Benefits of Babywearing for Mom and Baby

Written by contributor Emily McClements, of Live Renewed.

I loaded up my groceries and climbed into the driver’s seat of my car.  I reached to put my seat belt on and then looked down. Oops! I was so used to my huge nine month baby bump, that I had forgotten I was wearing my son.  There he was, fast asleep against my chest in my Moby Wrap.  I was so comfortable, he was so quiet and content, that I had almost forgotten he was even there.

With both of my children, I began wearing them almost as soon as I brought them home from the hospital.  I loved having my babies close to me, and they loved it as well.  I fell in love with babywearing, and want to tell everyone I know how wonderful it is.

The transition of adding a baby to the family can be an overwhelming one at times, with dealing with the needs of a new baby, feeding them around the clock, all while figuring out how to do what used to be fairly routine tasks like running errands and housework.  And as baby gets bigger and older it doesn’t get much easier.  They become so active and into everything, and yet are still so sensitive and dependent.

Babywearing is the natural parenting practice of carrying your baby in a sling or a carrier, which is growing in popularity because it helps parents to ease through some of these transitions. But, babywearing is not just a cute way to carry your baby around, it also has emotional and physical benefits for both mama and baby.

How Babywearing Benefits Baby:

1. Connection and Security

Babies come out of the peaceful environment of the womb and are quickly met with the seemingly crazy environment of life outside the womb.  Babywearing provides security for babies as they experience the familiar movements and sounds that they knew in the womb: hearing your voice, feeling your cadence while walking, hearing your heart beat, and experiencing your rhythmic breathing.  It also provides comfort and connection for them through remaining with you and close to you as you go about your day.

Older babies and toddlers also benefit from the comfort and security of babywearing. As they grow, and learn, and explore their environments, babywearing can provide a safe “home base” where they can be close and connected to mama, or dad, too.  This is another benefit of babywearing: it’s a great way for dads to get involved in caring for their baby, and for nurturing their connection with him.

2. Soothing

Because of the connection and security that it provides for a baby, babywearing is soothing to babies and helps to reduce crying and colic. Babies who are worn throughout the day have less need to cry to receive attention from their parents, and when they do cry, they are usually soothed easily through babywearing.  I often found that when my babies were fussy that wearing them would help to settle them down and stop crying more quickly than anything else I tried.

Wearing your baby in a sling or carrier can also help to ward off the fussy “witching hour” that many babies have. Anticipating a baby’s colicky or fussy times and putting them in a sling or carrier before they start to cry can distract baby, soothe them, and even help them to forget to cry.


Photo by Summer

3. Enhanced Learning

Babywearing is stimulating to both babies and toddlers because it allows them to interact with the world in the same way that their parents do, by being upright and on the same level, rather than lying in a car seat or sitting in a stroller.  Because babies cry less while being worn, they have longer periods of content alertness in which they can take in stimuli from their environment.

Babies that are worn are able to see what their parent sees, hear what they hear and say, and even do the things that their parent does, right along with them. This leads to enhanced learning and better cognitive development as babies are more involved in the everyday actions of their parents day to day life.

4. Increased Verbal Skills

Along with enhanced learning, babies who are worn are able to pick up on language at an earlier age.  They are able to see and hear as their parent speaks with others. Because they are up at their level, it’s almost like they are in on the conversation.

Both of my kids have been early talkers, and I attribute much of it to the amount of time I spent wearing them.  Babies who are worn learn speech patterns as they watch their parents form words with their mouth, and can begin practicing sounds and words at a younger age.

How Babywearing Benefits Mom:

1. Connection to Baby

Just as babies benefit from the comfort and security of being worn, mamas benefit from the increased proximity and connection while wearing their babies.  Babywearing encourages the production of a mother’s nurturing hormones which increase her ability to read and respond to her baby’s cues, and can also help to reduce postpartum depression.

I found that wearing my newborn felt almost like I was pregnant again. I cherished the moments of having my baby so close and snuggled up with me, and I loved being able to keeping him near me, even as he grew older and more independent.

