Saturday, October 03, 2009

Why do I...

... wear my babies? Why do I carry them in slings instead of car seat buckets, strollers, and shopping carts?

The short answer - because I hated carrying that heavy bucket seat! How do people just carry it with the handle over their forearms like that, anyway?

This one is pretty easy to explain... I do it for the closeness. This benefits both the baby and the parent. Especially with babies under age one, this helps them to be present with what you are doing and content - you can move about your household tasks while the baby comfortably observes, naps, and nurses. Most young babies like the rhythmic motion and the swaddled feeling that a sling provides. Some prefer to be upright, others like to lay down - especially when nursing in the sling.

I have found that the sling replaces the need for all the other gadgets: baby swing, exersaucer, playpen, stroller, bassinette (because they end up napping in the sling so much), bouncy seat (although that one did come in handy when I had to set the baby down, like to take a shower!)... all I needed was the sling. Once my babies were older, 6-9 months, they enjoyed the Ergo back carrier, which allowed me to work around th house even though they were somewhat bigger and could get in the way on the front. Riding on my hip in the sling also worked well by about 7 or 8 months, as long as they didn't grab what i was working with out of my hands!

Babies want to be in close physical contact with their mothers... they lived inside our bodies for so many months, and that is what they know. So they crave this on the outside as well, especially in that first year before they really become mobile and want to explore their surroundings more. They like the rhythm, the warmth, and the closeness to their mother's heartbeat. They have such immature systems in the early months - the closeness and movement helps them to be better "organized," as Dr. Bill Sears puts it. Sling babies tend to cry less and be able to devote their energy to growing and learning as they observe the world around them.

I wrote a post before on how attachment parenting does not have to mean child-centered parenting. I think wearing the baby goes along with this too... a baby who is spending lots of time daily in the sling is not the center of attention... he is just "along for the ride," having his needs attended to while the mother also goes about meeting the needs of the rest of the family. Baby is not moved from one baby-entertaining-device to another in efforts to keep him content... he is "entertained" in a way that is pretty mindless for the adult wearing him... reminds me of Jean Leidloff's "benign neglect" concept.

babywearing can go along with skin-to-skin contact as well... a wrap-style carrier can be especially good for this. "Kangaroo Care" allows the baby to be skin-to-skin on the mother's chest, which can be especially helpful for premature babies to regulate their breathing and help them sleep better and grow better. With a wrap, the mother can also move around and give the baby the familiar sensation of movement. I have been reading more on how Kangaroo Care is beneficial to all newborns and wish I had realized this sooner... it would have helped me in those first nights in the hospital with my babies! All babies, premature or not, come into the world with immature systems. The reason that SIDS occurs in babies is due to their immature respiratory systems. The closeness is beneficial to all babies, whether they were born prematurely or as full-term ten pounders and anything in between.

There was a study done recently regarding stress on babies and away-facing strollers. The baby who is turned away from his caregiver tends to experience more stress than the baby who can see his caregiver. I am not sure of the exact ages of the babies in the study, but I am guessing they were under age one - a young toddler can certainly still become stressed when his mother is not visible, but he can also understand that she is still there behind him and can likely turn his head to see her. I also wonder what the findings were on newborns, who cannot focus more than a few inches away at first. It would seem that a baby worn in a sling would be even less stressed than a baby facing toward its mother. It would be interesting to see a study that included babywearing!

To wrap it up... toddlers also benefit from being worn at times, especially on long walks or places that are harder for them to navigate (like a hiking trail). They can also protest when they do not want to be in a sling or carrier... like a couple of weeks ago, I was cooking and Cecilia came into the kitchen saying, "Up, Mommy!" I put on the sling and began to pick her up, to which she yelled, "No sling!! Mommy... shirt!" This was the best way she could come up with to communicate that she wanted to be held just in my arms and not in the sling! Even if they protest atfirst, the sling ensures that the active toddler can still get holding needs met even when the adult is busy with other tasks.

And there is just nothing sweeter than a baby sleeping in your arms, head against chest, that lovely baby smell right beneath your nose... all while you are not tied to the couch, too!


Kris said...

Couldn't agree more - when my oldest son was almost two and I was pregnant with the next one, I actually bought a 2nd sling for the new baby, because my older one was SO attached to "his" sling, that I was worried he would have a fit if he saw the new baby in it! I knew NOTHING about slings when my first one was born and didn't discover it until he was about 4 months old. I really wondered why no one shared this amazing contraption with me, so I make it my mission to tell anyone and everyone about the benefits of using the sling.

Carrie said...

This is something I dearly want to try to do more of if we have another baby. I didn't do this hardly any at all. We used a swing or bouncy seat and exersaucer, but never a sling. We did have a front snugli type thing that we used some, but it was so difficult and awkward to put on that I actually just ended holding and carrying ours a lot. Which ended up being very cumbersome, strenuous on my arms, and prevented me from doing anything while I was holding them.
Great post and info!

sara said...

this is one topic we can definitely agree on. did sling until 8 months, but i wish i had invested in an ergo or beco after that. i loved wearing andrew!!