Throughout history, mums in traditional cultures have been “baby-wearing” – that is, carrying their babies in a sling or some type of carrier. It is still a popular and normal practice in Asia, Africa and South America; in those countries its partly necessary because many parents need to continue working but dont have the luxury of childcare, meaning they have to take their baby with them.
In our society, however the practice has fallen by the wayside and childcare has something to do with that too. The industrial revolution brought about the physical separation of women from their kids – after all, working in the rice fields with a baby on your back doesn’t seem as ridiculous as working in an office or retail carrying bub does it? There seemed to be a shift away from baby-wearing around the Victorian era – it correlates with the emergence of the mother and child as a status symbol. The separation implied you could afford to have a nanny and a wet nurse and didn’t have to get your hands dirty with a messy, noisy baby! It wasn’t a baby friendly shift – it was very much an adult driven shift.
Our reasons for not “wearing” our babes have evolved and now include the prevalence of easy-to-use prams and our dependence on cars. But with evidence proving that babies who are “worn” cry less and learn more readily than other babies – in addition to being good sleepers – there’s been a growing movement for parents around the world to carry their little ones.
Supporters of baby-wearing believe the practice makes the transition from womb to the outside world more gentle. When a baby has been inside the womb for 9 months, its a big shock to be born. A sling or baby carrier offers a place where babies can hear mums heartbeat, keep warm and smell her. This will help set your babies biorhythms in place, letting her develop longer, deeper sleep cycles. While this may just all sound nice in theory, there’s actually solid research behind it. A study in the journal of pediatrics said that babies held in slings cry 43% less during the day than babies who aren’t “worn” and 51% less at night.
Some new mums fear that often holding or carrying their baby may lead to them developing a demanding or clingy personality, but research has found its the opposite. Children learn to be independent by first learning to be dependent. They need to feel their needs are met and to feel safe – from there they become independent. They feel safe to explore and push the boundaries because they know id they need mum she’ll always be there.
Mums, as well as bubs, can benefit from baby-wearing – you are more able to do shopping, clean the house or just get outside without having to cope with lugging the pram everywhere. If you find it hard to get out and tend to stay home, you can start feeling down. It is nice to get out, go for a walk and get some fresh air. Its not just mum who will enjoy it though, bubs will too.
Although the need for physical closeness between a dad and his newborn can be overlooked, baby-wearing gives men a great way to spend time with their babies.
Have you already forked out for a new pram with all the bells and whistles, and are worked you’ll be throwing more money away if you stay carrying your bub around? While baby wearing is an alternative option, it can also be used to complement other methods, such as prams. It depends on the mood of our child – different modes of transport will suit different times. Mums also worry they wont be strong enough to carry their baby for very long. It is defiantly possible though and some mums even carry their four year old in a carrier!
One of the most common questions mums as is “will i ever have my body to myself again?” After all, nine months of carrying baby on the inside, the idea of having your bub strapped to the outside of you maybe too much. You can still just use the sling as a settling tool, and as baby is drifting off to sleep you can take her out and set her in her bassinet or cot.
There are two main types of carriers: There is the traditional sling, usually made of a soft breathable fabric, which ties across your chest so your baby is lying diagonally to you. Then there is the carrier which looks a bit like a backpack and you can wear it front or back and baby sits upright. Whichever carrier you choose, find one that suits you and feels comfortable to wear.