Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
29 Jan

Why You Should Wear (or Carry) Your Baby (At Least Some of the Time)

babyFor hundreds of thousands of years, humans have been trying to figure out ways to avoid carrying their infants so that they could drink Frappucinos and update their Facebook status on their phones. Ancestral Inuit mothers had sled dog strollers placed on top of skis. Native Australians kept several varieties of marsupials megafauna as pets and infant caretakers, using their pouches to store up to a half dozen human infants at once. I’m kidding, of course. Just as all members of the family hominidae are and were ardent co-sleepers, apes, humans, and (most likely) all extinct hominids carried or even wore their infants on their bodies as a general rule. And so, for most of human history, our infants have been swaddled, slung, carried, grasped, hugged, and otherwise attached to our bodies for a significant portion of their early development. Like other environmental inputs to which our ancestors were routinely and consistently exposed, there’s plenty of evidence that carrying your baby confers beneficial physiological and psychological effects – to both child and parent.

transWhat are they?

Well, there’s one benefit that’s immediate and obvious to anyone, even those without kids. Parents, ever notice how your babies, who’re liable to erupt into tears when placed in the stroller, in the crib, or in the car seat, clam up when you decide to carry them? Non-parents, ever notice how those screaming hellions who annoy you in public places become pacified mutes once their caregiver picks them up, quiet and sweet enough that you can even imagine having one someday? Exactly. The kid stops crying, or maybe never even starts.

The idea behind babywearing/babyholding/kangaroo care/attachment parenting/whatever you want to call it is that since infants are helpless sacks of fleshy potential, we should provide all the support and reassurance they need to graduate to independent, intelligent, thinking, learning, growing, maturing kids and, eventually, adults. We want them to realize that potential, and it just might be that being what some might characterize as “overly nurturing” is the best way to do it. What does the research say about maintaining close physical contact with your baby?

Breastfeeding.

Easier breastfeeding. Babywearing increases the mother’s ability to breastfeed, just like co-sleeping increases it, simply because of proximity. When you’ve got a hungry little fella within striking distance of the “bottle” at all times, it’s hard not to do it more often. You all know how important breastmilk is to a baby. Babywearing streamlines the logistics of breastfeeding, oftentimes allowing the mother to nurse hands-free.

Promotes exclusive breastfeeding. One randomized controlled trial found that early skin-t0-skin contact “significantly enhanced the success of first breastfeed and continuation of exclusive breastfeeding.”

Not breastfeeding? Having your baby attached to you, rather than laid out on a mat somewhere, allows you to bottle feed and still reap the benefits of being physically close to your child. The composition of the breastmilk is a huge benefit to breastfeeding, but I’d argue that the mutual touch is equally important.

Benefits for baby.

Increased socialization. I told myself I wouldn’t talk about children in terms of dog training, but it just works so well in this case. Children need to be socialized. They’re going to be a part of this world, this society, this community, and wearing or carrying them around as you go about your day, interacting with people, and doing “adult” things as often as you can will introduce them to that world in a safe way. You’re not keeping them cloistered in a pen for years interspersed with brief moments of engagement with the world (playdates, playgrounds, car rides, shopping trips, etc.). You’re letting them see the world through your eyes on a constant, daily basis. Because with all else being equal they’ll have more exposure to communicating adults, carried/worn babies will likely learn speech and facial expressions more quickly (that’s how babies learn language, after all).

Improved development of the vestibular system. No, the vestibular system is not a collection of hospitable planets that the colonial fleet from Battlestar Galactica used to hide from the Cylons. It’s the brain system that detects motion and controls balance, and it’s one of the earliest brain systems to develop (ten-week old fetuses already have working vestibular systems). When a baby is worn or carried on the body, rather than lying in a stroller staring at the sky, the inside of the stroller, or a baby iPhone, the baby is privy to the constant motion of an ambulating adult. The worn baby is moving as you move. To the baby, what you’re doing – walking on two feet without tripping over them or teetering over to either side – is amazing, it’s unheard of. And it will help the baby develop balance, motor skills, and general movement ability.

