The Benefits of Babywearing

 Babywearing, a way of carrying young children as old as humanity itself, consists in carrying a young child close to the wearer's body, using various babywearing systems ranging from a simple piece of cloth to more elaborate ones. It allows the wearer to have her/ his hands free while keeping the baby very close and reassured. It is also thought that one of the very first objects invented was some sort of sling! This way of carrying a baby is very common throughout the world, but even though the western world ababdoned it for a while, we are slowly realizing all it's advantages and bringing back babywearing!

And there isn't only the hands-free advantage. Babywearing has a lot of other benefits, both for the wearer and for the baby.

First of all, a newborn baby doesn't have the ability to regulate his own temperature. When a baby is worn, (ideally skin to skin), being so close to the wearer's body allows him to reach easily the desired 37°C. This also works to cool down the baby when it's too hot outside. Since the wearer's body can cool down on it's own, keeping the baby so close keeps his temperature just right. On top of that, being so close, the baby can hear te wearer's heartbeat, which reminds him of his intra-uterin life and is very reassuring. It also helps the baby with his digestion, allows him to get rid of any air stuck in his digestive system, and it can also help with reflux problems.

Then, babywearing can help with the baby's developpement in many ways. The way he moves with the wearer contributes to the developpement of hs nervous system.  It also contributes to the developpement of the vestibular system (vertical orientation and developpement of balance). It stimulates the sensorial system and contributes to the developpement of a good muscle tone. It also helps the baby discover his surroundings and contributes to the developpement of social relations, all while staying safe and secure against his parent's body. Babies who are worn usually have a faster and more harmonious psychomotor developpement, and generally walk earlier than other babies (it's particularly stunning among African babies).

Traditionnal babywearing (with the baby's legs spread apart) also contributes to a healthy developpement of the hips, lower the risks of his displasia and prevents future hip problems.

Worn babies also have a tendency to cry less than others. The reason is very simple. One of the reasons a baby can cry is because he wants to be held or reassured. Babywearing takes care of that. Then, it is much easier to listen and to answer the baby's needs when he is so close. He doesn't need to cry to be heard. Also, the body heat and the proximity reassures the baby, and decreases stress.

Babywearing also contributes in the developpement of speech, because by having the baby so close, the mother will more spontaneously talk to him, thus encouraging the child to communicate.

This way of carrying a child also has many advantages for the parent. For one, it creates a feeling of comptetnce towards the child, because by having the child so close, it is much easier to answer the child's needs efficiently. Also, the hands-free aspect of it allows the wearer to take care of the other children or attend her/his other chores or activities without having to leave the baby in a cot somewhere.  Babywearing also facilitates mother-child or father-child bonding, and helps to establish breastfeeding. There are also many ways to wear a baby that allow breastfeeding at the same time.

Babywearing and breastfeeding
And finally, babywearing can be very cheap. Although a good system can range from 60 to 200 dollars, it is easily possible to make a good one at home and there are a lot of different tutorials available on the internet. Some systems are good from the birth to two years, and for some, babywearing can completely replace the pram.

BUT WARNING! Not all babywearing systems available on the market are good. To have all the benefits listed above (and many more I left out), the system has to be respectful of the baby's physiology and has to be installed correctly. If not, you won't have benefits but risks of problems and long term injuries. 

Among other things, wearing a baby facong outward is discouraged. First, it doesn't respect the baby's physiology. He finds himself suspended by the crotch, with a straight back, arms and legs dangling down, and all his weight on his private parts. It doesn't respect the wearer's physiology either, because all the baby's weight is pushing outward in the front and causing a strain on the wearer's back. Also, all the vulnerable parts of the baby (eyes, face, stomach, and soft vital organs that would otherwise be protected by the back and skeleton) happen to be in the first line of sight in case a collision may occur.
This position also makes eye contact between the baby and wearer impossible. So, in case the baby is frightened or stressed, he cannot seek reassurance in the eyes of the wearer, nor can he turn around and snuggle to be reassured.

But in this case, how can we carry a baby who wants to see the world? From about 3 months of age, babies stard to be curious of their environment and like to see what is happening around them. In this case, wearing the baby on the hips or on the back can be a good and safer alternative. It allows the baby to see the world while being correctly held.

In my next post, I will talk about ''physiological babywearing'' and about the good and bad babywearing systems available. 

Have a nice day!