Baby Wearing and a Review of Products
In North America, babies spend a lot of time on their own. They are parked in infant carriers and mechanical swings more than they are carried. Nature, however has intended babies to be carried, or ‘worn’, for the better part of their first year and in tribal cultures, wearing baby in a sling or other carrier is still the norm, not the exception.
Why Wear Your Baby?
Studies have shown that the more time a baby spends being carried, the more secure it feels and the less it cries. In North America, we measure our babies’ cries in hours per day, but in traditional cultures where baby wearing is the norm, cries are measured in minutes per day! Being in near-constant physical contact with your infant promotes bonding and helps parents tune in to the signals babies send out in order to have their needs met. The better parents are able to meet baby’s needs, the happier baby is. Baby wearing also facilitates breastfeeding and EC.
Baby wearing is healthier for baby, psychologically and physically. The first three months out of the womb are sometimes called the ‘Fourth Trimester’. During this time, your baby craves the closeness and constant motion of being worn, just like an extension of the experience of being in the womb. Studies have shown that babies who are worn are less likely to die of SIDS, possibly because they tune into their parents’ breathing and because the constant motion stimulates a part of their brain that regulates automatic functions like breathing.
An added benefit is that it eliminates the need for cumbersome strollers and basket-type baby carriers, leaving the parent with two free hands to use for whatever they are doing. While wearing your baby, you can freely attend to housework, shopping, or other activities that become hard to do when you have a little one vying for your attention. You can even breastfeed while taking a walk. Many carriers allow you to nurse so discretely, you can do it in public without anyone ever being the wiser to it. For Dads, carriers provide a special way to bond with baby and take some of the workload off Mom’s shoulders.
How Do You Wear Your Baby?
There are many types of carriers and slings available. For newborns, the baby should be placed in a sideways cradle position or seated in a front carrier, facing Mom or Dad. An older, more active baby will probably prefer facing outward so he or she can catch all the action around him or her. Babies over 9 months to a year can also be positioned on the parents’ back.
What Type of Carrier is Best?
Different carriers come with different advantages. Here are some of the pros and cons of a few of the most common types.
The Sling: The sling is lightweight, takes up little space when not in use, and allows for baby to be very easily popped in and out of it. There are no cumbersome straps and buckles to adjust around the waist or neck, only a set of D-rings which are used to adjust tightness. Slings are great to use for breastfeeding a young baby in public, since the cloth can be pulled up to give you all the privacy you need. When properly done, breastfeeding with a sling can be so discrete it can go completely unnoticed even by people who are right in front of you while you are doing it. Removing the sling is so quick and easy that you can effortlessly put a sleeping baby down, still in the sling, without waking it Since the sling can be easily slipped into, hangs over one shoulder and allows for extensive adjustment, it is great for people in wheelchairs, who will find they can comfortably support baby on their lap this way without throwing off their own balance, while their hands remain free to move their chair.
Disadvantage: all of baby’s weight is supported by one shoulder only, so that shoulder may get sore after a while if you are carrying a heavier infant. You may also find that the sling allows the baby to swing forward when you lean over to pick something up, which may slow your movements, and since it sits on one side of your body, it may also limit movement of that arm, especially when the strap is adjusted wide to spread out the weight over your shoulder to avoid soreness. Overall, slings are easy and convenient for young babies but more cumbersome for carrying older, heavier infants. Prices range from about $60 for a basic model in a plain material, to much higher for more elaborate ones.
The Sling In Use
Wrap-Type Carriers: These models, such as one by Maman Kangourou offer many advantages, especially for newborns. Babies can be placed in a cradle position, or front carry facing in or out, or on the back. This carrier is also lightweight, washable, and takes up little space when packed. Newborns can be carried in a nice, snugly position that makes it possible to breastfeed while in public or carrying out tasks and activities. Since the material can be pulled up over the baby, this type of carrier also allows for privacy when nursing in public. Learning to tie it and place your baby inside is easy. The elastic material and better weight distribution make it more comfortable for carrying heavier babies, compared t the sling.
