We’re celebrating International Baby Wearing Week at Cheeky Rascals. This year’s theme is “Continuing the tradition” so we are looking at all the fantastic ways that baby wearing can help new parents to bond with their baby and keep families involved in their community, and why we believe it is so important to keep the tradition of babywearing alive.
Baby wearing has slightly fallen out of favour in the Western world with many parents preferring to use prams when out and about and putting babies down for naps at home. Whilst this can work for a lot of families and is by no means wrong, it does mean that baby is often further away from its parents than it would have been traditionally and still is in developing countries, where it remains commonplace to carry young babies the majority of the time.
With everyone leading such busy lives in our modern society, could continuing the tradition of babywearing help us stay closer to our babies for more of the day? And could that help us to develop deeper bonds with our children? This International Babywearing Week, Cheeky Rascals investigates the benefits of continuing the tradition of babywearing…
Baby wearing is not just about having a cool sling to wrap around you – though some of the styles can look really great! Baby wearing is all about encouraging closeness and bonding between parents and babies by getting lots of skin-to-skin contact and allowing for constant cuddles.
By wearing your baby in a sling, wrap or carrier, you have them against your body for more hours of the day without the effort it takes to hold them in your arms. The sling carrier helps to keep your hands free, whilst holding your baby snug and secure against you.
The style of a sling or soft carrier allows you to have your baby held against your body, within easy kissing distance. This position gives your baby the ability to hear your heartbeat, feel your breathing and listen to the vibrations of your voice, as they did in the womb. They also benefit from the warmth of your body and even your unique smell. These sensory experiences relax and calm your baby, reducing their stress levels and helping them to sleep and settle.
At the same time, you can feel your baby’s body against you. This allows you to keep an eye on them, even without thinking. You can feel their heartbeat, listen to their breathing and murmurings and check their temperature easily. This not only helps you to know if anything is wrong. Keeping them close gives you peace of mind without having to constantly run and check on them or stay confined to one room of the house.
This closeness can be great for both parents: for mothers who have been used to pregnancy and still crave the closeness of their baby and for fathers who need help with bonding, especially if they are not involved in feeding. For babies, it eases them into the transition of being in a new environment and helps them slowly get used to the strange world they are now living in.
Post-natal depression has only recently been given a name, but mothers have likely been suffering from these feelings throughout history. Now that society is more aware of post-natal depression, there is a huge amount of support available to new parents but one of the easiest ways of helping to beat the post-natal blues is through the age-old tradition of babywearing which can have a significant effect on post-natal depression.
As many as 10-15% of mothers experience post-natal depression and there are many more who are never diagnosed. Babywearing is a really effective way of helping to lessen feelings of detachment and guilt and can act as a powerful anti-depressant for many Mums and Dads.
The close contact that is such a big part of baby wearing can help to promote a secure attachment for parents and child, giving both a feeling of safety. This can also help parents suffering from anxiety, which is another common postnatal condition. Carrying can reduce crying by up to 43% which builds up the confidence of caregivers who take crying as a sign they are doing something wrong. Similarly, baby wearing reduces the release of cortisol, whilst increasing oxytocin in both mother and child, lessening stress and anxiety and increasing feelings of love and security.
As well as the positive impacts on mental health, baby wearing is great for letting you have some me-time, even in the early weeks. One of our favourite things about baby wearing is that it gives you hands-free time! This means you can keep your baby close without having to put them down and still get on with your daily life.
If you have some jobs you want to do, then you have both hands available. At the same time, it gives you the freedom to get out of the house, go for a walk, meet with friends and get involved in your local community. Going for a stroll and doing some exercise can generate endorphins – the feel-good hormone – and help to clear your head. This is especially important when you’re not getting a lot of sleep. With baby wearing you can shop, workout, cook and socialise with your baby close and grab life with both hands!
This alone can do wonders for how you feel as you begin this new stage of your life. If you have the ability to do things for yourself, it can make a big difference to your feeling of independence and even help to remind you that you are still you! All the time you are focusing on yourself, your baby will be relaxed against your chest. They will probably have a cosy nap whilst you’re working up a sweat so it really is a win-win!
One of the biggest barriers to parents interested in baby wearing is the tying process involved in the traditional wrapping method of babywearing. This can feel daunting for new mums who want to be certain their precious bundle is completely safe and not going to fall. Thankfully there are now a range of alternatives to the traditional woven wrap.
Buckle carriers offer the same closeness and comfort of wraps with none of the fiddly bits. Products like the Izmi carrier are great for getting started with baby wearing, giving you the softness of a wrap with the security of a carrier. That means you don’t need to worry about tying, you can just use the Izmi clips and create an easy, safe sling.
Buckle carriers like Izmi’s designs also offer more structure than traditional wraps. This makes it great for baby wearing beginners and parents who might be more used to the classic carrier style. Buckle carriers are the perfect introduction to baby wearing to help remove any of the concerns about wrapping techniques. At the same time, all Izmi carriers are washable and quick drying so they can be used wherever you are, and it doesn’t matter if they get dirty or wet. That means it’s perfect for parents who need to be flexible and want the simplest route to hands free parenting!
Baby wearing is really simple, even if you are the first in your group to do it. Don’t be put off by other mums or relatives who question you giving it a go. Only you know what is best for you. For many parents, baby wearing can be more comfortable and flexible than using a pram, so give it a go!
There are 5 basic rules to remember when baby wearing. You need to have 5 TICKS. That is 1) keeping your baby in Tight, 2) In view at all times, 3) Close enough to kiss, 4) Keeping their chin off their chest and 5) with their back Supported. These rules are the root of all safe baby wearing and if you have all 5 covered, you are good to go.
There are also plenty of resources available for parents interested in baby wearing. We even have babywearing clinics in the UK! Usually staffed by volunteers, these ‘sling libraries’ are the perfect space for you to learn how to wear your baby safely. There are also baby wearing consultants who can visit you at home and help you get started.