Guest Author: Sacha Rose, Student Occupational Therapist, Queen's University
You’re a mom and you’re busy taking care of your little one(s), and sometimes you wish you had more than two hands – I get it! You can’t be everywhere at once or do everything at once (although sometimes it would be easier if we could). On the plus side, baby wearing can help you do a little more than you were before
- all while reaping in the benefits that come with it. Baby wearing is the process of carrying your baby on your body via carrier, sling, wrap, etc. There are various different ways you can engage in this and tons of different benefits for both mom and baby!
You can use your hands more
One of the most obvious benefits of baby wearing is that you can use your hands more! This is great for moms who are experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression, or for moms who may be overwhelmed by all of the new tasks that come with caring for a baby. The ability to be hands free can allow the opportunity to complete necessary care tasks for your baby, but just as importantly, allow you to do more for yourself. So often, moms will neglect their own needs while attending to everyone else but it is crucial that there are opportunities for self-care. Studies have shown that baby wearing can be a protective measure for experiences of postpartum depression and anxiety. Previously, it was estimated that 1/5 women experienced some form of postpartum mood disorder. Currently with the COVID-19 pandemic, those numbers have risen to 1/3. That shocking increase means that more so now than ever it is so important to take care of yourself and prioritize your mental health.
You can socialize more
The postpartum period can often feel very isolated and lonely for mothers. Baby wearing can give the opportunity for socialization with friends and family, as you have more freedom to move and engage in activities as you are wearing your baby with you. This can make it easier to go outside and enjoy nature, go for walks, call or text friends, and even play with other little ones you may have! Having a baby doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend time engaging in your favourite hobbies or activities - in fact, it means you should be prioritizing it even more! Ensuring you are actively participating in things that make you happy and bring you joy is a great way to maintain balance in your life and prioritize yourself. Baby wearing can be a great way for you to still be able to do many of the things you enjoy, all while still caring for the needs of your little one.
It can help form stronger attachment & bonds
The skin to skin contact that occurs while engaging in baby wearing elicits the “feel good hormone” oxytocin. This chemical release alongside the physical contact can help form stronger bonds between mom and baby, resulting in a stronger attachment. Attachment between mom and baby is important as it sets the cognitive foundation for future relationships and increases the experiences of co- regulation with your baby. With that being said, please know that healthy attachment can still occur when not baby wearing and this doesn't mean you must respond to your baby’s cries immediately 100% of the time! By having your baby closer to you it is easier for you to know what they need and when they need it, possibly creating less stress on you and your baby.
For moms who are experiencing postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, bonding with baby may seem like a challenge. Often, there is worry that bonding isn't occurring or that healthy attachment isn’t being made. Contrary to what many people say, bonding isn’t always instantaneous! Baby wearing may create an easier environment for both you and your baby to feel connected as you navigate this new transition in your life. It has been shown that for moms who are experiencing postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, baby wearing can actually minimize some of the negative symptoms felt.
Baby wearing is great for physical, cognitive, and emotional development in your baby. Imagine being in a warm room for nine months where you’re fed and taken care of 24/7 to suddenly be thrown into a whole new cold and unfamiliar world – scary right! Baby wearing can allow for an easier transition for both baby and you into the fourth trimester. It allows for your little one to be close to you and feel connected to you in a way that mimics the womb.
One of the physical benefits of baby wearing is that it can help with tummy time. While your baby is in an upright position in a carrier they are practicing balance and keeping their head up. This helps strengthen important muscles, but it also helps with positional plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome). This can happen when a baby lays on one side of their head too often during the first few months of life. By engaging in baby wearing, this limits your baby’s time spent laying and therefore may decrease the chances of this happening.
Studies have shown that the more often a premature baby is touched and held, the faster they gain weight and develop – what better way to do this than by having them snuggled into you while you can go about your day! This applies for babies of all ages as well, the more they are socializing and attuned to your world and environment, the faster they develop. Just think of all the learning they are doing while observing everything you do!
Another benefit that comes with wearing your little one is that it can significantly improve an infant's language development over time. This allows your baby to be more socially involved with you and other people. While your baby is snuggled into you, they are able to observe and learn more by watching and interacting with your surroundings. Different positioning in your carrier can offer different benefits. With your baby positioned facing towards you, they can observe your mouth and facial expressions while you’re speaking and interacting with them and others. While they’re positioned away from you, they are able to see how you interact with your environment and observe others speaking and interacting with you. However you choose to wear your baby, please ensure that you are following the carrier guidelines based on age and positioning to keep baby and you safe. Please see our baby wearing education sheet on our website.
Alongside language and cognitive development, studies have shown that babies who are worn by their mothers may cry and fuss less. This can in part, be attributed to the increased ease for mom to meet baby’s needs but also because of the comfort that comes with the physical contact that baby is having with mom. Of course it is completely normal for your baby to cry, but while you are wearing your little one, this allows you to meet their needs faster which in turn may create a stronger attachment between the two of you as well!
Overall, baby wearing can foster a positive environment where both you and your baby can benefit! Some babies love being worn, while others are maybe not so keen on it - the plus side to that is that there are so many (and I really mean SO many) different ways to wear and carry your baby around. Different carriers offer different support for different needs, you just need to find the right one that works for you and your baby. Front wearing carriers or carriers that provide support at your hips are great for new born babies, as this provides them more support. For babies who have the ability to hold their head up, back carriers are a good option! However you choose to wear your baby is up to you, but you can be happy knowing that it is benefiting the both of you.