Disadvantages: tying on the carrier and placing baby in it takes more time than it does with the sling. Same goes for getting baby out. Placing baby on your back is very difficult to do without assistance. With an older, heavier baby or toddler, the material tends to shift around while you are wearing your child and can become a bit uncomfortable. If your baby is very active, he or she make be able to wriggle out. The baby also flops around a bit when you are performing activities and leaning over. This carrier is not so good for parents who use wheelchairs, as it is more difficult to tie on and place the child inside on your own, especially if you have limited use of your hands. Some people may find it throws off their balance. These carriers are about the same price as a sling, with more elaborate cloths selling for more than basic ones.
The Wrap In Use
Snugli-Type Carriers: These are very popular, easy to find, and inexpensive. The baby is carried very securely in a front-carry position, facing in or out. Because baby rides high in this carrier, he or she can see their caregiver’s face well. You can breastfeed with such a carrier, but not as discretely since there is no flap to cover baby’s head. Because these carriers attach baby very securely to your body and include a head support, you can easily perform activities without having to worry about baby getting thrown around or falling out. These carriers are also washable and relatively compact when stored.
Disadvantages: These models usually include an x-shaped system of straps across the back, but because this is placed high between the shoulder blades it can be uncomfortable, since most of baby’s weight is supported by your neck. You have to place your baby in the carrier before putting it on and this involved slide-in buckles, so it takes a little more work to get set-up. These carriers are only for young babies. This carrier is not so good for parents who use wheelchairs, since the more rigid frame can be more awkward when you are trying to wheel around. It is also more difficult for some parents to place the baby in the carrier and then put in on themselves and attach the straps. Some people with wheelchairs will find that the baby is right in front of their face when in this carrier. It may also throw off your balance.
Baby Bjorn Carrier: This offers the same advantages as the Snugli-type carriers, but is more comfortable on your back because of the better support system, which includes a panel that displaces baby’s weight so it is more evenly distributed and supported by your back instead of your neck and shoulders.
Disadvantages: These carriers are designed for young infants, not older babies and toddlers. For the same reasons as the Snugli-type carriers, they may not be suitable for some parents who use wheelchairs. The rigid back support panel makes this carrier a little less compact when stored.
Ergo Carrier: This is a terrific carrier that can be used with babies and small children, from newborns up to two-year-olds. As its name implies, the Ergo is very ergodynamic and comfortable. Weight is extremely well distributed so you won’t get sore wearing it, even for several hours. The baby can be placed in front carry position facing in or out, or on your back and sits very securely so you can do just about anything while wearing your baby (except, obviously, drive a car, go jogging, or engage in some other hazardous activity). An insert is available for newborns and a waist- strap extender is available for larger-sized parents. A cloth panel that snaps to the straps makes breastfeeding in public completely discrete, even with an older baby or toddler. With this carrier, you can easily place your older baby or toddler on your back all by yourself. It is easy to get your baby into the carrier, and the whole thing can easily be removed so you can put a sleeping baby down in it without waking him or her.
Disadvantages: This carrier is a little more expensive than a sling, but since you can comfortable use it a lot longer, it is actually quite economical. Putting it on and adjusting it takes a minute or so. This carrier is less compact to store than slings and wraps. Because of the straps and front-carry position, it may not be ideal for parents who use wheelchair for the same reasons as the two above-described carriers.
The Ergo In Use
Backpack-Type Carriers with Metal Frames: these carriers are ideal for carrying older babies and toddlers on your back during long walks and sporting activities like hiking or cross-country skiing. Some carriers are made in such a way that the baby can also be safely placed on the floor in it when you have to take it off, but others may tip over.
Disadvantages: They are more expensive. Because of the rigid frame, they take up a lot more room when not in use. These carriers cannot be used with newborns and you cannot breastfeed your baby while he or she is in it. They are totally unsuitable for parents who use wheelchairs.
Disclaimer: The material contained on this page is for information purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor regarding any questions you have regarding childcare and your child's health.