Babywearing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Carrying Your Baby
Step aside fancy strollers and high-tech car seats, babywearing (or the practice of carrying your baby) has arrived and is rapidly gaining popularity amongst multi-tasking mamas everywhere.
What is Babywearing?
The term “babywearing” has been used to describe the age-old tradition of carrying babies using long fabrics wrapped around a mother’s body. Although this custom has been recently revived in our western society, many cultures around the world have been using this mode of baby transport for centuries.
Besides the obvious benefit of convenience, there are numerous other benefits to babywearing for both parent and infant. It’s been shown that infants who are carried are generally calmer because all of their primal/survival needs are met. Their caregiver can be seen, heard, smelled, touched and provide feeding if needed. “Skin to skin” contact is maintained and a strong bond between baby and parent is established.
As well, the constant motion and rhythm have a balancing and soothing effect on infants resulting in less crying and fussing overall. In addition, babies who spend a significant amount of time in a car seat, stroller or swing often develop spinal restrictions and irregularities. Babies who are properly carried have a better natural development of their cranium, spine and postural muscles.
Furthermore, babywearing offers parents practicality and freedom to multi-task (i.e. chase after older toddlers) while attending to their little one – a more “hands-free” approach. Many moms even master the art of babywearing and breastfeeding at the same time! From a chiropractic perspective, it is also a safer, back-saving alternative to lugging around a heavy, bulky car seat.
Types of Carriers
Here’s the thing – babywearing is super easy…once you’ve got the hang of it! It’s like everything else in the baby world (i.e. diaper changing, breastfeeding) – it takes some practice at first but it soon becomes second nature. Finding the right carrier for you and baby is super important and often a bit overwhelming with so many styles to choose from.
Here is my easy breakdown of the most common types of carriers on the market today:
A wrap, either stretchy or woven, is a long piece of fabric that is wrapped around your torso and usually over both shoulders and tied off at the waist. It is one of the oldest and simplest ways to carry a baby.
I especially love using a stretchy wrap, such as the Moby Wrap, for newborn babies up to 6 months because it gives their itty-bitty spines some added flexibility and can be perfectly sized to fit their tiny bodies. Wraps are also so perfect for snuggling! Some other examples of wraps are the Baby K’Tan and Boba Wrap.
A ring sling is a long stretch of fabric that runs across your body and is secured by 2 rings over one shoulder. Slings are versatile and are great for newborns, babies, and even toddlers. They can be used for carrying babies on the front you’re your torso or over to the side on the hip.
I love the Baby Tula Ring Slings because they come in the most beautiful of fabrics and after a bit of practice, they are quick to put on and take off without a whole lot of unwrapping.
A soft structured carrier (SSC), or buckle carrier is probably the most common choice for babywearing newbies. They are super comfortable, easy to wear and are especially great for kiddos of all ages as most of them come with a newborn insert perfect for those early days with baby. They are made of a soft padded material and have a bit more structure with two shoulder straps and buckles to fasten. These carriers tend to be a bit more ergonomic, perfect for outdoor activities and long stretches of babywearing.
One of my favourites is the Ergobaby Four Position 360 because of its sheer versatility and the various ways in which you can carry the baby (front inward, front outward, back carry and side carry). It’s a popular choice among new families. I also really love the Baby Tula Free to Grow because it can be used as early as 7 lbs without an added infant insert and is super comfortable through all stages of baby’s growth. Other popular picks include Baby Bjorn, Beco Gemini, Lillebaby, and Boba.
Babywearing Safety Tips
There are correct and incorrect ways to carry your baby and certain safety precautions must be considered. Each carrier, wrap or sling should have an instruction booklet – read these carefully before using with the baby.
Here are a few more guidelines and safety basics:
- Check your sling, carrier or wrap for wear and tear before every use. Look for ripped seams, torn straps, and damaged buckles.
- Keep baby’s face in view and baby’s head close enough for you to kiss. Remember – “Visible and Kissable”
- Always keep slings and carriers snug.
- Keep baby’s chin off their own chest to maintain a clear airway.
- Make sure baby’s legs aren’t bunched up against their tummy.
- Do not wear baby while cooking on the stove or working with sharp or hot objects.
- Do not ride a bicycle while wearing a baby.
So there it is! Your easy-peasy guide to carrying your baby. I personally have babywearing to thank for keeping my sanity intact on numerous occasions. Give it a try! And remember like any skill, baby wearing can take a bit of practice but the benefits for baby and caregiver are amazing!
Dr. Aliya Visram is a chiropractic doctor, acupuncturist, doula, and health advocate. She’s also a wife, mama of 2, runner, yogi and chronic multi-tasker. She is on a mission to balance her career, motherhood and a healthy inspired life one day at a time.