Babywearing International (BWI) and babywearing advocates worldwide are celebrating and promoting babywearing this week. Below is a primer on babywearing and it’s health benefits.
What is babywearing?
Babywearing is a hands-free way of carrying your baby. It typically requires some type of cloth to fasten your baby close to you. Babywearing has been done by mothers for centuries all over the world and many parents continue to do so today.
What are the health benefits of wearing your baby?
A research study by Anisfeld and colleagues showed that increased physical contact between infants and mothers increased maternal responsiveness and secure attachment. Another research study showed that increased carrying reduced crying in infants. An article on ChildrensMD sites other studies which suggest that carrying your baby and keeping close physical contact has health benefits for the mother as well such as improved breast milk production and breastfeeding. Other health benefits for the baby includes promotion of neurobehavioral and language development and decreased plagiocephaly or flat head.
How do I wear my baby and choose the right carrier for me?
Newborns, babies, and very young children can be worn in a variety of ways: on your front, back, or side/hip. Different carriers allow you to wear your baby in different positions or holds. Some positions include: budha/kangaroo, cradle, and nursing. The Baby Wearer has an awesome page on the different ways you can wear your baby.
What are types of baby carriers?
There are several types of baby carriers available in the market depending on your personal style and taste, as well as your baby’s comfort. Below is a brief description of the basic styles. Check The Baby Wearer for advice on how to choose the right carrier for you.
Asian Back Carriers/Mei Tai (pronounced may tie)
This Asian style carrier has a body panel with shoulder straps and waist straps. The waist straps are tied around the waist and the shoulder straps are crossed behind the back and around the baby. These can be used for newborns to toddlers. Mei Tais are perfect for front and back carrying and are one-size fits all.
There are two types of slings: pouch and ring.
Pouches are one-shoulder baby carriers that are quick and easy to use; just hang around one shoulder. These can be used for infants to toddlers. Pouches are perfect for front and hip carrying and are sized for the wearer.
Similar to pouches, rings slings are one-shoulder baby carriers but are adjustable. Rings are attached at one end of the fabric where the fabric is looped through. To adjust, tug at the hanging tail until the perfect fit is attained. These can be used for newborns to toddlers. Ring-slings are perfect for front and hip carrying and are one-size fits all.
Similar to Mei Tais, structured carriers consist of a body panel, shoulder straps, and waist straps. However, straps on the structured carriers are usually padded and buckled instead of tied. These can be used for newborns to toddlers. Structured carriers are perfect for front, back, and hip carrying and are one-size fits all.
There are two types of wraps based on the material/fabric used: stretchy and woven. A wrap is one long piece of cloth that is wrapped around the wearers body and tied. There are many ways to tie a wrap depending on the wearer and carrying position.
Stretchy wraps are made with soft cotton and as the name implies, give a bit of stretch during wear. These can be used for newborns to toddlers. Stretchy wraps are perfect for front carrying and are one-size fits all.
Woven wraps are generally made with thicker fabric than stretchy wraps but are more supportive and versatile. These can be used for newborns to toddlers. Woven wraps are perfect for front, back, and hip carrying and are one-size fits all.
Below is a comparison chart of the different carrier types.
Where can I get baby carriers and for how much?
Baby carriers can be purchased at brick and mortar stores and online. Prices vary depending on the type, material, and brand that you choose. They can get pricey, but they are definitely priceless. You can buy used carriers from craigslist or get them from swap sites. Some online stores provide a trial program which allows you to try a carrier for a limited time and return it if it’s not the right fit for you and your baby.
1. Anisfeld E, Casper V, Nozyce M, Cunningham N. Does infant carrying promote attachment? An experimental study of the effects of increased physical contact on the development of attachment. title=”Child development” Child Dev. 1990 Oct;61(5):1617-27.
2. Hunziker UA, Barr RG. Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. 1986 May;77(5):641-8.