Babywearing: A win-win for parents and babies everywhere

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When Kami Fasan had her daughter a few weeks early, her newborn had trouble gaining weight.

After doing some research, Fasan discovered babywearing —  holding or carrying a baby or young child using a cloth baby carrier.

“I read that babywearing could help babies gain weight,” Fasan said, “so I figured I would give it a try.”

For Fasan, the effects were remarkable.

“She started to gain weight faster,” Fasan said. “Claire was a very sensitive baby in the early months. Down the road, at about four months, when I did get post partum depression, it was immensely calming to both of us. It allowed me to reconnect with Claire and heal.”

A tradition practiced in different cultures for centuries is becoming the latest trend for parents across the country. While some question of the safety of “babywearing”, mothers who have long sought after a way to keep their baby close and still get things done are embracing this idea.

Mothers have worn their babies for thousands of years. According to Kimber Tower, the founder of the Idaho Babywearers, it has been around since the time of Jesus.

These two women are displaying different styles of wraps.

“It is not a new trend,” Tower said. “Jesus Christ was worn as a baby. Babywearing has been here since the first baby was born.”

Unfortunately, babywearing has often been seen by the Western world as an uncivilized person’s way to tote their child around because they couldn’t afford a stroller.

“I firmly believe our culture has spent all this time trying to push babies away with devices like strollers and bouncers and swings in an attempt to keep telling mothers that they need to work and their children don’t need them,” Tower said. “Babywearing is normal in most other countries.”

 Benefits for mommy and baby

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics indicated babywearing decreased the amount of time a day a child cried. The babies that were worn by their mothers cried 43 percent less than the control group. Parents everywhere are feeling more bonded to their newborn children.

“I have seen fathers bond better with their babies through babywearing,” Timber said. “It helps a parent to be more patient and gentle because they learn their baby’s cues more quickly.”

In addition to the bonding benefits, Timber also mentioned physical benefits associated with babywearing, both for baby and mother.

“My kids walk sooner than other kids,” Timber said. “Babywearing is an active event for a baby and it counts as tummy time so they don’t get a bald or flat spot. I carry my baby in a way that distributes the weight evenly and is better for my back. Breastfeeding is easier.”

Martha Cardon, from Rexburg, Idaho, was introduced to the idea of babywearing and the nine months in and nine months on philosophy by her doula.

“This philosophy is the belief that babies need similar comfort and closeness that they had in the womb for several months after birth,” Cardon said. “This really resonated with me. It makes total sense. Babies are so immature and lack coping skills for much of their first year of life. They need that security from their mothers and fathers.”

Cardon also enjoys the added freedom babywearing gives her.

“Not only does [my son] Buddy love being close, but my Moby Wrap doubles as an extra pair of arms for his mama,” Cardon said. “I don’t know what I would have done in those early days and weeks if I didn’t have my carrier. Buddy wanted to be in my arms all the time and in order for me to get anything done, I need my arms free. He loves it, and I love it, too.”

After giving birth to her fourth child, Diana Bronson recently discovered babywearing. She said she has no idea how she survived without her carrier with her other three children and, by babywearing, her daughter already seems very secure.

“I definitely feel like Scarlett is attached to me already, and I know I am attached and very bonded with her,” Bronson said. “Scarlett does not cry very much at all and is a very content baby, especially in my wrap.”

Something for everyone

When Cindy Maudsley had her first daughter, Lyla, she couldn’t wait to try out the baby carrier she received at her baby shower. However, she soon become disappointed with it.

“I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would,” Maudsley said. “It takes a lot of effort to wrap the baby in it, and it was kind of confusing.”

Becoming frustrated with the first carrier used and giving up the practice as a whole is common. However, there are many different carriers recommended by the babywearing educators everywhere. Mayme Ercanbrack, from Ogden, is training to become a babywearing educator and believes there are many factors that should be considered before purchasing a carrier.

“Recommending one general carrier is not really possible,” Ercanbrack said. “One must take into consideration the size and age of the child, the activities of the parent while wearing the child, comfort issues of the parents and budget.”

Concerns and Myth

There is nothing completely fool proof when it comes to babies. In recent years, there have been some concerns associated with babycarrying. Erckanbrack said many of these are myths and misconceptions.

“Well-meaning family members may have concerns that the child will never learn to walk, or that they are being spoiled by always being held,” Erkanbrack said. “However, babies were meant to be held.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement in 2010 concerning babywearing. They indicated not all carriers are dangerous, but precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of infants that are worn.

“CPSC is taking this opportunity to urge everyone to use slings and wraps safely,” the statement said. “After reviewing numerous cases, child safety experts at CPSC have determined that parents with infants younger than four months of age, premature, low-birthweight babies and babies with colds and respiratory problems should take extra care in using a sling, including consulting their pediatrician.”

Parents should read all safety information before placing their child in a sling or wrap. A baby’s chin should never touch his or her’s chest and the fabric should be far away from baby’s mouth and face. Fortunately there are many websites dedicated to babywearing safety, such as thebabywearer.org

A BYU professor in the Marriott School,  leader at the Idaho Babywearers and mother, Katie Liljenquist has been wearing her children for years. From being able to navigate through an airport by herself to cooking dinner and going on walks, her life is much simpler because of babywearing. She feels that, when done right, it can be one of the safest ways to carry your child.

“I think babywearing has a totally bad reputation because of a couple irresponsible people,” Liljenquist said. “There is so much information out there. If people are doing it correctly, the child can’t suffocate.”

Liljenquist said parents should follow the “kissing rule” when it comes to proper carrying.

“If you can lean your head down and  kiss your baby and make sure their breathing pathway is open, they are incredibly safe,” she said. “You always just want to make sure they can breath.”

She also noted if you lean down and kiss your baby often while wearing them, there are other benefits beyond making sure your baby is safe.

“There is this scientist, Lauren Sompayrac, who found that when we are kissing our babies all the time, we ingest the pathogens that are on their face,” Liljenquist said. “Our bodies then create antibodies that are then expressed in breastmilk. We were intended to hold babies close and kiss them so we can protect them from harmful antibodies.”

For anyone wanting to hold their child but still accomplish every day tasks, babywearing is something to look into. While it’s important to do research on safely wearing a child, many parents have experienced positive benefits from doing so.

“I believe that babywearing can save the world,” Timber concluded. “Our children need close relationships with parents and other caretakers and babywearing is the beginning of making that relationship strong.”

For information on local babywearing groups, or for more information, visit babywearinginternational.org or thebabywearer.org.

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Katie Clark is a senior from Littleton, Colorado, studying print journalism. She enjoys politics, cooking, and spending time with her husband and son. Katie also writes for smartphonehc.com. Upon graduation, she hopes to move back to her hometown, continue freelance writing and be a stay-at-home mom, while her husband attends law school