Photo by AmberStrocel

2. Convenience

One of the hardest transitions when having a new baby is the tension between caring for your baby and doing other things that need to be done, such as running errands, housework, even caring for older siblings.  Babywearing is the best answer to this for a busy mom.

I have worn my babies in so many different situations, everything from blueberry picking, to dancing at a wedding reception, to just nursing at home hands free so I could play with my older daughter.  It allows you to take care of and comfort your baby by keeping them near you as you continue with day-to-day routine.

Using a carrier or a sling to carry your baby is also much more convenient in situations where strollers would be cumbersome, such as at the beach, in a big city with lots people, or while traveling.  Babywearing is the most convenient way to stay connected and close to your baby through all of your different activities.

3. Weight Loss

Wearing your baby turns even regular activities, like housework or grocery shopping, into a workout. By starting when your baby is a newborn, you will ease your body into carrying around a extra few pounds, and as your baby grows, your body will respond accordingly to the added weight.  Before you know it, you will easily be carrying around a 15-20 lb baby or toddler.

I credit babywearing as one of the main reasons that I lost all my baby weight, and more, after my last pregnancy. It is an easy and safe way to incorporate exercise into your day, even right after having a baby when regular exercise is not recommended.

4. Discreet Breastfeeding

Babywearing provides a way to discreetly and privately nurse your baby in public.  It’s also great for hands-free nursing for times when you may need to be doing something else.

Whether using the cradle hold in a ring sling and the tail of the sling as a cover, or an upright position with a mei tai or soft structured carrier, breastfeeding while wearing your baby does require some adjusting and practice to find the position that works best for you and your baby. But once you do, you will love the freedom of being able to nurse your baby on the go, in all different types of situations.

Babywearing has benefited me and my babies in all of these ways, and more.  For my family, babywearing has been the best way to navigate the different activities of our life while still caring for, connecting with, and nurturing our precious little ones.

How has babywearing enhanced your life with little ones? What is your favorite benefit of babywearing?

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Comments

  1. Babywearing makes everything so much easier. I have 23 months between #2 and #3 and wearing my youngest meant that I didn’t need a double pram. We can go for walks on the beach no pram needed. If she is grumpy I can pop her in and she settles straight away where ever we are. My oldest has just started soccer and I am his team’s coach. I don’t have to worry about the baby during his games, she’s right there on my back cheering the team on too (well she is chewing on my hair).
    My baby carrier (a Moby is my choice for nb’s) is pretty much the one thing I will always pack for my postpartum hospital stays, it frees up your hands so you can eat, and you can wander the corridors in the middle of the night without your arms falling off from constantly jigging a grumpy nb baby.

  2. My best friend just had her first baby, and when I spent a few days with her, the first thing we did was buy and figure out how to use a moby wrap!

  3. happy babe, no cumbersome equipment to manage. i love wearing my wee ones:)

  4. I love my Moby Wrap. I even used it to discretely nurse my daughter WHILE climbing up and through rows of bleachers at a stadium for a hockey game.

  5. Love it!! My toddler just started babywearing her dolls, too!
    http://allygcreations.blogspot.com/2011/03/3611.html

  6. I have a double ring sling, and I can’t get the hang of it. Anyone have advice or links to good tutorials?

  7. It didn’t. Having a preemie means that you shouldn’t put your child in one, for the most part. they have a shorter neck and less ability to lift their head and are more likely to suffocate in both a sling and car seat (as many people leave their children in them for so long). I tried every brand as he got older and he hated them as, since birth, he’s hated being enclosed or wrapped up at all. Like would turn purple in the nicu trying to get out of the buritto bundle so many kids love and the nurses are exceptionally good at doing.

    I think they are a great idea and wish they would have worked for him during his colic as he got older but they just didn’t. I think people should know they are not for every child and there are still risks. My son was an early talker and is extremely verbally advanced for his age and, clearly, being in a sling had nothing to do with it. I interacted with him all the time, many people seem to forget children are people too you can talk to them just as you would an adult.