Benefits for mom and dad.

Improved ergonomics. I cringe every time I see a mom or dad carting around those removable car seats. Imagine lugging around an oversized kettlebell where ever you go and you’ll get the idea. You might get stronger, but the added, unceasing, ever-increasing weight, plus the awkwardness of the size and shape of the seat which forces you to hold it away from your body and thereby increase the lever arm, can put your musculoskeletal system at risk. Factor in the sleep deprivation-induced poor posture (PDF) common in parents of youngsters and you have a potent recipe for body pain.

Less crying. Picking up a crying child doesn’t just halt the crying right there and then. Done habitually, carrying or babywearing can also reduce crying in general. Babies who are held for at least a few hours a day are less likely to cry at night.

Reduces the risk of postpartum anxiety disorder. Physical contact with the infant increases (and decreases, when appropriate) a number of physiological markers, including oxytocin, and reduces the maternal anxiety thought to be a risk factor for postpartum depression.

Benefits for mom/dad and baby.

Improved attachment. It ain’t called “attachment parenting” for nothing. Being physically attached to your kid, through wearing or carrying, increases the bond between parents and child. You really can’t separate the two. Physical attachment breeds psychological attachment. If you maintain physical contact with your baby as much as possible, you’ll have a stronger, more lasting bond with that child, that teen, that adult. Even the first few moments of a child’s life are crucial. Immediate post-birth skin-to-skin contact between mother and naked child had a positive influence on mother-child interactions one year later. The same benefits were not observed when the infants were dressed/swaddled before being handed over to the mom after being born.

Oxytocin release. Oxytocin has been called many things, but it’s most famous as a promoter of bonds between people (and animals). Pleasing, welcome touch – like the caress of a lover or the skin-to-skin contact of a babywearing mother-infant duo – causes oxytocin secretion. This strengthens bonds between parent and child, increases empathy, and solidifies and establishes familial ties. Heck, oxytocin is so subtly powerful that even administering it exogenously to just the parent alone has beneficial effects on their child, improving their “physiological and behavioral readiness for social engagement.” Imagine how important the endogenous steady drip of oxytocin in habitual babywearing is for child-parent relationships.

Benefits for preterm infants.

Babywearing is particularly beneficial for preterm infants. These little guys and gals need close physical contact with their parents more than anyone – remember, they’re still “supposed” be in the womb.

Improved bonding. Remember how skin-to-skin post-birth contact improves mother-child interactions later on down the line? That holds true for preterm infants as well. Mothers allowed to practice skin-to-skin holding of preterm infants in intensive care also reported feelings of increased comfort and “being needed” by their babies – an excellent feeling, as any parent will attest, and a particularly important one for mothers of preterm infants.

Lower stress. Wearing your preterm baby will help lower stress and modulate the infant’s cortisol response, which tends to be exaggerated in that group.

Improved pain tolerance. One study compared kangaroo care (skin-to-skin) to incubator care for modulation of the the pain response in preterm infants; babies who got kangaroo care showed improved behavioral and physiological responses to physical pain.

Improved brain development. Preterm infants are at risk of impaired neuronal development, but one recent study found that kangaroo care effectively normalized premature brains when compared to standard care. The neonates (who were “very pre-term”) given skin-to-skin contact displayed brain motor function comparable to adolescents who were born at term, while the neonates given standard care did not.

Better breastfeeding. It’s crucial for preterm babies to get breastmilk, since, well, it’s the perfect food for them, and early skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby helps the youngest neonates breastfeed.

All that said, the reality is that 24/7 babywearing is tough. These days, most parents work outside of the home. We generally don’t spend our days at home, doing the day-to-day things to survive like cooking, cleaning, foraging, that pre-industrial cultures were able to do while wearing their children. Carrie and I tried out the slings with our kids, but it didn’t really work for us as a constant, regular thing. We carried them as often as we could, usually without the use of a carrier or sling, and were sure to get plenty of skin-to-skin contact, but we didn’t do it all day, every day. And you know what? They turned out to be fantastic, independent kids. Constant baby-wearing isn’t necessary, but some daily contact is probably (definitely) best.

