What is Babywearing?

William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN came up with the phrase "Babywearing" which refers to carrying your baby in a soft carrier close to your body, while you continue with your activities of daily living. They did not invent the concept, which has been around for quite some time, and is a common site in many developing countries. Two of the members of our panel were carried as a baby, in a soft carrier.

Why should I consider carrying my baby in a soft carrier?

There are many benefits to carrying your baby in a soft carrier. Studies indicate that babies who are carried in a soft carrier CRY LESS compared to those that aren't. When you carry your baby in a soft carrier, you are mimicking the baby's environment in the womb, which will help baby to make a smooth transition from womb to world. In our modern society of expensive and trendy strollers and other "containers", it is a pity that many parents are unaware of the concept of carrying your baby in a soft carrier, which costs a fraction of the cost of most strollers and offers many more benefits. We do believe that there is a place for strollers, particularly when baby reaches a year and becomes fairly heavy to carry for long periods. We like tri-wheeled "walking/jogging stroller" which are built to last and can often safely support a child up to 70lbs, making it a good long term investment.

Stroller vs soft carrier

If we compare Baby A, aged 2 months in a stroller and Baby B aged 2 months in a soft carrier worn close to mom and dad's body. Lets examine the sensory and motor experiences of both babies. Baby A is in his stroller, away from mom/dad, he can't see his parents, or smell them or even hear their voices. He lies passively on his back in his stroller, and may be confused and even disoriented, with no human touch to soothe or reassure him. Baby B is worn close to mom/dad's body. He can feel their heartbeat, see their faces, hear them talk, smell them and is reassured by their touch. Bonding occurs without any hassles and successful breastfeeding is more likely, with baby being carried against mom's body. The baby in the carrier is not lying flat on his back, but rather in a range of positions which will place less pressure on his skull, reducing his risk of developing plagiocephaly. He moves with mom/dad and in turn receives vestibular stimulation. He is actively engaging his muscles as he shifts to maintain his balance as mom/dad move. He is working on developing his head control and strengthening his muscles, unlike Baby A, who remains passively on his back. He is receiving what is essentially a swaddling like effect in the soft carrier which calms him via proprioceptive input to his joints. Mom/dad are more in tune with his needs, as they are very close to him. He can look up and see their faces.

Buying a soft carrier

There are many types of carriers including:

  • Ring Sling
  • Pouch
  • Wrap
  • Asian Carriers
  • Structured Carriers
  • Hip Carriers
  • Torso Carriers
  • Make your own!

Vendors may choose to name their pouch a "sling" and name their wrap a "sling" etc so please look beyond the name to see the carrier's features! We will be featuring a variety of resources, carriers and accessories during this month as well as in future months. Some carriers are designed to be used on both your shoulders, others on one. Some require tying, others have buckles and rings. Most vendors offer stylish fabric options to coordinate with your wardrobe! It is imperative to follow the manufacturers instructions about putting the carrier on correctly. We recommend finding a "mentor" or an experience mom/dad who can assist you. Practice with a doll first until you feel comfortable. Mirrors can be essential in helping to ensure correct positioning and safety. Each carrier usually offers at least 2 positions for baby; others offer several. Start with the basic positions before moving onto more complicated ones. Please consider the age of your baby and make certain that the carrier and position that you choose offer sufficient support for baby.

It is important to keep in mind that not all carriers will work for you. There is no perfect carrier, which is why many moms/dads buy several different types of carriers. What may work for a petite mom may not work for her 6ft husband! It is important to take into consideration the baby's age, mom and dads weak areas (back, shoulders) as well as style! If you have a baby with a special need, or a baby with hypotonia (low tone) for example, consult your baby's pediatrician and physical/occupational therapist who can work with you to find an appropriate carrier and offer suggestions for positions. Not all positions with be suitable so please consult an expert!

With the many carrier options out there, you may not know where to start. We highly recommend that you contact your local NINO group by clicking here and asking whether you can try on a carrier to see if you it is appropriate for both you and baby! If a local store offers a selection, ask for assistance in selecting an appropriate carrier. If this isn't possible, please seek out a vendor who has a return policy. We have come across many parents who tried one style, which wasn't suitable for them and they gave up on the concept completely. We don't want that to happen to you. There are so many wonderful carriers on the market today, that you are bound to find several that work for you and your baby. Don't give up...the rewards will be worth it.

