The gorgeous Tammy shares her experience of exclusively babywearing from birth with her second child. Lots of great tips and mythbusting here. You can find Tammy at Babies on Sea where she can support you with your own babywearing journey. She also runs this gorgeous biz, Little Mia, for all your amber needs.
My first baby was carried in slings, but also spent some time in a pram/pushchair. Fast forward to baby number two and I knew before he was born that slings would be lifesaving alongside a not-quite-two-year-old sibling who still used the pushchair. Nevertheless, I bought all the gadgets to convert our pushchair to a double ‘just in case’. We tested out the double set up twice for about ten minutes! Pushing a double buggy, even one as compact as an icandy, is a complete faff! It’s heavy, there’s nowhere to put two little people’s worth of baggage, let alone any shopping, and it’s a sad place for baby to be – in a pram underneath the pushchair, not close enough to be seen, let alone see (given a newborn’s ability to barely see beyond its nose!)Introducing babywearing – the act of wearing your baby, by sling, stretchy, woven wrap, baby carrier, shawl…the possibilities, if safely executed, are endless.
Why babywearing is great…
It’s natural. Babies are not designed to be laid down. They are designed to go from womb to upright on mother’s chest. To bond skin to skin and to establish a breastfeeding relationship. The upright position can help relieve reflux, colic, trapped wind. A baby in its natural curled up position fits perfectly on your chest, proof that that is the way nature intended. (Read up on ‘fourth trimester’). This closeness and skin to skin is especially important if your baby is premature, known as ‘kangaroo care’.
You can respond to baby’s cues quicker. Being so close, you pick up on the small subtle hunger cues, meaning you can feed baby before they cry (crying is the final cue a baby will give you that they are hungry). Responding quickly to cues means a more content baby and less stress for mummy!
You can do things that are not possible with a pram/pushchair. You can do stairs, escalators, whizz through crowds, trek across fields and through the woods!
Other children can be attended to more easily. My now 2.5 year old likes to walk, likes to run and likes to drag out her scooter. I can more easily meet her needs when I wear (my now 7 month old) baby. I once managed to hands-free-feed baby in a Connecta (a buckled carrier) while holding the toddler over the toilet at a local playgroup – that was a big #mumwin
Baby joins in. Being up high and in line with other faces, rather than in a pushchair in line with knees and tables, increases learning about the world and improves social interaction.
Let’s not forget that babywearing also allows other family members to bond with baby. While baby number one was a daddy’s girl and settled easily for him, baby number two is a mummy’s boy and so the sling helps him to relax onto daddy for some bonding time.
Of course this doesn’t mean that you should never use a pram! While exclusively wearing baby number two works for us, of course there are times and places that prams work better. Shopping for mum clothes is a good example – it’s pretty tricky to try clothes on while babywearing!
Common questions and misconceptions about Babywearing:
‘Will it make my baby clingy?’
Absolutely not. Some babies are just more needy than others. When they feel safe and confident enough, they will venture from your side. Babywearing will give your baby that safety and help develop confidence.
‘But if you carry your baby all the time, they will never learn to crawl/walk!’
Actually Babywearing helps to strengthen baby’s core, in a similar way to tummy time (though must not be used as a substitute for tummy time). This core strength plus spine development is what is needed for baby to learn skills such as crawling, standing and walking. I’ve worn both of my babies and they have both been early movers!
‘Doesn’t it hurt your back? / I had a carrier and it really hurt my back / baby got too heavy’
If it hurts your back, you’re either doing it wrong or you have the wrong carrier for you. Heavy babies can be carried. I have friends who carry 4 year olds and know of people who carry even beyond then (I’m not saying everyone should carry their babies from birth to school age but Babywearing can be extremely beneficial for high needs children, helping out with epilepsy or situations causing high sensory overload).
How do I start?
Your very best bet is to find a local sling library or consultant to find out all the options for you and your baby. This way you can try a few options and be shown how to use them safely and comfortably.