Babywearing - Making Parenting Practical
By Andrea McPherson
Photo: Intuitive Images Photography Photo: Intuitive Images Photography
Imagine hands free baby carrying, where you are able to access your child and serve their wants and needs, but still have two hands free. Could this be real? The concept may seem like a fairytale, but it in fact is becoming very popular among parents wanting more convenience and versatility. This growing trend is called “babywearing” and has been freeing up tired hands and doing away with squeezing strollers into small spaces.
For centuries, babywearing has been common in cultures s in Africa, Mexico, India and even in Ireland until the 50s. Babywearing in the Americas has an interesting beginning. In the 1960’s a woman working in the Peace Corps invented the Snugli baby carrier after she saw how women were carrying their babies in Togo, West Africa. Since then, it has caught on rapidly and now there are several styles of carriers and dozens of brands. Babywearing is not meant to replace or outrank strollers and may not be the best fit for all parents, but it does offer benefits for children and their caregivers.
Los Angeles based babywearing instructor, Laura Brown teaches classes at most of Los Angeles's birth centers and travels around the country sharing her expertise with new and expectant parents. In addition to basic babywearing 101, she teaches classes on specific topics and does private in-home consults.
The colloquialism, "babywearing," describes the act of wearing a baby in some sort of carrier either on your front, hip or back and is becoming more mainstream because parents are realizing the pros of being able to keep your baby close while keeping their hands free. Although another plus is being able to cater to baby's needs quickly, Laura also says that babies may even instinctively expect it, "When baby is up high on on the caregiver's shoulder, the baby is a part of the conversation," she explains, "Stress hormones are low, because baby no longer fears predators.” And from that vantagepoint, your baby is able to observe the environment from the parent's point of view.
If you're a parent raising a small child in a big city where public transit is your main mode of transport, babywearing versus stroller may be the better choice. Baby carriers are also an asset on those trips to theme parks or any other time you are standing for long periods of time or doing a lot of walking where a stroller may be cumbersome.
For any mom of a newborn, healing and getting back to feeling like your old self after childhood is a concern. Baby wearing and practicing kangaroo care or "skin to skin" has proven to reduce postpartum depression. Baby wearing also been known to lessen baby's crying by 40 %, allows baby to absorb more information and counts as "tummy time," where the infant works at stabilizing him or herself. They can respond to the caregiver's movement while engaging their core muscles.
There is a learning curve to babywearing and there are a lot of options when it comes to types of carriers and all of those carriers have their advantages and drawbacks. The age of your baby will be a factor, along with the parent’s lifestyle, body type and preferences. Buckle carriers are among the most popular and there are brands such as Ergo, Pikkolo, Beco, Dream Carrier, Ocah and Tula. There are full buckles with waist and shoulder strap buckles. Half buckle carriers have just one buckle at the waist. Some buckle carrier brands tend to be better for taller body types and others, better for plus sized body types.
There are also ring slings, which can be homemade and also store bought. Popular brands include Comfy Joey, Maya Wrap and Sleeping Baby Productions. These carriers are good for warm weather, nursing, quick ups and downs and narrow, medium or wide shoulder types. These types of carriers are preferred among parents of either newborns or toddlers and you want some simple and easy. Some brands are one size fits all, so it’ll take some trying on to see what fits, but who needs an excuse to have a dressing room fashion show?
Wraps can be stretchy, best for babies under 15lbs, such as the Moby, Boba Wrap, Solly Baby or make your own. Woven wraps such as Girasol, Kokadi and Natibaby are good from birth through toddlerhood. Woven wraps have a higher learning curve however offer endless versatility and can fit every wearer and baby body type. You can also get a buckle carrier, ring sling or mei tai made from a woven wrap, called a "wrap conversion," one way to get the beauty of the wrap without the long piece of fabric.
There are many more types and brands of baby carriers out there and Laura is part of a group that offers free support from local babywearing educators called, BabywearingLA, "It's a great way to see and try on a variety of carriers with some hands on help," says Laura, "As well as meet other families from the community."