Baby Wearing: The Art and Science of Carrying Your Baby - Part One
This article covers topics such as New Support for an Old Idea, choosing the right baby carrier, how to wear your baby: a personal choice, putting on the sling, cradle hold, snuggle hold, kangaroo carry (forward-facing position), and the hip straddle. There will be three more parts to this article; please watch for these additional parts.
"As long as I carry my baby, he's content" mothers of fussy babies would say. Here is the story of parents and babies in a pediatricians practice and how it can change yours.
New Support For An Old Idea
In many other cultures parents wear their babies; in our culture we wheel our babies, then park them somewhere. Infant development specialists who travel throughout the world studying infant-care practices have repeatedly observed that babies who are carried in a variety of cloth-type slings or front packs seem more content than infants who are kept in cribs, playpens, strollers, prams, and plastic seats. The mother of an infant visited the island of Bali, where she witnessed a ground-touching ceremony. The Balinese babies are carried, or worn, for the first six months of life. The mother or some other caregiver in the extended family wears the baby all day long, and baby is put down to sleep next to the mother. The baby literally does not touch the ground for the first six months, at which time a ground-touching ceremony is held, and for the first time the baby is put down on the ground to crawl and learn freestyle movements.
For a number of years research in infant-care studies have found general agreement that babies behave and develop better when they are carried a lot. Years ago, while attending an international parenting conference, two women from Zambia were interviewed who were carrying their babies in slings that matched their native dress. They were asked why women in their culture wear their babies most of the time. One woman replied, "It makes life easier for the mother." The other woman volunteered, "It's good for the baby." These women went on to relate the feelings of "completeness" and "value" that baby wearing gave them. Women in their culture don't have the benefits of books and studies about mothering hormones. What they have is centuries of tradition that have simply taught them that something good happens to women and their babies when the babies are worn.
Encouraged by these observations, a personal study was done on the beneficial effects of baby wearing on babies and their parents. Since that time a lot of miles have been logged of wearing their own babies and have kept precise records as various carrying styles were experimented with. It is advised that parents carry their babies as much as possible, beginning right after birth. Try out a variety of baby carriers and choose the one most comfortable for themselves and their babies.
To mothers it is now said, "Try to get used to wearing your baby in a sling-type carrier just as you would wear one of your favorite items of clothing." At baby's first checkup, usually at one week, new parents should be shown how to wear their baby. During their personal course on baby wearing, each parent should be advised to experiment with various carrying positions, to find the one that is most comfortable and allows baby to mold to the contours of the parent's own body; encouraging them to shift carrying positions to match baby's development.
This is why it is called baby wearing. Now, to teach you how this practice can make your parenting life easier and enhance the development of your baby, here are the results of the study and your own course in baby wearing.
The Baby Wearing Mind-set
Choosing The Right Baby Carrier
Early in the study it was realized one of the reasons Western mothers did not wear their babies much was that the baby carriers then available were not easy to use. One of the reasons that mothers in other cultures wear their babies so much is that they fabricate a sling-type carrier that looks like part of their garments and, in fact, usually is. Mothers are encouraged either to find or create a carrier that would be comfortable for them and easy to use and that would keep their baby from fussing. When exposed to a whole parade of baby wearing mothers, it was observed what types of carriers and styles of wearing worked for most parent-baby pairs most of the time. After years of watching baby wearing parents, the same conclusion was reached that mothers in other cultures have known for centuries and Western mothers are now beginning to discover -- a sling-type carrier works the best. In selecting a sling-type carrier look for the following features.
Safety. The most important feature of any baby carrier is safety. The sling must both support and contain the baby.
Comfort. A baby carrier must be comfortable for both parents and baby. A well-designed carrier should distribute the baby's weight on the adult's shoulders and hips, not the back and neck. The sling should be comfortably padded over all pressure points, especially along the wearer's back and shoulder and wherever the edges of the carrier press against baby's torso and legs.
Versatility. Choose a carrier that you can use from birth to at least two years of age, thus making it unnecessary to purchase a series of carriers as baby gets older. Fussy, colicky babies are seldom content to be carried in the same position all the time. Carriers that flatten baby against mother's chest are often too restrictive for a baby who, like all of us, is more content being stimulated by a 180-degree view of the world around him.
Ease of use. A fact of human nature is that if something is not convenient to use, we won't bother with it. Fathers, especially, shy away from carriers that have sets of buckles and straps. A well-designed sling-type carrier can be adjusted with baby inside, with one hand, without disturbing the baby. Another important feature of a well-designed carrier is that you should be able to easily and safely slip out of the carrier, leaving baby still inside -- a useful maneuver while putting baby down if you want, once baby is asleep.