Babies, and humans in general, need to be touched in a loving, reassuring, comforting way. I wrote about this in The Primal Connection, and I’m adamant about it: we’re largely afraid of touch, and that’s a real shame. If you’re not going to hug your friends, at the very least hug (and carry, and hold, and wear) your kids. I realize the lawyer’s not going to wear her newborn into court, nor is the pilot going to wear his baby on the plane. But babies need touch. Full-on attachment is probably ideal, in a perfect world – but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. It’s not a perfect world.

Lack of meaningful touch, though? There’s no excuse for that one.

When you do carry or wear a child, you should do it safely (for both mom/dad and kid) and effectively. Next week, I’ll discuss how to do it. In the meantime, just go pick up a baby (preferably yours).

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. This is great, thank you. I “wore” my last baby and it was such a great bonding experience for us. I miss it!!

    Deanna wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I carried all three of my children back in the early 70’s with LaLeche’s soft sling thing that they had just come out with. It could be worn on the front or the back. The only drawback was when they figured out how to get to the milk when they wanted — resulting in flashing more people in malls than a streaker on a football field. When my oldest was 4, I had her on a leash (or climbing my leg), the two year old on my back, and my youngest, newborn, slung in front. What was I thinking! LOL.

      Martha wrote on January 29th, 2013
  2. As two parents working outside the home when our kids were infants, we missed a lot of the touching-time that babies need. But we did our best when we were together to hold them rather than resort to swings and bouncing seats that I see so many other parents using.

    On a side note, I love how the 5th related post is “Tender Grilled Baby Octopus”. Gotta love meta tags. :-)

    Decaf Debi wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I have the Boba 3G,a soft structured carrier, and I absolutely love it. I’ve used it since my baby was around 10 pounds. It can be used for an infant up to toddler without any special insert. It’s fantastic for walking around the grocery store. My daughter loves checking everything, and everyone, out!

      Erin wrote on January 29th, 2013
  3. Anyone have recommendations for slings/baby carriers?

    ProudDaddy wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • We used the Maya Wrap http://www.mayawrap.com/ It is super lightweight but incredibly sturdy and versatile. I miss those days of wearing my babies!

      dgm wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • i second the Maya Wrap! I’m using it with my third baby now on a daily basis. Just today I was in Target carrying her around nursing and nobody could tell. It’s super comfortable and convenient

        Abby wrote on February 15th, 2013
    • I used a Moby Wrap–actually I just made one out of six feet of pink jersey fabric. Cut it up the middle, then sewed the ends together to make it 12′. It was very useful and flexible.

      Karen wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • I LOVE the Moby! It’s better that you made your own. I’m impressed! :)

        Annemarie wrote on January 29th, 2013
        • I’m just cheap ;-)

          Karen wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • I did the exact same thing! Pink homemade moby.

        Sarah wrote on January 30th, 2013
        • Moby wraps (bought or homemade) are only good until baby is about 6 months (sooner if they are chunky monkies) after that they start to sag under the weight of baby which can be extremely unsafe. Mobys are also NOT conducive to back carries regardless of what their website says (suggesting that they are is nothing short of irresponsible). I am ardent supporter of PROPER babywearing which includes NO CROTCH DANGLING! Woven wraps are excellent choices that will last into toddlerhood (yes, we wear our toddlers in this house). There is a steeper learning curve but they are awesome! 2 great brands and Didymos and Girasol, I’ve owned both. SSC (soft structured carriers) like Ergos and Oh Snaps are great for 6 month+ babies and have a learning curve that is not a steep as they use buckles and straps instead of learning to tie a woven wrap which is essential a really long piece of fabric. Mei Tais are Asian inspired carries that are kind of a blend of a SSC and a woven wrap, Baby Hawk would be the best well known mei tai. Please please always properly wear your baby. Crotch dangling is dangerous and also detrimental to developing hips and spines. It also is horribly painful on the wearer and the outward facing does not give baby a chance to turn in away from stimulus if they want to.

