If you have been out and about then chances are pretty high that you have seen a woman wearing her baby in a baby carrier or a sling. This could be in the mall, supermarket, at the school pick up, in the park, at the Doctor’s clinic, cheering her older child at the school annual days, airports or just talking a walk around the block. You may not have noticed it but most of the times this lady would also have her hands full with a diaper bag, shopping bags. And most importantly she was doing all this alone.
Non-parents are usually quick to judge a woman with a baby strapped on to her – “Can’t she even carry her baby in her arms? What sort of a mother is she?” But do they pause to think, “How wonderful to see this new mother out of the confines of her home, living the regular routine, and doing it all independently that too.” Babywearing gives wings to new mothers (and fathers too) It in fact allows them to be saner, wiser, happier and healthier mothers (parents)
What a fancy term – babywearing!
Babywearing is in essence the act of carrying the baby on your person, with the help of a baby carrier. While the contraptions worn by moms to carry their babies seem really fancy and in-vogue today, babywearing is not new.
Mothers across time and over the world have been carrying their babies in cloth or specially made devices for centuries. Although the traditional form of babywearing is more evident among the lower income strata today, fact is that most babies were worn at some point. One of the most iconic women in our history – our very own Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi was a babywearer.
So what’s so New Age about babywearing
Just like many of the other New Age Parenting concepts I have talked about in this #AtoZBlogging challenge, babywearing too has been researched by social and behavioral scientists. They have compared both babies and mothers who babywear and who don’t and understood how babywearing is beneficial.
Norms have been made about the types of baby carriers which suit and work well to support a growing baby and a postpartum mother. Ergonomic baby carriers ensure that the baby is held in a comfortable position which mimics the natural way a baby is held in the arms – back and neck supported, legs spread in an M shape. At the same time, the baby’s weight is distributed evenly on the back of the person who carries and so can hold the baby in this manner for extended periods of time and without any strains on the back.
So how does one #KeepThemCLose?
The internet and the # (Hashtag) generation have been using the slogans Keep Them Close, Wear all the babies, carry them close and others like Keep Calm and Carry them to show their love for babywearing. And babywearing comes in many forms. Baby wearers today have a plethora of options to choose from. From baby carriers suitable for newborn babies to pre-schoolers, to children with special needs, parents have a lot to choose from.
Typically however, the baby carrier types are as below.
What’s in it for the babies & mommies?
New age parenting believers and babywearing communities have seen success when babies have been worn in a baby carrier. Babies when out from the mother’s womb need constant comfort and warmth. They express this in the form of constant breastfeeding, crying or just finding calm in their mother’s arms.
And trust me, it was such a high to see that my baby would stop crying the moment he was placed in my bare arms and held against my heart. The familiar rhythm of my heart beat must have certainly calmed him.
Baby carriers perform this very function – they place babies close to the mother and her heart. An ergonomic baby carrier will allow the baby to rest his head on the mother’s chest close to her breast where he can feel the warmth of her skin and body. Infants also find the mother’s smell very relaxing and baby wearing provides them this safe haven.
Helps preemie babies
Skin to skin contact is in fact advocated for babies, especially those born prematurely. Although the baby has had an early entry into the world outside, the act of placing them on the bare skin of a parent has helped preemie babies come up to speed in terms of their development. Even Doctors today advocate devoted skin-to-skin time for such infants. A baby carrier helps the parent do this, while keeping the hands free to indulge in caressing, holding and touching their babies. Especially helpful for the postpartum mother, without straining her body.
Heals the new mother
This close physical connection between mother and child also helps with the healing of the mother, stimulating her breastfeeding hormones and getting her in tune with the baby. Read – Attachment Parenting. She is able to recognise her baby’s signs and cues and respond effectively. A baby who is responded to accurately is definitely happier and less cranky. All this is possible with the help of a baby carrier.
Baby wearing (& breastfeeding) heals all boo-boos
One of the earliest memories I have of a cranky babyT is when we came back from vaccination and he had a bad bump on his leg and fever ensued. He was crying his lungs out and we didn’t know what to do. No amount of rocking, singing or distracting seemed to help. In a fit of motherly emotion I picked him up and just held him close to my chest. He stopped crying in that very instant and soon fell asleep. He woke up a real happy bunny.
Similarly think of teething, sleep regressions, growth spurts, having a baby carrier to carry your baby helps tide by all these monsters which threaten to disrupt the peace with baby and in turn mommy.
Its not that a baby carrier is necessary to help put a baby to sleep or comfort him. But it does make it easier for someone to hold the baby in a comfortable position for hours on end. I am sure everyone is too familiar with the instance where the baby is asleep peacefully in your arms and the moment you put them on the bed, they wail and wake up. Back in your arms again, while you control your hunger, thirst, rest and all other bodily functions. But with a baby carrier, baby is happy being next to you and your hands are free to do any other chores or walk about the house comfortably.
Baby carriers have really helped new mothers, go about their regular lives. They can go out to the shops or on treks with their friends and live happy, healthy lives. Baby carriers also afford them the discreteness of being able to breastfeed on the go.
Says mommy Khushboo Periwal, mommy to beautiful Miss C, “Breastfeeding and babywearing are both very close to my heart. Ever since I got pregnant, I had decided I would breastfeed my baby for at least 2 years. And babywearing has only helped me in this journey. After I discovered babywearing and the ease and convenience of nursing in a carrier , there has been no looking back.. be it shopping, dinner outings, day trips or long vacations with family, we have breastfed our way through them.”
The modern avatar of babywearing has certainly helped women reclaim their lives. Most families are nuclear today and both parents are usually working outside of the house. There are errands to be run, pantry to be stocked up, bills to be paid.. at such times rather than the baby being a roadblock in fulfilling your daily duties, babywearing comes to the rescue.
Babies too become a part of the big, colourful, melodious (?) world that the adults live in. They are out there in the big, bad world but against the bosom of the people who they trust and who love them. This makes them confident, secure and happy individuals. Babies who are carried may also be more independent and suffer less from separation anxiety when they begin big-kid stuff like school. Of course personality does come into play too and this cannot be a blanket generalization.
Baby carriers are not just a passing rage, they are here to make the demanding lives of parents and babies much simpler. As Khushboo proves, you can never go wrong with a baby carrier in your diaper bag. Forgot to carry cloth shopping bags? Fret not, carry your groceries in the baby carrier instead! Just kidding.
All other photos are of me and the various carriers I have used in my babywearing journey.
This blog post is part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.
To read all the posts for the #AtoZChallenge go here – #AtoZ2018
You may also find this post on Fathers – The other side of parenting very helpful.