Baby wearing is a process of continual contact with the infant in the early stages of their development. Basically this means changing your mindset of what the baby is really like and how you are going to interact with them. Often times new parents will envision their baby lying quietly in a crib, gazing at dangling mobile and being picked up and carried only to be fed and played with. You might think that the “up” periods are just intervals to quiet your baby long enough to put them down again.
But baby wearing is a concept that reverses this view. In fact it is a concept which plays on the needs of an infant for close contact with his mother on a consistent basis. Carrying a baby in a sling for many hours a day and then putting her down for sleep to tend to your own personal needs may be just what the doctor ordered.
For instance, physicians who have mothers whose infants are not gaining weight appropriately will find that if worn in a sling for several hours a day these children will pick up the amount of weight they have not gained in the past several weeks. This may be because of the decreased energy required in order to get mom’s attention for feeding or it may be because of the increased contact with mom and the decreased energy loss from baby.
No matter what the reason baby wearing has been found to increase bonding with mom, decrease fussy periods and improve an infants overall weight gain and health.
Researchers have also found that infants who are carried in the sling consistently are less likely to cry and become fussy during the day. Also parents of babies who are fussy and to try wearing their babies in a sling will relate that their babies seem to forget their fussiness and their behavior improves.
In 1986 a team of pediatricians from Montréal Canada reported the results of a study of 99 mother-infant pairs. In this study the group was split into two. The first group was given a sling and encouraged to carry their child throughout the day for an extra three hours. In the control group parents were not given any specific instructions about carrying. After six weeks the infants who received the increased carrying time were found to cry and fuss approximately 43 percent less than the group who were given no instructions about extra carrying time. (1)
Interestingly it’s also been found that babies in a sling spend more of their time in a state of quiet alertness. This is the behavioral state in which the infant is most content and able to interact with their environment, and optimal state for learning. This quiet alert state gives parents a better opportunity to interact with their baby.
Baby wearing also helps the infant to become more neurologically organized and therefore encourages their neurological growth and development. By extending the experience in the womb by wearing the baby for several hours each day the parents provide an external regulating system to balance the disorganized tendencies of the baby. The simplicity of regular parental rhythms of heartbeats, regular walking and sounds of mom’s digestive system have a balancing effect on the infant’s own irregular rhythms because they are familiar to him after spending nine months in the womb.
Baby wearing is a choice. This is because of not only the research which supports the idea that infants will grow, develop and be calmer when worn in a sling but also because it encourages the attachment of both parents and infants as well as the growth and development of the child.
Using a sling for baby wearing is much more functional and effective than a kangaroo style carrier. The kangaroo style carrier will face the child 180° from her parent which negates the effects of the eye to eye contact with her parents and the chest to chest or tummy experience she would receive if carried in a sling.