There are lots of great benefits for baby and baby’s caregiver to being worn. In fact, Jennifer of Hybrid Rasta Mama shared several benefits of babywearing here on the blog awhile back. To add to that, today I’m going to discuss the reasons wearing your baby is so beneficial to their little bodies and the way they develop. If you’d like to read more in depth on this topic, I suggest you check out the following Pathways to Family Wellness articles: Why Wear Your Baby and Baby Wearing – Suggestions for Carrying Your Baby: A Chiropractic Perspective. In addition, Onya Baby’s Benefits of Babywearing vs. Carseat Carrying is a good one to check out and Boba’s Strollers, Baby Carriers and Infant Stress is an excellent resource.
I won’t be able to cover everything (thus why I offered the articles above to read more), but I’d like to be able to at least give you enough information to see why babywearing is important and is about more than just being hands free and close to your baby (although those are obviously wonderful aspects of babywearing!)
The cultural norm in our American society today is the stroller and the car seat carrier. This has become the way caregivers transport their babies. Although babywearing is becoming more mainstream (and so many wonderful carriers are available in many different styles for every lifestyle), I still get strange looks when I wear my little Jude out in the world. Mostly, people think it’s really neat, but I definitely encounter those looks that think what I’m doing is very strange. I’ve also heard the comment (from moms even) that I’m no longer pregnant and there’s no need to wear my baby anymore. I’d love to see these perceptions change and the standard way we carry our babies to shift from strollers and car seats to in arms with baby carriers!
When a baby is born, he does not have the same spinal curvature that we do as adults. They have to come through the birth canal, after all, so their bodies are designed with that in mind. The natural adult spinal curves come with time as they adapt to gravity. Babies actually have a convex (C shaped) curve to their spines. This is why laying a baby flat on his back isn’t the greatest position for a baby to spend the majority of his day in. This position is putting stress on the baby because it is not the natural position of baby’s spine. Too much time lying flat (as in a stroller) can lead to problems with decreased muscle tone and plagiocephaly (or flat-head syndrome.) We’ve all seen babies with flat heads. This has become more of an issue because we are now instructed (rightly so) to place our babies to sleep on their backs. I’m not suggesting you stop putting your baby to sleep on his/her back, but that since the baby is already spending his/her nights this way, it should be limited during the day.
Enter babywearing! Carriers that support the legs out to the knee (just like you do when you hold your child) are the natural position for a baby’s body. It is instinctive. Think about it. Isn’t it hard to change a newborn’s diapers? His legs are impossible to straighten, right?
And there is more to support babywearing being ideal for baby. The mother’s breathing and heart rate help regulate her baby’s. It is also good for babies with GERD to be kept in an upright position. A big benefit is also something called vestibular stimulation. Think about the way you move as you go about your day. Do you only move back and forth in a straight pattern? Or do you move in all manner of directions with various degrees of movement? The way we naturally move is what is natural for a baby to be experiencing as well. It helps them feel secure in the space they are in. This also translates to less space-related phobias later in life.
One of the aspects I really love about babywearing is that your baby is learning and going about your day with you. Have you ever considered what your baby is experiencing from a car seat carrier or stroller? Put yourself in his/her shoes for a moment. Generally, if the baby isn’t covered with a blanket and can see at all, it is pretty much people’s legs and feet and the floor. That doesn’t sound conducive to learning about much of anything. A baby up at adult level is seeing everything you are experiencing, yet (if facing in the optimal position towards you) can retreat into his wearer if it’s too much stimulation. When they fall asleep in the carrier, they rest their head on you and hear your heartbeat and your warmth. If baby is awake, he/she can interact with you, read your facial expressions, etc. This is called the quiet alert stage and is when your baby learns the most. And, of course, there are many studies on how extremely beneficial touch is to infants. Not only is your baby physically against your body, but you are touching your baby more when you are wearing them because of their close proximity.
Am I saying strollers and car seat carriers are evil and should be avoided like the plague? No, that would be silly. I’m saying car seats are made for the car and strollers should be used in moderation. Wearing your baby is not only a wonderful way to bond with baby but it’s a wonderful way to support their healthy development as well!
Linked up at The Tuesday Baby Link-Up