If you’ve never heard the term “babywearing” it’s pretty much just what it sounds like. By using a baby carrier, you’re able to wear your baby for an extended period of time, instead of just holding them in your arms. And as much as you will end up (and love) holding your baby through the years without one, having a carrier allows you to carry your baby more often and much more easily. This extends the benefits of all those that your baby receives when you hold your little one.
So, let’s talk more about babywearing, how it’s done, and how it can benefit both you and your baby.
What is babywearing?
Though some cultures have been “wearing” their babies for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1980s that it started to become mainstream in Western society.
The term “babywearing” was coined by Mary Sears after the ring sling invention was sold to her husband, pediatrician Dr. Sears (who is world-renowned for his advice on attachment parenting) Because she put the sling on in the morning immediately tucking her baby inside, she was essentially wearing the sling and her baby, just as you would a piece of clothing.
That was almost 30 years ago, however, and there is now a wide range of different types of carriers available that allow you to wear your baby (as opposed to just carrying them).
- hip carrier
- ring sling
- soft structured carrier that buckles
- mei tais
No matter which one you use, each of these is considered babywearing. But does babywearing have to be synonymous with attachment parenting? We know sometimes that gets a bad rap.
Babywearing Doesn’t Mean You Need to Be Attachment Parenting
Attachment parenting often goes hand in hand with babywearing. There are several core principles that it’s based on, including the constant presence of a parent as well as lots of skin-to-skin contact. Anyone who wants to parent in this way would be someone who would want to have a way to hold their baby via a carrier.
However, that doesn’t mean that baby carriers are only for moms and dads who follow an attachment style of parenting. They are a wonderful way to care for your baby through infancy and the toddler years, even when you don’t feel like you need to be with them 24/7. Anyone who tells you that you’re spoiling your baby by wearing them is wrong (and needs to worry about themselves, honestly). Babies need a lot of love, nurturing, and close contact to thrive and you don’t have to worry about your baby not growing up to be independent just because you wear them in a carrier.
It’s hard to ignore the benefits of babywearing - for both you and your baby! Let’s talk about why babywearing is so helpful for your little one first.
How Babywearing Benefits Your Baby
You may be thinking why can’t I just hold my baby...doesn’t that give them the perfect care and nurturing they need? By all means, you should definitely spend a lot of time just holding your baby in your arms. But babywearing your little one in a carrier means that you’re able to hold your baby for longer periods of time and out and about when you might put them in a stroller instead.
Here are all the benefits your baby receives when you wear them in a carrier.
- Babies worn in carriers cry less. In fact, it is recommended that if your baby is experiencing colic (the occurrence of extended periods of crying) holding them constantly will help. This is where a carrier can help a lot.
- Young babies take comfort in a carrier. After 9 months of being secure in a small space and experiencing your every move while listening to your heartbeat, the outside world can be overwhelming. Being next to you helps them feel safe and secure.
- Babywearing promotes emotional development and bonding. As we wrote about in our article, “When Your Baby Wants to Be Held All the Time,” babies need to know their safe and secure. Being held by you helps them to start building trust. Babywearing allows you to hold them even more which can only increase this emotional connection with you. This is an emotional benefit for you, as well.
- It also promotes physical development. Any carriers that hold your baby upright will help them to strengthen their neck strength which leads to improved head control. (When carrying your baby upright, you’ll want to be sure that it puts your baby in the safe and proper “M” position such as the hip carrier from TushBaby.) It can also help strengthen your baby’s arms as they push against you.
- Carriers promote breastfeeding. According to this research, the use of baby carriers increased the duration of breastfeeding among term infants. There are also many carriers that allow you to easily and discreetly breastfeed as you continue to carry them.
- It may reduce your baby’s SIDS risk. Dr. Sears explains that this is because of the regulatory effect it can have on your baby’s internal balance.
- Babywearing helps your baby learn! Because your baby is so close to you while you hold conversations they have the ability to hang on your every word. This promotes speech as well as auditory alertness. And because they get to be at your eye level, they also have a much easier time learning about the world around them.
- Toddlers can continue to be held. All of the above benefits carry over to toddlers as well. But toddlers can be heavy, which means they aren’t often held as much as babies (plus they love to be off running, too!) Carriers allow toddlers to extend the time they receive all of these benefits of babywearing. And if you choose a carrier like TushBaby, you can easily go back and forth between holding your baby and letting them run wild.
Ultimately your baby loves being with you and a carrier allows you to do this more than you would if you didn’t have one. And if you’re not sure where to start in which carrier you should get, we recommend reading our article, “Best Baby Carriers: Our Favorites of 2020.”
Caregiver Benefits of Babywearing
It’s pretty clear how beneficial utilizing a baby carrier with your baby can be for them, don’t you think? But perhaps the reason parents reach for a baby carrier in the first place and consider babywearing is because they know how much it will simplify their parenting.
Now, of course, your baby’s needs are still at the forefront. They love to be held, and you love to hold them. And you would just continue to do so without any help except for the fact that you can’t get much done that way, and dang it sure can be tiring.
We already know how babywearing will increase your baby’s bond, but what other benefits will you receive by using a baby carrier?
- Accomplish day to day tasks with ease. With carriers, you get at least one hand free and sometimes both! Getting chores or work tasks accomplished with a baby in a carrier is much easier than simply trying to hold them while doing so. Even errands like grocery shopping are easier to accomplish with a baby in a carrier.
- It allows you to keep your baby close even on long outings. Sure, you could use a stroller and these certainly serve their own purpose. But a carrier allows you to give your baby all the benefits of babywearing even while out on day-long excursions.
- It promotes milk production. Wishing you could produce more milk? Physical contact with your baby allows you to release a hormone called oxytocin which is responsible for breastmilk production. Holding your baby more means more milk to give to your little one. Pretty cool, right?
- Babywearing can save your back, neck, and shoulders. Anyone who’s carried a baby a lot without a carrier knows how uncomfortable it can get. Parents will often continue to hold their babies this way even though it hurts. But that’s not necessary! Utilizing a carrier that’s completely comfortable and takes the weight of your baby off of you will help keep your body healthy while you still get to hold your baby.
- It can help mothers going through postpartum depression or anxiety. Postpartum depression, the baby blues, and stress are all common among new mothers. The lack of sleep and caring for a baby who cries a lot only make it worse. So having an option to carry your baby through the day to keep them calm will, in turn, help your stress level as well. Here’s some research to show how babywearing can help moms after the birth of their baby.
There are many reasons why babywearing is a great choice for parents and babies. The bond it can create is benefit enough in my book. No matter what carrier you choose to use with your baby, be sure that you’re using it safely.
Safe Practices of Babywearing
Babywearing seems to be a no-brainer! It’s a win-win for both mom (or caregiver) and baby. But it’s important to follow safe babywearing practices at all times. Here are our tips for that:
- Always wear the baby carrier according to the manufacturer's directions.
- Be sure your baby carrier fits you correctly - it should be snug and secure, but not uncomfortable. Some baby carriers offer different sizes, whereas some are sizable (such as the TushBaby hip carrier).
- Be sure your baby’s face is visible. This ensures that they can breathe with ease.
- Your baby should be close enough to you to kiss.
- Some carriers are harder to put on than others. Practicing without your baby first, as well as watching a video of how to put your baby safely in it are both good ideas.
- Choose a baby carrier that easily puts your baby’s hips in the safe “M” or “squat” position. The TushBaby hip carrier, for example, has been given pediatricians’ seal of approval which you can read about here.