          Mik wrote on February 2nd, 2013
    • I have a whole series dedicated to babywearing! I’ve reviewed several of them and have links to where to get them. :) My site is naturallifemom dot com.

      Julia wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • We have a 10 month old and have had GREAT success with the Moby Wrap and an Ergo carrier. We used the Moby from the time he was a week old (big baby), and at 9 months got an Ergo so we could carry him on our backs more easily.

      Rachel wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I’ve tried every type of carrier imaginable. By far, my favorite has been the BECO Gemini for infants and the ERGO for older infants/toddlers. You can wear a newborn in the BECO Gemini and it is much easier to use than a wrap or ring sling. Both the BECO and the ERGO are known as soft structured carriers. Pouch slings are also great for young infants and there is virtually no learning curve.

      Genevieve wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • I second the Beco Gemini. My son HATED being in the Moby, hated slings and hated the Ergo infant insert– he wanted his legs free. He loved the Beco from 2 months old and I still use it now that he’s a year old.

        Sabrina wrote on January 29th, 2013
        • I’ll third the BECO. Even my husband wore it. We took the kids everywhere with us and tried many different baby wearing devices. The BECO was by far the easiest for us when we were out and about. I loved the sling but when the baby wasn’t in it, my husband liked to call me “mom America” because it just looked like a sash. I think we stopped using the BECO when the kids hit 2yrs old.

          Veronica wrote on January 30th, 2013
    • I love Jan’s ring slings — sleeping baby productions. I got mine with the pocket which fits a spitty rag, onesie, my wallet. Clip my keys to the ring and I carry my baby instead of a purse

      Oly wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • Yep. I give another vote to Jan at Sleeping Baby Productions. Great quality ring slings.
        I also love German Style Woven Wraps, Moby Wraps for little babies, and Two Mamas Designs for soft structured carriers.

        Susan wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I love Baby K’tan carriers. They are easy enough to put on anywhere, if they get dirty just throw it in the wash, comfortable for both you & baby, and you can wear baby in different positions. So far it’s my favorite that I’ve tried (I’ve had 4 different types so far).
      If I had to pick a second place it would be a Hot Sling but my older daughter didn’t like being in the sling until she could sit up.

      Beth wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • We used the Moby Wrap until our daughter was about 6 months old. Then we started using an Ergo carrier, which we are still using occasionally even though she’s almost four. (We only use it on hikes these days. She’s a tough little kid, but not quite big enough to get up a mountain completely under her own power.)

      I also bought my sister a Boba carrier (similar to the Ergo, but can be used for tiny babies with no additional insert) and she says it’s really great.

      Kristin wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I love the Moby Wrap- http://www.mobywrap.com/mw/Home.htm Make sure to watch the videos on how to wrap it! One size fits all for both parents and baby. It can take a little practice but is worth it. And you can wear baby skin to skin and still feel covered.

      Janet in California wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Nuroo pouch for wearing around the house is great too, it is a shirt/carrier. Great for skin-on-skin contact, since the baby is actually against your chest

      Michelle wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I tried a Baby Bjorn, a basic D-ring sling, and a Maya Wrap (which is basically just a really long piece of woven cloth). The Maya Wrap won hands down, despite the steeper learning curve.

      The Baby Bjorn drove me crazy because you can’t adjust the straps to pull the baby higher or closer to your chest. It felt like I was wearing a too-loose backpack, except worse. I hated it.

      The D-ring sling was okay, but not very versatile–and it turned out my daughter didn’t like the lying-down-in-a-pea-pod thing. It looked comfy to me, but I guess it wasn’t. YMMV.

