The term “babywearing” was coined by William Sears in 1985. That was nearly forty years ago! Although the practice has been going on much longer than that, babywearing — that is, using a wrap of fabric or specially-crafted baby carrier that holds the baby on your body — has recently started becoming more mainstream. Babywearing is ideal for everyone involved, but parents without such experience may resist trying to start babywearing.
I interviewed registered nurse and certified baby-wearing expert Samantha Bunnell and we spoke about the benefits of babywearing, the differences between types of carriers, and how to find one that meets the needs and preferences of the family. If you’re considering babywearing, these tips will help.
Although it may seem daunting to choose and use a baby carrier, it doesn’t need to be. Here are some tips to help you start babywearing.
Figure out which type of carrier works best for your family
There are at least four different categories of carriers: soft-structured carriers, meh dai wraps, woven wraps, and slings. Within these categories, there are many different brands. Here are several questions:
- Have you ever used a baby carrier you didn’t like? If so, maybe you’d like a different type.
- Do you feel impatient or uncertain about learning how to “arrange” a woven carrier? If so, maybe you’d prefer a more structured carrier.
- How long do you want to use the carrier?
- Do you mind paying for another one once the first one is too small for the growing baby?
- Will you be the only one to use the carrier, or does the carrier need to fit another caregiver? Are you wishing for an easy-on, easy-off carrier?
Asking — and answering — plenty of questions will help you to figure out which type of carrier works for you.
Know your options for what and where to buy
If you’re reluctant to start babywearing, remember this: The key is to find one that fits!
By that, I mean, one that fits not only the baby’s body size, but also, the family’s needs (including the family’s budget), and the caregiver’s confidence in using the carrier. You can buy baby carriers locally or online and at many different price points.
Many communities have babywearing groups, which give you a chance to talk with other parents about their experience, and even “test drive” different types of carriers before you buy. Google “babywearing group” without the quotation marks and with your city name.
Embrace the benefits of biologically correct positioning for the baby
Many research studies confirm the physiological benefits of skin-to-skin contact, including better heart rate, better breathing, and better temperature for the baby. But even if the baby is not skin-to-skin with the caregiver, the physical proximity of wearing the baby provides warmth and the growing sense of security. Of course, the physical proximity also provides easy access for breastfeeding! Oh, and it’s hands-free time for you!
If you’ve ever noticed the baby’s usual posture, you can see that it is ideally suited to be in a carrier if he is not in the parent’s arms. Dr. Darcia Narvaez emphasizes how the hunter-gatherer communities routinely carry their babies; the babies sway and rock with the parent, and rarely cry. So, if you would like a more physiologically stable, happier baby, baby-wearing is for you!
Be sure you understand safety considerations
Before you start babywearing, take a few minutes to understand the exact precautions you need to take. Such precautions depend in part on the type of carrier you are using. In general, though, there are a few critical safety elements.
First, make sure the baby can breathe; this is often related to position. Positioning the baby to be snug but not tight in the carrier, comfortable and secure, and so that you are using good body mechanics.
Next, make sure the type of carrier you’re using is appropriate for the baby’s age and weight; this, too, pertains to getting them situated comfortably and safety.
Last, beware of how close you are to any dangerous object. If you are wearing a baby who is old enough to snatch and grab, they will!
There are many good online resources about babywearing safety. Check those out. (You can start off with this from the CPSC.)
Locate and use resources
I’ve mentioned some resources you can use when you start babywearing. But after you’re a little more familiar with babywearing, you might want to review those resources again.
You might also review those resources and realize you’re ready to move on. Sometimes we buy something and think it’s great, but a few days or weeks or months later, we find that it no longer meets our needs. Maybe your needs change, or your partner, babysitter, or other caregiver needs something a bit different for babywearing.
As mentioned above, there are many local babywearing groups available, but don’t worry if you can’t find one. Even if there’s not, you may be able to find a class or a certified baby-wearing instructor. If all else fails, it’s a sure thing you can find YouTube videos demonstrating how to use various carriers.
Your baby is little for only a short time. Don’t miss this opportunity and the benefits for wearing your baby!
Are you a babywearing parent? What tips and tricks can you share with others who want to start babywearing?