Wearing your baby is something that today’s hip mamas have in common with yesterdays mamas from all over the world. And besides being good for the environment to wear your baby (saving resources by avoiding those big, fancy strollers and making it easier to use public transit, walk, and be outside), baby-wearing is also good for the baby. Dr. Sears, the physician behind Attachment Parenting, considers it one of the primary principles behind having a healthy parent-child attachment.
I started wearing my baby because of something I read by a pediatric anthropologist, Meredith Small, in her book Our Babies, Ourselves. She referred to a study where one group of parents were asked to carry their babies (from birth) three hours more than usual and the other group carried their babies the normal amount. After 12 weeks, the two groups had only 1.7 hours a day of carrying difference, but the group of babies that were carried more cried 43% less in duration than the other group.
Dr. Sears routinely recommends that parents wear their babies both as a prophylactic against a fussy baby and as a way of calming a fussy baby. Although, in the book I mentioned above, they cite a study that showed that if you start wearing your baby later once they are already labeled as “colicky” it didn’t have the same effect on reducing crying time as when the babies were worn more from birth.
As a green mama I think baby wearing is an obvious. If you are wearing your baby it is easier to take public transit, to walk, to be outside and to attend to your baby. Wearing my baby also feels natural, it is something mother’s across cultures, economics (and even species) do.
To learn more about baby wearing you can attend the 2nd International Baby Wearing Conference, “Carrying the Future,” which is conveniently in Chicago this year from June 25th to 28th.
If you can’t make the conference though, there are other ways to learn about baby wearing. Be By Baby has an extensive selection and regular classes on how to use different types of baby carriers. As well, just about any baby store worth its salt will have at least a Baby Bjorn or other similar carrier to try out. But, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a new baby carrier or sling, don’t worry, you can make one yourself and it can be as simple as having a piece of cloth that is three yards long (no sewing required).
If you decide to splurge and buy a couple of baby carriers, my recommendations are for the following three carrier types:
1) A wrap. This is basically a long, long piece of fabric that you tie around you that holds the baby close. A wrap allows a small baby to stay safe and cuddly against you while you do other things, like type this blog on the computer. Many people use their wraps for toddler’s and older children too. Pros: They allow you maximum flexibility and can hold a baby on the front, back or side. Cons: The wrap can take a few tries to learn how to use and many are happy to give them up for a soft structured carrier once the baby gets heavy.
2.) A soft structured carrier. Once the baby starts to get heavier, a soft-structured carrier is really quite nice. Popular choices include the Baby Bjorn, the Snuggli, and the Ergo. I’ve tried all of these and more. Hands-down, my favorite is the Ergo. It is the only one that is still comfortable for me now that baby is close to 30 pounds. The Ergo allows the baby to be worn on your front, back, or side and can even be used for a newborn with a special insert. Pros: These give you more support, are easy to use, and a good carrier, like the Ergo, can be used in all positions and for every phase of the child’s young life. Cons: These tend to be more expensive and slightly more weight than either a wrap or a sling.
3) A sling. Slings are one of the easiest carriers and are usually composed of a tubular piece of fabric. You can put a little baby in this in more of a lying position or hold your toddler on your hip hands-free with a sling. Pros: The sling can easily fit into your purse, you can make them yourself, and you can use it in some way for all your baby’s life. Cons: The sling isn’t as comfortable as a structured carrier as all of the weight is on one shoulder.
Give baby-wearing a try! Grandmas, Dads, Uncles, Aunts, babysitters, everyone can wear a baby.