Babywearing Science – If you are curious about wearing your baby, now is the perfect time to get educated on the topic. You see, the first week of October is a nine-day babywearing celebration, mothers from all over the world are taking the time to advocate for the use of slings, wraps, and carriers.
While anecdotal evidence about the practical benefits of wearing babies is both abundant and accessible, it can feel like a challenge to unearth studies that provide hard facts as to whether or not babywearing offers any developmental or health advantages.
As it turns out, though, there is plenty of evidence! You just need to know where to look and be prepared to go beyond the limited number of specific babywearing studies. In actual fact, there are plenty of scientific studies that measure the effects (on mothers and babies) of things like touch stimulation, close physical contact, holding infants upright, and skin-to-skin contact – all things that are naturally promoted when babywearing. Read More
If you are new to wrapping (or when you were new to wrapping), did you ever wonder why so many people love wrapping SO much?
Connection between you and your baby is absolutely the most important thing that wrapping facilitates.
Yet many parents are nervous about wraps specifically, choosing other baby carriers instead. These parents don’t become enthusiastic about woven wraps until the second, third, or fourth baby. Then, once they do get into wrapping, they rarely go back. What is it about wraps that lure babywearers away from other kinds of baby carriers? Read More
“I’m mom of a 22 month old and a 5 week old. I only wrap my 5 week old. What I love about wrapping is that i can keep my baby so close in an extremely comfortable and natural way. Not only does it keep baby close and free my hands, but it also keeps my baby feeling calm and secure and soothes him when he’s upset.” ~Jacqueline
Connie graciously allowed me to share her Facebook post to friends from earlier this month:
Why do we babywear?
For my child with cerebral palsy, babywearing allows him to engage with the world when he was a non-walking toddler; now he walks with orthotics, but tires easily, the carrier allows me to offer him rest and respite.
For my child with ASD, the snug hold of a carrier helps him to organize and calm down when he feels overwhelmed and in need of refuge.
Babywearing allows our children to be fully engaged in the world. We take them places that strollers cannot go, we show them the world that we see. My child who cannot walk without his braces can still go up a mountain, or down to the edge of the sea. My child who gets over-stimulated can still participate in our family and friends’ celebrations and be a part of the community.
One of the fears I have as a mother to special needs children is that their world will be smaller and dimmer than I’d hoped for them. Babywearing helps me to combat that, to write a different future for them, in a world where they know, from the beginning, that they belong.
Mandy is a pediatric nurse. She doesn’t work in NICU so hadn’t had experience before with a baby going through withdrawal, but as a babywearing mother, when she found herself responsible for a distraught baby, she knew what she could offer him for comfort! When she shared this in our local babywearing group, I felt fit to burst with emotion: compassion for the baby and mother and also a deep gratitude for the ability to comfort babies with the simplicity of human touch; for the good fortune to know how important this is for babies; and for Mandy to be working when this little one needed that. Mandy reported that the other nurses were continuing to wear the baby so that he was not left adrift when she went home.
In Mandy’s own words, “I’m a pediatric nurse and had a baby going through withdrawal. I made a makeshift sling out of some baby blankets and “wore” him as much as I could. It was the only thing that consistently calmed him down! Wear ALL the babies, even the ones who aren’t our own!”
Do you know that there are NO benefits to babywearing? It’s the biological norm and being carried and kept close is the minimum babies expect at birth. When we use language like “benefits”, we establish babywearing as a nice extra (like a university fund or tennis lessons) instead of the normal behaviour that carrying is. Change our language, change the world!
How can you say there are no benefits to babywearing?
Wrapping moms know that life can carry on (pun intended) with baby in tow and that the experiences had in a wrap enrich baby’s physical and cognitive growth far more than sitting on the sidelines.
Wrapping your baby is a great way to keep both mother and baby in fine physical fettle and any gentle activity will be comfortable and soothing to your wrapped baby. Bonus points for a fun activity that gives mom an opportunity to build community and engage with grown-up friends!
Ballet Instructor describing how the mothers in the babywearing ballet class should point their feet as they arabesque across the room.
Folding chair were used when the standing bars were all filled up.
You can use any safe and ergonomic carrier for a babywearing dance or fitness class, although wraps are the most flexible both in terms of lack-of-structure and ability to customize the carry to compliment your activity and body preferences!
Babies are soothed by being wrapped against you during the motion of your day, so why not do something fun and artistic as well as active while your baby snoozes?
Mothers and babies practicing ballet walks across the room. Wrapsody Breeze wraps are light and cool, perfect for active families with babies.
Baby watches the class from mama's back in a Double Hammock Carry as she demonstrates a Second Arabesque.
A snug wrap job in Wrapsody Breeze Ada keeps baby secure while practicing curtseys.
Most of the wraps used in this class were Wrapsody Breeze wraps which are so light and thin that they are much appreciated here in Florida, and also lend themselves expertly to work out activities.
Most of the mothers have their babies wrapped in either a Double Hammock Back Carry or a Front Wrap Cross Carry variation. Any secure carry will work. A back carry is most convenient for bending and raising legs but front carries should be used by anyone not already a competent back wrapper and it is easy for a babyweaing instructor to adjust the class to fit the needs of the moms. A knowledgeable instructor will keep the motions of the class gentle and smooth, and advise mothers not to overreach while doing the double workout of ballet and babywearing.
Back carries wrapped a little lower rather than super-high on mom’s back may be more convenient for an activity such as this and keep you better balanced.
The best wrapping times involve baby in family traditions while freeing up enough of mama’s attention for the other children to get full mileage out of all the holiday fun!
So without further ado . . .
Don’t get over-ambitious; make the dough in advance, cut and bake the cookies with kids one day and wait until the next day for cookie decorating.
Don’t stress fitting as many cookies as possible on one piece of rolled out dough – let them stick them anywhere and be willing to roll it out new more often!
Use squeeze bottles so even very young kids can work them.
Put sprinkles in bowls with spoons to keep sticky fingers out (as much as possible).
Give each child a plate with a rim to decorate on to catch excess sprinkles. It will keep your floor from getting quite as messy, and give you more sprinkles you can use for cookies.
Don’t try to control the creative process. Young children might paint the Christmas Tree cookie red instead of green but trying to control how they decorate will take the fun out of it for everyone. Do, however, feel free to demonstrate the art of “less is more” as often kids can understand and follow that while still making their own decorating decisions.
Let everyone sample the cookies!
When you’re done with the project, but the cookies out of sight and out of reach, have a bathroom or wet rags ready to wash everyone’s hands thoroughly and have a next activity ready to engage them and keep them out of the kitchen while you clean up!
Remember this is about fun with your kids - not efficiency!
Picking which cookie to decorate is part of the fun!
If you make your own frosting, you can get squeeze bottles at arts and craft stores in the cake decorating aisle or tie-dye section.
Definitely re-use the excess sprinkles or you'll go through your sprinkles in no time!
Plan to let them have one right away!
Of course it is better to give than to receive so encourage generosity, too!
If you carry your baby frequently in a comfortable baby carrier, won’t she get spoiled and want to be held all the time?
Well, some babies come already wired to scream whenever they’re put down and it doesn’t take spoiling to make them that way.
Some babies are generally pretty chill. They dig being carried, and the are perfectly content to sit in swings or bouncers, too.
A better question to ask is:
Is it important to let babies get used to not being held?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: this question is born from the idea that babies’ demands are different from their needs. But the fact is that at this tender age, babies are instinctive creatures. They aren’t calculating, they are responding to their needs in the way that evolution taught them to get our attention and make those needs known.
To us. The mother or father. The person who is mature enough to understand needs and capable enough to know how to satisfy them in an appropriate manner.
Because, face it, babies are helpless:
If you’re hungry, you go get a snack. A baby can’t.
If you’re too hot, you take off some clothes or turn on a fan. A baby can’t.
If your nose itches, you scratch it. A baby can’t.
If you are lonely, you call up a friend or walk into the other room to be with family. A baby can’t.
A baby is completely dependent.
It’s given the ability to cry – a noise designed to agitate us – as it’s only way to get it’s needs met.
So if you shift to thinking of a baby’s cry as a communication of a very valid need, you can start to figure out what is needed. And you will find that much of the time, simply picking up your baby satisfies the need. He or she wants to be held. Babies are designed to be held a lot for optimum development, and they’re designed to be uncomfortable when they’re not being held. That’s why babies who are held cry less. In 1986, the Journal of Pediatrics published a study in which researchers found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during evening hours.
Of course, all babies are different. Follow your baby’s lead. Evolution (and Scientific studies) may give us the generalities of what babies need, but the specifics are definitely dictated on a unique one on one basis. If you have a happy and healthy baby, I would argue that you are doing the right thing.
And you know what? Babies grow up and learn independence when it’s developmentally appropriate, just as they learn to walk and talk and eat food without being taught. Respect the process. Respect your baby. He is developing and he will not be a baby forever.
Remember, there is no way for a baby–who is not mobile, cannot work doorknobs or handles or buttons on a thermostat–to be independent. “Teaching” him not to communicate his needs, that nobody is there to respond to his needs, is not a necessary part of healthy development.
“Don’t stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby. Go to your baby a million times. Demonstrate that people can be trusted, that the environment can be trusted, that we live in a benign universe.” ~Peggy O’Mara
So, will your baby want to be held all the time if he or she gets used to being carried? Maybe. Maybe you’ll get spoiled too, by the convenience, the content and quiet baby, and the constant cuddles. Congratulations–you have a baby! It’s temporary, it’s exhausting, and it’s magical. There are worse problems.
Babywearing out of guilt or obligation?
I don’t want you to do that. I really don’t. I think the best thing you can give your baby is a happy, healthy parent. You should use a baby carrier because it makes life easier and happier for all of you. If it doesn’t, chances are that another parent who is experienced with the same carrier can help you learn easy tweaks for making it more comfortable, or more convenient to use. Look for a local babywearing group, or ask local midwives or visit a La Leche League meeting to find someone who may be able to help. If there is no local help, you can avail yourself of free online resources like www.thebabywearer.com and you can always ask for help or guidance on www.facebook.com/wrapyourbaby
Before you were conceived, I carried a part of you in my soul. When I met your father, I looked into his eyes and saw the other part of you, and knew you, and prayed that you would come to be.
Before you were born, I carried you in my womb. When you were restless I sang to you and soothed you and told you how I loved you.
When you were born, I carried you in my arms. I kissed you and held you and put you to my breast, so that you would know that there is light and warmth and goodness in the world.
Later, I wrapped you in cloth and carried you close to my heart. I held you close so that you could hear that my heart beats like yours; that we are the same, you and I, and that you would never have to cry alone.
After a while, I carried you on my back, so that you could look at the world with confidence and joy and know that you belonged; so that you could share all of the beauty of the world as an equal to all that live in it.
Now, later still, I carry you when you are tired or fearful. So that you know that no matter how weary you become, or what life holds, you can always depend on others for support and comfort.
When you grow older, my darling, and your adventures take you further from my arms, know that even in my last hour I will carry you. I will carry you in my heart, for you are always with me.
Wrapsody Breeze wraps are thin and breathable so they make excellent wraps for active families with babies. That’s why, to celebrate Wrapsody’s 10th anniversary, Wrap Your Baby hosted a babywearing yoga class at a local yoga studio and also a babywearing ballet class (more about that in a blog post coming soon).
Some yoga moms find a time when they can do yoga by themselves or without their baby.
Some moms just don’t get a chance to do yoga for several years until their babies have grown up (if ever).
This third option is for moms (or dads!) who want to include their babies or toddlers, or those who don’t get a chance to do yoga without their child, or for the not insignificant number of parents who love finding new activities to engage in with their wrapped up baby – bonus if you can do it with other wrapping friends!
You can do yoga at home, of course. Wrapping up your baby for yoga engages both of you and is less likely to result in your baby interrupting your brief yoga session. She is not bored, or lonely, or needy because she is wrapped on you in this activity.
Chances are good that if you have a mobile baby, that baby will want to get down at some point. After having been wrapped up, your baby is likely to give you a chance to do a little more yoga while entertaining his or her self. During a babywearing class, toddlers are likely to spend some time wrapped up and some time out of the wrap moving among the yoga moms and bringing a little extra charm to the activity. Appreciate it.
There are many yoga poses that are gentle on you and your wrapped up baby. Regardless of who is teaching the class, pay attention to your own body and your own baby and make sure you know how to use your wrap well so that the carry remains comfortable and safe while you go through your yoga poses. I especially love how the baby in the orange wrap is doing the pose, too!
Be present and aware of what will work for you and your baby without discomfort and fear and don’t do anything that you are not both happy with. Take your baby’s age and development into account.
Don’t forget your baby is involved with the yoga with you. Make sure you are tuned into each other and are both enjoying the activity. Go at a pace you both enjoy. Do it wrapped up, or sitting on the floor together, or alternating with a little of each.
Don’t forget to stay tuned into your baby’s needs whether it’s a fresh diaper (never do yoga with dirty pants) or a nursing break!
Any babywearing group meeting – including this babywearing yoga class – is a great place to make friends!
In this picture, her toddler has come out of the wrap while she continues to teach the class. She is using a Front Cross Carry which is an easy carry for a baby or toddler to come in or out of while the wrap remains tied around the parent ready for the next “uppie!”
Three months postpartum with my first child, I realized I could not even touch my toes anymore. I had always prided myself on this ability – and I could touch my toes right up till the last month of my pregnancy. So what was up? If this was the post-pregnancy “shape” everyone else was complaining about, I suddenly understood.
Even if the breastfeeding / lack of sleep / lack of time to eat combo ends up all rolling in your favor weight wise, the numbers are probably deceiving. Just try touching your toes. Even if it’s doable, it just doesn’t feel the same.
Sure, you can get a sitter or hope your partner’s hours mesh so you can take an hour or so to hit the gym or yoga class or train for that half marathon you’d always said you’d do. But let’s pretend (ahem) for a moment that I was too busy, too tired, way too unmotivated to do that. It’s not that I didn’t favor a few moments to bettering myself… its just that they came at the expense of time and effort spent pumping breast milk from already overworked breasts, the emotional toll of walking out the door on a schedule when one or both of us didn’t really want that to happen, the need to squeeze in a shower just so I could go work out because, well… newborns.
Let me just spill a little secret here: it’s not magically easier when they’re older. At some point, I bought a pair of good running shoes, and left the house at odd hours to run training runs for that promised half marathon. I did so well with this plan that by the time I was at the starting line for the race, I’d run just over 8 miles total and eaten half of my energy gels as emergency nursing snacks. I ran those 13.1 miles anyway. It was thrilling. And it sucked.
My mom friends gave me that look and told me about joining the gym. Maybe I wanted to drop my kids off with theirs and come sit on some plastic machines in a big room and get it done.
But I’d figured something out between those late night practice runs and that 13.1 mile race to prove I could: I didn’t need to prove anything. And I didn’t need to get any old me back. I just wanted to be strong enough to do what I needed to do, day in and day out, and healthy enough to outrun my kids. I wanted my energy back, not my waist. Well, maybe my waist a tiny bit.
By the time kid two came around, I had less to prove. I already had that half marathon under my belt, and I knew, if that’s what I really wanted to do, I could do it. So instead, our very first week together, I grabbed my woven wrap, wrapped my baby gently, took my toddler’s hand, and headed out the front door.
The amount of time we spent exploring the outdoors, taking short walks, sitting on swings, chatting with elderly neighbors – there’s no way I would have spent that time in any sort of exercise program. But I carried her. Sometimes, once my body was ready, I carried them both. With help from experienced babywearers my wrap no longer looked daunting, and my carries supported my body as well as my child’s.
With my oldest I’d tried to use a stretchy infant-only wrap for way too long, and my shoulders and back and neck felt the pain. I’d promised myself different this time. And so I fell in love with the perfect fit and support of the woven wrap. Nestled close and supported perfectly, my newest became an easy addition to our life.
Comfortable together, we went about life. We danced, we swung, we skipped. We explored new places, baby content on my front, and later my back. Sometimes those were quiet places, like the library or museums. There, she could nurse and sleep, calmed by my rhythm. Sometimes we found ourselves in loud places: street fairs, markets, festivals, playdates. There too, I wore her and she felt safe. When the sun was out, we soaked up the rays, my tiny one protected in her woven wrap and floppy hat and sunglasses.
The benefits of being in nature, of time in the sun, are immense. So are the benefits of skin to skin time. For both baby and parent! The more I wore my baby out and about, the better I felt. I felt healthy – my immune system strengthened, my emotions steady and sure. I felt calm, and my kids were calm.
And when I found myself, at three months postpartum, copying my toddler’s silly dance, I didn’t even notice that I was touching my toes. My body moved easily, strong and healthy from daily wrapping my baby, daily supporting an ever growing and increasing weight. The thought crossed my mind then, another marathon? A challenge of some sort? A gym membership?
But I wrapped my baby on my back, chased my toddler around a field of flowers, lifted her high in the air and spun her around. Later, as we walked along, with my baby on my front, nursing peacefully, my daughter reached for my hand.
“I’m tired, Momma,” she said. I nodded. “Am I too big for you to carry?”
“Not too big,” I said, “I am a very strong momma.”
I lifted her easily, my arms used to the weight, high onto my shoulders. I kissed my baby’s head, held tight to my daughters hands, and headed home.
Jessica Schaefer is an adventure lover and world traveler turned parent. Her family run store and blog melds free play, family time, and support for parenting past the baby stage. If you haven’t met them, you need to hop on over and look around!
I celebrated my birthday this week, and it seemed appropriate to address birth–as related to wraps, of course–in a blog post. Woven wraps have been used in many ways by many cultures, and in addition to babywearing, a woven wrap can be used to help a pregnant or laboring woman in several ways.
Pulling downward on a rope or strong cloth is an age old labor aid. It assists a pregnant woman in holding a supported squat position in which gravity contributes to the downward thrust of the labor. The upright squat position is ideal for helping a baby to become positioned for the easiest birth, and in this way can accelerate the progress and contribute to the ease of the birth. Pulling on your wrap for labor can be your lifeline and help support you and can also help you feel your strength.
A similar practice is to play tug-o-war with the laboring woman with a wrap, or towel, or a pillowcase with knots tied in the end to help hold on. A birth attendant might pull on one end and the laboring woman pulls on the other during contractions. Or a cloth could be looped around a bedpost so that the laboring woman pulls on both ends, and a second person is not needed to assist her. In the picture below of a pioneer birth, the laboring woman is pulling on the arms of her birth attendants, and even modern midwives will sometimes bring a towel or cloth and encourage the pregnant mom to “play tug-o-war” for the same benefits: for pain relief and to give leverage while pushing.
Hanging a rope or cloth over a tree branch outside was traditional, but we don’t all have a place to do this during birth (or a clear sky, either). If you do not have a safe, strong way to hang your wrap from the ceiling, you might knot the end of the wrap and close it in the closet door with the knot on the inside and the wrap hanging over the top of the door so that you can pull outward and downward from the top of the door (pictured below).
Another way that a wrap can assist a woman in labor is when used to squeeze the hips to open up the pelvis, which can help the baby to become more ideally positioned, and also provides relief from back pain:
A wrap can provide a vital service in lifting the belly in order to assist the baby in descending during labor: Sometimes, as in my friend Nancy’s labor, the pregnant belly sticks way forward of the mommy like a torpedo, and the baby–instead of pushing downward in a direction that will cause labor to proceed and the cervix to open–will push forward and backwards (so that the mother feels the pushing in her back and at her navel) or will have no real directional push going at all because she is almost sitting on the mother’s lap, way out in that extended belly. This can cause labor to stall or to go very long without progress, exhausting the mother of strength that she will need for the birth. What to do? Lift the mother’s belly, so that the baby starts to move into place and exert a downward force towards the cervix. You can stand in front of mommy, holding her belly, or try to reach from behind with your arms around her. Or you can put the wrap under mommy’s belly and pull upward on that. You can even hold the belly in the desired position by tying the wrap ends together around the mother’s neck or shoulders, or some midwives and doulas may tie the wrap in place around the mother’s waist once the baby is in the desired position, to keep the belly, and baby from sinking back downwards in front of the mother. This article explains using a lift to help position baby and accelerate labor. Anything that helps baby into position ought to accelerate labor as it is that position that causes progress.
A wrap (traditionally a rebozo, or short wrap) can also be used to sift or jiggle the pregnant belly, loosening and relaxing muscles in the third trimester and during labor as demonstrated here:
Wraps can also assist the pregnant woman in pregnancy to provide comfort before the birth-day. This illustration shows one way that the wrap can be used to support the pregnant belly similarly to how I descried it above, but in this case, the support is to give the mom-to-be support in her third trimester, to easy the pains and weight of her now large belly, and could be especially advantageous to mothers of twins with twin sized bellies!
