Wear Your Baby: The Benefits

By Peggy O’MaraWear Your Baby

Helping my daughter hunt for Easter eggs while babywearing my son circa 1976

 

Babywearing is a necessity for women all over the world who carry their babies while they work and do domestic tasks. This practice has been around for centuries, but has seen a dramatic resurgence in popularity in recent years. Why? Because touch is good for us.

 

THE BENEFITS OF TOUCH

 

According to a study in Pediatrics, babies who are carried cry less. Babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during the evening hours.

 

A study at Columbia University compared the attachment of babies carried in a baby carrier with babies carried in a car seat. After 13 months, the babies who had been transported in wearable carriers were significantly more attached to their mothers.

 

According to research at Dr. Tiffany Field’s The Touch Institute, touch therapy has been shown to:

 

Facilitate weight gain in preterm infants

 

Enhance attentiveness

 

Alleviate depressive symptoms

 

Reduce pain

 

Reduce stress hormones

 

Improve immune function

 

Ashley Montagu was the first to remind us of the power of touch in his 1971 classic, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. According to Montagu, touch of infants is important because of their developmental vulnerability:

 

This intensification of cutaneous stimulations is especially necessary in the human fetus because, contrary to general belief, the period of gestation is not completed when the baby is born. It is only half-completed.

 

Nils and Jill Bergman’s work advocating “kangaroo care” for premature babies recalls Montagu’s characterization of humans as marsupials. Kangaroo care is continuous or prolonged maternal-infant-skin-to-skin contact (supplemented by father or other attachment figure). Research shows that it improves outcomes for premature babies and the Bergman’s recommend it for both premature and full-term babies.

 

OXYTOCIN

 

Touching is not just good for baby. Adults also benefit  from oxytocin, the neuropeptide released into the bloodstream during many types of touching. Oxytocin makes us want to touch and cuddle. Its release promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding. It lowers our heart rate and blood pressure making us feel more soothed and less stressed.

 

TYPES OF BABY CARRIERS

 

Babywearing is a practical solution for moms and dads who can tend to older children, make a meal or straighten up the house, all while carrying the baby. It can be more convenient than a stroller in crowded places such as stores, restaurants and airports. And, some carriers allow for easy and discreet breastfeeding.

 

While a baby carrier can be as simple as a piece of cloth, there are several varieties of manufactured carriers available today:

 

Slings

 

Soft Unstructured Carriers

 

Soft Structured Carriers

 

Wraps

 

Frame Back-packs

 

Choosing the right baby carrier for you and your baby is a matter of trial and error and has to do with the age of your baby and your own personal preference. Experts recommend a baby carrier that is made of “breathable” fabric, one that does not press baby too tightly against the wearer, and that allows the wearer to see the baby’s face. It helps to try on a variety of carriers to find the best fit. Fortunately, there are babywearing classes in cities all over the country.

 

For help looking for the right carrier for you and your baby or for classes in your area, check out Babywearing International and TheBabyWearer.

 

Join the Babywearing conversation in our Community. Let us know your favorite carrier or learn about the carriers voted Best of Mothering.

 

 

 

 

Peggy O’Mara founded Mothering.com in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.