I recently ordered my first baby carrier – a ring sling – and I am super excited! Before I get my ring sling and share the details on that with you, I thought I should give you an introduction to babywearing. I first heard of babywearing from Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book and since then have found a lot of information on it and a large babywearing community (at least online…). So, what is babywearing? According to the Babywearing International website, “’[b]abywearing’ simply means holding or carrying a baby or young child using a cloth baby carrier. Holding babies is natural and universal; baby carriers make it easier and more comfortable, allowing parents and caregivers to hold or carry their children while attending to the daily tasks of living.” In many traditional cultures, women routinely wear their babies when they go back to work after the postpartum period.
Benefits of wearing your baby include:
- Carried babies cry less (up to 43 percent less overall and 54 percent during evening hours).
- The stimulation of being carried help baby regulate his or her own physical responses. It is especially helpful for premature babies and babies with special needs who gain weight faster and are healthier if touched and held.
- Carrying allows parents to become finely attuned to baby’s movements, gestures, and facial expressions. Being able to react quickly and accurately to baby’s cues increases baby’s trust in his or her parents, enhance his or her learning and build parents’ confidence.
- Babywearing is a great way for Dad (or other caregivers) and baby to bond.
There are many different kinds of carriers. Each babywearing parent/caregiver has his or her own favorites, and often parents have more than one kind for different ages and activities. (Plus, they come in many pretty colors and prints, so it is easy to want more…) Here is a rundown of the common kinds of carriers.
A simple strip of cloth that can be used to wrap around one shoulder as a sling, or used to distribute baby’s weight evenly over two shoulders and the torso and hips. They come in a variety of fabrics, but natural fabrics are preferable. The stretchy fabrics (like the Moby Wrap) are more popular for newborns and less stretchy woven wraps are more popular for larger babies and toddlers. These seem to be a favorite among veteran babywearers for babies of all ages.
A ring sling is akin to a shawl with a pair of rings attached to one end. The rings are used to fasten the sling on the shoulder. They are great for both newborns and toddlers as they allow the babywearer to take baby in and out easier and faster than most other carriers. They are also recommended for nursing while babywearing.
Soft Structured Carriers
Soft structured carriers have a body panel and shoulder and waist straps attached with buckles. Unlike framed backpacks, they hold the baby securely against the wearer’s body, and are suitable from birth through toddler-hood (with different holds). These seem to be particularly popular among Dads. The issue with soft structured carriers is that there are many good brands, but many of the less expensive brands are referred to as “crotch danglers” and are bad for baby’s posture, basically hanging them from the crotch instead of having them seated evenly on their pelvis with their legs appropriately supported. The popular brands Baby Bjorn and Snugli are guilty of this.
Mei Tais are a modern take on a traditional Chinese baby carrier. They are similar to soft structured carrier, except that the straps tie together instead of having buckles.
The following sites are wonderful for more information on babywearing: