Baby-wearing has been practiced for thousands of years all around the world for very good reasons and was not something ‘special’ and different as it is perceived today in the Western world, but just what they did to cope.
Various regions in the world have traditional baby carriers designed to meet their particular needs but sadly, in many countries baby-wearing has become less common in the middle of the last century because it is seen as something ‘poor people do’, while the wealthy would rather buy strollers.
The decline was also due to a movement to make babies independent and stop them being spoilt by too much love and attention in Western countries. (Later research has squashed this theory and we know now that a lack of love and touch actually severely delays babies’ development. They need and indeed crave bodily contact and movement in order to thrive.)
Luckily, it has made a huge comeback recently, partly due to attachment parenting advocates like Dr William Sears who actually coined the term ‘baby-wearing’. He sees baby slings as an extension of the womb environment, bringing with it many benefits for baby’s development and parents’ sanity!
Medical and baby gurus have started to realise the value of baby-wearing as a means of bonding with baby and aiding development, and in the US and Europe, it’s becoming increasingly recognised as an important parenting tool.
This has seen an influx of a wide variety of fashionable baby carriers in several colours and often eye popping limited editions.
It’s the new must-have baby buy! Celebs across the world are toting their offspring in baby carriers nowadays and my most surprising find was Marilyn Manson. (Upon closer investigation though it seems the pic has been “photo-shopped”! I think I’m a bit relieved…)
It’s one of the few baby paraphernalia that you can indulge in guilt-free, provided you make good choices as there are so many lesser known carriers that are by far superior to the mass-marketed ones.
And yes, dads now frequently wear their babies as well, and rightly so as it’s an excellent way for them to bond with baby.
With my first baby in 2011, I certainly fell in the marketing trap. I had bought a famous or rather notorious US baby carrier, available on shelves worldwide (think “crotch-dangler”). In a home visit from my midwife after birth, she immediately shunned my choice and wrote down a few carriers that were more appropriate and that will not harm my baby. In my post birth frenzy, I quickly replaced the carrier with one approved soft structured German carrier and a well known ring sling.
Not really grasping how to use the ring sling with only Youtube as my point of reference, I never truly embraced it as it painfully pulled at my shoulder (while the rest of my body were already in pain from giving birth and the strain of mastering breastfeeding). My husband on the other hand rather liked it but as I shockingly discovered later during my baby planning training and research, the cradle hold we so frivolously used with both babies are not recommend at all by baby wearing expert consultants due to the high risk of positional asphyxiation, the not-so-ideal position for healthy hip development as well as the amount of shock absorbed by the baby’s body.
The German carrier however, I loved from the get-go as the weight of the baby was distributed evenly over my shoulders. Each time without fail, my baby would fall asleep instantly to the rhythm of my steps once I started walking. Once again however, I have now learned from the baby wearing consultants, that there are indeed a couple of concerns that needs to be addressed when using this carrier for a newborn and that my carrier is actually more suitable once baby can sit unaided!
1. Even though the manufacturer states the carrier is suitable for a newborn (over 3.5kg) the thighs of the infant are actually spread open too wide which is less than ideal and better suitable from around 6 months/74cm. This can be remedied however by using a special adjustment sold separately (and I’m not referring to the newborn insert) that the manufacturer has created recently.
2. In addition, the pulling pressure from the adult straps makes it difficult for newborns to have a healthy curved spine. However, there is a curved stitched part on the baby’s back that claims to help transfer this pressure to the hip belt. But whether or not this pressure will be transferred efficiently also depends on the size of the adult and baby. On the other hand, there are other similar carriers, that can indeed transfer this pressure more efficiently by attaching the strap directly to the hip belt, making them more suitable when it comes to a comfortable and safe newborn carrier.
Well my babies seem fine today but it surely would’ve been mighty nice to have had the right information and guidance at that time. We only want to do what’s best for them. Back then, I did not even know that baby planners, never mind baby-wearing consultants exist!
So what’s the crux:
1. The most important aspect of baby-wearing is safety. Any carrier can be used incorrectly, rendering it unsafe. Quite often, the manufacturer’s description can be misleading!
2. Just because celebrities are wearing their babies in certain carriers and in certain ways, doesn’t mean that these carriers are the best available on the market and that the positions flaunted are optimal…quite the contrary actually.
3. Choosing the right carrier is like buying a pair of shoes. What may seem comfortable for you and your baby may not be the case for your friend as our comfort preferences and body shapes & sizes are all different. The way and duration you intend to use the carrier will also determine the best carrier for you.
4. It’s soooo worth it to have a session with a professional baby wearing consultant. These highly trained experts can teach you the do’s and dont’s like no other person can. It doesn’t cost a ton and you can even for a week, rent a carrier/sling from their library for next to nothing which will help you make the best choice for you. Chantal Weis, Félicie Wietor and Myriam Reuter are independent baby wearing consultants in Luxembourg and can assist you in various languages (including English) by choosing the best carrier for you as well as train you to use your chosen carrier safely and to ensure maximum comfort for mama and baba. There is also a website in Luxembourg grouping all the baby wearing consultants together, which could be handy if you are looking for a consultant in another language: www.droen.lu
5. Oh and it is hot hot hot for daddies to wear their babies too! (Keeping in mind that they should also follow the safety tips.)
Don’t miss part 2 and part 3 of our baby wearing articles where we will interview the experts with some pressing baby-wearing questions. For starters, we will discuss the issue with front-facing carriers, why a curved spine position is crucial for a newborn in a carrier, cradle carry positions and best steps to choose the right carrier for you and your baby!
More about the author:
As mother of two darling babies, Certified International Maternity Institute Baby Planner and Happiest Baby on the Block Educator Marise Hyman provides worldwide maternity coaching for expecting/future/new parents through Marise Hyman Maternity Coaching – setting them up for success, so they can sail into their new lives with confidence! She looks forward in soon being able to support expecting and new parents with sleep coaching.
She is also the founder of the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep offering a variety of social and educational events in Luxembourg designed so parents can make the most of becoming and being a new parent in the modern world today.