Baby Wearing: The Art and Science of Carrying Your Baby – Part Two

by Sally Michener

This article covers topics such the baby wearing father — becoming a shareholder, other baby wearers, baby wearing and baby-sitters, baby wearing by siblings, baby wear in day care, and a multitude of other topics. More to follow in Part Three.

The Baby Wearing Father — Becoming a Shareholder

It is important that a baby get used to father’s handling too. Father has a different rhythm to his walk, a difference that baby learns to appreciate. The snuggle hold and neck nestle are favorite wearing positions for father.

The neck nestle. Place the bay in the snuggle position and lift him up a bit until his head nestles into the curve of your neck. You will have found one of the most comforting and calming holding patterns. In the neck nestle dad has a slight edge over mom. Babies hear not only through their ears but also through the vibration of their skull bones. By placing baby’s head against your voice box, in the front of your neck, and humming and singing to your baby, the slower, more easily felt vibrations of the lower-pitched male voice often lull baby right to sleep. As you rock and walk with your baby, sing a calming song such as “Old Man River.”

Another attraction to the neck nestle is that baby feels the warming air from your nose on her scalp. (Experienced mothers have long known that sometimes just breathing onto baby’s head or face will calm her. They call this “magic breath.”) Babies enjoy the neck nestle more than any of the other holding patterns, and fathers will too. Dads, becoming a shareholder in the family art of baby wearing.

The Warm Fuzzy. For a uniquely male variation of the snuggle hold, place baby’s ear over your heart — bare skin to bare skin. The combination of the rhythm of your heartbeat and movement of your chest, plus the feel of abdominal breathing and the rhythm of your walk, introduce baby to the uniqueness of being worn by dad. If baby falls asleep during the warm fuzzy &as usually happens), lie down with your baby and drift off to sleep together (see “Wearing Down to Sleep.”)

For a father to be comfortable wearing his baby and a baby to respond to dad’s baby wearing techniques are real bonuses for mothers of high-need babies. It helps prevent mother burnout. Here is a common scenario of a mother of a high-need baby.

“I love our new baby, but he is one of these high-need babies and I need to wear him constantly. He was wearing me down and I was burning out. My husband feels very insecure in calming fussy babies and for this reason I was reluctant to release our baby to him during those trying fussy times. The sling was the answer. After my husband got used to wearing our baby, and I saw that our baby liked it, I felt more comfortable releasing our baby to him. Initially I would hover over my husband to make sure our baby would stop fussing but as soon as he proved himself as a competent baby wearer I felt a sense of relief. Even though I wear our baby most of the time, just having my husband share this beautiful experience gives me a much-needed break.”

I’m sure other father’s share this same experience. Here are some thoughts from a baby wearing father.

“I felt a real high the first time I put on my baby in the neck nestle and snuggled him against my chest for a walk. As we strolled together, I felt a sense of completeness. Sometimes I wore him for hours at a time. I felt right when we were together and not right (or complete) when we were apart. These are feelings usually reserved for the mother-infant pair. I wanted a piece of this baby wearing action, too. The more I wore my baby, the more comfortable we both became at trying different wearing positions. The more he liked it, the more I liked it, and the more we enjoyed being together.”

Other Baby Wearers

While infants enjoy being worn by their parents best, babies will adapt to substitute caregivers better if worn in the sling they are used to, “Home” to a baby can be in the sling.

Baby Wearing and Baby-sitters
Parents of high-need babies often confide that they are afraid to leave their baby with anyone because no one else can comfort these special babies. High-need babies who are accustomed to being worn are more easily comforted by a baby-sitter who wears them. A busy mom whose only hope of survival was to wear her high-need baby, relates this story. “Jason is so happy when he is in the sling that I feel comfortable briefly leaving him with a sitter. Sometimes if I’m in a hurry, I greet the sitter at the door, transfer Jason to her while in the sling — sort of like the transfer of a baton in a relay race — and she takes over the wearing. He forgets to fuss, and I feel better knowing his routine is not disrupted.”