      The Maya Wrap was far and away the most comfortable for me, especially for the tummy-to-chest front-facing position. It was easy to tie (once I figured out how!) and easy to adjust. I liked that there were a million ways to use it.

      Weatherwax wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • Okay, I’m making myself crazy. You’re going to have to explain the difference between the D-ring sling and the Maya Wrap. I tried Google and got the same basic results for both of them. I am very confused now, especially since the Maya Wrap is a ring sling….

        b2curious wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • ACK! the Maya Wrap WAS the ring sling. The one I loved was called an EllaRoo. It must have looked mayan to me. Sorry.

        Weatherwax wrote on January 29th, 2013
        • Ah, thank you for correction. I loved my Maya Wrap style sling and found it to be fairly versatile. Mind you, I didn’t get mine until my daughter was about 10 months. I usually used the hip carry, or, when she was a bit older the back carry. I don’t see the back carry listed on their site anymore, but it was back in mid 2003. The EllaRoo looks nice, and I vaguely remember looking at something like that before I got my sling, but decided against it because we were heading into summer, in Arkansas, where it’s not uncommon to see temps exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity. The EllaRoo looks like it would be beastly hot in that kind of weather.

          b2curious wrote on January 30th, 2013
    • I used(both kids and now grandkids) a old flour sack dish towel, just like a sling thingy. Din’t cost any thing, got it from my grandmother for a wedding gift.

      ponymama wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I loved, loved, loved my ergo baby carrier.

      Laura wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • There really are so many options: ring slings, soft-structured carriers, mei tais, woven wraps and more. Some well-regarded brands to look at: Boba, Beco, Pikkolo, Tula Baby, Kinderpack (buckle soft-structured carriers); Sakura Bloom, Kalea Baby, Sleeping Baby Productions (ring slings); BabyHawk, Kozy, Freehand (mei tai carriers); Didymos, Natibaby, Girasol, Storchenwige (woven wraps) and so many more. If you are interested in babywearing, a great resource is thebabywearer.com. It’s an online community devoted to all things babywearing and bw’ing related.

      Lani wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Here’s a good description of different types of slings and carriers and their pros and cons, might help some of you wanting help with choosing one: http://sarahockwell-smith.com/2013/01/01/how-to-choose-the-right-sling-or-carrier-for-you-and-your-baby/

      BabyCalm wrote on January 30th, 2013
    • I really loved the Ergo carrier. Could wear on front, side or back. I was able to wear my son on my back until he was 3 or 4. It was great and still in such great shape that I passed it along to my sister.

      MusicMama wrote on February 3rd, 2013
  4. I feel left out with all of these baby/parenting posts lately :(

    Wayne Atwell wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Turn that frown upside down and enjoy it! There is no returning from that leap.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • That comment did turn my frown upside down. I’m glad I have time to go to the gym whenever I want.

        Wayne Atwell wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • +1 on what Ron said. I really do like and love being a Mom, but definitely enjoy any kid free time that the universe has given you.

        Amy wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • Lol! Parents feel left out when the conversation shifts to the best time of day to work out. For parents it ranges from ‘never’ to ‘maybe when the kids are asleep, if I don’t fall asleep, too’. All that talk about 2 hours after breakfast, or right after lunch, or before dinner were entertaining to read, but completely useless to someone with kids.

        Meesha wrote on January 29th, 2013
        • Uh, that comment would apply to anyone with a job, not just parents.

          Katie wrote on January 29th, 2013
        • Um, no, jobs typically take about 8-10 hours out of the waking 16. Parenting lasts a leeeetle bit longer.

          Natalie wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • So do I because my children are too big for slings/breast feeding etc! Just makes me wish I could go back and do some things better. But at least if you or anyone you know has a baby at some time in the future, you’ll have so much good advice to offer!

