By Elayza Gonzalez
Babywearing is the practice of wearing a baby carrier to keep babies close and connected to parents. Babywearing has a number benefits, including giving caregivers the ability to multitask and take on other daily tasks and responsibilities while still caring for little ones, according to Anne Rush, the president of Sunshine State Babywearing Inc., a local group whose goal is to provide support and education to families who choose to use baby carriers.
In addition to the practical advantages, the medical community has documented the health benefits of babywearing. Research shows the practice can reduce morbidity and mortality of low birth weight babies, and it also promotes bonding and skin-to-skin contact, which helps infants regulate temperature, breathing and heart rate. Furthermore, it reduces crying in infants, helps combat postpartum depression and helps in establishing and maintaining a breastfeeding relationship.
“We have helped numerous caregivers explore babywearing options,” Rush said. “Most find it to be a welcome tool that helps them more easily care for and bond with the children they care for.”
Rush said babywearing is a skill, and not all parents will be perfect at it as soon as they start. As with any other baby product, there are some important safety tips to consider. While babywearing, parents need to be conscious the baby’s airway remains open by keeping the child in an upright position and high enough to ensure the baby’s chin is off its chest. Parents also need to make sure the carriers provide the support their baby needs for its developing neck and back. According to Childsafetyexpert.com, babies’ neck muscles are strong enough to support their heads at about 4–5 months old, and by 6 months, babies can be carried facing outward. Before this time, it is recommended that parents carry their child facing inward, so babies can rest their heads on their parents’ chest, allowing them to listen to the parent’s heartbeat and be skin-to-skin.
Babywearing is a tool, and as with any tool, caregivers need to find the one that will work best for them, said Rush. Nowadays, it is easy to find a baby carrier that best fits your needs and budget. There are carriers for different stages of a baby’s life, so parents should decide whether they want to use it for only the early months or well into the baby’s first year. Some carriers can be used interchangeably between individuals while others are made to be used exclusively by one, so parents should figure out who will be doing most of the carrying.
Types of Baby Carriers
- Wraps – These are the most traditional and simple of all carriers. They are the most adjustable to meet the specific needs of the individual wearer, and they are the best for newborn babies.
- Ring slings – These are a modern adaptation of the traditional one shoulder found in other cultures. The fabric is securely attached to a pair of metal or nylon rings, and they are a good carrier for newborn and toddlers.
- Pouch slings – This carrier is harder to share because it is fitted to a specific caregiver. They are worn over one shoulder and are convenient, easy to use and inexpensive.
- Meh Dai – The most popular among Asian-style carriers, this carrier is like a backpack that ties around your waist. They can be used for front, back and hip carries, can be used between multiple caregivers and are ideal for older babies and toddlers.
- Buckle carriers – Also known as soft structured carriers, these are the most popular style of baby carriers in the market today. They resemble a backpack with a waistband, which makes them a perfect mix of comfort, convenience and accessibility.