Having your hands full after your baby is born is an understatement. Babywearing can become a next best solution to any parent, offering help so mothers can nurse on the go and nurturing your child’s craving for closeness anytime — even while multitasking.
“Babywearing has been a lifesaver for my husband and I,” says mom Sarah Rivera, of Concord Township. “It has allowed us to bond with our child, keep him safe and secure, and given us the freedom to move around and do things with both hands free. Plus it’s so much fun to try all the different carriers.”
Babywearing seems to be gaining a new wave of popularity in the U.S. thanks to the dizzying variety of functional and fashionable options available; however, the practice is centuries old for its practicality and health benefits.
Nomadic peoples fashioned one-shoulder carriers, similar in style to the ring sling of today, from animal hides and leaves. Snugli, the first commercial carrier sold in the U.S. in the late 1960s, was the brainchild of an American nurse and Peace Corps volunteer named Ann Moore, whose invention was inspired by the West African women she saw toting their babies on their backs when she worked in Togo.
Aside from the convenience it affords caregivers, La Leche League International and Dr. Sears cite numerous advantages for children exposed to the close contact of babywearing, including a reduction in fussiness and an increase in intelligence and organization. In short, giving baby a bird’s eye view of your daily routines establishes a more innate connection to your world.
“Babywearing was such a blessing for my family during the first few months of our daughter’s life,” says Hannah Kasamias, a mom in Lakewood. “It made the adjustment to motherhood so much easier and she was always happy and calm when carried. I attribute the close bond we have to babywearing during that crucial newborn phase.”
Finding Your Perfect Fit
According to Babywearing International, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting babywearing as a universally accepted practice, most baby carriers fall into one of five categories: wraps, ring slings, pouch slings, mei tais (also known as bei dais or meh dais), and buckle/soft structured carriers. Finding an ideal baby carrier means achieving a perfect fit to the physique of the person wearing it. Here are brief reviews of just a few to try.
Baby Carrier One by BabyBjörn, endorsed by The International Hip Dysplasia Institute. Although an investment at around $200, this easily adjustable matte black buckle carrier offers longevity from newborn to toddler and unisex neutrality between parents and color palettes.
For kangaroo care, a hybrid wrap from Wrapsody borrowed from a BWI meeting was less tricky to tie than its woven cousins, and the stretchy t-shirt material made skin-to-skin less sweltering in summer.
Tula Toddler Carrier in a cheeky cherry print became more comfortable for back-carrying baby’s 25 pounds. When properly cared for, a trendy Tula may actually increase in resale value over time as prints are retired.
Babywearing Safety Tips
While babywearing is an inherently safe activity, it’s key to take a few basic precautions from Babywearing International to ensure you do so properly:
■ Seek carriers from reputable manufacturers that adhere to all current U.S. safety, testing and labeling standards.
■ Maintain an open airway by keeping baby in an upright position with chin off his chest, ensuring he’s high enough on your body to monitor breathing. When actively nursing, infants may be positioned horizontally or cradled, then repositioned upward once finished.
■ Your carrier should adequately support the child’s developing back and neck. Infant should be held with his knees higher than his backside, with legs positioned in a spread squat and supported from knee to knee. Ergonomic carriers provide optimal support for baby and comfort for the caregiver.
■ Before use, always inspect your carrier for damage, like loose stitching, worn fabric or weak spots.
■ Use a spotter and practice carries over a couch, bed, or close to the ground until you are totally confident doing so alone.
■ Exercise common sense before babywearing. Carriers are not approved as a child restraint or for flotation, nor should one be used in boats or moving vehicles. The best rule of thumb is to avoid babywearing in any situation that it wouldn’t be safe to carry your baby.Attending a Babywearing International meeting is free and can help you learn how to use carriers properly and master advanced techniques, like back carries and intricate wrap ties, with the guidance of a volunteer babywearing educator. Paying a nominal annual membership of $30 allows you the ability borrow a different one each month.