      Grokesque wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • All my babies are now well over 6 feet tall now. They were all big babies as well, but I did a lot of things one handed while I held a baby on my hip. I was a stay at home mum as my hubby sailed the seven seas for 7 months of the year, so I got really good at fixing anything while attached to a baby. However I couldn’t find a sling that was really comfortable (80’s), and I ended up with scholiosis (?) a twisted spine, that needed months of chiropractic care to fix. Now my strapping young lads fix things for me!
        Cheers

        Heather wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Same here! No in a bad way, but I don’t have kiddos. This has been really good to learn about and start setting up my expectations for when I do… At least you don’t have to mentally prepare yourself for childbirth without pitocin or an epidural. It will take me the next several years until I’m ready to have a baby to get ready for THAT.

      Susie wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • Heh. Childbirth *with* pitocin requires much more mental preparation than childbirth without.

        em wrote on January 29th, 2013
        • Indeed. Childbirth with pitocin is labor on the front of a freight train…..

          Karen wrote on January 29th, 2013
        • Good point ;) scratch the pitocin – but still, epidural-free doesn’t sound fun!

          Susie wrote on January 30th, 2013
        • I don’t think childbirth with an epidural sounds fun. Not being able to feel what your body wants you to do sounds terrible to me! Both my birth experiences were intervention-free attended by a CNM, and while labor is intense and yes, painful I wouldn’t want to have missed a minute of it. Pushing out a baby is not something you’ll be doing every day, so if you don’t try to experience it fully you may never get a chance!

          HL wrote on January 30th, 2013
      • That’s where water comes in, the midwives epidural. :)

        Julia wrote on January 30th, 2013
        • +1 (Loved my midwife and home birth!)

          MusicMama wrote on February 3rd, 2013
    • +1, Wayne

      Joe wrote on January 29th, 2013
  5. I used a moby wrap for the first 4 months, and I just got an ergo carrier…it is hands down the best baby item I’ve purchased!! Super easy to use and very daddy friendly, no complicated wrapping required.

    Kristin wrote on January 29th, 2013
  6. No babies yet… but when they do come around I’ll know what to do!

    Funny thing though, not sure if it’s entirely related, in my bjj class, there’s an autistic kid and his dad who come around to train occasionally, and when they’re on the mats wrestling around and doing BJJ the kid really perks up and you can feel a tangible joy emanating from him…

    After these articles, I’m now thinking it may have to do with the constant touch and close contact that normally happens in grappling sports that may be having the positive impact on him…

    Sports played these days don’t have this kind of close contact now. Baseball, basketball, football, soccer, golf hockey, while there is contact for brief moments when players collide, there isn’t any sustained close contact as in bjj or other forms of grappling which I now wonder could lead to benefits outside the mats as well…

    bjjcaveman wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Totally did a double take on your class. At first glance I was like, “WTF!?” Paused. Squinted at your avatar and put two and two together: brazilian jujitsu.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • i can see where the source of confusion is….

        bjjcaveman wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Wow, that’s interesting. I loved to roughhouse when I was a kid, and was disappointed when I got old enough to learn that I wasn’t supposed to do it. I think you’re right–there’s something about grappling sports, or just grappling play, that’s really fun. It’s a very positive kind of contact. And if you think about it, it’s a lot like the kind of play other animals indulge in–wrestling, chasing, rolling each other over. Play fighting isn’t just learning to fight for real, it’s a form of socializing for young mammals.

      As an aside, wrestling is a big deal locally, but only boys are allowed to do it. Maybe my daughter would like jim jitsu!

      Weatherwax wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • There was a mother daughter combo in one of the classes I attended and you could tell both were having a blast! It was a great way for them to bond.

        I tried to get my mom to do it, and while she had fun, she didn’t want to pursue it anymore… she’s in her 60s now and just likes to take things super easy… no matter how much I try to get her to exercise.

        bjjcaveman wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • Wrestling is very important, not only between kids but also with an adult thrown in, particulary a dad. It’s good for the contact side of things, but also learning limits, and control. My big teens still wrestle occasionally.

        Heather wrote on January 29th, 2013
        • My brothers did that too, well into their late teens.

