Baby Wearing – 6 Benefits You Need To Know
Baby wearing might seem like a recently new thing but parents have been carrying their babies for millenia.
It’s a beautiful thing to have your tiny baby snuggled up close and safe to you, but there’s more to carrying your baby than the sweetness and comfort.
Babies and parents benefit from baby wearing, in terms of bonding, convenience, sleep, as well as emotional and physical health.
Let’s explore the benefits of baby wearing and how it has profound positive effects on both parents and babies wellbeing.
What are the benefits of baby wearing?
Aside from the cuddle factor, there are a number of really amazing benefits from wearing your baby.
#1: Baby wearing promotes bonding
You may have heard the term the fourth trimester, describing the early months of life after your baby is born. It takes babies around 3 months to adjust to life outside the womb and we often refer to this time as the fourth trimester.
Your baby’s biggest need during this time is to be as close to you as possible, to be nourished and nurtured. In this snuggled up position, they feel safe and secure. They are close to your heartbeat, a sound they’ve heard constantly for many months. They are warm and snug, which mimics the sensation of being in the womb.
When you’re wearing your baby, you adapt to their cues and are able to respond to them with confidence. Your baby learns to feel more secure as their needs are met.
When you’re wearing your baby, you interact with them more and they with you. Even a tiny newborn can benefit from this close contact with you. As you go about your day, you talk and move and your baby is soaking in this exposure to the bigger world.
#2: Baby wearing promotes health
Skin to skin after birth is more commonly promoted now, thanks to research recognising the benefits it has for babies, especially those babies born prematurely. Their skin and digestive system are colonised with beneficial bacteria from you, which lowers their risk of disease and illness in the future.
But this closeness continues to have health benefits long after birth.
Wearing your baby allows them to be in a more upright position, promoting digestion and alleviating reflux or colic. It also means your baby’s head can reshape after birth, preventing flat head syndrome – common in babies who are placed on their backs to sleep as is recommended.
Being carried in this upright position helps babies develop physically and emotionally. The stimulation of their mother’s movements trigger their own physical responses, exercising the vestibular system that controls balance. Being held close to their mother’s body gives a baby the space to explore the world safely so they can become independent when they’re ready.
Baby being in a carrier or sling also stops people from touching them, potentially passing on nasty viruses or germs. This cocoons your baby from the chances of getting sick, especially during a pandemic.
#3: Supports and promotes breastfeeding
Most women in Australia initiate breastfeeding after giving birth but according to the statistics, only 1 in 7 babies are still exclusively breastfed by 5 months of age.
Breastfeeding experts around the world agree – breastmilk is the optimal source of nutrition for babies until they’re 6 months old. After that age, solid food can be introduced and breastfeeding can continue until one year, or beyond if it suits the mother-child pair.
Breastmilk is nature’s miracle food – it protects babies from illnesses such as respiratory and ear infections, diarrhoea, and helps to ease discomfort from teething and emotional distress. It also reduces the risk of chronic diseases and obesity in your child’s later life.
Baby wearing can promote breastfeeding through close bonding – a mother wearing her baby is more likely to recognise her baby’s hunger cues, so will feed on demand.
This boosts her milk supply and encourages healthy weight gain in her baby. It’s also much easier to breastfeed ‘on the go’ if you’re out and about.
#4: Baby wearing reduces crying
Maybe this benefit should be at the top! Parents of a young baby know how intense it is to cope with bouts of crying – especially when they’re doing everything they can to figure out what is causing the distress!
Science has shown the more babies are held, the less they cry and the better they settle. But let’s look to indigenous cultures who didn’t need research studies to tell them this – in cultures where baby wearing is the norm, babies will usually only cry for a few minutes a day.
Crying is exhausting for babies and their parents and it can cause long-term damage to baby’s brain if it’s continually flooded with the stress hormones released due ongoing distress.
Babies who are carried and feel safe and content during the day are also less likely to have crying jags of an evening. Babies who feel safer more continuously are less likely to have stress hormones promoting a fight or flight response that causes them to cry for seemingly no reason.
#5: Baby wearing is convenient
Ideally, the first month after birth is a time for new mamas and babies to cocoon and spend that time just getting to know each other and transitioning as a family.
But there are times when you do need to have your hands free and this is when baby wearing is really amazing.
Some babies want to be held all the time but it makes it tricky to get your lunch or give your toddler some quality time together. Pop baby in a sling or carrier and you can get on with your day.
#6: Boosts parent confidence
Baby wearing mums and dads feel more confident as parents. The closeness of wearing their baby means they can respond to baby’s needs more effectively. This beautiful feedback loop means their baby feels safe and connects and responds to her happy parents.
New mums often feel quite isolated when in the trenches of new motherhood so it’s important to support her ability to connect with the wider world. Baby wearing can help you to go for a walk, meet friends or even make friends with a local babywearing group.
Just as importantly, baby wearing increases the time you spend doing skin to skin with your bub and research has shown this leads to decreased rates of postpartum mood disorders.
Is baby wearing safe?
Like anything, there’s a right and a wrong way to wear your baby. If you want the benefits of baby wearing, you do need to make sure you’re doing it correctly.
It’s important you choose the carrier that suits you and your baby, not just because your best friend swears by this particular brand. Do your research and join a baby wearing group to get feedback and see if you can try different styles and brands. You can even contact a baby wearing consultant for support in choosing and wearing your baby carrier.
Make yourself familiar with the TICK rules for babywearing safety:
- Tight: The carrier or sling should be tight with baby held high and upright, with head support. Loose material can cause babies to slump and restrict their breathing, and they can potentially fall out.
- In view at all times: You should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply looking down, ensuring their mouth and nose aren’t covered and you can monitor their breathing.
- Close enough to kiss. Your baby should be close enough that you can lower your chin and kiss your baby’s head. Regularly check your bab, as they can in distress without making any noise or movement.
- Keep chin off chest: Your baby should be in a good upright position with head support, so their chin doesn’t drop down, as this can restrict breathing.
- Supported: Your baby’s tummy and chest should be against your chest, and their back supported so they’re not slumping or curled. Their legs should be squatting (frog legs) not bunched up to their body. The carrier should be tight enough they can’t fall out, but you can slide your hand into the carrier so breathing isn’t restricted. Support your baby with one hand behind their back when you bend over, doing so at the knees not the waist.
Always check your carrier or sling for signs of wear and tear, including any buckles and straps, and fabric seams. And make sure the carrier is comfortable for you too, as poorly positioned carriers can lead to back issues or injury.
New mamas wanting to connect with other mums in a safe, nurturing way can become part of the Nurtured Birth Postnatal Mothers Group, held over a month online. Please click here to register for the upcoming sessions.