Photographs from http://www.slingbabies.co.nz
Babies have been worn in variations of wraps and slings for thousands of years, all over the world. They varied in styles, depending on the climate and the needs of the parent. In hotter climates, babies were more often worn on the front to allow frequent breastfeeding to avoid dehydration, like the Rebozo used in Mexico. In colder climates, carriers were much thicker, like the the Inuit Amauti carrier used by Alaskan and Canadian people, which is essentially a coat that the baby fits into on the back of the parent (or older sibling). European people used a mixture of wraps, pouches and cloth to carry their children.
Babywearing was the “norm” until the early 1900s. After the first modern stroller was invented in 1889, and as people were told that they needed prams, they slowly stopped wearing their babies. The advertising for prams made it clear that everyone needed one and if you didn’t have one, you weren’t doing it right and you were obviously poor. People began to take their babies out of their arms as babywearing began to be seen as embarrassing and outdated.
In more recent years, there has been a shift back towards babywearing. In the late 1960s a woman invented the Snugli baby carrier after seeing babies being carried while volunteering as a Peace Corps in West Africa. Then in the early 1970s, a famous baby carrier brand, Didymos was created after it’s founder was given a Mexican rebozo baby carrier. In 1981, a man in Hawaii made the first ring sling for his wife and they sold their idea to Dr William Sears, who began making and promoting slings with his understanding of attachment theory.
Research around the globe has shown that babywearing has incredible benefits including:
- Helps the baby to feel more content. Research published in the journal of paediatrics has found that babies who are carried in slings cry 54% less during the evening and 43% less overall than babies who aren’t worn in slings.
- Helps the parent become more attuned to their child’s needs, to become more aware of their cues and signals and respond quicker.
- Helps the parent feel more confident and capable in caring for their baby.
- Helps to avoid spinal and cranial deformities.
- Decreases the likelihood of post natal depression.
- Decreases the baby’s stress hormones, helping them feel more happy and relaxed.
- Promotes breastfeeding with easy access to feeding and closeness helping to increase milk production.
- Helps to build a healthy attachment between the caregiver and child.
- Allows ‘hands free parenting’, making it easier to cook, clean, shop, climb mountains, paint, travel and basically anything else PG that you can think of.
- Helps to maintain a healthy relationship with older children as you can still easily play hide and seek or enjoy other bonding activities together while baby is being looked after. This also helps the baby to take part in and feel included in the group, to learn about other relationships within the family.
- Helps babies to regulate their body temperature, blood pressure, breathing and heart rate through contact with the parent. Studies have found that mothers can actually drop their body temperature to help their baby to cool down.
- Allows babies to explore the world from a safe base and therefore develop a stronger sense of security and confidence to go out into the world.
- Helps to strengthen baby’s neck. Babywearing has been found to be more beneficial than ‘tummy time’ for increasing muscular strength.
- Enhances gross motor skills by stimulating baby’s balance organs and exposing them to a great variety of sounds, sights and movement.
- Aids digestion by keeping baby in a comfortable upright position.
- Helps babies with reflux and colic, partly because they are kept upright.
- Allows optimal bone and joint development in baby’s hips.
- Helps with baby’s sleep as naps are easy and comfortable, whenever, wherever.
Today, people all over the world are normalising babywearing again as more research and information is becoming available about how wonderful it is. There are a million brands, colours and styles of carriers out there to fit every body shape and budget. There really is nothing better than carrying your baby on you. Buttt if you’re not sold yet, wait ’til my next post with all the beautiful carrier options.