November 29, 2020

Babywearing: Beyond the Cute Baby Carriers

This is a guest post from my friend Aliya blogging at MomsReview

Babywearing is the simple act of carrying your baby on your body with the help of a cloth baby carrier. It is very convenient in our modern world and can make life with baby a lot easier as you continue to go about your days.

But babywearing is SO much more than this.

Outside of the convenience factor, here are what I consider to be the top five reasons to wear your baby.

1. It’s what Mother Nature intended for us to do.

Because of how we evolved as a species, we NEED to do it for our babies.

As a result of becoming upright, bipedal Homo Sapiens, we are one of only a few mammals that has to birth their children way before they are able to physically and emotionally navigate the world on their own. According to Dr. James McKenna, doctor of anthropology at Notre Dame University, human babies are born the most neurologically immature primate of all, with only 25% of their brain volume (compared to 60-90% in other mammals).

So it makes very good sense that human infants need to close proximity of their mother’s, the only environment that they have known and to which they are truly adapted. (McKenna, 1996). It is our biological imperative to keep our babies close, to provide the warmth, safety and nurturing of an ‘external womb’ and there is really no better way to do this than with babywearing.

2. Babywearing can improve breastfeeding. At a biochemical level!

Keeping our babies close and initiating breastfeeding, especially in those first few hours, weeks and months of their little lives. It has a lot to do with very powerful hormones which is something that is part chemistry that is a part of neuroscience and all magic!

Oxytocin is our main “love” hormone or hormone-like substance that is released in the brain in response to social contact and increases in intensity from skin-to skin contact. From the minute babies are born, high oxytocin levels in the mother help to ensure that they are imprinting on their babies and their babies on them. Through their sense of smell and their skin-to-skin contact this is achieved. Oxytocin is a key chemical in the feedback loop that helps in the production of breast milk.  This incredible feedback loop of love and bonding continues as babies grow and is very closely related to the amount of touch and holding that mothers do with their babies.

Babywearing can be a very helpful tool to use in order to initiate and maintain a healthy and successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby. By keeping them close, both of you are getting your daily dose (and then some) of oxytocin!

3. Babies who are held and carried cry less.

In a study by Hunziker et al. in 1986 (1), mothers were randomized to 2 groups, ones who carried their babies for a minimum of 3 hours a day (with carriers provided) versus a traditional care group with less holding and carrying. The differences at the peak crying age of 6 weeks was significant. The carried infants cried and fussed 43% less overall and 51% less from 4 pm to midnight(evening).

This fact alone is reason enough to have at least one good baby carrier on hand at all times!!

4. Babywearing can help alleviate the pain and discomfort for babies with colic or gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD).

While there have been no conclusive studies indicating that babywearing is a good treatment for colic, there is enough anecdotal evidence and parental testimonial to support its use for babies with all levels of digestion issues. From the happy spitters to the ones with severe GERD, wearing your baby  serves to reason that keeping babies in an upright position for feeding (biological nurturing/laid-back breastfeeding) and for extended periods after feeding (most conveniently in a baby carrier) can help with proper digestion. It can also essentially help let gravity do it’s job and keep baby’s meals from coming back up and then down the back of your pants!

5. Babywearing  creates independent and securely attached children.

Contrary to what most of mainstream western society would have you believe, babywearing (and by extension, responding to your child’s cues as needed for all their essential needs) creates independent and securely attached children.

And this phenomenon has even been studied and proven in randomized clinical trial. (2)

Babies who are held, whose cries and needs are met by their caregivers, develop trust and a sense of security in their world. A world which they are firmly entrenched and actively a part of. There exists a lot of myths about babywearing , but the great truth about babywearing is that it is one of those amazing parental practices that everyone can do. The benefits and joys of babywearing are almost immediate and it makes for happy and healthy families.

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