Put A Sling on it: Babywearing!
Beyoncé told us to put a ring on it….And after the ring, comes the baby in the sling! Baby-wearing is both the most popular and the most primal way to get around with your little bundle of joy. Cultures around the world use beautiful pieces of cloth and complex wrapping techniques to secure baby on the mama’s body. But what’s so great about carrying your baby this way?
Besides the warmth and closeness—being able to see, feel, and smell your little one up close and personal—infant carrying decreases crying by up to 50 percent and promotes infant attachment. Carried babies are happy babies. Just think about it. You carry your baby for 40 weeks on the inside. She is used to the closeness! She loves being close to your heartbeat, that’s the rhythm that she came to know from within. So KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, right through the first few months of your little one’s life.
But what about you? What benefits might you experience by having your baby on your body?
- Multitasking. Cook dinner, bake cookies, and soothe your baby—all at the same time. Do housework, run errands, meet up with the girls, or even check out a concert, all while providing a stimulating learning environment for your baby.
- Hands-free breastfeeding. Especially helpful while on the phone or out and about in the world.
- Bonding. You’re right there with your little one, learning his or her unique rhythms.
- Keeping baby close and happy. Need I elaborate?
- Getting some exercise. You can walk or hike while your baby sleeps.
- Traveling light. You can leave the stroller or carrying seat at home.
Benefits for babies:
- Less crying. Research has shown that babies who are carried cry 43 percent less overall and 54 percent less during the evening hours. In cultures where babies are carried continuously, babies cry significantly less than those in noncarrying cultures. That’s something to think about!
- Mental development. Babies spend more time in a “quiet, alert state” when carried—the optimal state for learning. Their senses are stimulated, but they can also tuck away and sleep whenever they want. When carried, your baby sees the world the same way you do—instead of pondering the ceiling fan while in the crib or people’s knobby knees while in the stroller. This extra stimulation promotes brain development.
- Emotional development. Babies quickly develop a sense of security and trust when they are carried. They are more likely to be securely attached to their caregivers and to explore independence at an earlier age.
- Physical and neurological development. By keeping baby close to your body’s rhythms, your newborn gets in rhythm much more quickly. Your heartbeat, breathing, voice, and warmth are all familiar. Research has shown that this helps newborns, particularly premature babies, adapt to life outside the womb.
- Soothes the baby blues. Babies who are not held a lot need more verbal interaction and eye contact, just to be reassured that you’re there. Carrying your baby is a great way to connect with him or her (and provide stimulation, too) without having to be engaging if you aren’t feeling totally blissed out. The closeness also stimulates production of bonding hormones like oxytocin, which in elevated levels can help you shake off the baby blues.
I wore my son in a sling when he was a newborn because it allowed him to be in a dark and cozy space all tucked into himself, like when he was inside of me. I remember when his father and I got to the first pediatric visit, the nurse thought we had forgotten the baby because the sling was so close to his father’s body that it looked like a fashionable scarf. (Never mind that it was in the middle of the summer!) Once he was mobile, I switched to a sling that I could wear on my back to evenly distribute the weight across both shoulders. My friends joke with me and say, “You didn’t put that baby down until he was three.” It sounds about right! I loved wearing my little guy in his sling. I used the sling until my son was about five so we could move through airports with ease. If I had to be in large crowds with him, it was much easier to have him on my back than in a stroller. This closeness we cultivated when Fulano was little still carries on. He has grown into a well-adjusted child who is comfortable in any situation, because he’s always had support.
In the early months, practice wearing, rather than wheeling, your baby. It’s a gratifying feeling to look down and see those little eyes looking back up at you. There are a ton of baby slings out there, in every color and pattern. Find what works for you.
We’re totally obsessed with The Scout Felt Sling. This one goes over well for dads.
Are you pregnant and exploring carrying options? Do you have a little one who loves her sling? Are you curious about slings but have questions? Comment below.
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