Let's Talk About Babywearing

It seems that there is a secret language that goes with pregnancy and parenting. One word we see people struggle with is “babywearing”.  As mothers who used our carriers to take our toddlers on hikes, to the grocery store, and to put them down for naps, we can definitely attest to the magic of babywearing. With that in mind, we’re going to explain what babywearing is and why you should know about it.

Let’s begin with the basics: what is “babywearing”?

According to Babywearing International, babywearing is “the practice of keeping your baby or toddler close and connected to you as you engage in daily activities through the use of one of a variety of types of baby carriers.” It’s not about promoting any one type of wrap, carrier, or sling, but instead encouraging the use of all of these to help parents and babies. “How does it help parents and babies?”, you ask. Let’s see.

Benefits of Babywearing for Babies

First, carrying your baby may make her cry less.

According to a 1986 randomized control trial published in the journal Pediatrics, they split 99 mother-infant pairs into two groups: the control and the increased carrying group (those who were carried throughout the day more than just during feeding and in response to crying). Those in the increased carrying group cried and fussed 43% less overall, and 51% less during the evening hours (4 PM to midnight). Similar but smaller decreases occurred at 4, 8, and 12 weeks of age. Decreased crying and fussing were associated with increased contentment and feeding frequency. However, they didn’t see any change in feeding duration or sleep. They hypothesized that the relative lack of carrying in our society may predispose to crying and colic in normal infants.

Next, carrying your baby may make her healthier.

Sometimes babies are born before their nervous system is completely ready. This is especially common in those born before 39 weeks or those with special needs. Babywearing allows your infant to be held close to you, where she can feel your consistent breathing and heart beat, and may help her mimic this regular rhythm. In a study with premature babies who are carried skin-to-skin (aka “kangaroo care”), researchers found that the infants stay warm, have regular heart rate and respirations, more deep sleep and alert inactivity, less crying, no increase in infections, greater weight gain, and earlier discharge from the hospital.

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Benefits of Babywearing for Parents

First, babywearing builds your confidence in your ability to read and respond to your infant’s cues.

Wearing your baby lets you become finely attuned to her movements, gestures, and facial expressions. When you read her cues correctly,  her trust in you is increased, her learning is enhanced, and your own confidence is reinforced. This helps you both form a strong attachment to one another and may help parents who are at risk for or suffering from postpartum depression. It can also help bonding between babies and other caregivers, such as parents, grandparents, or postpartum doulas.

Next, carrying your baby supports breastfeeding.

According to the study on kangaroo care above, skin-to-skin carrying helped make lactation more productive and of greater duration. It is possible to nurse while wearing many types of slings, carriers, and wraps.

Last but definitely not least, babywearing is convenient.

Carriers go where strollers can’t. Climbing stairs, hiking, and navigating large crowds are just easier in a carrier! Everything from doing chores to loving on an older child is easier with your hands available. Not to mention, if your infant is less anxious and distressed because you are wearing her, you’ll be more relaxed and better able to pay attention to your partner or older children.

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Local Support and Networking

Now that you’re sold on babywearing, how do you get started? You could go online and do research on what carrier to buy, reviews, and pricing. But I offer a more fun, social alternative. There are a few groups in Knoxville that meet regularly where you can bring your infant and try a few different kinds of carriers to see what works for your family. Some of these groups will even lend baby carriers for longer periods of time so you can really test-drive it before you buy it. Cool, huh? The two most popular are Babywearing International of Knoxville and East TN Valley Babywearers. Both of these groups meet a few times a month in different parts of Knoxville to make it convenient for parents. See their pages for more details.

Baby+Co. Knoxville also periodically hosts an event called “Babywearing 101” at the birth center. Again, see their pages for more details and to RSVP.

Once you decide what you want to buy, there are a couple options. The internet is always available. If you are looking to support somewhere local and woman-owned, Bohemian Baby sells many wraps, slings, and carriers.

If a new carrier sounds too expensive, think about buying it consignment. Bohemian Baby has consignment sales periodically, which is where Hillary got her carrier at a discounted price! There are also many consignment sales in the spring and fall (including Jack and Jules, Picky Chick, and Duck Duck Goose). They have everything you could possible want (including carriers) at great prices.

Just a note on safety: this is not just for infants; you can babywear older babies and toddlers (like we do!). Make sure you follow the instructions on how to use your carrier safely. If it is one with multiple options for position (like front carrying and back carrying), check the weight range/age range for each position and follow these safety guidelines when wearing infants.

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What do you think? Did you babywear? What is your favorite carrier, wrap, or sling?