I remember one of my biggest frustrations when I had Alexa was that I couldn’t get anything done. This new wiggly little girl just wanted to be held and rocked and loved ALL.DAY.LONG. The reality is that it made total sense to me that she would want to be carried and held close, I carried her for 9 months and she was used to my constant connection and coming into the world is a scary thing. But, at the same time, as an independent woman I had to get stuff done and I was horrible about asking for help. Luckily, I found a group of mama friends early on, that introduced me to babywearing and Voila! I had my arms back!
Baby wearing has been practiced for centuries around the world. In today’s society, baby wearing can make the life of a hectic parent so much easier, freeing up the hands of the mother or father so that they can attend to other children, prepare food, run errands or perform day to day activities while keeping baby close and content.
Now I’m sure we’ve all heard people tell us, “But you will spoil the baby if you never let them cry or are always holding them”. I remember hearing that and it made me cringe and I wanted to poke people’s eyes out with a hot poker. No one likes to hear their baby cry. For me, it caused me an intense amount of anxiety and panic which just made the situation worse. Having a baby who had colic and severe reflux ,baby wearing was a critical tool for survival for Robert and I that first year and gave us the freedom and ability to breathe we so desperately needed.
A study in North America showed that babies cried less when parents were instructed to wear or carry them for several “extra” hours each day. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding comments:
These findings confirm what our mothering instincts tell us —- that plenty of loving contact does not “spoil” a baby or make him more demanding, but instead helps him feel more comfortable and happy in his new world.
And while there are many benefits to baby wearing for the parents, when I started researching more about baby wearing for myself, the benefits for baby just made total sense to me. We all know that the birth process has to be pretty scary for a baby. Leaving the safe, dark, warm environment of a mothers womb to a cold loud world, instantly separated has to be pretty intense. Baby wearing is an incredible way to help aid the transition for the baby.
Babies need and enjoy motion. In the womb, they become accustomed to the sound of mother’s heart pumping blood and to the feeling of being confined in a small space. The experience of being in the womb also teaches them to enjoy the rhythm of their mother’s movements. After birth, the experience of being held close to a parent’s body helps them recall the peace they felt in the womb. A baby sling swaddles them and helps control the movement of their arms and legs. (Benefits of Babywearing, 2004)
Bill and Martha Sears note that baby wearing stimulates the infant’s vestibular system, the parts of the inner ear that work like levels or sensors to control the body’s sense of balance. The stimulation “helps babies breathe and grow better, regulates their physiology, and improves motor development” (Sears and Sears 2001). This applies to both full-term and premature babies.
While I was gathering all of this research and I learned to love babywearing more and more, my next step was to look into the proper ways of baby wearing.
Baby Wearing Do’s & Don’ts
First we need to look at normal infant development. Here is my former medical background coming back to haunt me, man I love journal articles and research!
A baby, when being picked up, will pull the legs up in the correct position which will place the hip joint into the socket in a perfect position to ensure correct hardening of the cartilage present the first few month after birth. This position is called squatting straddle position or wrongly called frog leg position. With this squatting straddle position the baby’s buttock will be lower than the knees. This allows the baby to keep the curvature of the developing spine, which is almost a C at birth (kyphosis) . Baby carriers trying to straighten this position are putting the developing spine in danger of deformation. Straightening of the spine happens in three different stages and takes about one year (Dr. Kirkilionis, August 2006)
Of course, with anything a little “different”, there is always some controversy on different carriers and positions to carry baby in.
The first carry is a tummy-to-tummy position with a narrow seat for baby. These baby carriers are not recommended for several reasons. The first is that this type of carrier allows baby’s hips to angle downward, causing their knees to be below their hips This does not allow the hip joint to be aligned at the proper angle and allow for optimal development of the hip joints. This can predispose your child to developing hip dysplasia. While not all children who are worn in such a way develop hip dysplasia, this is something that can contribute towards that process. This carry also puts all of baby’s weight directly on their pubic bone. Finally, with all of baby’s weight put on their pubic bone and their legs hanging at a downward angle, baby’s lower spine will be forced into hyperextension.(Dr. Andrew Dodge, 2012)
The second controversial position is that of the front-facing carriers. This position is also not recommended for several reasons. Most commonly this type of carry is not looked fondly upon because of the biomechanical implications. It is extremely difficult and quite uncomfortable for the wearer to get baby into the optimal knees up squatting position. This leads to most front-facing babies either with legs dangling and/or leaning forward, creating hyperextension of the low back curve. If the wearer can get baby into a good position with baby’s knees above their pelvis, this may allow the low back to be in a good position. However, with baby’s back against your torso, this will create flattening of the mid-back curve, put extra pressure on baby’s ribs, and change stability and curve in baby’s neck. In reality this may be a better choice if you decide that you are going to wear you baby front facing, but optimally, there is really no good position for your baby front facing. (Dr. Andrew Dodge, 2012)
For mothers these days who are so busy trying to keep up with the demands of fast paced lives and juggling so many tasks babywearing can allow her the freedom to get things done and keep her baby happy. Having had my second 8 months ago I learned how invaluable this tool has been for me as I spend hours a day with Arya either strapped to my front or back. The “Witching Hours” at night are no longer filled with both of us crying as she happily bounces on my back and I fly through the kitchen whipping up dinner, sorting laundry or getting everyone ready for bed. For more information on baby wearing and to find a local chapter please go to : http://www.
I believe in Love at first sight- I met my husband on his 18th birthday and the rest is history
I’m passionate about a women’s right to birth without fear or pressure whether that is at home or in a hospital, I’ve done it in both places.
I have two beautiful girls, Alexa and Arya, 5.5 years apart. I believe each of my daughters was sent to me to remind me of a piece of myself I have lost along the way, it has been exciting journey to rekindle those parts of “ME” again.
We live on a little River in Southbury, CT with our Rotti Beagle mix, a Crazy 1 year old German Shephard and a fat cat that won’t leave the basement, he might be to fat to climb the stairs.
I love a good margarita on the rocks with Salt but ONLY if my husband makes it with hand squeezed lemons, limes and homemade simple syrup, any other margarita sucks.
I listen to “pitbull” in the car with my daughters, they have no idea who Raffi is but Alexa knows most of the words to “Calle Ocho”
I’m the girl who will love you fiercely but is not afraid to “tell you like it is”, if I do, it means I actually care about you!
I love my girls but there are many days I don’t like them or want to be around them. Yep, I just said that, its normal for you to feel that too!
I believe that mothers a given a handbook when their baby is born, its called “intuition” and it will never lead her astray.
I am a photographer who helps women “Celebrate the Courageous journey of motherhood”