I believe in the benefits of babywearing. I believe that the sling is better than the playpen, the wrap is better than the exersaucer, and the pouch is better than letting the baby fuss on the floor while I try to get something (anything!) accomplished.
Having said that, I want to state that we do have a walker (same basic concept as an exersaucer) and we do use it for Benjamin. There are times (i.e., dinner) when babywearing is not the best option. I have pictures of a burnt baby finger from an unfortunate dinner experience where he grabbed some hot cheese. I’d rather keep him far from hot food for the time being.
The benefits of babywearing are so astounding that they honestly make me feel a little guilty that I don’t wear my baby more often.
- Increased progesterone in the mother
The more contact a mother has with her baby, the more progesterone her body produces. This hormone is responsible for more intimate maternal bonding. It also helps regulate a mother’s milk, leading to easier breastfeeding. It has even been found to reduce chances of postpartum depression.
- Baby cries less.
A study quoted on Dr. Sear’s site stated crying was reduced by 43% when the babies were worn three extra hours every day. Also on his site, he mentions the difference between the expectations of babies in our culture compared to other cultures:
We have been led to believe that it is “normal” for babies to cry a lot, but in other cultures this is not accepted as the norm. In these cultures, babies are normally “up” in arms and are put down only to sleep – next to the mother. When the parent must attend to her own needs, the baby is in someone else’s arms.
There is so much I appreciate about this paragraph. It not only supports co-sleeping (another What I Believe post yet to come), it also supports close-knit family support, which is sorely lacking in this culture where jobs tear families apart and leave mothers to raise their children alone. I firmly believe God’s intention for the family was for the grandmother to play the vital role as an “extra pair of arms” when the mother needs a break! Instead of a television, a mechanical swing, or some light-up musical toy, the child would have a loving Grandma-embrace. *Sigh*
- Baby learns more.
Instead of wasting valuable time and energy crying out for attention, baby is comfortable and safe in the arms of a loved one, wide-eyed and curious about his new surroundings. Instead of playing with the same toy on the ground, a baby in a sling has a constantly changing environment. Instead of watching mindless entertainment on the television, the baby is with his mother or father learning how to do various routines such as laundry, baking (just not while handling sharp and hot objects!!), cleaning, and playing with older children.Also, being held in a sling can enhance baby’s language development. He is at eye and voice level and therefore is involved in his mother’s or father’s conversations. He learns the all-important skill of listening intently (a long lost skill in so many children) at a young age.
- Baby is more organized.
No, the baby will not clean the clutter off your desk.A newborn baby is in search of patterns, normalcy, and regulation. Consider the shock a baby goes through in changing environments from the warm, comfortable, safe womb to the wide open, often cold and scary world. The missing movement of his mother walking and the missing sound of her heart beating leads to a stressful adjustment. The mother can make the transition easier by wearing her baby. He is still outside the womb, but he gets to hear her heart beating as he lays his head against her chest. He gets to fall asleep to the gentle swaying as she walks. From Dr. Sears again:
While there is a variety of child-rearing theories, attachment researchers all agree on one thing: In order for a baby’s emotional, intellectual, and physiological systems to function optimally, the continued presence of the mother, as during babywearing, is a necessary regulatory influence.
- The parent is free to do other chores and spend time with older children.
When you have a fussy infant, you most likely find yourself neglecting household chores or even older siblings. With a sling or wrap, a mother can be productive and play with her other children, all while keeping her baby content and quiet.
- The mother can discreetly nurse.
While in the sling, baby has easy access to all he needs – warmth, security, and food. I once nursed Olivia in the sling while picking out a pumpkin at a pumpkin patch! No one was the wiser… And having such easy access to breastfeeding encourages feeding on demand, which benefits a mother’s milk supply, which in turn benefits baby’s growth and development and overall happiness!
Babywearing is even being used by 82% of the neonatal intensive care units in the United States. It is called Kangaroo Care and it is replacing incubators and formula and decreasing preemie morbidity rates around the world. Instead of separating premature babies from their mothers, more doctors are using Kangaroo Care, which promotes skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby and exclusive breastfeeding. Kangaroo Care helps to regulate the baby’s temperature, breathing, and heart rate. Infants who experience Kangaroo Care also have longer periods of sleep, better weight gain, less crying, and earlier hospital discharges. Mothers who use this method notice improved breastfeeding efforts. So my benefit #7 would be: It saves premature babies’ lives.
I wore my firstborn for most of her first year of life – because she demanded it. She was (is) a high-need baby. She would not settle for tummy-time. She hated the bouncer and detested the swing. The only time she was happy was when she was nursing or being held. The only way The Daddy could put her to sleep was if he was wearing the sling and dancing to Jack Johnson. The sling was an invaluable tool for us. We didn’t so much do it for her increased I.Q. or “organization.” We did it for our own sanity.
Benjamin (our 5 month old) is in the sling whenever we go grocery shopping. Have you tried grocery shopping with a 2 year old and an infant? Where do you put the toddler? In the cart with the groceries? Where do you put the infant? In the carseat on the front of the cart? That is dangerous. I have had the carseat almost tip completely out of the cart. I don’t do that anymore. The toddler is buckled into the seat and the baby is in the sling. He watches as much as he can before sleep overcomes him. But he has never once cried in the grocery store. (The toddler is another story).
Are there any drawbacks to babywearing? Sure.
If you are wearing your sling or wrap improperly, you will get a sore back and/or shoulder. To prevent soreness, I suggest the moby wrap for longer usage and the maya wrap sling for a quick solution to a cranky baby when you’re out and about. The moby wrap goes over both shoulders and is much more comfortable, however, it takes up more room in the diaper bag and is more complicated to put on. The sling is very easy to use (once you’re used to it), takes very little room in the diaper bag, but doesn’t distribute the weight quite as evenly. I find that it is good for up to an hour or so before I need to take it off (or make The Daddy wear it). I have never tried the pouch, but it is the same basic concept as the sling except it is a continuous loop of fabric, making it the easiest to put on and operate, but less flexible in that it is not one-size-fits-all and it limits the different positions your baby can be in.
There are some things that you just tend to avoid doing while wearing your baby. I avoid anything that involves bending over such as loading and unloading the dishwasher, and picking toys up off the floor. Babywearing is better for activities like vacuuming, hanging laundry, and and taking siblings to the park. On the other hand, if you do need to get something off the floor while wearing your baby, it is best to bend at the knees – which is a great thigh work out. Unfortunately, I have perfected the ability to pick just about everything up off the floor with my toes. My thighs are woefully neglected.
What do you believe?
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