Babywearing

August 12, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Homemaking, Parenting | 4 Comments
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I am a big believer in attachment parenting. I nurse on demand, co-sleep, and wear my babies in carriers from the time they’re born till the time they refuse to go into one! I’ve used many different carriers in the 8+ years I’ve spent having babies, and this time around I’ve been using a New Native carrier.carrier It’s by far the best carrier I’ve had so far. It was a little tricky when Judah was a newborn, but I’ve loved it ever since. He responds very well to being in the sling. It’s comforting, warm and smells just like his momma!

What are the benefits of babywearing?

Dr. Sears website offers some great info:

1. Sling babies cry less. Parents in my practice commonly report, “As long as I wear her, she’s content!” Parents of fussy babies who try babywearing relate that their babies seem to forget to fuss. This is more than just my own impression. In 1986, a team of pediatricians in Montreal reported on a study of ninety-nine mother-infant pairs. The first group of parents were provided with a baby carrier and assigned to carry their babies for at least three extra hours a day. They were encouraged to carry their infants throughout the day, regardless of the state of the infant, not just in response to crying or fussing. In the control, or noncarried group, parents were not given any specific instructions about carrying. After six weeks, the infants who received supplemental carrying cried and fussed 43 percent less than the noncarried group.

Anthropologists who travel throughout the world studying infant-care practices in other cultures agree that infants in babywearing cultures cry much less. In Western culture we measure a baby’s crying in hours, but in other cultures, crying is measured in minutes. We have been led to believe that it is “normal” for babies to cry a lot, but in other cultures this is not accepted as the norm. In these cultures, babies are normally “up” in arms and are put down only to sleep – next to the mother. When the parent must attend to her own needs, the baby is in someone else’s arms.

2. Sling babies learn more. If infants spend less time crying and fussing, what do they do with the free time? They learn! Sling babies spend more time in the state of quiet alertness . This is the behavioral state in which an infant is most content and best able to interact with his environment. It may be called the optimal state of learning for a baby. Researchers have also reported that carried babies show enhanced visual and auditory alertness.

The behavioral state of quiet alertness also gives parents a better opportunity to interact with their baby. Notice how mother and baby position their faces in order to achieve this optimal visually interactive plane. The human face, especially in this position, is a potent stimulator for interpersonal bonding. In the kangaroo carry, baby has a 180-degree view of her environment and is able to scan her world. She learns to choose, picking out what she wishes to look at and shutting out what she doesn’t. This ability to make choices enhances learning. A sling baby learns a lot in the arms of a busy caregiver.

3. Sling babies are more organized. It’s easier to understand babywearing when you think of a baby’s gestation as lasting eighteen months – nine months inside the womb and at least nine more months outside. The womb environment automatically regulates baby’s systems. Birth temporarily disrupts this organization. The more quickly, however, baby gets outside help with organizing these systems, the more easily he adapts to the puzzle of life outside the womb. By extending the womb experience, the babywearing mother (and father) provides an external regulating system that balances the irregular and disorganized tendencies of the baby. Picture how these regulating systems work. Mother’s rhythmic walk, for example, (which baby has been feeling for nine months) reminds baby of the womb experience. This familiar rhythm, imprinted on baby’s mind in the womb, now reappears in the “outside womb” and calms baby. As baby places her ear against her mother’s chest, mother’s heartbeat, beautifully regular and familiar, reminds baby of the sounds of the womb. As another biological regulator, baby senses mother’s rhythmic breathing while worn tummy- to-tummy, chest-to-chest. Simply stated, regular parental rhythms have a balancing effect on the infant’s irregular rhythms. Babywearing “reminds” the baby of and continues the motion and balance he enjoyed in the womb.

4. Sling babies get “humanized” earlier. Another reason that babywearing enhances learning is that baby is intimately involved in the caregiver’s world. Baby sees what mother or father sees, hears what they hear, and in some ways feels what they feel. Carried babies become more aware of their parents’ faces, walking rhythms, and scents. Baby becomes aware of, and learns from, all the subtle facial expressions, body language, voice inflections and tones, breathing patterns, and emotions of the caregiver. A parent will relate to the baby a lot more often, because baby is sitting right under her nose. Proximity increases interaction, and baby can constantly be learning how to be human. Carried babies are intimately involved in their parents’ world because they participate in what mother and father are doing. A baby worn while a parent washes dishes, for example, hears, smells, sees, and experiences in depth the adult world. He is more exposed to and involved in what is going on around him. Baby learns much in the arms of a busy person.

5. Sling babies are smarter. Environmental experiences stimulate nerves to branch out and connect with other nerves, which helps the brain grow and develop. Babywearing helps the infant’s developing brain make the right connections. Because baby is intimately involved in the mother and father’s world, she is exposed to, and participates in, the environmental stimuli that mother selects and is protected from those stimuli that bombard or overload her developing nervous system. She so intimately participates in what mother is doing that her developing brain stores a myriad of experiences, called patterns of behavior. These experiences can be thought of as thousands of tiny short-run movies that are filed in the infant’s neurological library to be rerun when baby is exposed to a similar situation that reminds her of the making of the original “movie.” For example, mothers often tell me, “As soon as I pick up the sling and put it on, my baby lights up and raises his arms as if in anticipation that he will soon be in my arms and in my world.”

Normal ambient sounds, such as the noises of daily activities, may either have learning value for the infant or disturb him. If baby is alone, sounds may frighten him. If baby is worn, these sounds have learning value. The mother filters out what she perceives as unsuitable for the baby and gives the infant an “It’s okay” feeling when he is exposed to unfamiliar sounds and experiences.

 

 

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4 Comments »

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  1. Thank you so much for this post. I have researched and researched different types of slings but could not come up with the best “type.” You know for when I eventually have babies! Very helpful- thanks.

    • I’ve used 8 different brands/styles and the New Native is the best one I’ve come across. I’m looking into buying an ErgoBaby carrier now that Judah is getting so big. The New Native still works, but I’m not confident putting him in the back position using it. Babywearing is wonderful and makes public nursing so much easier!

  2. It’s so funny that you wrote on babywearing because I just bought an Ergo carrier yesterday!!! I love it because it does a good job of distributing CJ’s weight evenly between my shoulders, back, and hips/legs. I just took him on a walk today to the Post Office and to Subway and it was great!

    • awesome! where did you get it? i’m glad you finally got a carrier! babywearing is the bestest.


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