Parenting is arguably one of the most challenging things we’ll ever do. It also happens to be the most rewarding.
Nikki Wilkins, Certified Baby Carrier Consultant and owner of Nurture Nest (Australia’s largest baby carrier specialty store), strongly believes that many of the challenges we face as parents can be reduced or eliminated with the use of a baby carrier (or what is commonly also referred to as a baby sling).
Most adults have a fairly sound understanding of children’s needs and the importance of being responsive to them, but applying this in a practical sense on a day to day basis can be a challenge for many parents.
In recent years we have seen the creation of many baby products designed to help make the increasingly busy lives of parents easier such as prams, bouncers, play pens, and cots. Many parents quickly discover that during the frequent moments throughout the day their children need them to meet their basic need for connection, these products aren’t very useful as they put a barrier between themselves and their children.
Thankfully with more baby carriers that are comfortable and easy to use in recent years, parents are beginning to rediscover their usefulness and they are becoming more and more popular as a result.
Although often referred to as ‘baby’ carriers, it is not widely known that there are comfortable options from birth through to preschooler. You should be able to comfortably carry at least up to 20kg (that’s an average 4-5 year old). Life is too short for an uncomfortable baby carrier!
Nikki receives emails on a daily basis from people who write to thank her for the difference their baby carrier has made in their lives, and has shared with us the 12 most common reasons.
- Children who are carried cry less
Crying can be exhausting for both the parents and their baby. If you halved the amount of time your baby was crying, how would that impact your life? How would it impact the experience of your baby?
In a study published by the journal ‘Pediatrics’, researchers found that babywearing for three hours per day reduced infant crying by 43 percent, and during the evening hours it reduced by 54 percent.
Babies who are not crying spend their energy calmly observing and actively learning about their environment and have more positive interactions with the world.
Babywearing is especially useful for babies who are unsettled with reflux or colic who are far happier being worn and continuously kept in an upright position to provide relief from their discomfort. Many parents of babies with reflux are told by health professionals to keep their babies upright an hour after eating, and doing this without a baby carrier can be incredibly difficult considering how often babies eat.
Children who are held regularly by their parents experience more happiness throughout the day which has a positive impact for us as parents, too.
- Children who are carried are easier to get to sleep and they sleep longer
Many babies nap better and for longer periods when being carried. If they begin to wake up during the end of their short sleep cycle, the person wearing them can simply sway a couple of times to gently rock them back to sleep. This saves a significant amount of time often spent trying to settle a baby in their cot, and also means they can have their nap when you are out and about running errands or doing things around the house rather than planning your life around nap times.
More often than not, their night time sleep also improves when they have been carried during the day. One explanation for this is because regular close contact helps babies regulate their circadian rhythms better and allows them to better distinguish the difference between night and day sleep.
If the baby is sleeping more at night, generally the parents are too. This in itself can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of a family.
- Families who use baby carriers have more time to do the things they love
If you haven’t used a baby carrier regularly before, you’ll be amazed at what they can help a family achieve.
Picture this: Your best friend is having an engagement party this weekend at her house. You aren’t ready to leave your baby with anyone (or you are but don’t have a sitter) but you still want to go and celebrate. You consider taking the pram so the baby has somewhere to sleep, but will there be any room to have it next to you? If you put the pram in a different room so the music doesn’t wake the baby, will the monitor reach that far? Will you hear the monitor over the loud music? Are you comfortable leaving your baby in an unfamiliar room with people you haven’t met wandering around inside? Instead, you decide to take your baby carrier. Your baby sleeps snuggled up against you, warm and safe. Every now and then she stirs, but you just bounce her up and down a little and she sleeps through. You stay and enjoy the party for as long as you like, dancing and catching up with old friends.
If you enjoy walking the dog, hiking, or walking along the beach, you can enjoy the convenience of babywearing. You can go many places wearing a carrier that a pram can’t go – walk in the water or even in the soft sand as far as you want to go. This is just as handy with walking toddlers whose little legs tire easily.
Love going to the movies? Babywear! There isn’t a great amount of room on those tiny cinema seats to have your baby sleeping in your arms, but if you’re babywearing it’s easy for your baby to fall asleep in the upright position without encroaching on the space of the person next to you or experiencing a numb arm.
Travel. So many families have experienced traveling for longer periods or much earlier than they ever expected to thanks to the convenience and practicality of babywearing – at the airport, on the plane, public transport, and out and about.
The possibilities are endless. Families who babywear can experience far less isolation as they have the confidence and the means to get out and about in the community. Parents feel so much more confident getting out and about when their babies are settled, and babywearing is an incredible aid in keeping babies calm and content.
Babies who are carried also become involved in their parents’ world and get to participate and be within close proximity to what their parents’ are doing rather than viewing things as a spectator when placed in a pram, playpen or bouncer.