Baby wearing by Siblings
When we adults wear babies, we model for our other children that big people carry little people. Children and grandchildren are later likely to adopt the style of parenting that they received or witnessed when young. For example, these children might sometimes “wear” their dolls in homemade baby slings because they have witnessed their parents wearing babies so often. The effect of role modeling on children’s views of the mother-infant relationship was brought home to some parents one day when their then six-year-old daughter was asked by her teacher to draw a mother and baby. She drew the two as essentially one person. She recognized that, at least in the early months, mothers wear babies, and the two are inseparable.

Baby wear in Day Care
To ensure that your baby gets a lot of holding time, especially if you have a high-need baby, instruct your day-care provider on how to wear baby in a sling. Impress upon her how much happier and better behaved are “sling babies.”

Special Groups: Teens and Marines
Teenage girls often enjoy wearing babies, but this style of baby care is not easy to model to teenage boys. Here’s how one young boy of fourteen got hooked on wearing his ten two-month-old brother. His mother, a nurse, had been asked to give a talk to a group of military wives at a local U.S. Marine base. The topic was how to get their husbands to share in more baby care. The mother offered to provide slings in a camouflage pattern. This was done, and the dads loved wearing their “baby marines.” The young fourteen year old, who was into army things anyway at that time, couldn’t wait to put on the camouflage sling and wear his baby brother. It is important that boys develop tenderness. How heartwarming it is to see men and boys care for little babies.

Wearing Down To Sleep

it’s 9:00 p.m. and you’re tired but baby isn’t. Nestle baby in the sling and stroll around the house until he falls asleep. This is what is called, wearing down.

First-time parents may have been led to believe that the way a baby goes to sleep is that at some pre-assigned time they put the half-awake baby into the crib, kiss him on the cheek, turn out the lights, and leave the room. Baby peacefully drifts off to sleep without much bother. This happens only in books and movies, or for everybody else’s baby, but seldom in real life. Most babies want to or need to be nursed (comforted) down to sleep in a caregiver’s arms. Baby wearing allows the infant to make the transition from awake state to sleep more easily.

When you feel that baby is ready to go to sleep (or you are ready for her to g to sleep), wear her in the sling in the position that you have found to be least stimulating and most sleep inducing. Walk around the house. Try breastfeeding while moving. When your baby is in a state of deep sleep (recognized by a motionless face and limp limbs) lower yourself onto the bed until she is lying down and you can gently slip yourself out of the sling. Allow baby to remain on the bed in the sling, using it as a cover. If baby sleeps best on her side, tuck the sling between baby and bed to keep her from rolling over. Although asleep, baby may still seem restless while you are wearing her down (this is called REM — or rapid eye movement — sleep, a lighter state of sleep in which baby is likely to awaken if you put her down and try to sneak out of the room). If this happens, keep your baby in the snuggle hold and lie down with her on your chest while she is still in the sling. The rhythm of your heartbeat and breathing motion will lull baby into a deep sleep, after which you can roll over and slip yourself out of the sling, and your baby will usually stay asleep.

Wearing down is particularly useful for the reluctant napper. Sometimes it helps to leave baby in the snuggle hold on your chest so you can both drift off to sleep together.

Baby Wearing In Real-Life Situations

Breastfeeding While Baby Wearing
In the last twenty years the majority of mothers have chosen to breastfeed their infants. Baby wearing allows breastfeeding on the move so that busy mothers can more easily nurture their babies with the best nutrition, yet continue their active life-styles.

