In honor of International Babywearing Week we are re-publishing an article we wrote a few years ago on the benefits of wearing your baby. International Babywearing Week is intended to bring babywearing to the attention of the media and parents everywhere. It’s a practice that we wholeheartedly believe in, and hope to encourage as many parents as possible to start babywearing from birth! Read on to learn just some of the benefits you and your baby will experience.
Why should you carry your baby? It’s no secret that babies like to be held. After nine months in a warm cozy womb, babies long for the close contact, warmth and gentle movements that they have become accustomed to. Some new parents are unprepared for just how much they will need to hold their babies. Others wonder if holding them too much is spoiling or setting them up for problems later. However, studies indicate that babies know what they need and holding your baby close as much as he wants is a good thing for both of you.
Columbia University conducted a study in 1990, which showed that mother and infant pairs who utilized soft baby carriers created a more securely attached relationship. Infant attachment plays an important role in healthy child development and has long-term effects on how the child will relate to others throughout their lives. Other studies show that babies who are carried are more organized, they learn from the world around them at an adult’s level, and they tend to cry less.
Baby-wearing makes brains smarter. So, not only is your child happier, but you can make them smarter as well. The first year of life is a crucial one for brain development. In a single year, the baby’s brain will double in volume. All these new nerve cells (neurons) grow fast and are largely unconnected. By holding your baby and letting him see your face and the world around you, you are helping the baby’s neurons connect. And more connections make a smarter brain. Even if you are doing other things while carrying your baby, he is gaining valuable experience about the way things work; all while feeling safe, secure and loved.
Baby-wearing makes babies happier. By carrying your baby you also drastically reduce the amount of time a baby spends crying (although even carried babies DO cry). The reason for this is that the constant movement helps to regulate the baby’s world. Babies are used to motion from being in the womb. Carrying your baby helps to recreate this environment to help you baby better make the transition from womb to world. While in a sling or carrier, a baby spends more time in the quiet alertness state—the state in which infants observe the world around them and build the important neural connections. Babies that are not held spend more time unsettled, startling and flailing about, and in general are less able to make these connections. Babies that are held and carried a lot are more responsive to visual and auditory stimuli, and they learn to make choices about what to pay attention to and what to ignore. The ability to chose what to focus on is a valuable tool for learning.
What kind of baby carrier? With so many benefits, it is a good idea to plan to hold and carry your baby as much as possible. There are many great baby carriers available today that make this easier, and also help keep your hands free so you can tend to other children or tasks.
When choosing a carrier for your baby, look for one that will hold him in the same positions you use when holding him in your arms. For many babies this is an upright or semi-upright position with their tummy against your chest. Another favorite infant carry is a cradle hold, with baby’s body semi-reclined across your arm. Both of these positions are possible in ring slings and stretchy wraps. But these are only two of the many option available. We at Sprout Soup are always available to help you determine which carrier will best fit your needs.
Carrying doesn’t end with infancy! Most carriers will last through toddlerhood and beyond! Toddlers especially may have times when being up in mom or dad’s arms is what they need and crave. A baby carrier can make these times easier on everyone, so no matter the age of your little one, babywearing can provide so many benefits it’s never too late to start.