Before I had children, I would see those earthy, “crunchy” moms walking around the park or the store with their babies in weird pouches and I would roll my eyes.
Okay, we get it, you have a baby.
Cut the cord already.
Haven’t you ever heard of a stroller?
I mean, we’re not kangaroos for goodness sake!
But then, I had my baby… turns out kangaroos know what’s up.
Parents all over the world have been wearing their babies for all of time. More than anything, babywearing allows humans to survive and move on with normal life's daily tasks. My working full-time from home with two children under the age of two is largely made possible by strapping on my little papoose. My hands are free!
For thousands of years, women and men (don’t feel left out, dads) have used cloth and animal skin to wrap baby in some form of carrier. Native Americans and Aboriginal mothers have used sturdier carriers made of bark or wood. Japanese mothers use a carrier called an onbuhimo; Guatemalan mothers use a parraje; African mothers use a khanga. Sometimes carriers can also be decorative, like the Indonesian selendang, or they can double-up to keep baby and mama warm, like the indigenous Alaskan mothers’ use of the amauti. Today, the American yuppie wears a Moby. (Seriously though, I love mine. Buy one here). Moby wraps take a little finesse at first, so if you can’t get the hang of it try the K’Tan, Baby Bjorn, or some kind of ring sling. All good stuff.
Mama Rama Co’s focus is on mothers’ health. However, I’m very passionate about babywearing as it is so beneficial for both baby and mama (and it’s easy). I think all mothers would agree that happy, healthy baby = happy, healthy mama.
Bonding with Baby
For those of you who have given birth or are preparing to give birth, you know that “skin-to-skin” time on mom’s chest immediately after birth is strongly encouraged, and is sometimes even required. This practice has recently had a large push in the medical world. “Skin-to-skin” time is simply baby’s bare skin in contact with the bare skin of mother, father, or another care-taker. “Skin-to-skin” time is vital for healthy human development because it naturally creates the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin promotes lactation and is released during orgasm. If you’ve ever practiced skin-to-skin with a baby, or if you’ve ever hugged someone… oxytocin probably made you feel great--it’s often called the “love hormone”.
Babywearing releases buckets of oxytocin simply because of the closeness. This oxytocin promotes baby’s social and mental skills, and has been shown to help develop baby’s sense of empathy. Oxytocin helps mama think more clearly, feel less stressed or overwhelmed, and feel more connected to her baby. After I had my first child, I was so sad that I wasn’t the only one caring for her anymore (I know… you’re probably wondering if I was insane). But once I started wearing my daughter, I instantly felt better and I am a firm believer that it helped prevent bouts of postpartum depression.
Mental and Physical Development
Even in utero, your baby’s verbal skills are developing just from hearing you speak. (I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that my children didn’t pick up on everything that came out of my mouth during pregnancy and childbirth). When you wear your baby, the same thing happens. Baby hears the tones and sounds of your voice, and it all sticks somewhere in the sponge that is your baby’s brain. Baby is moving with you and hearing your breathing, which has been shown to help a child develop his or her own healthy rhythm. The first few months of life are tough; baby is trying to cope with not being in the safe, cozy womb anymore. Babywearing brings back some of the comforts that your child so loved during pregnancy.
Your pediatrician is going to emphasize the importance of tummy-time (another term which made me roll my eyes pre-children). Tummy-time is exactly what is sounds like: giving baby some time to lay face-down. It helps with the development of motor skills and neck muscles. It also helps avoid the “flat head syndrome” that comes from baby laying on his or her back constantly. (My son totally had this for a while… sorry, second child. It happens). Babywearing can help with all of these things, too. Bonus: you don’t have to watch your baby lay on its belly and scream its head off while you just sit there.
Note: there are safe and unsafe ways to wear your child. First and foremost, you want to make sure baby’s face is exposed, and the chin is away from the chest so the airway is not blocked. You can nurse baby while you carry, but again be sure your baby can breathe. This may all seem like common sense, but seriously, be sure you’re doing this correctly to avoid suffocation. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to position properly. Here’s a good resource for babywearing safety: https://babycarrierindustryalliance.org/babywearing-safety/consumers/
I wore my daughter constantly throughout her first year of life. That first year of life was so sweet. She slept in the wrap for hours while I would work, clean, go for walks, watch TV, read. I could just bend my head down and kiss her bald little head. By the time she turned one year old, I was about five months pregnant and couldn't handle two kids kicking me. Plus I was already the size of a barn... it just didn't work logistically.
A few weeks ago, I could tell my daughter was a little jealous that I was wearing her baby brother all the time. So I put him down for a nap and asked her if she wanted to hop in. She looked at me like I was a lunatic, as she usually does. But I popped her in and it immediately brought me back to my first round of motherhood. I teared right up. And my daughter loved it too. She snuggled her little head into my chest and got quiet (for the first time in about three months). She was instantly calmer, just letting her arms and legs flail around. I didn’t ever want to let go. But then she saw the dog was sniffing her crayons and demanded to get down so she could go police the situation. Hey, it was fun while it lasted...