Written by Allison Prater |
Baby wearing, the practice of carrying your infant in a sling, wrap, or pack is a tradition that can be found throughout almost every indigenous society. Personally, I don’t know how mothers get anything done without it. If I had just one item to recommend to new families, it would definitely be a wrap, sling, or pack of some kind. Both my husband and I love wearing our son. Baby wearing has made it possible for me to prepare meals, wash and fold laundry, clean my kitchen, comb and braid my hair, tweeze my eyebrows, apply makeup, plan my dance classes, exercise, sew costumes, water the garden, plant and transplant seedlings, answer emails, and yes dear reader, even to write this very article.
Baby wearing is a great way to nurture baby’s transition from womb to world. Before being born, baby’s entire world is literally their mother. They are accustomed to hearing her heart beat, breath, and voice. After the baby is born it is a major adjustment to suddenly be in this new world where mom and baby now have separate bodies. Wearing baby close, gives him or her a sense of physical and emotional security.
I have found that wearing my son in a wrap or pack makes it possible to meet his needs very quickly, so he is easily comforted. The wraps and packs I use allow me to nurse him discretely while in public. When he is napping in the pack, I can relax hearing his breath, and can work productively. If he were sleeping somewhere separate in the house, I’d be running back to check on him constantly, so wearing him, gives me extra peace of mind. I am also practicing EC, or elimination communication with my son, and baby wearing has helped me with this as well. By reading my son’s body language and vocal cues, I can often get him out of his diaper in time for him to go in the toilet instead of soiling himself. It’s much easier to pick up on his cues when he’s close to me. Going for a walk together helps me get back into shape and it helps calm him down when he is restless and needs a change of scene.
Baby wearing has also been a great way for my husband and son to bond. Eligh is now big enough to hold his head up on his own, and can be worn facing away from the body, allowing him a good view of his surroundings. He loves riding in the pack and watching his papa water the garden, or looking around while they go on a walk. It has been wonderful for me to see how much they enjoy their time together, and the added bonus is when Eligh’s content with his papa, I have a bit of time to practice yoga and dance.
One of the things that I love the most about baby wearing is that it really includes my son in our activities. When he’s in the pack he can really see, hear and experience whatever we happen to be doing. There are many different types of wraps, packs, and slings to choose from. Many allow baby to be worn in many different positions, such as on the front of the body, facing towards the wearer, or facing away. Baby can also be worn on the back or the hip. Baby should not be worn facing away or on the back until he or she is old enough to hold their head up independently. Some slings can be worn over one shoulder, while others can be worn so that the weight is evenly distributed between the shoulders and hips. I personally prefer the latter option as I find it to be a lot more comfortable.
We use a Didymos wrap often, which is basically just a long bolt of woven cloth that can be used in a variety of ways, so that Eligh can be carried on the front of the body, facing me, or supported on one hip, or even carried on my back. I love this wrap because its beautiful, soft, and easy to wash. It took a little bit of time to really feel comfortable wrapping him in it. At first I would make my husband spot me, every time I put him in, just to make sure I was doing it right. Now, using that wrap is like second nature. We also have a Baby Bjorn pack that Eligh can be in either on my front facing me, or facing away. I like this pack because it is very comfortable to wear, especially as Eligh gets bigger and heavier. I also like it because it’s very easy to get him in and out quickly. Both of these products are made from organic materials too!
There are a couple safety precautions to keep in mind while wearing your baby. A big one is to keep your back straight especially if you need to pick up something on the ground, baby can fall out if you are leaning forward. It is not a good idea to wear baby while cooking over a hot stove, or using other tools and materials that could be dangerous for baby. I have found that I wind up making myself a lot of salads and smoothies because I can pack a lot of nutrition into these meals without having to heat them up. I can also put a pot of rice or quinoa on the stove safely. Basically, I just avoid wearing him while I’m standing over the stove for any length of time, so he doesn’t overheat, and so he doesn’t get splashed accidentally by boiling hot liquids.
All in all, I wholeheartedly recommend baby wearing as a fun activity for the whole family. If you need help choosing a pack or wrap that is right for you, I highly recommend checking out Mothering Magazine online. They have a whole forum of product reviews that I found to be really helpful. To those of you that are contemplating baby wearing as a practice for your own family, I wish you well, and hope you find the adventures as enjoyable as we have!
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1.) Sear, William MD, and Martha RN, “The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby,” Little Brown and Company, Boston, 2001
2.) Romm, Aviva Jill, “Naturally Healthy Babies and Children,” Celestial Arts, Berkeley, 2003