Updated: Mar 6
All About Babywearing
A slightly more off topic post here, but babywearing actually has a multitude of benefits for both child and parent. Babywearing is pretty much exactly as it sounds; using a material (usually) item to carry an infant very close to you, almost as though you are wearing the child.
I was not particularly interested in this idea when my son was born, and we did what the vast majority of people do, and that is to buy a huge and overly expensive prom, which ultimately my child hated to be in. Eventually I decided to look into other options, particularly when trying to navigate around smaller areas such as airports, aquariums or even just when in town and especially whilst out walking the dog. Babywearing very quickly became second nature to us, and I think the Pram was sold in an ‘as new’ condition.
Types of carriers
Babywearing was also a complete game-changer when my child became unwell with scarlet fever when he was very very young. A friend lent me a ‘ring sling’ which was our first experience with babywearing. As it sounds, it was a long piece of material with a ring which the material loops through for you to tighten up. You can place your child in the middle, or to the side on a hip (and some very clever parents have mastered carrying on their back in this way, but I never did). It was awesome when my child was clingy and had a cough which caused him to struggle lying down, he was able to sit on my hip and I could continue with simple tasks such a cleaning, dog walking, shopping and even cooking (done safely).
Our Girasol Ring-sling.
For longer days out and about, I would wear the more traditional light carrier. I was able to place my child on my front and when he was a bit older I would wear him like a back-pack. This was amazing, as he could see over my shoulder and the band worn around the waist meant most of his weight was carried across the hips rather than in the shoulders. I could, and did, wear him for hours in this way. If out and about alone for long periods, I would have him on my front and a small bag on my back for nappies etc.
Some parents opt to use the traditional long piece of fabrics to carry their children. African women have been using this technique for hundreds of years to keep their children safe and secure whilst continuing to work. I tried this, and found it to be the most incredibly comfortable way to carry, but unfortunately I got frustrated trying to wrap my child in public and found it wasn’t quite as quick and convenient for me - although with practice it probably would have been.
My husband on the other hand, preferred a larger more structured carrier like the picture below. This thing was a bit of a beast, but again most of his weight was around my husbands waist so it wasn’t a problem. This bag did have the advantage of being able to hold supplies in the bottom, and also had an extendable sunshade (also quite good for a bit of rain).
We used these for my son until he was probably three or four years old. He has a significant mobility/muscle delay so struggled to walk long distances, and was very late in learning to walk. The advantage of the smaller carriers, is that you can whip them in and out simply and just keep the sling on your front or back when not in use.
So other than convenience and practicability, what are the advantages?
As I mentioned before, most children go through a particularly clingy stage in their development or become unwell at times. It is a natural thing, although it can create even more challenges for parents. Studies suggest that ignoring this behaviour, and trying to allow your children to ‘get over it’ might actually just cause this stage to drag out further, not to mention causing distress to both parent and child. When my son went through this, I would use the ring-sling or a back-carry and just carry on as normal. He was close to me, and could still see the world around him. I would potter around the house, chatting away whilst I cleaned, and even go for a pee with him still up there.
If your child has a cough, lying down can be difficult and most baby chairs do not sit them up particularly well, if they are unable to support their own body weight, popping them in a sling/carrier will ensure they’re nice and upright helping their chest.
Poorly unwell child
Babies love skin-to-skin contact, particularly when they’re new born, but unfortunately sometimes we may need to get up and do things which is difficult if you’re half naked on the top half. Why not carry your child close to you, skin to skin, then just button up a thin cardigan around you both - no one will know.
Babies have a hard time regulating their temperature compared to older children, and babywearing can make it easier to realise if your child is over heating, or feeling cold. I personally used to find it much easier keeping my child’s temperature stable this way, and also found he needed less layers being so close to me than if he was in a pram. I recommend a warm hat in the winter, and you can buy (or knit yourself) some arm/leg warmers for the extremities. I also suggest you don’t try to Babywear with your child in an all in one fleece/snowsuit. I made this mistake and my child got far too hot.
There is a greater chance of interacting more with your child if you wear them, compared to if they are in a pushchair/pram in front of you. My son would sit on my hip around the supermarkets watching everything I did and the people around me. I would take things on the shelves and tell him what they are and generally just chat away constantly about all sorts, but was less likely to engage as much with him below me in a pram.
Where to start?
There are so many types of carriers on the market, finding something that suits you needs is definitely possible. However, it may be a bit overwhelming at first. Try an internet or Facebook search for local babywearing groups or sling libraries. These are amazing, and with a small deposit you can hire a sling and the experts can show you how to fit it, and check your child is in the correct position whilst inside it.
Position is important? Yes actually it is. I have used many slings throughout my sons younger years, and have learn that some are better than others due to the position of the child. Our first sling was a shoulder only support (very uncomfortable for me) and did not support the child in the Ergonomic M position. This is where the fabric of the sling goes from knee to knee on the child, with the knees raise above the bottom, and their back in a nice rounded C shape. Ever put a newborn down and wondered when they have their knees bent up? This is their preferred and natural position that they have had since being in the womb. As I mentioned my son was very delayed with his mobility, and my husband had suffered from hip-dysplasia as a baby. When our GP referred us for scans, he asked whether we were using slings to carry (or baby walkers, or the hanging door bouncers) and asked us to stop using them until we have had the scan. Forcing our child to sit with their legs hanging down with only crotch support is not good for their hips if they have a pre-existing hip problem. However, the ergonomic slings are the exact opposite, and help to keep the child in this safer and more natural position.
Baby wearing is so convenient, particularly when travelling. It can enable you to be completely hands-free for suitcases, passports etc, all the time knowing your child is completely safe and secure. If you are considering trying babywearing and want any further advice or help getting started, please feel free to get in touch with me on my forum or Facebook
A woman is taking a walk around the neighbourhood with her baby in a sling..
An elderly woman walks towards them and stops, looks at the baby and says “what a beautiful baby! Under what sign was he conceived?”
The woman blushes slightly and replies, “it said, ‘keep off the grass’.”
If you have found this article helpful, I would love to hear about it. Drop a comment below and feel free to share the wisdom!