Traditionally, women return to their work and social life shortly after giving birth. In many cultures, they carry on with their daily duties while carrying babies on their backs and making occasional stops in order to breastfeed.
Western culture does not normally accommodate a newborn baby at the work place. Instead women have to face a choice – becoming stay-at-home mums or leaving their babies with another caregiver in order to come back to work. New mums are supposed to jump right into the motherhood, often without much notice and preparation. In many cases they find themselves having to adapt to the new life without much support and spend considerable time alone with their babies. This is often leaving them overly tired, socially deprived and even depressed.
Babywearing provides an amazing opportunity for Western world mums to transition naturally from pre-baby life to motherhood. This is because mums can learn to carry on with their daily routines and social activities while wearing their babies in the sling. They can do shopping, cleaning and cooking, go out for a dinner, go to movies or a concert while carrying their newborn. They can even catch up on their sleep much easier which adds to their emotional and physical well-being. Most importantly, they will not end up feeling over-whelmed and anti-social. Baby wearing will help new mums stay calm and enjoy new life with the baby.
As a mum four I lived through most of the ways motherhood can affect you. I used to be a working mum and a stay at home mum, social mum and anti-social mum, happy mum and depressed mum. One thing that remained unchanged was my affection towards baby wearing. Through baby wearing I found ways to make motherhood gentler and happier and I would love to share that wisdom. Here are the top ten situations where baby wearing can definitely help.
Starting the day on the right foot
It is early morning and you haven’t had your coffee yet, but your toddler is up and your baby demands breast milk. You were hoping to sit down and eat before the motherhood wheel starts rolling, but it seems that nothing is really under your control, you feel helpless and the day starts on the wrong foot.
I am no different from you, dear mums as I do have such mornings, but … I know and I practice one thing which is actually under my control. I put my baby in the sling and look at everything from the “I CAN” perspective.
So, here we are – my baby happily breastfeeding in the sling while my toddler is having breakfast and I am quietly enjoying the treasured moment with the morning coffee while putting thoughts together and making a plan for the day…
Doing household chores
Once you have a new baby, at first, your duties as a house keeper become less of a priority. Nevertheless, at some point you will feel the need to keep your house tidy for the sake of your own sanity and for the sake of your family. The first few weeks will pass by and you will find that you struggle to keep up with it. The baby is demanding and you know you should be using every short break to rest and recover your energy level rather than drain yourself further by dusting, vacuuming and mopping.
As soon as I learned to wear my baby, I invented a new rule – do as many things as possible while your baby is up and rest together with your baby. I learned I can do almost any household chore while wearing my baby – mop and hoover, mow grass, cook, walk my dog and take care of my toddler and the elder two children. When my babies grew older I started carrying them on my back. It gave me unobstructed view and free hands.
Cooking with your baby
No matter how organized you are – cooking is one of those activities that requires planning and dedication. Having a baby means that your cooking plans, no matter how unsophisticated, can turn into a mess. You will be interrupted in the middle of frying the onion because it is time to feed your baby or to rock him to sleep. You will turn to your baby and will forget to open up the lid or your casserole or will not remember how many eggs you have used for your baking project. In the end, you may need to compromise either by simplifying your meals to an absolute extreme or by getting more expensive ready-made dishes.
Not so many mums know how easy this issue can be resolved by using the baby carrier. I would often put my baby in the sling or my toddler onto my back in onbuhimo during the evening hours when it gets really intense. It is time to quickly set up the table and prepare a family dinner, then prepare lunch boxes for my elder ones while keeping my toddler and my baby happy. All that works – things get done while your baby is happily sleeping or watching over your shoulder.
Having to breast feed a small baby while taking care of one, two or more kids is not easy. Even when you only have one baby, following her breastfeeding pattern is really demanding as it inevitably interrupts you from your activities.
I learned to breastfeed my first baby in the ring sling. The biggest advantage was being able to do things while breastfeeding instead of always having to sit down and breast feed.
With my third and fourth child, I have become a professional breastfeeding-on-the-go mum. I learned to breastfeed in all my carriers (I had around ten of them at the time) and in almost all situations. I used a vertical position while standing or walking and horizontal (cradle) position while sitting. Ring sling was the best type of carrier in regards to breastfeeding as it gave flexibility of quickly changing the position depending on the type of activity. It helped to keep the baby well positioned and to latch on easily.
I often used breastfeeding as a way to keep my baby in the sling or to keep him calm so that I can concentrate on a task. Breastfeeding has become an aid rather than an obstacle to many other activities!
Going out with the baby
Many mums feel really insecure about going out with their babies in the first few weeks or even months. Especially the first-time mums – as they are not confident about how they will handle the demands of the baby in the public and also because of the fear that the baby may get sick.