Here is another way to do it:
And Post Partum? A woven wrap is most often used to carry the baby, of course, but it has other uses, too. Many moms feel that wrapping the belly AFTER baby is born can be very beneficial to helping the post-partum body to most quickly regain full health and the closest pre-pregnancy appearance. Many products have become available to achieve this, but a woven wrap or rebozo remains a simple and effective option that prevents the family from having to accumulate another pregnancy/birth expense.
You can use any supportive piece of cloth for this, either under your clothes or over them. Wrap the fabric tightly around your abdomen. It should reach from your hips up to cover your entire belly. It should be wrapped tightly enough that you feel the support, but not so tight that it is painful or that it needs to be adjusted when you sit. Advantages have been reported when a woman wears the bind for the first 4-6 weeks of her baby’s life, but you can do it for as long (or short) as you like. I know that several women have used this after cesareans and been very happy with their healing, but I would not want to presume to give medical advice and would suggest that a post-cesarean mama research for herself and check with a birth professional.
“The Malay Way, in particular, focuses on the health of the woman’s reproductive organs. The Malay Way will heal the wounds of childbirth, reposition the uterus and restore the tightness of the vagina muscles. To achieve this, a special corset known as a ‘barut’ is used throughout the 6 weeks. This ancient practice, until now almost unknown outside of Malaysia, is the key secret in ensuring a firm flat stomach, clean and devoid of stretch marks, even after undergoing several births. Furthermore it helps to correctly re-position the uterus.”
A Babywearing Christmas just makes sense – how else are you going to be able to do all the fun things that make the holidays so great? How else is baby going to get to be involved in so many fun things? If you want to go all out of Christmas traditions or holiday traditions, a babywearing christmas is your answer!
Meeting Santa: If your baby or toddler is intimidated by Santa this year, maybe you’ll consider introducing Santa to your little one from the safety of the wrap. The wrap will assure your baby that the whiskered man can’t get him, and Santa, being a gentleman, will probably be quite willing to stand and speak with the two of you.
Christmas Shopping: Shopping is a breeze with baby in a wrap. Keeping baby close eliminates the frustration of keeping track of the little bugger (or keeping him from destroying the wares), and also keeps babies more content for longer–meaning fewer meltdowns from too much shopping. If you’re lucky, the sound of your heart and the rocking of your steps will lull him to sleep in time to sneak a few presents from him into your basket.
Christmas Cookies and other Christmas Crafts: If your baby has older siblings, you may find yourself making Christmas cookies. The easiest way to do this with a little baby is to keep them wrapped up and out of trouble! This also makes more of your attention available for big brother and sister. Get more tips for making Christmas cookies with kids here!
Picking out a Christmas Tree: I can’t tell you how much easier it is to pick out a Christmas tree with baby wrapped up!
Decorating the Christmas Tree: Perfect for decorating the tree, too–keep baby out of the breakables and away from the Christmas lights (why is it so hard to find lights that don’t contain lead?!) but still in the middle of all the action.
Play in the Snow: Wrapped up may be the only way you’re going to get out in the snow for a walk to enjoy the crystal encrusted beauty; to play with kids; or get around your neighborhood!
How will wearing your baby affect the little guy’s (or girl’s) relationship with older siblings?
Wearing your baby is likely to minimize sibling rivalry because it makes you, the mommy (or daddy), more available for your toddler or older child. You can still tie shoes, turn the pages of books. prepare snacks, and life kiddo onto the potty seat.
A wrap helps you to better see to everyone’s needs: baby’s needs to be close, older brother or sister’s needs for help and attention. And it will make your life easier, which means you will be less likely to snap, cry, or otherwise turn into an emotional mess in front of your kids.
It will also help you keep your kids safe: wrap up baby and hold brother’s hand in the parking lot, at the zoo, or while balancing at the playground.
What’s more, cozy in the baby wrap is a safe place for baby to stay while big brother or sister is getting to know how to interact. The less you warn your older child to “be careful” and the less you deny him access to his baby sibling, the more loving he will be towards “his baby.” By keeping baby in a wrap, you minimize the amount of danger he is in from an over-exuberant sibling, and you can take him out at times when you are prepared for close supervision and sibling hugs.