Advantages

It’s convenient. Breastfeeding while baby wearing makes life easier for the mother of a marathon nurser, a baby who in the early months wants to nurse constantly, such as a baby who is going through a growth spurt. Breastfeeding while wearing allows mother to be on the go and get things done around the house while meeting her infant’s breastfeeding needs. It’s convenient outside the house, too. If you are shopping with the baby and need to feed in public, private breastfeeding is very easy while wearing baby. Because baby feels comfortable in the sling, he is content feeding there, even in a public place. I’m sure mothers have spent a few hours of baby wearing and breastfeeding in the checkout line at the grocery store. Breastfeeding in the sling is especially convenient in restaurants and similar places where being a baby may not always be socially acceptable. Patrons in a restaurant would much prefer a discreetly breastfeeding baby to an annoying, screaming baby. Additionally, babies who are worn in public places tend to fuss less and are therefore more welcome — especially in a society that has heretofore traditionally not welcomed babies everywhere.

It organizes problem suckers. Some babies breastfeed better on the move, especially those problem suckers who need movement to organize their sucking. Tense babies (those with a suck problem called tonic bite) and back archers often breastfeed much better in the sling because of the organizing effect baby wearing has on their entire physiology. As the baby’s whole body relaxes, so do the suck muscles. For babies who suck better on the move, first position baby in the sling in order to achieve proper latch-on, and then quickly begin walking.

It helps mother to care for older siblings. Breastfeeding in the sling is especially valuable when there is a new baby and a toddler. By feeding the tiny baby in the sling, mother has the mobility to attend to the toddler also. As one mother said, “Breastfeeding our new baby in the sling gives me an extra pair of hands to play with the enjoy our toddler. This has done wonders to lessen sibling rivalry and allowed me to mother both children well.”

It helps the slow-weight-gaining baby. In some practices, when a breastfeeding baby is showing a less-than-adequate weight gain and all possible reasons why have been exhausted, amazing results can be experienced by encouraging the mother to wear her baby at least several hours a day and breastfeed while doing so. Mothers report that babies feed more frequently and in a more relaxed way, and weight dramatically increases. This proves again what researchers have long known: Proximity to the mother encourages a baby to feed more frequently. In addition to this, it could be that the nearness of mother to baby enables and encourages mother to read and respond to baby’s feeding cues more promptly. Also, because baby is always near the source of milk and comfort, he does not have to waste energy summoning mother; baby can use this energy to grow. (see related sections on premature and failure-to0thrive babies.)

Baby wearing Positions for Breastfeeding. The cradle hold is the usual breastfeeding position for a baby of any age. The sling itself, however, does not hold baby snugly enough at the breast to maintain latch-on. It is necessary to support baby with your free arm to keep him close to the breast. This is done with your arm alongside baby’s head and back on the outside of the sling, and with baby positioned on his side so that he is facing the breast without turning his head. Your other hand can be slipped inside the sling in order to present the breast. Mother can continue to hold her breast for her baby, or if she needs a free hand, she can prop her breast with a cloth diaper or hand towel to keep it at the right level for baby, if needed.

The clutch hold. In the early months babies may prefer breastfeeding in the clutch hold. Using a modified snuggle hold, shift baby into a side cradle position, with his head in front of the breast and his legs curled up beneath the same arm. Mother can then use her arm on the side of the sling to hold baby’s back and head close to her breast and use the opposite hand inside the sling to help baby latch on. The clutch hold is particularly useful in the early weeks of breastfeeding while babies are learning how to latch on. Bending some babies in the clutch hold helps them suck better and maintain proper latch-on longer. This is especially true of the archer– the clutch hold may keep her from doing back dives during feeding.

Burping baby. To burp your baby, shift from the clutch or cradle hold to the snuggle hold so that baby is upright. The pressure of your chest against baby’s tummy plus the gentle patting on baby’s back (in addition to the snugness of this hold) will help baby burp.

Work and Wear

Baby wearing fits in beautifully with complex life-styles. It makes life easier for the busy mother. Mothers in other cultures have fabricated various sling-type carriers because it is necessary to carry their babies with them when they work or when they are on the go. Mothers in Western cultures are also on the go, they just “go” differently.

