(Dacey at 11 months in a simple piece of cloth sling)
International Babywearing Week wraps up tomorrow, so I want to take a moment to share with you my Top Ten - why I LOVE babywearing:
1) Babywearing provides safety in infancy. When I wore each of my girls when they were wee littles, I so appreciated having them so close to me, especially when we were out in public. Babywearing allows baby to be close to a parent or care giver and shielded from adoring strangers who are eager to touch and share germies with the irresistible babies they encounter.
Babywearing also encourages growth and maturity in baby's vestibular system, the system of the body that controls internal balance. Additionally, babies who are worn have been shown to have more stable heart rates, more even breathing, and less crying time (which means more quiet alert time, which in turn provides more time for learning and maturing in life outside of the womb).
2. Babywearing provides security in infancy. Babies spend nine months nestled in security in the womb. There is much research that supports the idea that for at least the first three months after birth, babies crave a reconnection to that sense of security. (See Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block for more on the idea of "the fourth trimester.") Snuggled close to a parent in a sling or carrier, babies find a welcome relief from the stimulation and unknown stimuli of the world they are experiencing.
3. Babywearing provides attachment in infancy. The hormone oxytocin - the love hormone - is released during any close skin contact. I think it's amazing that God saturates our earliest experiences with our new babies in situations that stimulate the release of oxytocin - from labor and birth to breastfeeding and bed sharing and babywearing.
Babywearing allows parents to have that skin-to-skin connection while going about the daily tasks of life. When I have worn my girls in slings and carriers, I've felt a connection to them that simply isn't there when they are in strollers or "bucket" car seats. I especially noticed how pivotal babywearing was to attachment when Aliza Joy was born and I suddenly had a newborn and a toddler under my care. I would put AJ in our Mei Tai Baby carrier and I could constantly be connected to her even while chasing after and loving on Dacey.
I also don't think it is a coincidence that my child who was worn from birth was signficicantly less fussy than my child who had to wait until she was five months old before her mother experienced the Attachment Enlightenment.
4. Babywearing provides safety in toddlerhood. Discovering the Ergo Carrier was a revolutionary parenting moment for me. With Dacey on my back, we navigated parking lots, grocery stores, farmers markets, festivals, shopping malls, just about any venue you can imagine, all without me giving a single second of thought or worry to my now-mobile child escaping from me or being trampled by an oblivious passer-by. It is, unquestionably, the best best best parenting purchase we have ever made.
(I'm keen on Ergo, but there are other brands of soft-structured carriers that have their own followings as well!)
5. Babywearing provides security in toddlerhood. Once they get those little legs to working for them, toddlers set out for grand adventures in their brave new worlds. This can be exhilarating, but for some it can also be unnerving and overwhelming as they explore the tension between adventure and familiarity. Many little ones find comfort and security in being able to nestle in close to a parent in a sling or carrier.
(In fact, it is during this stage that many babywearing parents begin to look for slings and carriers with maximum "popability" factors, as in, the ones that easiest to pop a toddler into and out of.)
6. Babywearing provides attachment in toddlerhood. The thing I loved the most about wearing the girls in the Ergo on my back was the fact that our everyday tasks became shared experiences. Whatever I was doing, they were right there with me, seeing the same things, hearing the same sounds, and enjoying the same process. The toddler years are one long season of holding them close and letting them go. Oh, how I treasured those moments of a little toddler head resting on my shoulder as we danced around the kitchen, doing dishes and preparing meals and sharing life together.
7. Babywearing - my favorite Cs.
- Cute - okay, I am trying to minimize any focus on materialism and acquiring stuff here, but you just cannot deny the cuteness factor of many slings and carriers.
- Comfortable - as a mother to a high-needs child, I found babywearing to be far superior to holding-in-arms when the clingy factor escalated. A baby sling or carrier that is right for your body, fits you well, and is right for your child is able to distribute your child's weight in a way that makes wearing them so much more comfortable than carrying.
- Convenient - Listen, I am not in the anti-stroller camp. Now that my girls are too big to wear, I can often be seen driving them around in this baby, but I hold to my opinion that baby carriers are so much more convenient in many situations. A sling can often be rolled up and slipped in a purse or diaper bag and a carrier can be worn empty around the waist until needed. There are places a stroller simply won't go (hiking trail, anyone?) and babywearing saves the day!
8. Babywearing allows me to feel connected to parents past. Even though practicing babywearing seems to have come into vogue in our culture fairly recently, the art itself is ancient. Parents have been wearing babies close to themselves for thousands of years. When I was wearing one of my children, I felt an internal sense of peace and happiness that comes from tapping into a wisdom that nurtured babies long before the research confirmed the benefits of such a practice.
9. Babywearing allows me to feel connected to parents present. When a new issue of Mothering arrives, the first thing I do is turn to the Letters section. In those pages, I experience a connection to a community of parents that I don't get to engage with nearly enough on a face-to-face basis. Likewise, when I see another parent wearing a baby in a sling or carrier, I can't help but to grin at a fellow tribe member. I almost always take the time to stop and compliment or offer a positive comment, encouraging and affirming this nurturing choice.
10. Babywearing allows me to offer a model for future generations of parents. It is not at all uncommon for the children of babywearing enthusiasts to have baby doll slings and carriers amongst their toy collections. Each of my girls have created their own DIY slings for dolls and stuffed animals. I feel a deep sense of contentment in knowing they will grow up with the knowledge that little ones like to be worn, and that wearing a baby close to you is not only completely normal, but it is also a practice of incredible joy.
So, let's hear from you! Have worn any of your little ones? What are some of your favorite reasons to love babywearing?
photo for graphic via hugabub on flickr