In my personal opinion – baby wearing fixes all those issues at once. Baby wearing in most cases comes along with the breastfeeding, which protects the baby on the first place. When worn correctly the baby is facing inward so the sling fabric serves as an additional barrier to the harmful bacteria. When worn in the sling, babies rarely cry as they have all they need – the comfort and the food. So, there is little chance that a new mum will feel overwhelmed as it is unlikely that she will have to deal with the crying baby in the public.
Calming the baby
In all cultures babies have been rocked to sleep and soothed when teething or in pain. According to the article published in Psychology Today about The Neuroscience of Calming a Baby https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201304/the-neuroscience-calming-baby “From humans to mice, mammalian infants become calm and relaxed when they are carried by their mother”.
Baby in the sling is swaddled and rocked. This creates a similar feeling to when she was carried in the womb –swaddled by the uterus and rocked very gently by the mum’s movements. Carrying and rocking creates the sense of security and relaxes the baby. This also explains why most babies cry immediately once they are put down and keep calm when carried in the sling.
Sling helped me a lot during those colicky months. I would rock my babies to sleep while doing things around the house. I deliberately chose activities that involved walking (collecting dishes off the dinner table, hanging or folding washed clothes). If the pain was too disturbing and the baby wouldn’t stop crying, I would go out for a rigorous walk which would eventually rock my baby to sleep.
Sling helped not to disturb baby’s sleep as I could gently put her down into the crib without removing her from the ring sling. The baby would keep sleeping in most cases as the sling carried my warmth, my scent. The baby would keep calm as she will be laying down swaddled in the ring sling.
Baby wearing not only allows mum to pay more attention to her older children. While mum is learning to wear her baby the whole family usually gets involved – encouraging and supporting her. In many cases dads and older sisters and brothers turn into baby wearers too.
A baby wearing family won’t be interrupted by the baby’s demands (sleeping, breastfeeding) when they are spending time together – be it a walk or a family gathering. Baby will be happily carried and breastfed on demand while mum and dad are spending time together or when mum needs to be involved in the kids’ school activities etc.
My toddler does not go to the nursery and we spend lots of time together, mostly out and about. That creates a special bond between us. My toddler is less deprived of my attention as I can be actively involved in her games. We do not have a nanny, but we regularly go out with my husband for a long stroll along the sea shore or in the nearby park. We always have our baby with us and it makes us feel like new parents once again
Baby wearing provides a great opportunity for the mum to start gentle exercise routine without having to leave a very small baby with another family member or a care giver. While carried in the sling babies feel secure and have constant access to their essential needs. This combines really well with performing careful and gentle exercises. Most importantly, it has a tremendous effect on mum’s wellbeing and further develops bonding. The baby worn in the sling can actually facilitate mum’s active lifestyle.
With my first and second baby, it took me years to return to my regular exercise routine. With my third one I tried something new – I started taking her with me to the Pilates classes. When she was no longer keen to observe I would simply put her in my sling and continue exercising mildly. With my fourth I developed my own routine of movements which helped me come back completely to my pre-birth weight just after 4 months!
Facilitating development of the baby
Baby wearing stimulates the vestibular system and as such, the development that is related to this system.. In the womb, the baby’s very sensitive vestibular system is constantly stimulated because a fetus experiences almost continuous motion. ‘The Attachment Parenting Book” Bill and Martha Sears note that baby wearing stimulates the infant’s vestibular system: “the stimulation helps babies breathe and grow better, and improves motor development” [https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/baby-wearing/benefits-babywearing].
Baby wearing allows the little one to exercise his neck muscles a lot more than when he lies in a crib, play pen or stroller. Sling babies start holding their head much earlier than crib / stroller babies. Not only it is safer as it allows unabstracted breathing, but it also allows them to start exploring the world by looking around much earlier. But what about strollers? The baby is also moving. Yes, true, but this is either a forward or backward motion, and not varied like in baby wearing.
My personal experience of wearing my four babies has proven that the more I wear them the more physically and psychologically advanced they become. My fourth baby, who was worn most started crawling at four months and by 11 moths was an amazing walker.
Above all, researching and trying different baby carriers and using them in various situations, was really fun! Learning different positions has always been fun and extra motivation to go out with my children. I would often watch the video, grab my wrap or a sling and practice it in the park.
In addition to its functional qualities, baby wearing has always been my personal statement. I always considered it more than just a way to deal with the baby. Babywearing has become the statement of my attitude to motherhood, my declaration of a mother who chose to live HER life WITH the baby and not life AFTER the bab