What Babywearing is all about … and what it isn’t
The term babywearing means carrying a baby or older child in a sling, secured to your body.
In today’s busy world, it is often a convenient way to meet the baby’s and caregiver’s needs while still “getting things done“.
Babywearing is, however, not a new invention or trend. Parents have carried their off-spring for centuries and still do so in many cultures around the world. Most slings and carriers on the market today are based on those traditional carriers.
But there is much more to babywearing than keeping baby safe while we get on with our life. By virtue of its biologic origin, the human off-spring isn’t left behind in the nest nor does it flee the nest shortly after birth. It is carried around by older caregivers. Babies are hard-wired to expect this behaviour – they are born with a maltitude of reflexes, such as the spread-squad reflex and contact cry reflex, to facilitate the survival of the species.
In fact, in the first 3 months of their life, sometimes called the 4th trimester, an infant’s nervous system is immature and dependent on close physical contact with caregivers to regulate their heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, breathing, insulin levels etc.
As humans, we take a long time learning about the world we were born into and we do this best from a secure base and with all our senses. Babywearing stimulates all of these – not just smell, sight and hearing, but also a baby’s sense of balance and their sense of touch.
Close physical contact with a child enables immediate communication. The caregiver can pick up and respond to baby’s signals quickly, keeping stress levels to a minimum for everyone.
And although it may seem like it from the outside, babies in slings are not trapped in confinement. Far from it … they are active participants: their inner ear and muscles adjusting to the wearer’s movements, wriggling and pushing in the sling to get comfy, signalling to the wearer to move to help them release tension, making eye contact to assess situations, hiding their face when things get too much …
Babywearing is not about having the latest release wrap or a carrier to suit every outfit. It is about keeping your baby close, responding to their needs … and yours! Babywearing supports your child’s normal development, it allows freedom and independence, bonding and closeness – all at the same time and for everyone involved.
A lot of research into babywearing, especially physiological positioning, was done in German speaking countries. A selection of English translations of some of this research can be found on the Babywearing Resources page on my website.
This post featured in an article in the Irish Examiner!