Why and How I Babywear
In those first few weeks with my newborn, I could hardly stand the thought of putting her down. I felt an urge to be close to her all the time and didn’t want to part with her, even for naps. I found myself pulling out my sling or carrier all day long. It made me happy, she hardly cried, and I felt like I could actually get a few things done around the house.
I never planned to babywear all day, and yet here I was with a baby strapped to me constantly. It physically felt right to have her snuggled up close where she could hear my heartbeat, feel the warmth of my body, and smell and hear her mama.
I realize this approach is not always the norm in American parenting, and I got a lot of questions about it. Of course, I also got the comments about spoiling my baby and rearing a child who will never learn to be independent apart from me (and trust me, my child is now extremely independent and certainly was not “spoiled”).
Why I Chose to Babywear
Here are a few of the reasons I chose to babywear and the benefits I and my baby got from it.
- It helped my baby’s digestion. When I carried her upright, she seemed to spit up less and have fewer bouts of painful gas.
- She was a very content baby and spent less time crying. I have had a lot of friends and family comment about how my daughter is such an easygoing baby. While this might be partially due to her personality, I attribute a lot of it to babywearing. I think she felt cuddled and protected as she took in the great big world around her.
- I could get a lot more done around the house. The carrier freed up both of my hands. I cooked dinner, cleaned the house, worked at my desk, hiked, ran errands, and so much more with my baby nestled up close to me in her carrier. It was easier to do my normal daily activities.
- She took great naps. In the first five months of her life, each nap was regularly 1.5 – 2 hours. The bonus was that when I put her in the carrier and started to walk around or go about my day, she would easily fall asleep to the rhythm of me moving around. I didn’t have to spend a lot of hours rocking her to sleep.
- I had more flexibility in my day. Because my baby could take good naps on me, I could leave the house for several hours at a time. This kept me from being so tied to being at home, especially in those early months when the baby was napping 3 or 4 times a day.
- It helped with breastfeeding. I felt that keeping my baby close in her carrier, snuggled up against my chest, encouraged more breastfeeding. It created this natural gateway to breastfeeding.
How I Wore My Baby
So, what did babywearing end up looking like for me? In the first few weeks of my baby’s life, I wore her nearly all day, naps included. I only took her out to eat and for nighttime sleep. As she got older, she progressively spent more time playing on the floor and a little less time in her wrap or sling. At about five months, I transitioned her naps from in the carrier to in a crib. And then I continued to wear my baby for a portion of her awake or playtime until about 18 months. It was her happy place. She loved looking at life through my eyes.
I switched between three types of carriers.
- Wrap: This is a long piece of fabric you use to wrap your baby to yourself. It is like a giant, cozy hug and this is the style I preferred in the first three months. It keeps the baby facing toward you and protected.
- Structured Carrier: These usually have larger padded straps with a large thick waistband that you buckle, kind of like a backpack for the baby. Often, they can be worn on your front or back and you can face the baby inwards or outwards. Most are extremely versatile. I used this for hiking, long walks, or when I was doing something physically demanding around the house. It made my back hurt the least. I also preferred this as my baby got older, because she could face out and look around.
- Ring Sling: These are made with a long piece of fabric that slides through two rings to create a pouch for your baby, allowing you to do a front or hip carry. The hip carry allowed my baby to snuggle in close while still getting a good view of the world around her. I used this one the most between 6 and 18 months.
My one warning is that carrying your baby all day can be physically challenging and a bit of an adjustment. My back was sore the first few weeks, but I eventually could carry my baby all day without a problem. What helped me was switching between the different types of carriers, so I was changing up the muscles I was using.
If you plan to babywear, make sure you are up to date on the safest babywearing practices. This includes how to safely position their hips and how to wear them so there is no risk of suffocation.
When I gave birth to my baby, I felt a strange emptiness as I stared down at my newly deflated tummy with no baby inside. Having my baby physically close to me all day eased the transition for both of us as I learned to be a mom and she learned to navigate this great big world around her.