularly to be sure they are not damaged in any way that could compromise their use. A few other important safety considerations are:
- Be sure that your baby’s chin is not curled down to her chest as this could obstruct her airway. Also, make sure there is nothing over your baby’s face that could make breathing difficult.
- Be aware of what is around you. Your baby may be able to reach things on a counter or shelf.
- Do not wear your baby while cooking hot foods, riding in a car, or doing any kind of dangerous activities.
- You may want to use a spotter until you are comfortable securing your baby in the carrier, especially when attempting back carries