Suitability for feeding. One thing often heard from mothers is that they have to remove their babies from a carrier in order to breastfeed. With a sling-type carrier, however, you can easily and discreetly breastfeed your baby while she is still in the sling. A hungry baby can be quickly attached before having to fuss for a feeding and can quietly drift off to a satisfied sleep while still in the sling. Using the sling carrier as a shield allows you to meet baby's need to feed at those inopportune times when you just can't get to a quiet, private place or when you don't have a place to sit down (such as standing in line at the grocery store).
Consult experienced baby wearers for advice on which carrier to select and how to use it. Borrow and test-wear various carriers before settling on the best one for you and your baby. You are not only selecting a carrier, you are investing in a parenting style. Baby carriers are nurturing devices, and sling carriers make rediscovering the lost art of wearing the baby easier for parents -- and good for the baby.
How To Wear Your Baby: A Personal Course
Each baby has his or her individual preference on how to be carried, and each baby wearer has his or her preference on how to carry the baby. Because the sling-type carrier has enjoyed worldwide use for centuries and is the one us for research, it is suggested that the sling be the standard apparel for your course in baby wearing. (The following general instructions apply to most sling-type carriers. They may vary according to the design of the carrier.)
Initially parents may feel uncomfortable wearing their newborn because baby seems scrunched down too far in the sling. Remember, your baby was scrunched in the womb, so she is used to this secure feeling. Being curled up is a natural position for a newborn. Colicky babies especially are comforted by rolling into a little ball and drawing their legs up onto their abdomen.
The following is a step-by-step approach to wearing your newborn.
Putting on the Sling
Decide which shoulder you wish the sling to rest on. Hold the baby sling where the tail passes through the rings and place it over your head, letting it come to rest on your shoulder and across your chest. For the standard position, have the tail in front and the shoulder pad on your shoulder. For a newborn, put the sling on "backward" (with the shoulder pad in front, and rings and tail at top of shoulder) so that your newborn's head can rest on the shoulder pad as a pillow.
Adjusting the sling. You can adjust the size of the sling by simply pulling on the tail, creating a snugger fit. The smaller the infant and/or the baby wearer, the longer the tail will be. Holding baby's bottom while you adjust the size of the sling lessens the weight on the sling, making adjustment easier.
Put it in gear! As soon as baby is nestled securely and comfortably in the sling, start walking immediately; babies usually associate being nested in the sling with movement. If you stand still too long after putting baby in the sling he may fuss.
1. Put the sling on "backward" for babies under about 10 pounds.
Kangaroo Carry (Forward-Facing position)
To determine whether your baby is ready to be carried facing forward, try the following. Without the sling, hold your baby against your chest with her head and back resting against your chest, your arms underneath her legs, bending her highs upward to touch her abdomen. This one of the colic curl positions also. Start walking and revolving a bid side to side, giving your baby a full 180-degree sweeping view. If your baby likes this position, she is probably ready for the kangaroo carry.
Six-month-old babies love the forward-facing carry. Started early, some babies may enjoy this forward-facing position for up to a year or longer.
Use your sling as following for the kangaroo carry:
Sidesaddle carry. This is a variation of the forward-facing position. Slide baby down into the pouch, bottom first as in the kangaroo carry. Next burn baby's feet toward the side opposite the rings and nestle his head in the sling pocket a few inches beneath the rings.
Some babies like to play the game of arching themselves backward shortly after being put in the hip straddle. It is all right for baby to lean away from your body to some extent; he doesn't have to be held in as tightly as in the snuggle hold. Try giving your baby a toy, or engage your baby in immediate eye-to-eye contact to lessen this nuisance, convincing him that he wants to be close to you rather than push away from you.
Shifting positions from the hip straddle.
To shift from the hip carry to the cradle hold for breastfeeding or comforting, bring baby's back leg to the front alongside the other one, and swing both legs over to the ring side, letting baby cradle across your front. Pull up extra fabric from the upper railing so that you entire front area is covered for private feeding.
The real fun of baby wearing, for you and your infant, is experimenting with various positions and carrying styles to find the ones that work best for you and your baby (preferably begin in the newborn period), the better baby will become accustomed to the sling. Even infants six months old or older can be taught to enjoy the sling, but it often take some creative wearing styles to get the older first-time sling baby to get used to being in a carrier.
Article Tags: Baby Wearing, Other Cultures, Life Easier, Baby Carriers, Sling-type Carrier, Baby Carrier, From Birth, Baby Against, Away From, Baby Down, Cradle Hold, Baby's Back, Some Babies, Snuggle Hold, Hold Baby, Left Hand, Right Hand, Hand Pull, Baby's Feet, Upper Railing, Kangaroo Carry, Forward-facing Position
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