Baby Wearing Explained
Baby wearing, what is it?
Baby wearing has been around for as long as women have been having babies! It is the practice of wearing your baby, these days, in a specifically designed baby carrier, sling or wrap that is safe and ergonomically designed to support baby while protecting mother’s back and babies backs too.
On a holistic level, it meets baby’s need for closeness and helps you to be sensitive to their needs. The many benefits are well document bot for mother and baby. Baby wearing promotes bonding, secure attachment, and healthy development emotionally. It is also proven to reduce crying episodes, unless there is an underlying issue. There has been research published that found baby wearing for around three hours daily, had shown in one study to reduce crying by over 50% in the evening and by a whopping 40% overall.
By keeping baby close in a sling or similar, you can enhance your closeness to your baby, this will also make you more attuned to your baby’s needs. This builds strong bonds and relationships as your baby is able to let you know about their needs without reaching the point where they will need to cry in order to communicate those needs. A clear example of this is when your baby is hungry, he or she will begin to root around, looking for the breast in the first instance. This will then give you the cue that they are hungry, allowing you to respond almost immediately. This process will strengthen your attachment to one another and is of particular benefit to mothers who may be at risk of post-natal depression.
Equally, baby wearing can allow you more freedom when it comes to getting on with the daily chores around the home. It may be that you need to care for an older sibling or siblings. Perhaps you want to do some ironing or dusting. You will not have to worry about not hearing baby cry if you’re doing the vacuuming as you can keep baby with you and respond as necessary.
When you’re out and again, baby wearing again makes it much easier to feed baby or get around without the need for cumbersome buggies or additional travel systems if you have another child in tow. You will be able to connect with your baby in a way that you may not connect otherwise.
When considering your baby’s emotional well-being and your own physical health, baby wearing meets both of these at once. You can meet your baby’s needs for a close and loving attachment while being free to continue with your physical activities each day. This promotes closeness in your relationship and physical exercise for you which is beneficial to your mood and overall well-being.
As baby is carried close to you, often allowing skin to skin contact, your own breathing rhythms, heartbeat and general movements will help to regulate, stimulate and pacify your baby. Baby wearing is also beneficial for special needs babies where possible. Premature babies for example are often prone to overstimulation leading to crying and generally unsettled periods. The research shows that these babies thrive faster when they experience loving touch and closeness from being held.
The benefits of baby wearing are immense. It is however important to do so in a responsible manner. Seek the latest advice and evidence backed information on the safest way to wear your baby. Be sure that when choosing a carrier, sling or wrap, you have investigated the safety rating and that they have been tried and tested over an extended period. It is also important to select a carrier that supports your baby’s spinal development so that there is no risk to their nervous system or overall well-being.
Selecting a baby carrier that is safe and comfortable
It is important that when selecting a baby carrier, you chose one that is supportive of your baby’s natural spinal curve. It should be age appropriate and of a good quality rating. Refer to the age or stage guide on the product to ensure that not only does it meet the safety criteria outline but that it is also age and stage appropriate as this will impact on your baby’s growth, comfort and safety – it will also promote good hip development if chosen correctly.
Hip Dysplasia is a rare but serious condition. Some baby carriers can help to reduce the risk of this condition but again, it is essential that you check the rating of the carrier you’re buying to ensure that this is the case. Hip Dysplasia is the abnormal development of the joints in the hips. This usually means that the joints are not stable and the ligaments may be stretched or loose causing instability within the joint.
The carrier fabric should ensure that the bottom supports the thighs and knees in design. Your baby should be carried facing inward to ensure adequate support. Assess the carrier to ensure that your baby is able to be positioned safely so that their airways are not compromised when they’re carrier facing inward. This will support the natural spinal curve. Until your baby is older, around six months, it is not recommended that your baby is carried facing outward as they will not have adequate support in place. When you carry your baby facing you, it also reduces the risk of over-stimulation.
Consider the following points when looking for a safe baby wearing product:
✔ It should be safety rated and tested over a substantial period of time
✔ The head and neck support for your baby or child should be stated
✔ It should have wide and easily adjusted shoulder straps
✔ A wide base section to support baby or child’s thighs and knees
✔ Your baby or child’s posture should be well supported
✔ Baby or child’s body weight should be evenly distributed over your own surface area
✔ Your own spine should not be affected, kept in a neutral position
✔ The carrier should make it easy for you to attach or position your baby
Ensure that your baby’s spine is well supported
Babies’ spines differ from adult spines. We have four distinct curves whereas a newborn baby has only one curve in the spine. It is like a C-shape. Your baby will only develop the various curves as they develop their cervical muscles. As your baby begins to lift his head or sit, he will begin to develop the strength in his muscles that will eventually facilitate the classic curvatures that we see in the adult spine. This ultimately enables them to hold themselves up against gravity.
Your baby’s spine support is key when considering baby wearing. Your won spine health is also important so do not compromise or go against the advice given for your selected baby wearing support. Your spine contains and protects your central nervous system, sending information to your brain. It also receives external signals from your body and sends those back to your brain to be processed. This allows you to constantly react to and adapt to the environment you are in. your body to constantly adapt to the environment you live in.
What to consider when wearing your baby wearing support
It is important if you are using a baby wearing support in the cradle position to ensure that your baby can breathe and that their tiny airways are not compromised. Your baby may not necessarily alert you to the fact that they cannot breathe well, particularly those who are born prematurely or have additional needs. Babies with weak or poor muscle tone should also be carefully monitored to ensure that they are comfortable and that breathing is not restricted as a result of using a baby carrier.
Adhere to the Hip Dysplasia guidelines in order to protect your baby’s delicate hips when wearing your baby. In this position your baby’s knees are held close together, not an ideal position for optimal hip growth and comfort. The risk of hip dysplasia or dislocation is greatest in the early months of life.
Your baby may have already been diagnosed with ‘clicky’ hips or they may have been born with club foot or other conditions that may make baby wearing uncomfortable. Check with your health visitor or GP before you proceed with baby wearing if there are complications with your baby’s limbs, posture or health.
By the time your baby is six months of age, their hips are more stable and the ligaments are more developed. From this point, they are less susceptible to hip dysplasia. Some baby carriers are easily adapted depending on the age of your baby. Once your baby is six months old they are able to face outwards and some slings allow for this with a few adjustments.
Positioning is really key depending on your baby’s age. Place your newborn into a carrier, wrap or sling that is designed for use from birth or is age appropriate. Older babies may not enjoy being carried in a sling at first, if this was not done from birth. Depending on age, your baby may adapt or may not take to baby wearing. Discuss your options with your midwife, health visitor or GP if you have concerns. Ideally, baby should be placed (from birth) in the cradle position, chin up rather than pressed into your body with theirs. Follow the safe positioning guide that comes with your baby carrier.
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