Babywearing benefits both Mom or Dad and baby. Babywearing is practiced across the globe. While Babywearing styles vary from country to country, the benefits to babywearing are universal. Moms all over the world appreciate holding baby close, breastfeeding in a carrier, having both arms free to get things done. You may have seen photos of women in Africa doing their daily work with baby on their back, a USA Mom at Target shopping for home items or Syrian refugees using donated carriers to hold their little ones in treacherous times. Babies, and babywearing are universal.
However babies are worn, using a carrier benefits children across the board; From all walks of life, abilities and disabilities (I hate the word disabled). Not only does wearing a developing child provide valuable experiences, but it also allows a disabled child to get input from their caregivers movements. It provides him/her with valuable sensory input and allows them to explore the world and participate in activities from your perspective. How? The babywearers activities give information to a child’s body that they may not otherwise be able to duplicate. Practiced correctly, It facilitates the development of head and trunk control. A proper seat moves the baby’s or child’s pelvis and trunk when you walk and provides sights and sounds as limited as your imagination.
I’ve loved wearing all 4 of my children as babies. However, after some medical events including being unable to stand on his leg for 6 weeks, I knew that wearing my toddler needed to be worn. Toddlerwearing provides input from my movements to him, even if he can’t move around himself. He feels my movements as I walk, bend to get something from the cupboard and sees and hears everything going around as I do my activities.
There are many benefits to babywearing that are available to babies too. In addition to benefits like skin to skin contact, increased breast milk production, regulation of body temperature and all the wonderfulness that comes along with being held close; Those highlighted here follow the doctrine of thinking embed in all OT’s from the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Practice Framework, and one of my favorite perspectives on life.
1. Functional Mobility; For Occpational Therapists, this means moving from one place to another during activites. This includes shifting weight, turning, safe bending and moving from location to location during activity. Wearing a baby or toddler during this gives him/her all the sensations and experiences from your walking that they may not be able to do on their own. Going from the kitchen to the toilet, turning into the doorway and sitting down gives a myriad of information to a baby, or toddler, in tow.
2. Participation in Every Day Activities; Things you do during the day may include everything from cooking, care of others, household chores like laundry, work and even shopping. Why not take your child along so he/she can participate too? Going for a hike? Take your little one along so they can take in nature and feel your movement, see the sights and breathe in fresh air just as you do.
3. Sensory; Humans are full of sensory receptors. Our joints, nose, eyes, ears, skin and even hair folices take in information. Movement sensors in your ears, feeling the wind and sunshine on your skin, Sights and sounds and joy from bouncing are all part of babywearing! Input from caregiver’s movements, and from the pressure and support of the carrier help provide important information to the wearees brain. I went out to my mailbox wearing baby the other day, I heard him take a deep breath as the wind brushed across his face, the jingling of our dog’s collar and my walking down the driveway provided so much for his system to take in. It’s priceless!
4. Rest; Rest is important for babies and toddlers. It allows growth, rebounds from an upset mood and gives time for neurological development to occur. In addition, resting post surgery or illness doesn’t prevent participating in activities while babywearing. The child participates semi-passively however, still benefits and experiences the activities from caregiver’s perspective and height. In addition to restful participation, carriers can also provide a safe haven for napping. While we had to make sure to get an ‘okay’ from my toddler’s surgeon to place pressure from the carrier on the surgical site, resting in the carrier is something our newborn does all day long. Listening to my breathing and heartbeat, feeling my warmth and soaking in love.
Babywearing also provides rest for Mom, especially when it produces a calming effect for baby. I have found that babyweraing reduces the amount of time my baby cries, is “fussy” and I can rest both mentally and physically when baby is content and sleeping on my chest. It allows me to be arms free to participate in eating, grooming and provides a break from baby care…while effortlessly caring for baby!
5. Social Participation; Last year we went to a farmer’s market. I was wearing my baby in a wrap and heard him laughing. Three young college students were talking with him. My toddlers in the stroller were left out, but my baby was at the perfect height to make eye contact and show off his baby babble. Amazing, right?! Last week, I went grocery shopping and 7 different people stopped to “talk” with my 3 m/o in his carrier! Slightly socially awkward for me, who was left out of the conversation, but a great experience for my baby. Engaging in socializing through babywearing provides a child with wonderful experiences he/she would miss out on at a lower level. Only two feet tall and limited in movement? Not in a baby carrier!
6. Play; Fun is a major part of childhood! Play is the primary job or occupation for children. What if your infant or child can’t run to kick a ball? Walk into a swimming pool to enjoy moving through water, or go into a gigantic ball pit. You’re only as limited as your baby carrier! For typically developing and disabled children alike, playful activities are often a welcome and thoroughly enjoyed activity. One of my favorite games to play is ‘Tag’ with my son’s brothers. He chases his older brother while being worn on my back, and his brother chases him back while he rides his ‘Horse’ (that’s me, I’m the horse!).
7. Feeding/Eating. Nursing in a baby carrier is easy with both wrap and structured style carriers. By adjusting the carrier, you can position baby at breast! The carrier helps provide support to baby’s trunk and head for feeding. In addition, it positions baby more upright to help decrease symptoms from reflux in babies who benefit from being held upright. As a Mom to two babies with reflux, holding them upright helped greatly with their reflux symptoms, especially right after eating.
Babywearing can also help increase milk production. Mom can go shirtless and use babywearing as skin to skin time which helps increase bonding and milk production. Two of my most recommended carriers, carried by my affiliate at Amazon, are the Lillebaby and the stretchy wrap.
Experiencing the benefits that I’ve experienced and described above can be done through varying types of carriers, and the type of carrier(s) needed are dependent on a child’s needs and abilities. Unsure of the type of carrier you need? A great resource for trying carriers is your local babywearing library, babywearing store or baby retailer. If you need specific recommendations, consult a knowledgeable OT to find the best carrier to suit your needs. Unable to afford a carrier for your disabled child? A PT run organization Lift Me Up Babywearing provides carriers to families of disabled children who don’t already have one and meet certain criteria.
Disclosure; This is not a sponsored post. This post is not designed to replace medical advice or provide individual recommendations for your needs. Please consult your local babywearing OT for individual recommendations.