Babywearing: the latest accessory

Forget designer prams and buggies. Wearing your child is the latest trend on the babyccino circuit. 

What is babywearing?

Babywearing is exactly as it sounds: Using a carrier or sling to keep your baby close as you go about your daily duties. 

The concept was born out of necessity hundreds of years ago in many different cultures, when women had to carry their child around as they worked. 

Nowadays, in Western society, it’s also considered to be something special with many benefits for both mum and bub.

Why wear your baby?

Mums and dads who enjoy babywearing say it gives them more freedom, increases their bond with their child, makes breastfeeding easier and helps to keep their little one calm.

Clinical psychologist Jennifer Ericksen, from the Parent-Infant Research Institute, says babywearing is in line with a broader trend towards ‘attachment parenting’, which focuses on building a close relationship between parents and their baby.

“In a common sense sort of way, it does keep your baby close and it does give skin-to-skin contact which are all the things we promote in terms of attachment for little babies,” says Dr Ericksen.

She says there are benefits for some parents, if it’s practised safely.

“For those people who choose it, it’s going to be satisfying and successful and a lovely experience, but I would imagine it’s not going to be suitable for everyone.”

Nicole’s story

Mother of two Nicole Ralph is a babywearing convert. 
Her little boy Leo instantly took to the idea of being close to mum.

“When you’re pregnant with them you’re carrying them constantly in your belly so when they come out into the world, the closeness of being held in a carrier continues that familiarity of being in your tummy,” says Nicole.

“They hear your heart beat, I find it calms them and it feels really special keeping them close.”

Nicole says Leo is a happy baby. She attributes this to keeping him moving and feeling comforted inside a carrier.

“From keeping him close and carrying him around he’s not really a cranky baby and didn’t really cry or fuss much,” says Nicole.
“It keeps them happy and in return you’re a happy mum too.”

Mother with baby in carrier

The dangers 

When you’re carrying something as precious as a newborn there are dangers if babywearing isn’t practised correctly.

According to SIDS and Kids you need to be extremely careful carrying premature or small babies with breathing difficulties. A baby can suffocate if carried with a curved back and their chin resting on their chest, or if their face is pressed against the carrier fabric or your body.

Babywearing International says: 
  • Inspect your sling or carrier for wear or damage before use, and read the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you are using it safely and correctly.
  • Make sure your child’s airway remains clear at all times while babywearing.
  • It’s safest to keep your infant in an upright position, with their chin off your chest. 
  • Make sure your carrier supports your infant’s developing neck and back.
  • Practise using your carrier until you’re completely confident.
  • If you feel any aches and pains in your neck, shoulders or back, while or after wearing a baby sling or carrier, try an alternative type. Talk to a GP or physiotherapist if the problem persists.

Everyone is different

Dr Ericksen stresses every mother and baby is different. While babywearing might be great for some, it may not work for everyone, or for all babies.

“Sometimes babies are unsettled and carrying a baby in your arms or in a sling is going to settle a baby,” says Dr Ericksen.
“It’s about doing what you can do to have a settled baby.”

Starting out

As for what type of carrier to choose, Nicole says using a sling, that wrapped baby Leo up, helped her because it was the quickest and the easiest option to use. 

She also says it’s important to practise at home before venturing out.

“If you like babywearing then look into other options for longer trips and longer wearings.”

For more information about baby slings and carriers, and tips for using them safely, visit the Product Safety Australia website.
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