When Little Bird was born she absolutely hated being put down. She would give out yards if she was out of arms. Scientists sometime call the first months of a baby's life the Fourth Trimester. Basically, since we evolved into upright mammals, our pelvises are too small to give birth to a fully developed baby, so they're born a little undercooked (that's definitely the scientific term for it.) So there was a very good reason Little Bird objected to being placed in a moses basket or rocker - she needed to be near the heartbeat, the warmth and the smells of the body she'd been growing in the previous 9 months. So I started to carry her around everywhere!
A recent study showed that baby mice experienced an instant calming reaction to being carried by their mother, and the same effect was found in human babies. Quite aside from the convenience of having your hands free while keeping your baby close, research shows that there are many benefits to baby wearing. Carrying babies reduces crying and keeps them calmer; helps babies learn key social skills – because they're right up at the action, involved in the conversation; helps parents feel more confident as they can learn to read baby's cues easily when they're so close; and it's great for bonding with your little one. Dads make excellent baby carriers too, of course!
For this blog I've enlisted the help of experienced babywearing consultant Ina Doyle of www.bumptobeyond.com. Ina helped me when I first started wearing Little Bird - lending me slings from the sling library and providing great encouragement and advice on the phone and online that lead to four happy years of babywearing.
My first sling was a Kari Me stretchy wrap which almost made me feel like I was pregnant again. Little Bird certainly liked it and from there our sling addiction grew. I borrowed some slings from the sling library and from then on bought and sold pretty much all the sling types known to mankind. At the time there were no actual sling shops near me so it was all done online.
After some trial and error, and after Little Bird was too heavy for the stretchy wrap, I decided a soft structured carrier was the one for me. My favourite was a Fourth Generation Beco Dove (don't tell anyone but I never had the heart to get rid of that one, so it's stashed with the baby keepsakes) and I also loved my Manduca for its German ergonomic efficiency. It was like carrying Little Bird in a well designed rucksack - especially good for back carries on long walks.
We were such a novelty in a small town in rural Ireland that one of the checkout assistants in the local supermarket would smile every time he saw us and say “Oh, here's the last of the Mohicans”.
However, lots more people are carrying their babies these days – I'll take full credit for bringing it back into vogue, natch – and there's lots of help and advice out there to get you started. Here are some great tips from Ina.
5 things you should know before you start Babywearing
Try before you buy
Slings are like shoes: what's perfect for one person, might be a no-go for another. Before you decide on a particular sling or carrier, try a few with your little one for fit and comfort. You can do that by booking a Sling Consultation, attending a Babywearing Ireland Sling Meet, or popping into a specialist Babywearing retailer.
When choosing a sling or carrier for you and baby, make sure they tick the following:
- See and Sense Baby - no fabric between you and baby or over baby's face.
- Let Baby Breathe Freely - baby's nose is clear and head supported but not restricted.
- In Physiological Position - baby is supported in a natural spreadsquat position with slightly rounded back.
- No Discomfort - baby's weight is spread over your body, there's no pulling.
- Gravity - baby is held tightly to your centre of gravity, making you two one unit.
Invest in Learning
There's more to Babywearing than “click and go”. Be clear what resources you are willing to invest to be comfortable and confident wearing your little one. The investment scale ranges from weeks of trial and error to 1 or 2 focused hours with a Babywearing Consultant. If you're not comfortable with and in your sling, you are less likely to use it.
There's hardly ever a “can't”
It is incredibly rare to be faced with circumstances that are totally incompatible with Babywearing. Whether it's surgeries, injuries, sore backs, dodgy hips, additional hardware or any other extra needs the wearer or little passenger may have – in most cases an experienced Babywearing Consultant will be able to work out a solution with you.
There's a Sling for Every Parent
Whether you want to use a sling simply as a means of transport, to get dinner on every night, to reach un-buggyable places, for holidays, or to use it all day every day – there's a sling or carrier out there that will be your perfect match.
Many thanks to Ina for those great tips. For more information on wearing your little one, visit www.babywearingireland.ie
I'll leave you with this interesting fact: pregnancy can reduce bone mineral density and babywearing can help increase it again! As your baby grows your bones and muscles get stronger to help carry your little one. Really, there's no end to the positives! I carried Little Bird til she was four years old. Obviously she was well able to walk by then, but on long trecks on beaches and through forests, where the buggy wasn't an option, it was super handy to have a sling at the ready when her little legs got tired. It also means my bone density is suitable for carrying her school bag the 2 mile walk to school every day, which, I kid you not, weighs about the same as a 4 year old child.