When I talk to families during their pregnancies and after their babies are born, I typically ask if they are interested in babywearing. Most families acquire some type of wrap, sling or carrier during their pregnancy, and don’t realize how much use it will get when baby arrives. After spending around 9 months in a cozy uterus, many babies just want to be held close. All. The. Time. And while some babies are perfectly happy napping in a crib or hanging out in a bouncer, most prefer the warm comfort of your skin, a dark, womb like environment and the movement of your breath and steps.
When discussing babywearing, it’s important to acknowledge its origins. Aaminah Shakur says it really well: “Unfortunately, most information and marketing is geared towards middle class white women, often with selling points about this great “new” phenomenon and requiring expensive contraptions, while disregarding the communities of color in which babywearing has been the norm since the beginning of time.” There are some thoughtful and informative articles about cultural appropriation and babywearing that you can check out here and here.
So let’s be clear. Babywearing is not a new phenomenon and it was not recently “discovered”.
Before I go on, I also want to acknowledge that I totally support any family that chooses not to babywear, or doesn’t feel comfortable doing it. There are lots of reasons that people don’t feel comfortable wearing their babies. Some reasons I’ve observed have been back pain, other physical limitations or discomforts, the need for personal space… The list goes on. It doesn’t say anything negative about you as a parent or caregiver if you choose not to babywear.
I do, however, encourage families to try out babywearing a few times. And maybe trying a couple different carriers, on a few occasions, before giving up on the whole thing. And then maybe trying again a few weeks or months down the road. It takes most babies a few tries to decide how they feel about being worn, and some babies go through phases. If you’re having trouble or needing support, there are community groups and online tutorials and videos dedicated to babywearing. The aforementioned community groups and online “Buy & Sell” groups are also great places to look for gently used carriers and wraps, as new ones can be quite costly.
On a practical level, babywearing leaves the arms free to carry on with daily activities. This is also beneficial posturally, and requires less effort from your arms than holding the baby. It promotes bonding with other caregivers, family and friends. As someone that does a lot of childcare, I often rely on wraps and carriers to soothe/comfort the baby I’m hanging out with. Babywearing is also an amazing tool for babies born prematurely, and as a way to practice skin-to-skin.
Babywearing is a great tool to help a baby nap. Some babies are really resistant to napping in cribs, but will be happy to snooze in a carrier while you take a walk.
And often, the better a baby sleeps during the day, the better they will sleep at night.
There are many ways to babywear, and many styles of wraps, slings and carriers on the market. My personal favourite (and the one I tout around to all of my postpartum visits) is the Moby wrap. It is one-size-fits all, can hold newborns to toddlers and can be worn many different ways. It’s basically a giant, stretchy piece of fabric (Essentially, it doesn’t have to be Moby brand… That’s just the one I own and feel most comfortable using).
Most carriers sell special fabric inserts and there are particular methods of wrapping for newborns. Instruction manuals offer weight parameters, and online tutorials and forums can provide insight into wearing small babies. Stretchy wraps, like the Moby, often become less comfortable as baby grows. There are other types of wraps that will be more practical, such as woven carriers, soft structured carriers or ring slings. It’s also important to note that different carriers are better suited for different body types. This article is a great resource for navigating baby carriers for plus-sized bodies.
Some great information on safety, choosing a baby carrier and different types of holds, can be found here.