I don’t know how I would have gotten through my children’s early years without babywearing. My daughter was an extremely high-needs baby and demanded constant physical contact, and then when my son came along, I needed to keep with my then-high-needs toddler. I recall a trip I took with my kids to Washington D.C. where the baby spent the entire weekend in the sling, nursing, sleeping, and sightseeing. I never had to worry about dragging a stroller around and I had two free hands available for my daughter.
After the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued its warning against babywearing, the safety of this practice was widely questioned. Clearly, a baby’s safety is parents’ first concern, and it is vitally important that any piece of baby equipment be used properly. Rest assured, when used as intended baby carriers are perfectly safe.
There are a number of good resources for learning how to babywear. The Baby Wearer website (www.thebabywearer.com, the video Tummy 2 Tummy: THE Babywearing Instructional DVD, and the book Babywearing: The Benefits and Beauty of This Ancient Tradition by Maria Blois, M.D. are all fantastic. However, there is no substitute for the guidance of an experienced babywearer. Try finding a local chapter of Attachment Parenting International (www.attachmentparenting.org), Holistic Moms Network (www.holisticmoms.org), or La Leche League (www.llli.org )for support, or find a babywearing consultant or class in your area.
The first step to successful babywearing is selecting the right carrier. There are a number of different types on the market and your choice will depend on personal preference and the age of your child. Carriers can be pricey and the options are nearly endless, so it is nice if you can try them out before purchasing one. When you do decide on one or two to own, consider buying used; they cost less (obviously) and are often already broken in.
The main types of carrier include:
- Ring Slings. These carriers are long pieces of cloth that go over one shoulder and are threaded through rings that allow you to adjust the tension. Ring slings are very versatile and can be used with children of any age. Some babywearers feel that these carriers do not evenly distribute the child’s weight and may not be the best choice for extended wearing of heavier children.
- Pouches. These carriers are simply pouches of cloth (as the name implies) that go over the shoulder and hold the child. They are a bit less versatile than ring slings, but can be used for children of any age. These carriers are straightforward and compact for easy storage in a diaper bag or in the car. If you choose a pouch you must be sure to select the proper size for your body because they are not adjustable.
- Mei Teis. These Asian-inspired carriers are rectangles of fabric with waist straps on the bottom and shoulder straps on the top. Not ideal for newborns as they do not offer much in the way of head support, they are very useful once baby has head control. Mei teis are only good for front and back carries; however, they distribute the child’s weight comfortably and are easy to get on and off quickly.
- Soft Structured Carriers. SSCs are similar to mei ties but instead of having tie straps, these carriers have buckles for adjusting the straps which allow them to be adjusted and at the ready for each use. They are considerably bulkier than mei teis but are probably the easiest carriers to get on and off.
- Wraps. These carriers are often intimidating to babywearing beginners, but if you are able to get the hang of them they are by far the most comfortable and versatile. Wraps are long pieces of cloth that the user wraps around herself and her baby in a variety of ways. They are appropriate for all ages of children and can be used for all types of carries. They come in different weaves and lengths; choosing your wrap depends on your size, the weight of your child, and the carries you intend to do.
Author Bio: Kelly Coyle DiNorcia, M.Ed. is an Attachment Parenting International support group leader in northwestern New Jersey. She is passionate about supporting parents on their journeys towards loving, supportive childrearing. She blogs about raising compassionate and socially-conscious children at http://ahimsamama.blogspot.com