6 Benefits to Babywearing a Disabled Child; Update on My Son’s Progress

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, these are my opinions based on personal experience, please consult your pediatrician and or occupational therapist for individual babywearing needs and recommendations.
     There are many benefits to babywearing. Moms across the globe appreciate holding baby close, breastfeeding in a carrier, having both arms free to get things done and happy babies and toddlers. When our almost two year old was diagnosed with a bone tumor, babywearing took on a whole new meaning. Like all toddlers, he loves to be carried and especially loves to be wrapped! Taking time away from this while he healed after surgery was hard for us both. I started to think about the benefits to babywearing/toddlerwearing a disabled child. We couldn’t wait until his incision healed enough to ride on my back again.
     Using a carrier benefits children across the board; From all walks of life, abilities and cultures. Not only does wearing a disabled child give him/her valuable sensory input from your movements, but it also allows them to explore the world and participate in activities from your perspective. The photo seen below is his first time in our Tekhni carrier after his surgery!! Here are 6 benefits to wearing a disabled child.

     We are 12+ weeks out from my 2 year old son’s bone tumor removal surgery. His final diagnosis is still up in the air, but looking favorable. Children Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) pathologist came back with 4 different diagnoses; One a low grade cancer…so they sent tumor slides to the Mayo clinic. It took weeks for the Mayo clinic to produce a diagnosis. I was a nervous wreck calling regularly for updates. We were shocked when they sent back a diagnosis of  Ollier’s disease, a disorder with multiple benign cartilaginous bone tumors all over the body. CHOP called and said they don’t agree with the Mayo Clinic… but also believe the tumor is benign. Soooo, where does that leave us? Waiting…waiting and hoping the tumor portion they couldn’t remove from his growth plate doesn’t further deform his leg. With each appointment, x-ray and scan we pray for his health.
     He was non-weight bearing for a few weeks. This means he wasn’t allowed to stand on his leg at all. He zipped around like a pro in a little wheelchair, playing and spending time with our family. He is now allowed to walk on his leg and we’ve even gone to the playground twice for some limited play time. He doesn’t understand that jumping off of the high slide is a bad idea after bone surgery and wants to get right back to playing with his brothers.
     I couldn’t wait for the incision on his leg to heal. A woven wrap covers many areas of a toddler’s body and definitely touches where he was operated on. When his surgeon gave the okay, we tried a few times on my back for short periods, and increased his wear time. The photo above is his first time back in a woven wrap. What’s a woven wrap? If you have ever seen a stretchy wrap like a Moby, consider a woven an upgrade. It’s long like a Moby but not stretchy. This stronger fabric means it can hold a larger child, and even be used for carries on your back. This woven is from Tekhni and I have a full review HERE.
    I knew that wearing my toddler would provide input from my movements that he wasn’t getting during the weeks he wasn’t able to walk. There are many benefits from babywearing that are available to children with disability (please consult your Occupational Therapist ). 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.

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.
2. Participation in Every Day Activities; Things you do during the day may include everything from cooking, care of others, household chores like laundry, 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 too!
3. Sensory; 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.
4. Rest; 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. We had to make sure to get an ‘okay’ from his surgeon to place pressure from the carrier on the surgical site.
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. Engaging in socializing through babywearing provides a child with wonderful experiences! Only two feet tall and limited in movement? Not in a baby carrier! 
6. Play; Fun is a major part of childhood! Playful activities are often a welcome diversion from medicine and a baby carrier can help. 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!).
     Experiencing these benefits can be done through varying types of carriers, and the type of carrier(s) needed are dependent on a child’s needs and abilities. My son here is shown in a woven wrap, however a soft structured carrier may be appropriate for some, or a Ringsling as well. A great resource for trying carriers is your local babywearing library, babywearing store or baby retailer. 
     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.
     As always…thanks for stopping by! I always appreciate a follow on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and love to network on Google and LinkedIn.
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