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Babywearing: what’s it really all about?

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In the crazy online world we inhabit these days, it is easy to get caught up in the hype of the next wrap release, or in chasing our DISO (desperately in search of) HTF (hard to find) WC (wrap conversion) that we absolutely MUST have. And in itself, there is nothing wrong with this. The collection of babywearing items like wraps and carriers is a hobby, just like collecting any other objects of desire.

It’s been almost one year since I wrote my first blog post, where I outlined the reasons why babywearing can be a great tool for any parents. It seems timely to take a step back from the hype and reflect on what babywearing is all about; how we ended up in this community in the first place. And that is our babies.

I recently attended the Australian Babywearing Conference in Adelaide, where we were lucky enough to hear a keynote session by the founder of the Canadian Babywearing School, Arie Brentnall-Compton. Arie was inspiring, I took so much from her speech, more than I could have even imagined, and as a result I’ve been reinvigorated to continue working to promote babywearing, when earlier this year I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be part of this community now that my youngest (and last) child is two.

Keynote speaker at babywearing conference

Arie Brentnall-Compton addresses delegates at the Australian Babywearing Conference 2015

This inspiration comes from being reminded about what babywearing really is all about, and that is carrying your baby. Babies are born expecting to be held, but in this modern world, they often spend a lot of time in prams, swings, bouncers, bumbos and a multitude of other things marketers love to push on new parents. And while each of these things might have a place in helping you care for your baby, there is a definite need to see the amount of time babies are held by their parents increase across modern society as a whole.

Arie strongly advocates for carrying of babies to become normalised and for old-fashioned notions of spoiling babies by holding them too much to become a footnote in the history books. Babywearing plays a part in this because carrying your baby in your arms can make it hard to get on with the rest of your busy life. While you’re holding your baby you can’t make dinner, or shower, or play properly with your other children. As many a new mother with a newborn will attest, you can feel trapped in your own home by a baby that will not be put down without much crying and unhappiness (from both the baby and the parents!). So wraps and carriers are the tool that allows you to do what your baby needs you to do (carry them), but still get on with your life.

So why is carrying your baby important?

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Carrying your baby is the biological norm. The fourth trimester has become a popular concept in parenthood recently, and for good reason. Moving from life in the womb to life in the big, wide world is pretty confronting for a helpless newborn who really should have stayed inside for a bit longer if it wasn’t for the size of its skull. Staying close to mum or dad (or other caregiver) is where baby can feel safe and secure and gain an understanding of the world and their place in it. Babies are born to be worn.

Arie shared an interesting perspective on helping people to understand why babywearing is important. She talked us through a day in the life of a new mother, and how babywearing fits into that day.

In the morning, a mother needs to eat breakfast. Carrying her baby in a carrier allows her to make herself breakfast and finish eating while also meeting her baby’s needs. A proper diet is important for a mother’s well-being and also in establishing breast milk supply. Skin-to-skin contact with her baby also assists in establishing breastfeeding.

Brushing her teeth, brushing her hair, putting on some lipstick even – looking after herself is important. Not having the time to look after herself is a risk factor for post-natal depression. Babywearing allows her to meet her baby’s need to be held while allowing her to do a few small things for herself as well.

The dog needs to be walked. Walking the dog while pushing a pram is difficult, if not impossible. Babywearing helps get a mother (and her dog) out of the house for some much needed exercise. Exercise, even just walking, can have as positive an impact on mild to moderate depression as medication.

Next is a trip to the health care clinic for baby’s check up. The car capsule is awkward and difficult to carry. It is not recommended that babies remain in capsules outside of the car. It can lead to a flat head and even positional asphyxiation. Popping baby into a carrier means baby stays calm during the visit and mum has her hands free.

Witching hour. Arsenic hour. Whatever you call it, there’s that time of the afternoon or evening when baby just cries for no apparent reason. Research has shown that babies that are carried will cry less (Hunziker UA, Garr RG. Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 1986, 77:641-648). Crying babies can have a serious impact on family life. Arie pointed out that babies who are most likely to be shaken are those that are crying inconsolably. She also suggested that securely attached fathers are less likely to abuse their children, and also less likely to abuse their children’s mother. Babywearing can help fathers bond with their babies.

Time for bed. When baby sleeps badly, everyone sleeps badly, and this can have a negative impact on families and relationships. Babywearing can help to settle your baby, and promote longer periods of sleep. And sleep begets sleep.

Babywearing can be instrumental in improving breastfeeding rates and reducing post-natal depression. It can help develop stronger family bonds and securely attached children. The method of carrying your baby isn’t very important, as long as it’s done safely. Babywearing really is about the practice, not the product.

I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but each of us can make a difference in helping babywearing become widely accepted in the community. Let’s normalise carrying your baby. Let’s aim for mothers-to-be to see babywearing everywhere and understand that it is just what you do when you have a baby.

Are you promoting babywearing in your community? Tell me how!

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5 thoughts on “Babywearing: what’s it really all about?

  1. Love this, Alison. It’s awesome seeing you so inspired!

  2. I love that you are feeling inspired. And I especially love that you were inspired by a woman who inspires me daily. Arie is changing the world and it makes my day to hear that her message is influencing the world. ❤ Thank you for sharing!

  3. Good stuff!!! I think the bit about why babies are born when they are is inaccurate. From what I recall it’s because it’s metabolically too much for mothers to provide past that point, rather than head size as a limiting factor.

    • Interesting! I’d never heard that. I guess the head size thing just seems sort of logical, as we’ve evolved our heads just keep getting bigger! But yeah, that’s not based on any particular research, probably just an urban myth.

      • On reflection, it was a documentary I saw about human evolution that noted that when we came to stand upright our pelvis had to become smaller and our babies therefore born earlier that had formed my thoughts on why our babies are born at relatively early gestation – though I imagine there were a lot of other changes that happened to our physiology when we became humans that would be part of the bigger picture!

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