For thousands of years and across many cultures, babywearing has been practiced not only as a convenience, but as an actual necessity. Carrying babies has been traced back as far as the nomads, who wore their babies while moving from place to place gathering food. As humans began to settle, women wore their babies in the fields and farms. Still today, many cultures wear their babies as they travel through terrain that would unpassable with a stroller.
While babywearing in the United States dates back to the late 1960s, it became popularized in the 1980s by Dr. Sears, who coined the now trademarked term. Over the past 30 years, the babywearing market has become a rapidly growing industry. In fact, so many different kinds of baby carriers exist now that many cities and towns across the nation have babywearing groups to help parents navigate the babywearing world.
There are countless benefits to babywearing, many of which are evident. However, today we present some less obvious benefits that go along with wearing your little one.
1. Babywearing offers protection against viruses (or shortens them!)
Let's face it; newborns are pretty irresistible. Hoping to get a glimpse of the adorable new bundles, well-meaning strangers often have the urge to get too close or to touch the baby. A car seat or stroller leaves open access for the spreading of germs. Additionally, it also makes it easier for people to ask to hold the little one.
Wearing a baby in a sling or a carrier protects babies from curious strangers and the viruses that they might be harboring. After all, it becomes awkward to enter a parent's personal space to see the baby. Babywearing also makes it less likely for someone to ask to hold the baby, as he or she is already cozily nestled in. Newborns can often be completely covered in a carrier, protecting them against the transmission of airborne illnesses.
Related: Family-Run Woven Sling Business is Normalizing Babywearing
According to one study, babywearing reduces infant crying by up to 51%. Crying creates stress, which in turn causes the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol. Higher levels of stress hormones reduce resistance and, in turn, lead to higher risks of contracting illnesses.
Further, if your baby does get sick, a carrier is excellent for shortening the course of the illness. It's a well-known fact that sleep is both protective and healing for humans. Babywearing facilitates better sleep for most infants, thus helping them to heal faster. When your little one does fall ill, the upright position of the baby carrier allows congestion to clear more quickly. Additionally, newborns experience fewer ear infections when carried, likely because fluid can drain from the ear more effectively with the baby in the upright position.
2. Babywearing can replicate pregnancy for partner and baby.
A woman carries her baby for nine months, so it only seems fair that their partner also gets an opportunity to experience carrying the baby. While a man does not have a womb, he can replicate the feelings of warmth, motion, and the close sound of a heartbeat that the baby heard while in utero. As a result, the baby often responds well to that recreated sense of security.
In the earlier years many fathers, especially those whose partners are breastfeeding, feel left out of the parenting process. Without breasts, some men feel that they are unable to comfort their new infant. Babywearing can be incredibly empowering for new dads. Babies begin to become familiar with their father's scent and the sound of their voice. Many partners find that babywearing is one thing that they can do to soothe their new babies.
3. Babywearing can burn a few extra calories.
Who doesn't want to lose a few pounds after having a new baby? Wearing your baby acts like a weight vest and may help you to burn an additional 200-300 calories a day. Some ambitious parents add lunges and squats to their day while carrying their little one.
While weight loss should not be your primary reason for baby wearing, it's a welcomes side-effect for many.
4. Babywearing can dress up your wardrobe.
The baby carriers of today are not the baby carriers of yesteryear. They are stylish, trendy, and can accentuate any wardrobe. In fact, throw a carrier on over your yoga pants and shirt, and you've automatically added a pop of color to your day.
5. Babywearing combats postpartum depression.
Some experts tout the benefits of babywearing for mothers who suffer from postpartum depression. Skin-to-skin touch increases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that helps with bonding. Research also suggests that the scent of a baby's head triggers the release of dopamine, another pleasurable hormone.
Related: Awesome Shirt Makes Babywearing Easy for Dad
Babywearing can offer breastfeeding mothers a small sense of freedom, as they have two free hands and can head out the door for a walk at a moment's notice. Babywearing helps to alleviate the potential feeling of "being stuck."
Additionally, any parent who has suffered from depression knows just how physically and emotionally exhausting it can be. Babywearing is one way to passively connect with and comfort your little one. Many moms have attributed their healing from postpartum depression to babywearing.