by Anna Bartels, TCM Apprentice
I have often taken note of mamas who wear their babies during my world travels, especially in Sub-Sarahan Africa and some places in South America. The babies look so cute, wrapped in beautiful fabrics and snuggled in right next to mom, and the babies are SO calm and almost never fussing or crying. Why are they so content? These babies and parents are experiencing many of the benefits of baby-wearing. I’ll try to outline a few below that I have found on the Dr. Sears and La Leche League websites (included below).
Benefits for babies:
Babies who are worn learn more. Aside from milk and a diaper change here and there, one of the highest needs of a baby is human contact. With baby-wearing, you are constantly in contact with your child. When you wear your child, you are both responding to each other’s behavior. When baby is hungry, you offer food, when baby cries, you offer soothing words, when baby is looking at you, you talk to baby and interact. Babies who are carried spend more time in a state of “quiet alertness” which, according to Dr. Sears, is the optimal state of learning for baby and one study has found that carried babies demonstrate improved visual and auditory alertness.
Babies who are worn cry less. On his website, Dr. Sears reports on a Montreal-based study where some moms were given a sling and instructed to carry their babies for three extra hours a day. The control group was not given any instructions related to baby-carrying. At six weeks, the infants who were carried cried and fussed 43% less than the non-carried infants. The movement of being carried around soothes babies. They are snuggled in tight to mom or dad, are close enough to hear their parent’s breathing and heart beat, which is very similar to their previous environment in the womb. Parents are more able to read their child’s more subtle signals before a baby resorts to crying to communicate his/her needs. When you wear baby you are more able to observe their small gestures and are able to respond more quickly, helping baby feel secure.
Benefits for parents:
Hands-free time! When you carry your baby, you are more able to complete household or other tasks throughout the day.
Confidence-boost. When your baby is more content you, as a parent, get a nice little pat on the back for a job well done.
More convenient breastfeeding. Some slings or carriers are designed so that mom is able to breastfeed baby without sitting down or using both hands. The sling can support the baby so that the mom is able to carry on with other tasks while breastfeeding. For women who feel self-conscious nursing in public, some slings have fabric that can be pulled up to cover a nursing baby.
For more information on baby-carrying, including safety, benefits, and types of baby carriers, check out the following websites:
La Leche League: http://www.lalecheleague.org/nb/nbnovdec04p204.html
Dr. Sears: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/fussy-baby/baby-wearing/benefits-babywearing
Baby Wearing International: http://babywearinginternational.org