    • I too had a “starfish” sleeper. Arms and legs spread out every time. She wiggled out of every swaddle, and even rolled over at 2 weeks, in an effort to get out of a swaddle. It was completely surprising to my husband and I. Even now, she is definitely more independent (and stubborn!) than her brother. 🙂

  8. My due date for baby #2 is two weeks from today and I’ve been thinking about doing this. A few questions for baby-wearing moms: 1) Maybe this is a weird question, but is it safe? Do I need to worry about my newborn slipping out if I don’t wear it a certain way or if I get the wrong size? (btw: how do I pick out a size when I’m nine months prego?) That freaks me out. And 2) What kind of slings are best? What has worked for you?

    • Heather –

      I would wait until after the baby arrives to pick out a sling. That way, you can actually try-on the slings with the baby, and get a better idea of which one will work for you. Also, some resale shops sell slings and baby carriers. They can be a great resource to purchase one to try-out for a bit.

    • It’s going to depend on the baby and your body. I have a really short torso, so it was hard to find a sling that worked right, plus with back problems I needed support. But there are babywearing groups, and the one near me has a bi-monthly meeting where you can try on slings and even borrow them so that you don’t have to spend the money until you know you like it. You can find one near you by googling babywearing and your town (ours has a yahoo group)

    • When done properly, babywearing is TOTALLY safe, and arguably safer than leaving baby in a stroller or carseat, as the baby’s mere proximity to you makes you so much more aware of what’s going on with him/her.

      Here is a great resource on babywearing safety: http://babywearinginternational.org/pages/safety.php

    • Check out http://www.thebabywearer.com for tons of great information. There are some types of slings that should be avoided, like bag slings(Infantino had one recalled), also carriers that suspend a child by their crotch are not good for their development. But if you are wearing a baby properly than it is very safe.

      I found my kids never liked being carried in a cradle carry, but always wanted to be upright in whatever I used to carry them, whether a wrap or a sling, from birth.

      I love wrapping and can’t wait to wrap this new little one due in May. I wish I had known that there were better carriers than the Baby Bjorn with my first.

  9. I had trouble with a lot of slings because I have chronic neck and shoulder pain from a car accident, but I finally found my perfect sling in the Kangaroo Korner fleece pouch. I loved that thing! I kept it even though we were all done with babies, and now with a sudden surprise I may need it after all. 🙂

  10. And don’t forget that while you are working off the baby weight, the front carrier hides the belly 🙂

  11. If baby wearing is something you’d like to do, don’t give up if things aren’t going well at first. But, don’t feel guilty for not doing it if your child hates it! My son was extremely colicky and nothing but being held in my arms would do. The ring sling gathered dust, swings, car rides and all the other “tricks” did nothing. Once he outgrew that at 3-4 months, we tried him in the Ergo. He loves it and we’ve toured cities, gone to festivals and walked many miles with him happily being worn. Like so many other areas of parenting, give yourself grace and you’ll find what works best for you and baby : )

  12. Love, love, love my mei tai. I have a moby (which was never popular with either of us) and a sling as well (no rings so not adjustable – I leave it in the diaper bag for when I’m out and about and forget my mei tai). But the mei tai has given me so much more freedom in being able to actually get things done around the house. I’m also in the best shape I’ve been in in a long time!

  13. Deirdre Hopkins says:

    I have used the Moby wrap during the newborn stages, and loved it! I have a hard time back wrapping once my kids get older/heavier. Is there a brand or type that you would recommend for older kids?

    • If you like wrapping try out a German style weave wrap, like by Didymos, Girasol, Ellaroo, or many others. Back wrapping with a Moby can be dangerous as it is a stretchy wrap…you need a wrap that isn’t stretchy.

      If you wanted something other than a wrap a Mei Tai or soft structured carrier, such as an Ergo, Beco, or other countless ones are great to try.

      Check out http://www.thebabywearer.com for tons of information.

  14. I love my mei-tai, which lasted well into the toddler age with my small daughter and the Moby which I used a lot for my second when he was small. We also have a mesh Baby Bjorn that my husband used with both babies- it’s a little more masculine and the mesh keeps him from getting too hot. I’m hoping to try out an Ergo as another option for Baby #3.

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