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Parenting

28th Dec 2014

What’s this babywearing all about? And why is it so beneficial to baby and mum?

Free your mind (and hands)

HerFamily

Babywearing hasn’t always been perceived as it sometimes is today in the Western world – different or special. Years ago, it was just common sense and something that mums did in order to cope.

The term ‘babywearing’ was coined by Dr William Sears, who sees baby slings as an extension of the womb environment, bringing with it many benefits for baby’s development and parent’s sanity. The freedom that babywearing allows was definitely what appealed to me when I was first introduced to it. Before then, I struggled with even the simplest of tasks – like making a sandwich, doing my hair, or even going to the loo.

I didn’t realise that babywearing was such ‘a thing’ when my daughter was first born. I knew that baby carriers existed – I’d seen friends using the big, bulky models – but I wasn’t aware of the wraps, the ring slings, the mei tais, or the soft structured carriers. I had no idea that there were so many different types, nor did I know about all the benefits to baby AND mum. Otherwise I would have embarked on and invested in it sooner than I did.

By the end of my first month as a new mum, I had become a dab hand at doing things one handed, but I was wrecked. More than that though, it was starting to drive me a bit crazy. A combination of reflux and a simple dislike for her Moses basket meant that the quest to get my daughter to happily lie down wasn’t getting any easier.

The turning point came when I enrolled on a baby massage course run by Rachel Nugent, a Trageschule UK trained Babywearing Consultant and Baby Massage Instructor. After being  introduced to the wonderful world of babywearing, I dipped my toe by borrowing a couple of different carriers and I loved the practicality of it. Then, after a private babywearing consultation, I took the plunge and invested in a Connecta – a soft structured carrier with buckles that can be worn on your front, back, or side.

By this point, my daughter was four months old and I initially worried that she wouldn’t take to a carrier because I hadn’t used one from birth, but she relaxed into it a lot quicker than I anticipated and even fell asleep on the second outing, which is no mean feat. As for me, I was sold from the get go.

I’m not the only convert. “Here in Ireland, babywearing is definitely a lot more popular now compared  to when I started carrying my little man in 2009,” says Rachel. “Babywearing Ireland has a lot to do with this.”

The voluntary organisation has a national sling library (operating by post from Kerry – two slings for two weeks at €15), local sling libraries, local sling meets, annual fairs and online information. It also holds an annual ‘Wearing a Hug’ fair, which, according to Rachel, is growing in popularity each year, with an increasing range of slings on display. The online Irish Babywearing Facebook forum, which has almost 5000 members, has also contributed to the increasing popularity. “Even if mums aren’t near a physical sling meet they can chat, get info and advice from the knowledgeable members,” adds Rachel.

She continues, “Babywearing is an amazing tool parents can use to care for their baby, whether it’s their need to be carried, winded, helped to sleep, snuggled while teething, reassured in busy loud situations; or care for themselves – free hands to make that much needed cuppa, put washing on, a walk, eat dinner, care for older siblings.”

Benefits:

Being close to mum is the natural state for a baby.

Babywearing helps promote a strong bond between carer and baby.

Babywearing aids baby physiologically as mums can help regulate baby’s temperature, breathing, organise baby’s systems and calm baby, as baby being carried by mother is a reminder of the calmness it felt in the womb.

A 1986 study by a team of paediatricians in Montreal showed that babies who are carried in a sling cry less.

Sling babies spend more time in the state of quiet alertness, which is the optimal state of learning for a baby.

Babywearing extends the womb experience, which provides an external regulating system that helps baby organise the temporary disruption of birth.

Babywearing has many humanising benefits as a baby in a sling is intimately involved in the carrier’s world.

Babywearing enhances speech development because a baby in a sling is more involved in conversations.

Getting started:

Attend a local sling meet, where you can meet other babywearing mums and dads and see a variety of slings, try on slings, see demos of slings by experienced Babywearing Ireland volunteers. A lot of local sling meets also have a sling library where parents can rent slings. Visit Babywearing Ireland for details.

Book a sling consultation with a trained babywearing consultant. There are trained consultants all over Ireland.

The Irish babywearing Facebook forum has a For Sale or Trade page and is great for finding babywearing videos, discussing the best sling type for you and finding local meets.

For info on all things sling, visit the Sling Guide.

Image by Wilde Portrait Photography