Babywearing is a way to carry your child using a sling or baby carrier.
Why should I do it?
Babywearing has many benefits for your child including comforting and bonding, creating a secure attachment, increasing social interaction, supporting physical development, particularly head and neck control – it’s often an enjoyable alternative to tummy time for babies.
Babywearing is also known for supporting responsive breastfeeding, as the proximity can help stimulate milk production. That doesn’t mean that mothers that don’t breastfeed shouldn’t babywear, as the body will soon get the message when the baby isn’t fed.
In addition, there are huge benefits for the parent as well, from improved attachment and bonding, increased confidence in parenting skills and it can reduce postnatal depression and anxiety. It also provides a great way for dads and other carers to bond with the baby, especially in the early days.
Best of all, it leaves the parent’s hands free, allowing them to take care of other children, complete household tasks and even get out of the house.
What age is it best for?
Babies can be carried from birth. The best time to start using a sling is right from the beginning. During the child’s first few months of life, they experience something referred to as “the fourth trimester” where they adjust to life in the real world. They will want to be held often and this is a great way to do that while getting on with the rest of your life.
However, slings aren’t only for newborns. There are many slings and carriers that are suitable up to toddlerhood, and then there are some companies which also produce toddler and preschool sized carriers. Some parents find that when their child starts walking, a carrier is a great alternative to a pram for when the child gets tired.
Won’t my child become clingy?
People often worry that carrying your child will mean that the child will get used to it, and then won’t learn to be independent. This isn’t true, especially in the early days. Newborns need to form a solid connection with their caregivers before they can develop independence and babywearing provides a way to do that. You can alternate babywearing with using a pram, but sometimes mummy cuddles just can’t be beaten.
What are the different types of slings/carriers?
- Wraps – these come in two varieties, a stretchy wrap, which is specifically for newborns, and a woven wrap that can be used for all ages. They consist of a long piece of fabric that you tie around your body.
- Ring sling – this is similar to a wrap where a single piece of fabric is held in place using rings, and the weight is bared on a single shoulder, often carrying baby on the hip.
- Soft structured carrier – this carrier consists of a structured waistband, shoulder straps and a back panel with a sleep hood, which fits together using buckles.
- Backpack carrier – this is a backpack with a metal frame that also provides a seat for the baby. They are frequently used for outdoors activities like hiking.
- Pouch sling – this is a looped piece of fabric that creates a seat for the baby. They are can often compromise the baby’s ability to breathe so care must be taken to wear them safely.
Can I try before I buy? What is a sling library?
Trying to buy your first sling can feel overwhelming. There are lots of different types and it can be difficult to find the right one for you. Rather than purchasing one up front, the best way to start is to visit a local sling library, which you can find by looking at slingpages.co.uk. You’ll be able to attend one of their sessions and get help from a trained librarian, who will recommend 1-2 slings and show you how to use them. You can then hire that sling for a number of weeks.
Alternatively, there are also a number of qualified sling consultants across the country who will come to your house and spend a longer period of time learning about your situation and allow you to try a few different ones out.
by Lily Bissett