Babywearing refers to the practice of carrying your baby close to your torso in a sling or any other baby carrier.
The carrier might be different, but its purpose and use remain the same. The baby stays close to you while your hands are free to do other work. Many parents have turned to babywearing in recent times since it makes traveling convenient and stress-free.
If you are wondering if it is really worth trying, read on as we tell you everything about babywearing — its safety, benefits, and the types of baby carriers available for babywearing.
Is Babywearing Safe?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babywearing to promote parent-baby attachment and to soothe a crying baby (1). Experts consider babywearing safe since it helps keep the baby calm while keeping the parent’s arms free (2). You can babywear while traveling, performing household chores, and whenever your baby needs cuddling while you are occupied with tasks that require your arms to be free.
Despite its omnipresence and convenience, babywearing does require precautions to prevent any adverse effects on the baby. However, before you understand the precautions, parents must know the types of baby carriers available in the market.
Different Types Of Baby Carriers
The following are the major types of baby carriers available in the market.
- Wrap: The traditional wrap is one of the oldest ways to carry your baby. It is a long piece of fabric that wraps around you and your baby. You fasten the loose ends to wear the baby securely. Wraps are available in several variants, depending on the fabric and design. A few popular variants include woven wraps and Meh-Dai carrier.
- Sling: The sling is also a long piece of fabric with two rings at one end that work as a fastener. You run the fabric through the rings and wrap the fabric over one shoulder to create a sling that holds the baby. You can adjust the tightness of the sling by adjusting the rings.
- Buckle carrier: It is also known as the soft-structured carrier. It comes with a padded waistband and shoulder straps that are usually made of polyester, while the padding is made of foam. The seat panel could be wide or narrow. This adjustable carrier allows you to carry your child in the front or on the back.
- Framed carrier: It is similar to the buckle carrier except that it features an internal metal frame to hold the carrier’s shape at all times. The carrier usually contains a pouch to hold the baby. The pouch and metal frame bear a significant part of the baby’s weight, making this carrier ideal for carrying toddlers who are heavier than babies.
There may be other types of baby carriers that are often variants of the above types of carriers. You can pick the one that best suits your babywearing requirements and preference.
Precautions For Babywearing
The safety of babywearing significantly depends on the baby carrier. The following are the various attributes of a baby carrier and other factors that parents must consider to keep babywearing safe.
The carrier should be tight enough to keep the baby secure but not so tight that it increases the risk of suffocation. If you intend to carry the baby outdoors or during activities that may involve a few rigorous moments, choose a framed carrier to keep the baby secure.
2. Hip support
According to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, while babywearing, a baby’s hips should spread sidewards with the thighs supported, and the knees bent slightly above the buttocks (3). It gives a comfortable M-shaped position to the baby’s hips and legs. This natural position provides adequate support to the thighs and hips, thus minimizing the risk of hip dysplasia or dislocation.
The institute does not recommend narrow-base baby carriers and slings for prolonged babywearing since they do not provide adequate hip support to the baby. If you intend to wear the baby for several hours, pick baby wraps or baby carriers specially designed to provide optimal hip support.
3. Visibility of face
Always ensure that you can see the baby’s face, especially their nose and mouth, at all times while babywearing. If you babywear with the little one’s face towards you, ensure their chin is not curled downwards with their nose pressed against your chest. The visibility of the baby’s face is essential to prevent suffocation.
Experts state that you must not do any activity while babywearing that you would not do while holding the baby in your arms (2). Therefore, never run, jog, cook, ride a bike, or drive while babywearing. Keep it limited to activities that are unlikely to harm a baby, such as reading a book or working on a computer.
If you intend to go outdoors while babywearing, keep it limited to walking and shopping.
5. Periodic inspection
Babywearing is safe as long as the baby carrier is rigid and strong. Inspect the baby carrier each time before babywearing. If you have a framed carrier, check its metal joints for any signs of corrosion.
When Can You Start Wearing A Baby?
You may babywear a baby right from birth. However, avoid babywearing for a prolonged duration for up to the first six months of the baby’s life. Babywearing for too long up to six months may adversely affect the baby’s hips and joints.
How To Babywear Twins?
There are different types of carriers for twins, such as a ring sling and a stretchy wrap. You can check out all the options available before making a choice.
You can also try the buckle carrier and wear one baby in the front and the other on the back. These carriers have a soft-structured design that makes them comfortable for the little ones. Nevertheless, you can try different baby carriers and babywearing combinations to see what works the best for you and your babies.
How Long Can You Wear A Baby?
There is no fixed duration for babywearing. The time spent babywearing could vary depending on the parent’s preference and the baby’s age. It is generally advisable not to wear infants for several hours to minimize strain on their joints. Older toddlers might be okay staying in a baby carrier for longer.
The International Hip Dysplasia Institute discourages using baby carriers and baby slings for prolonged babywearing since it may increase the risk of hip dislocation. You may consider baby wraps when intending to babywear for long.
How To Wear A Baby?
It depends entirely on the type of baby carrier you intend to use. Each type comes with a different method to wear the baby. You can follow the wearing instructions provided by the carrier’s brand on the package.
Alternatively, you can also get in touch with a local babywearing group or a pediatric expert to learn and understand the right way to babywear.
Are There Any Benefits Of Babywearing?
Babywearing is like a second womb for a baby since it allows them to remain close to the mother. Babywearing could provide the baby and the parent with the following benefits.
- Keeps baby comfortable: Babies feel comforted when held by a parent but holding a baby for too long can get exhausting. Babywearing helps keep your baby close while your hands are free to do other work.
- Enables comfortable traveling: Babywearing is especially helpful when traveling in crowded places as you do not have to make way to push a stroller. You can wear your baby and get from one place to another quickly.
- Promotes closeness to mother: When the mother holds her baby close, it promotes the release of the hormone named prolactin, which helps produce more breast milk (6). It also stimulates the production of oxytocin, which can help improve mother-baby bonding.
- Keeps the baby healthy: Babywearing may reduce the risk of flat head syndrome since the baby is in an upright position when compared to the laid back position in a stroller. It may also reduce colic (prolonged outbursts of crying), especially outdoors, since the baby stays close to the mother (7).
- Helps you nurse your baby easily: Babywearing provides the baby easy access to breasts, thus making breastfeeding easy. A baby carrier may also help keep breastfeeding discreet when outdoors.
- Reduces the risk of postpartum depression: According to research, skin-to-skin contact with the baby could reduce maternal postpartum depression (8). Babywearing helps increase the time spent in skin-to-skin contact with the baby, stimulating the release of maternal hormones that help the mother feel better.
- Easily wearable by anyone: Baby carriers are not just for mothers but anyone taking care of a child. Thus, fathers and grandparents could also babywear if the mother is away. It provides an opportunity for other family members to bond with the baby.
Babywearing has several benefits for the mother and the baby when done correctly. It is essential to pick the right baby carrier and consider your baby’s age before babywearing. If your baby has a physical condition, consult a pediatrician before wearing them. There is no age limit to babywearing, and older toddlers could also enjoy the babywearing experience with their parents.
2. Tote Your Baby in a Sling—Safely; University of Rochester
3. Baby Carriers & Other Equipment; International Hip Dysplasia Institute
4. Important Milestones: Your Baby By Four Months; CDC
5. Important Milestones: Your Baby By Six Months; CDC
6. Chelsea Bannach; Babywearing benefits; Pacific Medical Centers
7. Colic: What To Do; Singapore Government
8. Ann Bigelow et al., Effect of mother/infant skin-to-skin contact on postpartum depressive symptoms and maternal physiological stress; NCBI