Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Love Babywearing!

In honor of International Babywearing Week, I am resharing this blog post, which originally appeared on a different blog of mine.

Yes, that's right.  I LOVE BABYWEARING.  You know when you see parents walking around with their little one strapped to their chest or back (or hip)?  That.  Love, love, love.

I bought a Moby Wrap when my son was just a few weeks old.  My sister had used one with her son, and I thought it seemed like a neat idea.  It was relatively inexpensive as far as carriers go, versatile, and delightfully snuggly for my little guy.  We used the Moby for a few months, and I loved it!  And then soon after we arrived in San Diego, he began to refuse to go into it, presumably because the weather was warming up and he was just getting too toasty.

We bought an Ergobaby Carrier next, the performance model because it looked like it would be comfortable and more temperature-appropriate.  It seemed a bit expensive to me initially, but it was worth every penny and I tell everyone who asks about it now that it's the most useful parenting tool I own.  Seriously.  It can carry a baby up to 45 pounds (my son is now about 31 pounds and he still loves riding in it occasionally), it's small and compact, and it makes both of our lives better in many ways.

I personally have no experience with any other kind of carrier.  I have friends who have used ring slings, woven wraps, Beco carriers, Tula carriers, handmade carriers purchased from Etsy, and others.  I can't tell you what kind you should buy, but as with all things parenting, I suggest you do your research!  Talk to friends, women from your local parenting groups, people you see at the mall.  Read reviews.  Please read about the importance of using an ergonomically-correct carrier and the risk of hip dysplasia from "crotch-dangler" style carriers.  Look for local groups or classes where you can try out different styles of carrier and learn how to use them before purchasing.  (Check out Babywearing San Diego or other similar groups in your area!)

Here are just a few of the things that I love about babywearing.

Babywearing helps you meet your baby's needs.

Have you ever heard of the concept of the "fourth trimester?"  The basic premise is that human babies are born before they're really developmentally ready because we have such big brains that we couldn't fit through the birth canal if gestation lasted any longer.  Human babies are really quite immature at birth, at least when you compare them to other animal babies.  During the first few months after birth, babies to struggle to adapt to life on the outside, and this is part of the reason why so many babies just want to spend all of their time in someone's arms.  One of the best-known books on this idea is The Happiest Baby on the Block, in which Dr. Harvey Karp offers suggestions for "recreating the womb" to soothe unhappy babies.
"Putting your baby in a carrier or a sling and taking him for a walk gives him three of his favorite sensations: jiggly motion, cuddling, and the rhythmic, soothing sound of your breathing.  These devices are great ways to treat our babies to a sweet reminder of the fourth trimester."  Harvey Karp, The Happiest Baby on the Block

It's perfectly normal for your baby to want to be held all the time.  Babies need to be close to a caregiver; this is biologically normal.  Babywearing can help you meet that need.

Babywearing lets your baby get more out of life.
"Wearing humanizes a baby.  Proximity increases interaction, and baby can be constantly learning how to be human.  Carried babies are intimately involved in their parents' world because they participate in what mother and father are doing. Consider the alternative infant-care practice, in which baby is separate from the mother most of the day... For the infant who lives alone, normal daily experiences have no learning value for him and no bonding value for the mother.  At best, baby is involved as a spectator rather than a player."  William Sears, The Baby Book
When I am wearing my baby, he truly does get more out of life.  I carry on conversations with him.  He points at things, and I identify them for him.  He can see more than he can from a stroller, especially from a rear-facing infant stroller.  Even a "regular" stroller leaves him too low to the ground to see as much as he'd like to.  (And when he gets tired of looking at things, he can still snuggle against me and go to sleep!)  He can wave at pedestrians on the street, and they often wave back.  He can wave at big construction trucks stopped at red lights, and sometimes they honk their horns for him.

Compare that to the baby riding passively in a stroller.  Assuming he isn't screaming and demanding to be held while his parents uncomfortably ignore him, everything is just washing over him.  His parents talk with each other, or play on their phones, not with him.  People walking by don't make eye contact.  He can't really see much of what is going on around him.  Which baby do you think is happier?

Babywearing lets you do more.