          Weatherwax wrote on January 29th, 2013
  7. Heck yeah, babywearing! We did this with both kids. The older one hated being swaddled/cuddled/held but he loved the sling as long as his arms were free and he could see where we were going at all times. I think he liked the movement. The younger one refused to NOT be held/carried, ever, and we had every babycarrier known to man with her — sling, Snuggi, backpack, the whole works.

    Pushing a stroller through a crowded airport where all the swinging luggage is at your child’s face level vs. carrying your baby or toddler securely against your body in a sling through a crowded airport = no comparison. Sling all the way.

    Kathy S. wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I used to Ergo my kids and pile the stroller high with luggage through the airport. I can’t imagine having a baby in the carseat, having to take it out, fold everything up, put it through the x-ray, etc. Babywearing is so much easier!

      Ruth wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Strollers are very good for surburia. Backpacks and slings are absolute made for the “wilds” and the urban jungle. Plus you never have a “oops, where did I leave the baby/stroller”, especially in a crowd.

      The other serious benefit of a backpack as they get older is they are far less likely to get bored and want out. Strollers beg my daughter to get out of them. However, a backpack is good for pretty well as long as we can stand up.

      Amy wrote on January 29th, 2013
  8. Moby wraps (and similar knockoffs) are fantastic, super-comfortable to wear and good for the baby in terms of how their little legs are positioned. (Crotch-danglers, like the Baby Bjorn carrier, can lead to problems with hip development and baby boys especially don’t tend to enjoy being in them for long).

    The only downside to wrap-style carriers is that there’s a bit of a learning curve figuring them out. For new-newborns, you want them VERY snug and quite high up on your body, as they grown and take up more space, you start putting on the carrier lower and looser. There are some good tutorials on YouTube and some not so good ones – unfortunately the best “how to put it on” tutorial later shows the woman putting a cat in…

    Sarah wrote on January 29th, 2013
  9. There are a lot of GREAT videos on YouTube showing all the different kinds of carriers and how to use them.

    Genevieve wrote on January 29th, 2013
  10. I just love all these baby posts lately Mark! I am all about baby wearing!! It feels very natural and honestly after the first one, it is just easier to wear the second (or third in my case who is due any day now). I LOVE my moby wrap! It doesn’t hurt your back or shoulders. I REALLY want an Ergo for when the baby gets bigger… :)

    Babies can only see the face in front of them… they must feel a greater sense of comfort knowing momma and the milk is RIGHT there.

    Jessica wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I agree. Great timing for me with all the baby posts as I am 26 weeks with my first child. And I’m reading ALL the comments. Learning a lot and thinking about things I might otherwise have never thought about.

      Jen wrote on January 29th, 2013
  11. One of the other great things about wearing the baby is it keeps germy strangers at a distance. When babies are in strollers or buckets it is really easy for random people to come up and touch them! They have to be pretty bold to touch your baby when he/she is on your body.

    Janet in California wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Didn’t work with me unfortunately, I once was carrying my young son aged about 3 months I think, at a wedding fair, and a man I was talking to about wedding dresses stuck his finger right in my baby’s mouth! (Which apparently he did with his granddaughter so that made it ok.) I was frantically trying to think how I could persuade an infant to rinse and spit…And then to add insult to injury as I thought I was actually quite slim considering I’d not long had a baby, he asked me if I was a size 18/20 (US 16/18)…

      Sheindal wrote on January 30th, 2013
  12. I love all of these baby posts lately! I plan on co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and breastfeeding, but it is nice to be reassured that my choices are the best ones for our little ones.

    Michelle wrote on January 29th, 2013
  13. I still wear my two-year-old at the grocery store, which makes people stare, but it keeps him from taking bites out of the food in the cart.

    Sarah wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Ha! I realized today that I can’t go shopping with my 2-year-old any more unless I wear her. She took a bite out of a green bell pepper (that I hadn’t planned on buying!) and I had to snatch her hand quickly out of the bin of dried pineapple rings! Luckily, she still likes the Ergo.

