Babywearing, or holding baby's body close to you using a sling or fabric carrier, has a wealth of benefits for both you and your baby. Find out the top 12 benefits of babywearing, plus how to babywear safely.
Babywearing, or holding baby's body close to you using a sling or fabric carrier, has a wealth of benefits. There's a reason why moms and dads in different cultures have been wearing their babies for thousands of years!
Having baby close to you helps comfort your little one – while leaving your hands free in case you need or want to grab something, and letting you move with greater ease.
And babywearing isn't just beneficial for baby and their mother. Many benefits happen when dad (or any close caregiver) wears baby too! Here are the top 12 benefits of babywearing for babies, moms, and dads. A few are even backed by science!
1. It can reduce crying
When you carry your little one and hold them close, this will soothe them and help them cry less – especially in the evening. This doesn't just make baby more content. It may also help you get more precious sleep! One randomized controlled study from 1986 showed that 6-week-old babies who were carried at least 3 hours a day cried 43% less overall and 51% less during evening hours.
Babywearing can even help reduce the colicky kind of crying – the loud, very fussy crying that is difficult to console. We don't know why this is the case, but it may be due to your closeness and touch.
2. It feels like the womb
Babywearing makes it easier for baby to feel comfortable outside the womb, because it creates a womb-like environment. While they were growing inside of the womb, they could feel their mother's heartbeat, and hear mom's voice and breathing. They also got used to a comforting swaying motion. Babywearing also lets baby hear a heartbeat and breathing close by (whether that's mom's or dad's), and even mimics the swaying.
3. It helps you bond with baby
Since you're holding baby so close to you, babywearing can help you identify baby's hunger, tiredness, and wet diaper "cues" more quickly. This can help you feel more confident in your parenting. It can also strengthen the connection with baby, for an improved bond. After all, baby's right next to you, so you're more likely to talk to, sing to, and cuddle with them.
4. It promotes baby's cognitive and social development
When you carry baby around with you, they have more opportunities to interact with the world. They'll essentially have the same experiences you do as you move around and explore different places together. So, they'll be exposed to all different sights and sounds, which are very stimulating for baby's developing mind. They'll also hear you talk more often – to others, to them, and to yourself – which helps them absorb lots of different words. This may support their language development as the grow. Baby will even feel the sensation of walking as you walk around!
5. It helps prevent flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly)
Flat head syndrome may occur when baby is left on their back for too long. Keeping baby in a carrier reduces the pressure on the back of their head, so it reduces the risk of flat head syndrome.
6. It may reduce reflux
When babies are held upright, such as in a carrier, this helps support healthy digestion. It also lessens symptoms connected with reflux (like coughing and vomiting).
7. It has other health benefits for baby
Babywearing may help baby develop the muscles they need for balance. It can also help stabilize their heart rate and temperature. In addition, since baby's held close to you, this may lessen other people's attempts to touch baby. It's a lot harder to reach into a sling right on your body than to reach into a stroller or carseat! This means less exposure to the germs that can make baby sick.
8. It helps calm baby
We've already established that babywearing reduces crying. But it also helps baby stay calmer. If baby is startled or frightened by anything, it's easier for you to soothe them since they're so close to you.
Your closeness and touch also helps baby relax and stay content, which will lead to less stress and better sleep for your little one. And since baby's calmer – and close to you – this will help lower your own stress levels as well.
Holding baby close can prompt both of your bodies to release oxytocin (sometimes called the love and bonding hormone), which reduces your and baby's levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).
And when baby's calm and in the "quiet alert" state, it's easier for them to take in the world around them. This further encourages cognitive development.
9. It gives you (the parent or caregiver) more freedom
Babywearing leaves your hands free, so it's much easier to accomplish other tasks while keeping your little one close. You can take care of household chores, read, use a computer, and exercise more easily. You can even hike with baby, if that's something you enjoy!
Plus, if you have older children, babywearing makes it easier to spend more time with them and be more present. Your hands are free to play a game with them, hold toys during pretend play, read them a story, or even hold their hand on a walk with them.
One safety reminder: Don't do any hot cooking while wearing baby. Having baby close to a hot stove, oven, other appliance, or hot liquid increases their burn risk. Also, don't wear baby while using a knife or other sharp object.
10. It can make breastfeeding easier
If you've chosen to breastfeed your little one, babywearing may make breastfeeding easier. Baby's already close to your breasts, so it may be easier for them to find your nipple and latch on. Babywearing may also help you identify the cues that tell you baby wants to breastfeed. Plus, since you're holding baby close, your body produces more oxytocin (the love and bonding hormone), which promotes milk let-down.
As an added bonus, a sling or carrier also gives you a lot more privacy when you breastfeed in public. So, babywearing can make breastfeeding more convenient when on the go, and make some moms much more comfortable about public nursing.
11. It promotes skin-to-skin contact
Babywearing makes it easier to hold your little one skin to skin. This "kangaroo care" has a wealth of bonding and health benefits for you and baby on its own (which you can learn about in our previous article).
Notably, wearing a preemie baby skin-to-skin helps them gain weight and thrive more quickly.
12. It may help reduce postpartum depression risk.
Thanks to the lowered stress and increased calm and confidence babywearing brings to moms, babywearing may also help reduce postpartum depression risk.
Babywearing also helps you connect with your friends and stay active, since your hands are free while baby still stays close. These factors can help promote a mom's mental health.
The increased skin-to-skin contact prompted by babywearing, which we talked about above, can also lower a mom's risk of postpartum depression. Studies have shown that moms who held their baby skin to skin for 5 hours per day during baby's first week of life, and 2 hours per day in baby's first month of life, had lower levels of postpartum depression symptoms.
How to safely wear your baby?
Now that you know all the benefits of babywearing, here's how to do it safely.
First, make sure that baby can breathe comfortably, and that their airway is not blocked. Also, always follow the manufacturer's instructions for how to use the carrier or sling. And check that the carrier is comfortable for you to wear, as well as comfortable for baby!
Then, use the TICKS checklist, to make sure you're wearing baby in a safe position:
T is for Tight: Baby must be held snug against your body – make sure there's no gap between baby and your body. The wrap or carrier must be tight enough that baby can't easily shift positions, and can't fall out. If baby slides down, this could impair their breathing or lead to unneeded strain on your back. And of course, you need to prevent dangerous falls.
I is for In view always: You always need to see baby's face so you can make sure they're breathing properly and are staying content. Baby's head and face should never be covered in fabric, as fabric could block their airway and impair their breathing.
C is for Close enough for a kiss: Baby's head should be positioned close to your chin. Make sure that, when you lower your head, you can easily kiss the top of their head.
K is for Keep their chin off their chest: If baby's chin curls into their chest, they could suffocate. So, make sure baby's chin is clear of their chest, and adjust immediately if you see their chin on their chest. Check that there's enough space for baby's airway by putting your hand under their chin. You should have enough room for at least two of your fingers to fit between their chin and chest. One way to make sure their chin does not drop is to keep them in an upright position with their spine curved. Their legs should be in a squat position, almost like frog legs.
S is for Support their back: Baby's carrier needs to be tight, and baby should be tucked in so their chest and belly touch your body. But don't make the carrier or sling too tight – it must still be loose enough that you can slip your hand in the carrier. Also, make sure that baby can't lean back. If they're leaning back, it could be harder for them to breathe.
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