Many mothers who have part-time jobs outside the home have been able to wear their babies at work. They call this “work and wear.” Such jobs as selling real estate, shop keeping, demonstrating products, and housecleaning lend themselves well to baby wearing. A mother whose business involves cleaning houses a few hours a day, wears her baby in a sling while doing housework. A pediatrician wears her baby to work in her office. She often wears her baby during well-baby exams on her patients. Her office staff members wear her baby if she is examining a patient who might have a contagious disease. Work and wear helped her and her new baby to stay together yet allowed her to continue working in her profession.

Most employers are initially reluctant to allow mothers to wear their babies to work, but they are encouraged to give it a fair trial. Employers often find that the baby wearing mothers actually do a more productive job, since they so appreciate being given the opportunity to keep their babies with them. They make an extra effort to prove that they can do two jobs at once. One employer even found the baby to be an added attraction for his customers, as if they sensed that a centuries-old custom of working and wearing was being practiced in this store. The customers felt that something right t was going on. Try it and see!

Wearing Out, Eating Out

How often have you said, “I’d love to go, but I’ve just had a baby.” Some mothers go stir-crazy after a few months. There is nothing in the mother-baby contract that says you have to stay home and become a recluse after you have a baby. But a new mother is usually not ready to leave her baby to go out. Baby wearing allows you to “have your baby and take it with you.”

Here’s a scenario: Shortly after the birth of a baby, dad says, “Honey, how about a date? Let’s go out to dinner.” Mom replies, “But we can’t leave our baby.” The answer to this dilemma? baby wearing. Babies are quiet in restaurants when worn in a sling. They seldom cry and are usually seen and not heard. Babies can breastfeed discreetly and are rarely disruptive to restaurant patrons.

Baby Wearing While Traveling

Wearing your baby in a sling provides a safe, protective environment for baby when you are shopping or traveling anyplace in which there are crowds. Walking through a crowded shopping mall or airport with a toddler in tow is nerve-racking when you consider what could happen if you let go of his hand even for a moment (or take your hand off his stroller and get distracted). Between the ages of one and two, when the infant begins to walk, dart out from your protective arms, and explore the environment, baby wearing keeps the toddler close to your side in any situation where a free-roaming toddler may not be safe. Have you ever noticed that pedestrian toddler’s face is at the exact level hat people hold their lit cigarettes? Busy shoppers or travelers often don’t watch out for little people. Bring your baby or toddler up to a safe level and relax — he won’t go anywhere without you.

Busy parents throughout the world are on the go, and baby wearing makes traveling easier. During travel babies are constantly required to make the transition from one activity to another. With baby wearing, transitioning (changing environments or going from wakefulness to sleep) is easier. While you are standing in line at the airport, a baby worn is safe, secure, and happy. If your baby fusses a bit on an airplane, wear her and walk around the plane so that she is attracted by the visual stimulation of the environment. When baby is ready to go off to sleep in a hotel room, wear her down onto a bed in the sling until she falls asleep. Home to a baby is where mother and father are, and the sling is a constant reminder of baby’s “home.” It makes adaptation to new environments easier and travel more pleasant for the whole family.

Here are some other uses for the sling while traveling.

As a pillow. For breastfeeding or just for laying baby across your lap, a folded-up baby sling makes a comfortable pillow. Gold the sling the way it came in the package, and you have a useful pillow.

As a changing pad. Place the sling on the floor on a changing table (don’t leave baby unattended on a table), place baby’s head on the shoulder pad of the pillow, and presto! you have a comfortable diaper-changing surface. During changing, place a clean diaper under baby to protect the sling.

As a cover. The baby sling makes a convenient cover during travel for napping, discreet nursing, and warmth.

Baby Wearing In Special Situations

For families with special circumstances and infants with special needs, baby wearing eases some of the strains.
There will be more articles on infantsHealth Fitness Articles, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Here at ring sling baby carriers we know your baby is precious and worth keeping close. Our ring sling baby carriers help you make the most of life while making the most of your baby’s. Please visit our website ring sling baby carriers to see our broad selection of Hotslings adjustable pouch, Rockin Baby pouch, Rockin Baby ring sling and Lil Cub Hub convertible sling baby carriers and find the right print and style for you and your baby.

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