If you have a newborn at home, you’re likely carrying him or her for hours on end. That’s totally normal. Newborns want to be near you, on you and held by you. But this need that your baby has can make everyday life a lot trickier. Think about it… How are you going to text that friend you’ve been wanting to see for so long, if you have a baby in your arms? How about pouring yourself a glass of water or carrying grocery bags? One word: babywearing!
Babywearing -- the act of wearing or carrying your baby with the help of a special carrier -- has been around for centuries. Nomadic people used to wear their babies to travel with them more effectively; and families in Africa, Mexico and many other parts of the world still to this day use specialized fabrics or traditional carriers on the daily. In the past couple of years, this old tradition has gained popularity in the United States.
That's because babywearing provides the best of both worlds -- a loving way to hold your baby and the convenience of hands-free parenting. But not just… Here are 10 benefits of babywearing, for both baby and you!
1. It’s great for traveling with your baby. Babywearing allows you to go places without having to push a stroller around or carry it from one place to the next. This is also true for your everyday commute. With babywearing, you won’t need to carry a stroller up and down the subway stairs.
2. People won't touch your baby (as much). A carrier keeps your baby nestled in a little protected cocoon, keeping germy hands away. “People generally love babies and when you love something, you often want to touch it,” said Marta Ginter, a Birth and Postpartum Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) and Certified Babywearing Educator. “With a horrible flu season coming, no one wants random people touching their baby. It’s much easier to reach into the stroller than try to get to the baby that is on the parent’s chest.”
3. It soothes baby. Babies who are worn by their parents cry less. “Babywearing reduces babies’ crying, especially in the evening hours,” said Marta. “The more you wear your baby, the happier your baby will be, the less he will cry and the more time he’ll spend in quiet alert state (that’s when babies learn the most).”
4. It’s good for cognitive and social development. When babies spend less time crying, they in turn spend more time learning and interacting with their environment. Babies who are worn are also able to see what their parents see, hear what their parents hear or say, and are overall more involved in their parents’ everyday lives. Finally, having your baby so close to you allows you to respond to his or her cues and touching them more. All of this can enhance learning and cognitive development, and overall wellbeing.
5. It’s good for their overall health and well-being. Wearing babies allows you to carry them in a position that’s beneficial to their physical health and development. It helps prevent flat head syndrome and can promote digestion (helping with colic and refluxes). Plus, babies in a carrier also learn to use muscle groups to balance themselves.
6. You can nurse discreetly. It may take a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, you get to nurse without anyone even noticing, especially if you carry in a ring sling or a wrap.
7. You get to keep up with life, hands free. This means doing chores around the house, working, cooking, going on a walk and, even more importantly for parents who have more than one child, being more present for your other children. Holding your toddler’s hand while wearing your newborn? Isn’t that a wonderful thought?
8. It’s a great way to bond with your baby. When you wear your baby, you are more likely to talk and interact with him or her, and all the baby carrier naps and snuggles are a great way to re-connect with baby once he or she is out of the womb. During that bonding time, you are also more apt to respond to your baby’s cues and to learn to meet his or her needs, which can help you feel more confident as you are learning the ins and outs of parenting.
9. Research shows it can decrease the risk of postpartum depression. This boost of confidence can help with the transition into motherhood and enhance a new mom’s overall mental wellbeing. Plus, babywearing can help you break social isolation by making it easier to take a walk, stay active or meet some friends.
10. Partners and other family members get to connect with baby in a deeper way. With baby carriers, mom isn’t the only one who gets to bond with baby. It is also a lovely activity a dad or partner can do with the baby at any time of the day to soothe the child or just go on a coffee mission in the morning.
Laura Vladimirova is a full-time NYC-based birth doula, Maternal Health Policy MSW student and International Board Certified Lactation intern. When she’s not attending births or supporting families postpartum, she’s fostering dogs and spending time with her family.