Becoming a parent is overwhelming, whether it’s your first child or your third. The list of things people say parents need seems to get longer and longer. One must-have item often mentioned is a baby carrier. To a new parent, a baby carrier—a device that secures your child to your body—can be a life-changing aid. These devices free up your arms and increase your mobility, all while holding your baby close. They are an excellent addition to a new parent’s tool belt.
PAST & PRESENT
The use of a baby carrier to hold a child close is generally referred to as babywearing, a term coined by Dr. William Sears, and is a highly praised practice throughout attachment parenting groups. Babywearing is not new, however, and extends throughout history. In fact, baby carriers can be found in many societies, past and present.
A kanga is often used in Africa to wrap baby around a caregiver’s torso. A rebozo is traditional to Mexico. Europeans frequently used shawls and have moved towards longer lengths of woven fabric. Native Americans are known for their use of cradle boards. Throughout Asia, various types of carriers are used. Onbuhimos are native to Japan, as podaegis are to Korea. China and other Asian countries use a meh dai. Meh dais are the inspiration behind the popular soft structured carriers, such as those made by Ergo, Tula, and Lillebaby.
There are many more varieties of baby carriers throughout history and in present times. Incidentally, these carriers are not restricted to the original culture. Caregivers share their favorite baby carriers across cultural boundaries. The widespread use of baby carriers highlights the advantages of babywearing for parents and caregivers.
A HAPPIER BABY
As the global use of carriers indicates, babywearing offers many benefits for child and caregivers alike. Use of a baby carrier make caregiving easier. Babies, newborns especially, thrive with contact. The three-month period after birth is often referred to as the fourth trimester, a time where baby is adjusting to the world outside the womb. Skin-to-skin contact, consistent interaction, and holding make the transition a gentle one.
Babywearing offers a hands-free way of navigating the fourth trimester with ease. Baby can be comforted, his caregiver’s heartbeat lulling him to sleep, without the physical strain of holding the wiggling bundle in your arms or the frustration of being restricted to one space. The close contact fosters a nurturing atmosphere and makes for a happier baby.
Need another reason to use a baby carrier? Studies show that carrying a newborn three hours a day decreases crying over 40 percent! Babywearing makes this an achievable goal. Holding baby close also allows for continually monitoring of her breathing and heartbeat, something that is especially comforting to new caregivers.
Equal to benefits for baby are the benefits for caregivers. This tool positively reinforces new caregivers’ confidence while strengthening the bond between them and baby. If a family chooses to chest-feed, baby carriers act as a discreet, on-the-go method of doing so. This reduces the isolation that is often felt by new caregivers. Along with this, the inherent bonding provided by babywearing is beneficial to those suffering from perinatal mood or anxiety disorders. A worn baby is a calmer baby and makes new caregivers feel like pros while reducing stress for everyone involved.
A VALUABLE TOOL
Once caregivers decide they want to give babywearing a try, they are usually at a loss as to where to begin. Thankfully, baby carriers have become more commonplace in recent years. A variety of carriers can now be found at big box stores and local retailers, and you are no longer limited to searching online. If you want to try a carrier first, local babywearing groups often have a collection of carriers for caregivers to use. Accessibility to carriers makes babywearing all the easier to try out.
The most popular carrier types are soft-structured carriers, pouch slings, and wraps. Soft-structured carriers come in many styles and fit like jeans. If one brand is uncomfortable, you may just need to try a different style. Pouch slings can often be found free for shipping, but note correct sizing is important. Wraps come in two varieties, a stretchy tee shirt material and non-stretchy woven fabrics. They behave quite differently, and both can be a bit daunting to learn to use, but they are especially versatile once you get use to them.
Learning to carry your baby in a carrier will open up your world, giving you a valuable tool that will help you ace the early years.
Jade Penney is an accredited Babywearing Educator with Babywearing International, a Trained Babywearing Consultant with the Center of Babywearing Studies, and president of Babywearing International of Hampton Roads. Visit www.BabywearingHamptonRoads.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.JKPenney.com.