It’s no surprise that I love love love babywearing. Even before I found out I was pregnant with James, I couldn’t WAIT to someday sling my baby. I enjoyed following ring sling accounts, seeing pictures of other mamas wearing their babies, and dreaming about the day I would get to do the same. So you can imagine how emotional and special it was to me the first time I ever got to wear James.
He was only five days young. Tiny. Fragile. New.
My sweet doula helped me get him all cozy and snug in the sling, and the minute he was in place my heart skipped a beat.
I was finally doing it.
Finally wearing my baby.
And it was exactly what I dreamt it would be.
A few tears popped in my eyes and I quickly blinked them away. I looked up at Isaac and said “This is what I’ve been waiting for”. He smiled down at me and replied “I know babe. You did it!”
That is one of the most memorable moments from those first few weeks with James. And I know I won’t easily forget it.
Since then, slinging has become a huge part of my relationship with James. I love it and he loves it. He smiles SO big when I pull out my slings. He snuggles into me all happy and cozy, even if he was fussing just minutes before. And it’s given me a piece of my sanity back when I need to get things done, but my baby needs me. Plus it means I can keep him close when we’re out and about, and don’t need to drag our bulky stroller around with us everywhere.
Oh and did I mention how hot Isaac looks when wearing James? Seriously… guys who sling reach a whole new level of attractiveness in my book. ;)
The Beauty of Babywearing
Benefits for Baby
One of the main reasons I was so attracted to baby wearing in the first place is because of all the amazing benefits it has for the baby. According to Babywearing International, KellyMom and Dr. Sears, it has the following benefits for babies:
– Babies are overall happier when worn.
– They are healthier due to the stimulation from being touched and held more.
– The baby feels comforted and loved as they bond with the person carrying them.
– Some babies actually nurse better in slings!
– It reduces colic, because they have less of a need to cry.
– Babywearing enhances learning, since they are exposed to more experiences and conversations. Also since they spend less time crying, they have more time to soak in the world around them.
– It’s reassuring to the baby when the mom walks around wearing them. Just like those 9 months they were in the womb.
Benefits for Parents
– Promotes bonding between parent and baby.
– Allows both hands to be free to do things around the house, take care of other siblings, and so much more!
– Parent is not tied down to a chair/couch if a baby needs to be held more.
– They are more confident, as they get to know their baby better each time they sling.
– Can reduce sibling rivalry.
Probably one of the biggest reasons why people are hesitant to babywear is because they are afraid of it negatively affecting the baby. As seen above, there are so many benefits for the baby AND the parents, but in order to maximize the benefits, you need to make sure you are wearing the baby correctly.
In order to prevent stress on the baby’s spine, pelvis and hips, it is important that you pay close attention to how the baby is positioned in the carrier. They should have a “C” curve in their back (their back should never be straight upright) to avoid excess stress being placed on the baby’s lower spine. I always make sure that James’s bottom is lower than his knees (also called the “M” position) to make sure all his weight is sitting in his bottom and not in his knee joints or hips/lower back.
Also, the baby should be high enough to kiss the tops of their heads easily. If the baby is too low, it means you are putting too much slack between you, there is excess pressure on YOUR back, and the baby can more easily get into an unsafe position. Also, ensure that you can see baby’s airways to avoid suffocation.
First off, you need to make sure the baby is nice and snug against you. If the baby can lean away, that means there’s too much slack and it’s putting more strain on your back as you lean backwards to compensate. Also, look for carriers that evenly distribute the weight across your entire back, instead of placing all of it on your shoulders, for example.
When using a ring sling, I make sure that the sling is spread nice and wide across my back, and that there aren’t any “rails” that are tighter than the others. Also, by capping the shoulder and making sure the rings are in corsage position, you are reducing the pressure on the shoulder and helping distribute better.
Please be aware, though, that slinging and babywearing in general uses muscles you may not use often. I was very sore after slinging James the first few months as my body got used to it, but now that we’ve been doing it for five months, things are SO much better!
Baby Wearing Newborn to Toddlerhood
Did you know you can wear your baby even into toddlerhood? Most carriers say they are safe to use up to 35 lbs (or more, depending on the carrier you’re using)! While I know most toddlers want their independence to walk (or let’s be real – run) around freely, being able to throw them in a sling or carrier can be SO helpful. It can calm a baby who is fussy, keeps them close to you in a crowded area, and gets mama the snuggles she craves.
