what is babywearing?

picture of babywearing.

I’ve been wearing Asher since he was a week old, and I wore Joseph continually for eight weeks before his adoption was finalized — and for the fist year he was home.

I get a lot of questions and comments when people see me wearing Asher (who is almost four months old — where is the time going?!), so here’s a crash course on babywearing (Yes, it’s actually called that!) and it’s benefits for both little ones and parents.

Babywearing just means holding or carrying a baby in a cloth carrier.

  • Babywearing makes life easier. When I wear Asher, my hands are free to do laundry, play with Joseph (Who is almost three years old — see above comment about time!), load dishes, make dinner — basically anything. And I have the peace of mind knowing that Asher is safe and content, and always available for a smooch. He loves sleeping when being worn, and is content to soak in the world when he’s awake. We most recently wore him at the Mall of America and the Minnesota Children’s Museum– I can’t tell you how nice it was not to have to lug around a stroller. And the peace of mind knowing that he was happy and content and safe was, um, awesome.
  • Babywearing leads to happy babies. 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. Anthropologists who study infant-care practices in other cultures agree that infants in babywearing cultures cry much less. In Western culture we measure a baby’s crying in hours, but in other cultures, crying is measured in minutes. (And anecdotally, I’ve totally seen this with both of my boys.)
  • Babywearing helps babes “get organized.”  A lot of experts agree that the womb lasts eighteen months: Nine months inside the mother, and nine months outside. Babywearing allows your baby to be so close to your body’s rhythms, so your baby “gets in rhythm” much more quickly. Your heartbeat, breathing, voice and warmth are all familiar. Research has shown how this helps infants to adapt to life outside the womb. “What may happen if the baby spends most of his time lying horizontally in a crib, attended to only for feeding and comforting, and then again separated from mother? A newborn has an inherent urge to become organized, to fit into his or her new environment. If left to his own resources, without the regulating presence of the mother, the infant may develop disorganized patterns of behavior: colicky cries, jerky movements, disorganized self-rocking behaviors, anxious thumb sucking, irregular breathing, and disturbed sleep. The infant, who is forced to self-calm, wastes valuable energy he could have used to grow and develop,” Dr. Sears.
  • Babywearing gets dads involved, too. Sometimes dads have a difficult time connecting with new little ones. Babywearing fosters attachement between parents (or any caregiver) and little ones. Before Joseph’s adoption, he was worn on the backs of nannies at the orphanage, which helped his attachment with us.
  • Babywearing comes in different shapes and sizes. Not all carriers are created equal. If you want my two cents (and you do, at least a little, because you’re reading my blog, right?) don’t waste your time on most of the generic carriers you find at Target or Wal-Mart. Ugh. Do not waste your money on a Baby Bjorn — they’re not ergonomic for parent or baby, and I’ve never heard a good review of them. And always make sure you get a carrier that allows the baby to face toward you. There are a ton of awesome carriers — ring slings, wraps, more structured carriers. Do your research (what did moms do before Google?) and you’ll find something that works for you and your little one.

My two baby carrier recommendations: An ERGObaby Carrier and a Baby K’Tan.

Why you should buy (or borrow!) an ERGObaby CarrierYou’ve probably heard me wax poetic about our ERGObaby Carrier before. I even wrote a post on the Ergo baby blog about how amazing it was with Joseph. It’s an investment at $115, but I am totally serious when I say you should get one of these before you buy a changing table, or a fancy crib. I’m getting no payment from Ergo to sell them to you, they’re just that good. The ergonomic design is easy to use and so comfy — you can wear the carrier longer than other options because the padded shoulder straps and padded waist belt distribute baby’s weight between your shoulders and hips. The Ergo cradles your baby just the way you do with baby in a natural sitting position, aligning with the recommended carry position from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. There’s a newborn insert, so you can start wearing your little one right away — and can continue to wear them until they’re 45 pounds. There are three ways to wear it: On your chest with the baby facing you, on your back with the baby facing you, and on your hip with the baby facing you. With the Ergo, I’ve never worried that my baby isn’t snug, secure, or safe.

Why you should buy (or borrow!) a Baby K’Tan: The Ergo is my number one pick, but I like the Baby K’Tan for different reasons. I got an awesome deal on it, but normally you can snag one for $49.95, which is still fairly affordable. (The Sakura Bloom ring slings I’ve been dreaming of are a lot more.) The K’Tan is a cross between a sling and a wrap. It’s made of stretchy, 100% cotton and there are no wraps or buckles — it’s all based on this “double loop” design that actually is super easy to use and there’s no wrapping involved. It feels a little more intimate than the structured Ergo. It’s lightweight, which is great for summer. The K’Tan carries infants and toddlers in multiple positions, from 8-35 lbs. The downside is that you have to get a size to fit your body (think size small, medium, large), so chances are you can’t share it with anyone else. It’s great to stash in the diaper bag and throw in the washer when it’s dirty.

Babywearing has been around since forever, and is super common in most other parts of the world. It’s getting a lot more traction with this new generation of mamas, though, and I’m thrilled. For the generations of mamas before us, consider purchasing a carrier for the young mothers in your life. And for those of you with tiny tots in tow, consider wearing your babies. I love having my kids snug and safe — and if I have a choice between wearing Asher or toting him around in his infant car seat, I will pick wearing him every time. It’s better for me, and for him.

  • A note on Babywearing Safety: Babywearing is awesome for mama (or daddy) and baby, but make sure you do it safely! Whichever carrier you use, make sure to read the instructions, and follow them! Always make sure your little one can breathe. You can read more about safely wearing your baby on this page from Babywearing International. 

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