By Ciara Coleman
Baby wearing, the practice of carrying a baby in a sling or another carrier, has been practiced for centuries around the world but has become increasingly popular in recent years, partly as a result of the influence attachment parenting has had.
Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician, coined the phrase attachment parenting. One of the principles of attachment parenting is baby wearing.
There are plenty of benefits of baby wearing for both parent and child, including:
1. It is incredibly convenient.
When we wear a baby in a carrier, we are free to walk without having to think of managing steps, negotiating crowds or narrow aisles as we do when using a stroller. It also allows us to have two free hands to complete tasks such as laundry or shopping while still caring for the baby’s need for being carried.
Many sling users have said that it is easier on their back and shoulders than carrying their infant in either a car seat or held unsupported in their arms. The weight of the child is spread evenly across the upper body when using a carrier.
I travel a lot with my daughter, and have since she was about three months old. I have always found my sling especially handy when going through hectic airports especially when laden down with a number of bags. I didn’t even have to disturb her while going through security as she was allowed to remain in her sling.
2. Wearing a baby promotes physical development.
When a baby is carried in a sling, he is completely in tune with the wearer, from the rhythm of her breathing to the movements she makes. This stimulation helps regulate his own physical responses. It has been said that the sling acts as a “transitional womb” for a new baby. Research has even shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not. (1)
3. Babies worn in slings are apparently happy, smart babies.
Not surprisingly, studies have shown babies cry and fuss less when held. In a study published in the American Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that practicing baby wearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during evening hours. (2) In a study performed in Montreal consisting of a group of 99 babies and mothers over a six-week period, those babies worn by their mothers cried on average 43% less than those with no frequent baby wearing habits. It is also especially useful for colicky babies, who are far happier being held, but even content babies will also benefit from the warmth and comfort of being held close. This also impacts the development of the baby as the reduction in fussy time allows a greater length of time for them to be alert and responsive. Sling babies apparently spend more time in the state of quiet alertness, which is the behavioral state in which an infant is most content and ablest to interact with his environment. It has been called the optimal state of learning for a baby.
4. Sling babies get “humanized” earlier.
Another reason that baby wearing enhances learning is that the baby is intimately involved in the caregiver’s activities. A baby becomes very aware of a parents’ face, walking rhythm and smell when carried. A baby becomes aware of and learns from, the facial expressions, body language, breathing patterns, and emotions of the caregiver. Proximity also increases interaction between the parent and the baby. The parent will relate to the baby easily when held so closely. Carried babies are intimately involved in their parents’ world because they participate in the activities of the mother and father. For example, a baby held closely in a carrier while a parent does the grocery shopping, hears, smells and sees just as a parent does. As a result, he is more exposed to and involved in what is going on around him.
5. Baby wearing is healthy for you!
As any mother will agree it can be challenging to find time to exercise when caring for a little one. Days seem to revolve around feeding and sleeping schedules but, if you wear your baby with you for part of the day or go for a brisk walk with your baby in her sling, you will enjoy the benefits of both walking and weightlifting. A pleasant trip in the sling is also an excellent way to help tired, but over-stimulated, baby fall asleep.
6. Toddlers like the security of the carrier.
Carriers are usually associated with infants, but they can be very useful for toddlers as well; most accommodate children up to 40 pounds. The world can be a scary place for toddlers, who feel confident when they can retreat to the security of the carrier in unfamiliar surroundings. Toddlers can become over-stimulated in new surroundings, and a ride in the carrier helps to soothe and comfort them.
It can be very helpful in places where a small child in a stroller may miss many of the sights around her. I have used a carrier when at the Zoo with my daughter when she was little. She was able to observe the attractions so much better than when in her stroller. Having her in the carrier was also much easier on my arms than carrying her unsupported.
7. Slings are a great bonding tool for fathers.
As they are carried, the baby is becoming used to their voice, heartbeat, movements and facial expressions, and the two are forging a strong attachment of their own. Fathers don’t have a head start on the bonding, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make up for this once their baby is born. The same goes for grandparents and other family members who are eager to get to know the new arrival. Cuddling up close in the sling is a wonderful way to get to know the baby in your life, and for the baby to get to know you!
8. Slings are economical.
New slings can be bought for as little as $20. Shopping for the arrival of a new baby can be a daunting task but rest assured, the purchase of a sling will be far more economical than the stroller or other baby paraphernalia on your shopping list.
9. Baby wearing is fun.
There is little that can compare to the joy that comes from cuddling close to your beautiful baby. You may also find that as your baby grows, having her in a sling makes conversations easy and allows you to observe her reactions to the activity around her.
It’s equally fun for baby, because when she is up at eye level, other adults notice and interact with her. She will feel more a part of your life, and you will find yourself becoming more and more enchanted with this wonderful little person.
My daughter loved seeing the sling coming out and got so excited getting into it. She loved being cuddled closely but also loved the higher viewpoint that came with it.
1 – “Current knowledge about skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for pre-term infants.” J Perinatol. 1991 Sep;11(3):216-26.
2 – “Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial.” Hunziker UA, Garr RG. (1986) Pediatrics 77:641-648.