When looking for the perfect carrier for newborns, it’s important to pay attention to the fabric. Since the babies don’t weigh much, softer, stretchier fabric is preferred, because it’s cozier for the baby and the person wearing them. That’s why wraps like the Moby, Solly Baby and Baby K’tan are so popular the first couple of months! I personally just used my ring slings, but stuck to softer fabrics (like modal and broken in chambray).
How to carry: Most babies at this age prefer to be carried with their legs tucked up in “froggy position”. Watch these videos to see how other moms carry their newborns!
I know this age is very broad, but it encompasses babies past the teeny tiny newborn stage up until they are really walking around (aka toddlers!). At this age they no longer want their legs contained in the sling, and many start wanting to look around at the world outside.
How to carry:
– Legs out: This is a very easy transition from the legs in/froggy position. Here all their weight is still resting on their bum, with the knees forming the “M” position to avoid too much pressure on the back of the legs.
– Hip/Side (ring sling only): I LOVE this way to carry right now! James squirms less too, because he’s able to look around at everything going on. It’s just like the legs out, but instead of being tummy to tummy, I shift him over to my hip so his legs straddle my side. While it gives me less mobility of that arm, James really enjoys looking around and flirting with all the ladies he sees.
– Kangaroo: We just recently tried this way to carry the other day and James and I are both fans! Instead of being tummy to tummy, it’s his back to my tummy, and his legs are wrapped into the sling because 1. It keeps him safe and secure while being worn, and 2. With his legs tucked up in a sort of “froggy position”, he’s still keeping that “C curve” in his back that I want. This carry has the added bonus of James getting a full view of the world around him, and I have both arms free!
Some other carriers can be worn in kangaroo style, but make sure that the baby’s weight is in their bum and not their legs! You also want to avoid the baby’s back from being straight because that can cause too much stress on their hips.
This is the age where babywearing can get tricky. But there are still ways to enjoy all the benefits of it! Check out this blog to figure out which carrier will work best for you and your toddler.
How to carry:
– Legs out or Side/Hip: While these carries may be tough the heavier your baby gets, they are still great ways to babywear your toddler! Especially if the baby grew up being worn, it can be extra comforting to them. Plus it means you can carry your baby without killing your arms – win win!
– Back: This is the age when carrying the baby strapped to your back may be the best way to go. You can use a ring sling to do this (which I can’t wait to try when James is a bit older), you can get a SSC like LILLEbaby or Tulla, or something like this hiking carrier that we’re planning on buying this summer.
– Tandem wearing: Read more about that here!
Types of Carriers
I’ve actually only worn James in a ring sling. They are so easy, and it was just the natural choice for me when I entered the world of babywearing. I love that a sling can grow with the baby, rather than only working for a few months before the baby outgrows it. And since there are so many different fabrics out there, you can really figure out which works best for you and your babe. Ring slings can carry babies that weigh from 8-35 lbs.
Soft Structured Carriers (SSC):
I know many parents prefer these over other options because they are more structured and can provide a little more back support than other carriers. Many parents also prefer a SSC for longer periods of babywearing. The general rule of thumb is the baby needs good head control before they can be in a SSC (make sure you read the age/weight recommendations for the carrier). Some popular SSCs are LILLEbaby, Tulla, Ergobaby and BabyBjorn.
These include carriers like the Moby, Solly, Baby K’tan and so on. Essentially it’s one stretchy long piece of material that you wrap all around you, and then place the baby in the little pocket you created for them. Wraps can be difficult, and require lots of practice to get it all tied up right, but they definitely look nice and cozy! These carriers are best suited for newborns, and as always, make sure you read the age/weight recommendations before using. You can also find woven wraps that can be used for older kids!
These carriers are best for older kids who can sit up and hold their heads really well. These are especially nice for toddlerhood and for extended periods of time where the child will be worn. There are all kinds of back carriers, depending on your needs, so doing some research and reading reviews is your best bet in finding a backpack carrier. We’re planning on getting this one to bring James hiking with us this summer!
Whew!! That was a lot. But there is so much more that goes into the world of babywearing, and I hope to be able to share more with you in the future! Did you like today’s post? If so, let me know in the comments, and what else you’d like to learn. :)
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