Early in April, I attended a course with the Center for Babywearing Studies, the first step in becoming a Certified Babywearing Consultant. It was a thought provoking and wonderful experience that was led by this organization’s President and Founder, Joanna McNeilly. Coming from New York, Joanna shared her experiences working with family from diverse backgrounds, family composition, and income levels- each with the same goal of providing education about how caregivers can provide affordable, practical, ergonomic, and nurturing ways to care for their children.
It was an amazing weekend, not only full of hands on practice in teaching methodology, but also of discussions about why babywearing is both natural and a key part of parenting today.
These are my top 5 take-always from the weekend:
1) Babywearing is Natural
Throughout all of human history, caregivers, whether mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts or uncles, have carried babies until they are old enough to walk. And then after that, they are carried when they become to tired to continue on their own. Humans are “parent huggers” and biologically expect to be carried in the beginning.
And our innate desire to hold and carry babies is universal. It is only very recently in our history that society has developed tools to separate baby from caregiver, such as strollers, bouncy seats, and swings. Of course, these are essential items for some families and in some situations, but it is common that small babies are only happy in these devices for short periods of time.
2) Babywearing can make Parenting Easier
We live in a society that places great demands on us. And we often find ourselves geographically separated from our own parents and siblings and other natural support systems. So, when we have our own children, we need to find a way to answer to outside demands while simultaneously providing the safe haven to our children.
Babywearing can provide an answer to this dilemma to many parents. Hands-free, they can now take older children to school, manage household duties, go grocery shopping, do laundry, follow up with work emails and work demands, navigate the small spaces in many shops, and many more key tasks in our lives.
In addition, it increases parent-child attachment, allows different caregivers to provide a safe space, and often can calm a child when nothing else does. At least it has in my own personal experience with my 2 children!
3) Babywearing can prevent injury
In my practice, I see parents who have injured themselves by carrying children in their arms without the assistance of an appropriate carrier. Wrists, elbows, and shoulders are particularly vulnerable to repetitive strain injuries. Fifteen pounds is not much for 5 minutes, but it can be significantly straining after 25 minutes or while also balancing other weights.
In addition, the balance and postural adaptations required by the body can also lead to chronic low back and neck injuries. Having the child safely carried in an ergonomic manner that suits both parent and child can significantly reduce the risk of these types of musculoskeletal injuries.
4) Babywearing helps babies develop
Newborns are not able to self regulate their own temperature, breathing or heart rates. Keeping newborns close, even skin to skin if possible, helps them develop self regulation in these physiological processes. This is the basis of the “kangaroo care” that is commonly used in NICUs and with high needs babies. It also decreases stress hormones in both the parent (or other wearer) and child, and increases the “happy” hormones that are essential for both attachment bonding and breastfeeding.
5) Babywearing is Fun!
When I babywear, I have so many amazing interactions with both my own children and with people in the community. “That is the cutest thing I’ve seen all day” is a common comment I hear when I am grocery shopping, as a little head pops over my shoulder. I’ve connected with an amazing community both online and in person while learning about the world of wraps and carriers. The support I have personally found, both in babywearing techniques, and also in parenting in general has been priceless. And we have so much fun when we can carry children in a comfortable way! We are no longer dependent on stroller or car friendly destinations. Family hikes in Quarry Rock or Lynn Canyon or Hollyburn (even in winter) are possible and fun! Shopping at Granville Island is easy. And the children are able to safely experience the world without being overwhelmed, snuggled in close to the people they love.
I am now offering 15 minute by-donation consultations to families on baby-wearing. Donations will go to the United Way’s Healthy Start Program. Consultations are available to book online to receive a demonstration and discussion of ergonomic baby-wearing techniques.