Expert on babywearing

Maria Giangiulio Blois, MD, lives in Texas with her husband, Erik, their daughter, Nina (6) and sons Alanson (4) and Lukas (13 months). She graduated from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and holds an M.A. in sociology from The Ohio State University. Wearing her own babies has provided her with the passion and curiosity to pursue this subject. Babywearing is her first book. Dr. Blois lectures across the country promoting and teaching babywearing – encouraging parents to hold their babies explaining that not only is it convenient for parents, it also benefits babies by helping them to cry less, sleep better, nurse better, ease the symptoms of reflux and decrease the incidence of plagiocephaly (flat head). She can often times be found wearing her own baby as she speaks. Dr. Blois educates medical professionals in newborn units of major hospitals about the benefits of holding newborn babies (kangaroo care) and gives them the tools to help new mothers wear their babies.

Dr. Blois is the author of the exceptional book: "Babywearing: The benefits and beauty of this ancient tradition" recommends the following 15 safety tips when babywearing:

1. Make sure baby is secure before letting go. Baby carriers are not meant to replace your hands, they are meant to give support while you carry your baby. Be ready to support your baby with your hands, especially when you are learning.

2. Check airflow around baby's mouth and nose to prevent suffocation.

3. Check baby's body to be certain that carrier is not cutting off any circulation. May attention to little arms and legs that are dangling.

4. If carrier requires you to tie a knot, choose a square knot.

5. Bend at the knees, not at the hip, or baby can topple out.

6. Have another adult help you with each position until you feel confident getting baby in and out.

7. Take special care around doorways and low overpasses as baby can get head or legs bumped.

8. Use caution with an uncooperative child. A child who is arching or wiggling could come out of a baby carrier.

9. Older baby's can grab dangerous or breakable objects in a flash. Keep an arm's distance from potential hazards.

10. Wearing babies keeps babies toasty. Use care in hot weather, dress baby appropriately, and watch carefully for signs of overheating. Check baby often.

11. Wear baby cautiously in the kitchen. Take care near a hot stove or while working with hot and sharp objects.

12. Feel free to eat while wearing baby, but do not drink hot beverages while wearing baby.

13. Baby carriers should not be used in cars, airplanes, or bicycles are safety seats.

14. Do not use while climbing or operating heaving machinery.

15. Do not use while sleeping.

Taken with permission from the book Babywearing: The Benefits and Beauty of this Ancient Tradition by Dr. Maria Blois, M.D.

Success Through Play™ would like to add:

Do not wear your baby while swimming. Always ensure correct positioning: please click here for details.

Do you carry your baby in a soft carrier?


Mia said...

I found this post really interesting. I had never really thought about comparing a baby in a stroller vs one in a carrier but gosh, anyone can now see the huge difference in sensory experiences for the baby. This has really inspired me to carry my baby. He's 6 months is it too late for him?

Success Through Play said...

Mia, thank you for your comments. It is NEVER too late to carry your baby. Ease him into it and see how it goes. Follow his lead. You may want to consider a back carry position as many baby's tolerate this position by 6 months (sitting independently). It will also be easier on your back, especially if you haven't had the opportunity to build your strength! Let us know how it goes!

Greg said...

Thank you for sharing these safety tips :-)

Amberlea said...

YES! We babywear and love it. Folks are always wondering why our baby is so content, hardly ever cries and is generally very alert. We tell them it's because we wear him. We are stopped daily in the street and love to share our experiences with other moms and dads.

Melinda Hayes said...

We didn't know anything about babywearing when he had our son, but with our second child, we started from birth. First in a sling, laying him in a horizontal position and then after a month or two, transitioned him into a stretchy wrap and have him sit vertically. Once he reaches 6 months, we will start wearing him on our backs!! I wish more parents knew about it. Great article.

Gracious said...

Wonderful article...Soft carriers are must for a baby to be comfortable.

Vanessa C. Arthur said...

Use it every day to walk an hour, she crys in the stroller, but smiles and naps in the wrap. I bought my 6 yards fabric at walmart and made my own wrap.