Tuesday, October 11, 2011

International Baby Wearing Week: Babywearing Basics

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The theme for this year's International Babywearing Week is A World of Possibilities. From October 6-10, 2011, Babywearing International (BWI) and  babywearing advocates worldwide are celebrating and promoting babywearing.

What is babywearing?
Babywearing is a hands-free way of carrying your baby. It typically requires some type of cloth to fasten your baby close to you. Babywearing has been done by mothers for centuries all over the world and many parents continue to do so today.

What are the health benefits of wearing your baby?
A research study by Anisfeld and colleagues showed that increased physical contact between infants and mothers increased maternal responsiveness and secure attachement.(1) Another research study showed that increased carrying reduced crying in infants.(2) An article on ChildrensMD sites other studies which suggest that carrying your baby and keeping close physical contact has health benefits for the mother as well such as improved breast milk production and breastfeeding. Other health benefits for the baby includes promotion of neurobehavioral and language development and decreased plagiocephaly or flat head.

How do I wear my baby and choose the right carrier for me?
Newborns, babies, and very young children can be worn in a variety of ways: on your front, back, or side/hip. Different carriers allow you to wear your baby in different positions or holds. Some positions include: budha/kangaroo, cradle, and nursing. The Baby Wearer has an awesome page on the different ways you can wear your baby.

What are types of baby carriers?
There are several types of baby carriers available in the market depending on your personal style and taste, as well as your baby's comfort. Below is a brief description of the basic styles. Check The Baby Wearer for advice on how to choose the right carrier for you.

Asian Back Carriers/Mei Tai (may tie)
This Asian style carrier has a body panel with shoulder straps and waist straps. The waist straps are tied around the waist and the shoulder straps are crossed behind the back and around the baby. These can be used for newborns to toddlers. Mei Tais are perfect for front and back carrying and are one-size fits all.
Photo courtesy of Quirky Baby.
There are two types of slings: pouch and ring.

Pouches are one-shoulder baby carriers that are quick and easy to use; just hang around one shoulder. These can be used for infants to toddlers. Pouches are perfect for front and hip carrying and are sized for the wearer.

Photo courtesy of the Peanut Shell®.

Similar to pouches, rings slings are one-shoulder baby carriers but are adjustable. Rings are attached at one end of the fabric where the fabric is looped through. To adjust, tug at the hanging tail until the perfect fit is attained. These can be used for newborns to toddlers. Ring-slings are perfect for front and hip carrying and are one-size fits all.

Photo courtesy of Quirky Baby.

Structured carriers
Similar to Mei Tais, structured carriers consist of a body panel, shoulder straps, and waist straps. However, straps on the structured carriers are usually padded and buckled instead of tied. These can be used for newborns to toddlers. Structured carriers are perfect for front, back, and hip carrying and are one-size fits all.

Photo courtesy of ERGObaby©.
There are two types of wraps based on the material/fabric used: stretchy and woven. A wrap is one long piece of cloth that is wrapped around the wearers body and tied. There are many ways to tie a wrap depending on the wearer and carrying position.

Stretchy wraps
Stretchy wraps are made with soft cotton and as the name implies, give a bit of stretch during wear. These can be used for newborns to toddlers. Stretchy wraps are perfect for front carrying and are one-size fits all.
Photo courtesy of Boba®.
Woven wraps
Woven wraps are generally made with thicker fabric than stretchy wraps but are more supportive and versatile. These can be used for newborns to toddlers. Woven wraps are perfect for front, back, and hip carrying and are one-size fits all.

Photo courtesy of Vatanai.
Below is a comparison chart of the different carrier types by Quirky Baby. You can also find other comparison charts at The Sling Station and The Baby Wearer.
Chart courtesy of Quirky Baby.

Where can I get baby carriers and for how much?
Baby carriers can be purchased at brick and mortar stores and online. Prices vary depending on the type, material, and brand that you choose. They can get pricey, but they are definitely priceless. You can buy used carriers from craigslist or get them from swap sites. Some online stores provide a trial program which allows you to try a carrier for a limited time and return it if it's not the right fit for you and your baby. A few of the stores I found were Cotton CradlesFrog Mama, Heavenly Hold, Pax Baby, and Quirky Baby.

I wore my son as an infant and used the Baby Björn®. It was the one thing that my husband got to pick out all my himself for our baby registry. We both loved it. I liked being able to carry my son like a backpack (albeit in the front) since I was used to carrying backpacks. I liked that I didn't have to switch arms while carrying him or reposition him since it was arms-free. I liked that his weight was equally distributed so there was no stress on one part of my anatomy. Unfortunately, the model we got didn't have quite the back support that I needed so as my son grew and gained weight, I couldn't carry him in the Baby Björn® for more than 15 minutes as it hurt my back. My husband continued to use it for much longer since he didn't have the back issue I did.

Babywearing meant freedom to me. If and when my son wanted to be held, it afforded me the luxury to have my son close while being productive at home. It was also freedom from using a stroller, especially while shopping. I loved our stroller but the basket was just too small to fit my groceries. During those quick errands to the store for groceries or other things, it was definitely more convenient to put my son in the carrier than to bring the stroller or put the infant seat in the cart. After the second baby is born, babywearing will give me the freedom to play with my son and go out-and-about with him with more convenience. After all my research, I am now more obsessed with baby carriers than before. Since this is our second child, and another boy, we have lots of stuff already. But, I do have a very short wish list, and baby carriers dominate the top 3.

1. Anisfeld E, Casper V, Nozyce M, Cunningham N. Does infant carrying promote attachment? An experimental study of the effects of increased physical contact on the development of attachment. Child Dev. 1990 Oct;61(5):1617-27.
2. Hunziker UA, Barr RG. Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trialPediatrics. 1986 May;77(5):641-8.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated to write this post. The opinions expressed in this post are solely mine. Images and references are cited back to their sources.