Friday, May 25, 2012

Babywearing Basics

Let me just say, I LOVE babywearing! It's so nice to have my little man close to me and actually get things done around the house. Not to mention that I rarely ever use my stroller! I recommend babywearing to everyone. But if you're going to wear your baby, you want to make sure you're doing it safely.

Aside from being cuddly and convenient for parents, baby wearing is extremely beneficial for the baby. According to Dr. William Sears, "sling babies" cry much less often and spend more time in the calm behavioral state where they are able to learn and interact with their environment more frequently. Being worn also helps teach babies to regulate their bodies. The same crying pattern was noticed in a study conducted at The McGill University-Montreal Children's Hospital Research InstituteBy watching and feeling his/her mother's movement, listening to her breathing and her heartbeat, baby is able to regulate physical responses and the vestibular system earlier on. This is especially evident in premature babies whose nervous systems and weight develop faster when held often. In a study conducted at Columbia University, babywearing was found to promote secure attachment to the mother, fostering secure independence in adulthood.

Babywearing Safety

*Do not use "crotch danglers." These slings cause hip dysplasia and spondylolisthesis, a congenital abnormality of the spine. Examples of crotch danglers include Baby BJorn and Snugli. The rule of thumb is that your child's hips should be lower than their knees. If it looks like the photo on the left, it's a crotch dangler! If it looks like photo on the right, you're good to go!

*Do not use duffel slings. Duffel slings but baby in a C shape, which causes the chin to touch the chest and close the airway. Your baby could suffocate in this type of sling. These slings also put the baby at your hips and sometimes stuffed under your breasts. This cuts off your sight and can also cause overheating and suffocation. Duffel slings are sold by Infantino, Munchkin, Balboa, Edie Bauer, Premaxx and Boppy to name a few.

*You should always be able to see your baby's face and be able to kiss their head. A safe sling will also keep your child tight against your chest, not hanging by your hips.

Carrier Styles
Ring Slings:
Ring slings are basically a long piece of fabric, usually cotton, that are secured using two steel rings. Most have padding on the shoulder. This style has a lot of ways to wear it. You can face baby in or out and use it on the front, your back, or your hip. To ensure that this sling is safe, make sure that the rings are made with steel, not aluminum or plastic! My favorite ring sling is the Maya Wrap, though there are many brands!
A Maya Wrap ring sling.

Mei Tais:
The mei tai originated in Japan. It is a rectangular piece of cloth with straps to tie around your waist and another set of straps to put over your shoulders. Some of them have head supports which can be folded down as the baby gets larger and is better able to control their head. It is a very durable sling, good for small and large babies alike. It can be worn the front, the back, and yes even the hip. It is very easy to use and very adjustable, especially for larger caregivers. Personally, it is my favorite of all carrier styles. Some brands include BabyHawk, Kozy Carrier and the Infantino EcoSash. 

A baby in a BabyHawk Mei Tai

Stretchy wraps are stretchy pieces of fabric that you wrap around yourself. There are a few variations. Some are literally a long rectangular piece of fabric and others come as two large circles of fabric linked together by another piece of fabric. The latter are easier to use for beginners, but the former provide many more options for positions as well as having no weight limit (with the exception of stretchy fabrics.) These tend to have a learning curve, but pay off with the seemingly limitless options they allow. Brands include the Moby Wrap (a stretchy wrap,) Baby K'Tan, Rebozo, Elleville, Dolcino and Sleepy Wrap. 

A Baby K'Tan
Dolcino Wrap
Moby Wrap

Soft Sided Carriers:
Although Baby BJorn and the like are off limits, you can still use a carriers with a similar look. The Ergo Baby and Beco are examples of carriers that offer a similar look but are safe for babies.
Ergo Baby Carriers
If you have any questions about babywearing, post it in the comments section and I'll help you.


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