Saturday, 25 January 2014

Why I love babywearing

I’m a committed babywearer through and through. To the point that my pushchair is gathering dust in my car boot and hasn’t been used since October. Honestly not once.

Why? Well for many reasons; the first, but of least importance to me, being the convenience. I live in London, have a dog and live in a flat. Shops are usually too cramped for a pushchair, I like having my hands free to carry shopping, text, play with little bean etc.  Supermarket shops are in all honesty a nightmare with a pushchair, I'm sure most mamas will agree with this. (Really though use Ocado, they have an App, come at times to suit you and bring your shopping up the stairs; if only I'd known sooner!)

Then there was walking the dog.  Being the daft dog he is, he was constantly getting caught in the wheels, he nearly strangled himself the first time we went out. Eek! So that’s when the rise of the baby carrier was born. I wanted freedom to be out and about but didn’t like/want to use a pushchair. My babywearing journey has since evolved and I am now a committed wrapper; really it’s easy once you know how. It just takes a bit of practise but give it a few days and you'll be wrapping like a pro.  See Youtube for step by step guidea, Boba provide a number of videos. My wrap is in fact a Boba and I love it! I really could not recommend it enough, and no I'm not being sponsored to say this! ;)

Then there’s the stairs, little bean often falls asleep out and about, carrying her up the stairs to our flat in a pushchair was onerous to say the least and ALWAYS woke her up, the sling does not, a bonus for sure. In fact it’s actually how I usually get her to sleep, something I wish I’d known as I paced the flat for hours rocking a howling baby back in the early days of parenthood. And that my friends is the beauty of the wrap/sling; babies fall asleep, quickly, peacefully and easily and the more you use it the easier it becomes. Little b is in fact falling asleep in the wrap, on the boob, as I type! Multitasking made easy :) I also pop her in the wrap just before a nap and whilst she's winding down use the time to do a few quick jobs, a blessing now that she is so mobile.

But convenience aside, I actually babywear for the benefits that it provides and this I am passionate about. Babywearing is, by expert opinion, good for both mama and baby. In the early days it can help to prevent postnatal depression, promotes bonding (especially if you can manage skin to skin) and breastfeeding (indeed I tend to feed Little B in the sling- something I learnt to do when she suddenly refused to eat in any position other than sidelying. I will write more on this later) and allows baby to feel safe and secure in a new and alien world. By being close to mama a baby is able to regulate their irregular systems; especially important in the first few months in what is known as the ‘fourth trimester'. (Papa B studied genetics and so fills me in on the science parts). The theory of the fourth trimester is based on the idea that the human baby is born roughly three to four months too early. In short, the female pelvis became narrower when we evolved to stand on 2 legs while at the same time the brain became larger to cater to our more complex thought processes. In this new design a full term baby's head would be too big to pass through the birth canal; just imagine giving birth to your four month old's noggin! Ouch! ;) If you're interested in this you can read more in this article at .This means that a baby is not really ready for the world; their little systems being too underdeveloped. Being out of the womb is therefore a big shock to a tiny, helpless baby and that's where babywearing helps!

In the sling the womb environment is simulated, the rocking and heartbeat reminiscent of being close to the mother, whilst the mother’s breathing and heart rate help to regulate the baby’s own. This sense of security as well as the mother's own systems at work can also help the baby regulate cortisol levels (the hormone released as part of the bodies stress reactions) and thus leads to a calmer, more contented little one - no Gina Ford required! ;) As an individual's cortisol levels are set within the early months of life, by keeping them low at this time you are also helping your baby to grow into less stress prone adult where they will hopefully not be predisposed to many of the common mental ailments of modern society, such as depression and anxiety disorders.  (As a side note "Crying it out" may actually do the opposite - making the body unresposive to anything but high levels of cortosol, which is why it could actually be damaging).  By calming them in this way you also help to teach them how to self regulate; an important skill for life (you can read Sue Gerhadt's 'Why Love Matters' if you want to find out more.) 
A mother’s body will also cool or heat up according to the baby’s needs; indeed in summer I actually found little b cooler in the wrap than in her pushchair.  Also with the wonderful selection of wraps/slings and carriers around today you can find something for every type of weather. A woven wrap is great for summer, whilst a knitted wrap more cosy for colder months.  I also find layering little b and myself works well so if we are going in and out of shops I can add/remove layers to keep us at the right temperature without having to disturb little b's slumber. 

According to Dr Sears (an invaluable source of knowledge in the early days) sling babies cry less and learn more. Always a plus and definitely something I’ve found. Babywearing also helps reduce wind; I really found this helped in the first few windy months. Days where we went out and about in the carrier definitely were less windy with a lot less bedtime tears (note infacol didn't work for little bean - while I've heard it works for some mothers it can apparently also disrupt buba’s intestinal flora which could make them more prone to gas and digestive disorders in the future; try babywear instead and see if it works for you!). It is also soothing - many baby wearers have found that if you take a crying baby, pop them in the sling on mama and your heartbeat, smell and warmth will quickly soothe in a way that is more powerful than simple rocking. This is why I moved onto the wrap. I tried a Baby Bjorn first as they simpler to get one - I know many mums swear by these but this actually just didn't work for us - little b howled for an hour straight - then I tried my lovely Boba, within minutes she was calm and falling asleep. Once I got used to tieing the boba I actually found it easier than the Baby Bjorn too. Apparently wrapping is also better for babies hip joints than the Baby Bjorns too.  Talking of crying and colic; Dr Harvey Knap (a baby soothing expert who wrote a book called 'The Happiest baby on the block' and formulated the 5s for overcoming colic) has found in other countries where baby wearing is common that colic does not exist! Indeed I found the intense crying periods stopped quickly once our babywearing ramped up a notch. AGAIN, I wish I'd known sooner!
Dr Sears also advocates babywearing as a good way of socialising your baby; in the sling/wrap they are experiencing life with the parent (rather than being removed from it in a cot or separated in a pushchair) are able to watch their facial expressions, experience their parent's emotions and actions and thus learn to be a part of their world. My baba said her first word at 5 months, which I'm sure she learnt from looking at my face while I talkted to her and other people as she was strapped in the sling. Even when you’re washing your dishes, if your little one is strapped to your chest, you’re still actually contributing to their overall development! :) I know when I’m walking about I often glance down to see little b gazing up at me and there’s the clincher; I can look down, chat to her, kiss her little face and still show her the world. And yes, I can also vacuum, clean, run errands and know she’s content, cozy and safe! 

So, why not go ahead and give it a try - what do you have to lose?! Wrap them up close, snuggle them tight and reap the benefits! :) 

Happy babywearing all!

Mama Amore xxx


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