- Babywearing encourages independence and fosters a strong attachment
You may not be ready for your child to be more independent yet, but you may have had someone say to you ‘carried babies will end up clingy’ or ‘you’re making a rod for your own back’ when they see you cuddling or carrying your baby.
Actually, the opposite is true. Many studies have shown that children who have their needs met grow to become more confident to explore the world when they are ready than those who don’t have their immediate needs met because they know you will be there for them when they need you.
It’s also a wonderful opportunity for relatives to connect and bond with the baby.
- Babywearing allows you to do more of the things that you need to do
Vacuuming, doing the dishes, preparing dinner, mopping, doing laundry, working – basically anything you do to keep your household running can be done much easier (and generally faster) with a baby carrier.
As parents we often feel overwhelmed with the day to day running of the household. It can be difficult to achieve these tasks when you have a baby who doesn’t want to be put down or wakes up as soon as you try to put them down for a sleep. If you’re using a baby carrier, you no longer need to worry.
Do you work from home or have a hobby you love spending time on? Grab yourself a fit ball and use that as your desk chair – it’s perfect for wearing a baby on your back (if you are comfortable doing so and if baby is old enough) and slightly bouncing up and down to get them to sleep if needed.
Once we achieve these things we feel less overwhelmed with the day and have more time to do the things we love with the people we love most. Isn’t that what life’s all about?
- Babywearing is practical
Babywearing enables you to easily navigate stairs, leave the pram at home, duck in and out of small shopping aisles, navigate crowds easily. The possibilities are endless (within reason, of course)
And it’s so much easier and quicker to get out of the car than a pram!
- Babywearing can increase your confidence as a parent
A large aspect of parenting with confidence is being able to read your baby’s cues successfully. When babies are held close in a baby carrier, a parent quickly becomes finely tuned to their baby’s cues. The parent’s responsiveness to the baby’s needs increases the baby’s trust in their parent which enhances the attachment between the parent and child, creating strong family relationships and making parenting more enjoyable.
- Babywearing reduces the risk of postnatal depression
Postnatal depression (PND) affects between 10 to 15% of new mothers, and many are never diagnosed. In 2014 the Royal College of Midwives reported that nearly 60% of mothers felt down or depressed after giving birth. Keeping your baby close improves bonding and attachment through the release of oxytocin, and reduces anxiety and depression. It can also help parents get out and about and exercise which is also shown to help with PND.
- Babywearing helps you have one on one time with all of your children
Having a new sibling is a big change for a child, and for the parents. As parents we try to divide our time up between both children but the reality is that newborns or young babies generally require our immediate attention more often.
Babywearing allows you to keep meet many of the immediate needs of your new baby by keeping them close in a baby carrier leaving your hands free to spend time with your other children. Many parents wonder how they would have got by without babywearing once they have more than one child, and it becomes particularly useful when taking your older child to kindergym or even walking to school together.
- Babywearing helps you to reconnect after time apart
A recent study has found that the average parent has less than 30 minutes to devote to their children in the evenings. Many working parents have reported that babywearing has been crucial for them to reconnect with their children after time apart due to going to work. Often children become unsettled in the afternoon and the time between picking them up from childcare and bed time is often referred to as the ‘witching hour’ as children can become quite unsettled and wanting our undivided attention. Babywearing allows you to find additional opportunities to connect – by wearing your children when you are preparing dinner or doing various household tasks.
Keeping your child close at this time is an incredible opportunity to reconnect after time apart and keep your child settled.
- Babywearing saves your back
A large percentage of adults complain of back problems, and even those who don’t have back problems find carrying a child on their hip quite tiring on their body. A good baby carrier will distribute the weight evenly across your body. This can be life-changing for a parent who has a disability or for any reason has difficulty carrying their child. Whether it be for short trips or longer cuddles – a baby carrier is perfect if you need a bit of extra support.
- Babywearing facilitates breastfeeding
Babywearing allows you to breastfeed on the move discretely (although Nikki recommends you become confident in breastfeeding and babywearing before you combine the two, and to start once your baby has good neck control). For those who have had problems with breastfeeding, babywearing has been shown to help. Some babies nurse better on the go as they are more relaxed when in the comfort of the motion of being in a baby carrier. The close proximity can also help babies to feed more frequently and help mothers to respond to cues more frequently.
The care babies and children receive strongly influences the type of people that they will become for the rest of their lives. Parents who are responsive to their children’s needs help them to build positive attachments and relationships. Babywearing is the one parenting tool that can make almost every aspect of parenting easier and more enjoyable – resulting in happier parents and children.
Nurture Nest website: www.nurturenest.com.au
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Nikki can be contacted for a free email consultation to help you choose the perfect baby carrier: firstname.lastname@example.org