There's this meme I see floating around Facebook occasionally.  It has a picture of a man with a very strained expression on his face, and he's carrying a handful of bags and a loaf of bread tucked under his arm.  The caption is "I'd rather break my arms than take two trips."  This is my husband.  After we go shopping together, he divides all of our bags between his hands, or stacks boxes from Costco so high that he can barely see over the top, or otherwise does his best to bring everything inside in one trip.  Before our Little Bug was born, I'd share the load; once we were parents, my job was to carry our son while he carried everything else.

And then, when Little Bug was about seven months old, my husband left on deployment.  Suddenly I had to bring in groceries by myself.  Thanks to my trusty Ergo carrier, I could strap my baby to my chest or back and carry bags with both hands.  (For the record, I am not a pack mule like my husband.  I will make two or three trips if necessary.)  (Also, I call my husband a pack mule in the most loving way possible.)

With a baby carrier, I can do all kinds of things more easily.  With my baby attached to me, I can take trash and recycling out to the dumpster.  I can wash dishes.  I can vacuum the carpets.  I can eat with both hands.  I can nurse while doing my grocery shopping (and no one can even tell).  I can make it through airport security with ease.  When you have a baby who wants to be held all the time, as mine did, you can get a lot more done with the aid of a baby carrier.

Babywearing gives you greater mobility.

When my son was around eight months old, I joined a meetup group for mothers whose babies were of a similar age.  One of the very first meetups I attended was at the mall.  There were six of us, if I remember correctly, and all of them were pushing strollers while I had my little guy strapped to my chest in the Ergo.  We were a force to be reckoned with, this parade of strollers carving our way through the crowds, filling the elevator to the brim when we went upstairs, walking two by two up the ramp and not leaving room for anyone else to get around us.  We kind of ended up with a marching order every time we headed to a new store, and whoever you were walking next to was who you were talking with until we stopped again, because with strollers it's just not easy to switch places.  We had to use elevators and ramps, since strollers cannot traverse staircases, and if there was a slow- or non-moving crowd, we had to slowly wade our way through.

Watching others struggle with strollers is part of what convinced me to try a carrier in the first place.  With a baby in a carrier, you can slide through thick crowds with ease.  You can go up staircases (weighted stair climbing makes for fantastic exercise).  You can walk places where strollers do not dare to tread.  Beaches?  Easy hiking?  Gravel pathways?  All very doable with a carrier.

At the top of Cowles Mountain in San Diego.

And don't go thinking that carriers become obsolete once baby starts walking.  As I mentioned earlier, I still wear my little guy frequently.  Sure, I love letting him walk on his own and explore the world.  But sometimes I just want to, you know, actually make it to a particular destination within a reasonable amount of time.  Or go shopping without just following him around and telling him not to pull things off the shelves.

Babywearing can help make you healthier.

Before you ask, no, I do not get some misguided sense of superiority from wearing my baby.  (And yes, I have had that "argument" lobbed at me before from people who do not agree with or approve of my intuitive, attached style of parenting.)  What I'm going for here is that babywearing can help you get more exercise, both because of increased mobility and because, well, when you walk or hike you're carrying the added weight of your baby.  I personally believe that babywearing helped tremendously as I slowly lost my baby weight.  (It took awhile, but I was in no rush to get rid of it either.)  Note that I don't say anything about my "prepregnancy body."  I am not in nearly as good of shape as I was before having a baby, since walking and hiking are just no substitute for the cardio kickboxing and intense strength workouts I favored before I got pregnant (and for a good chunk of my pregnancy too).  But babywearing does turn walking into a more effective form of exercise.  And if you hike up a mountain with a baby on your back, you will find yourself both short of breath and rather sore the following morning (although you will also get some admiring looks from other hikers).  There's even an actual Babywearing Workout DVD that you can try, should you so desire.  (I have not, although I would like to.  Well, maybe not with a squirmy toddler.)  Babywearing has definitely helped me to be healthier.

1 comment:

  1. Yes. Yes to all these reasons! And if you can't afford any carrier, a bed sheet will do just fine! !!!! And it's ok to have multiple carriers, as you say sometimes they prefer a different one, or you do add they grow.

    My friend Anna uses woven wraps, one to carry the three year old in back and one to carry the newborn in front! It's gorgeous!