      Karen C. wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • Mine always bites all the bananas. Once he crushed a clove of organic garlic that I wasn’t going to buy.

        Sarah wrote on January 30th, 2013
    • Ha ha!

      Amy wrote on January 29th, 2013
  14. Babywearing is such a great tool when you have two children – if you can strap one on, then you have two hands for the other!

    And I would never use a Baby Bjorn – the baby’s legs dangle too much, putting too much pressure on the spine. Think of babies as little frogs – you want the legs to be bent almost to their chest, like sitting down in the carrier. Also, Baby Bjorns face out and I don’t think babies feel as secure facing out. When they are carried facing in or sideways they have the easy option to bury their faces in Mommy or Daddy if they become overwhelmed. I really miss babywearing, but my 7 and 4 year olds are too big for it now.

    Ruth wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I always feel sorry for the little babies in the Baby Bjorn things. It’s like the babies are some weird growth on your chest (get it off, get it off!!), rather than carried.

      Amy wrote on January 29th, 2013
  15. “Parents, ever notice how your babies, who’re liable to erupt into tears when placed in the stroller, in the crib, or in the car seat, clam up when you decide to carry them?”

    So true ! My 9-m-old son will crawl all the way to me and climb my leg whenever possible so I will pick him up, all the time – and protests loudly when I drop him back. When he’s in our arms he never cries, and usually smiles and laughs instead.

    Jesrad wrote on January 29th, 2013
  16. I’m a big believer in carrying, but I had twins, which complicated matters! A couple of times I tried one in front & one in back, but that was too much for me & anyway the one in back wasn’t as happy. Same issue with strolling one & carrying the other.

    When my husband was with me though, we often used the carriers. I was nursing constantly then, it seemed, & many times would combine a walk & a meal– had to be on guard for prying passers-by, though!

    Paleo-curious wrote on January 29th, 2013
  17. Making me want another one even more! My three-year old is too big to carry all the time now, and we stopped nursing about a year ago. While I love my “Big Girl,” I miss my little baby!!

    defrog wrote on January 29th, 2013
  18. I am a Doula & a Childbirth Educator, and I must say, I already loved Mark & this website is my second home, but lately, I love it all so much more! Co-sleeping! Baby-wearing! This website really is the best Lifestyle source out there. Keep it up!

    Dawn wrote on January 29th, 2013
  19. What is so bad about the removable car seats? Please fill me in, folks. (soon-to-be first time mom here)

    Jen wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Nothing wrong, per-se, but they are insanely heavy and awkward to carry once your little one gets over 12 or 15 pounds (3-6 months old, maybe? Mine was born at 10 pounds, so its hard to tell). It is much much easier to use a baby sling to carry baby for longer periods of time, or over uneven surfaces (like at a farm or on a hike).

      Congrats and Happy Labor Day!

      defrog wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • Not to mention the fact that they’re only good up to a certain weight, which means that for people like us, with big babies (my second was slightly over 10 lbs at birth), they’re only good for a couple of months, then you need a new carseat anyway.

        b2curious wrote on January 30th, 2013
    • Bad for baby’s spine, motor development, digestive system (curved position compresses stomach), breathing.
      http://www.drmomma.org/2010/02/aap-car-seats-lower-oxygen-levels-of.html
      Most European countries discourage use of car seats except in the car. I had 3 babies, kept them out of car seats as much as possible, and have worked with babies for 10 years. The less time they spend in a car seat, the better their development, in every way.

      Primal Donna wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • The baby’s head lolls forward in the carrier seats & it reduces the amount of oxygen baby is receiving by up to 20%. Long periods of time this way can be dangerous to brain function and development.

      Dawn wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • They’re no fun to carry! It’s like lugging around . . . uh . . . luggage, I guess. The hard kind. The not rolly kind. The kind that whacks you in the back of the leg.

      Seriously, though, they’re not dangerous or anything. I occasionally carried mine around when my daughter was zonked out in it. And I stuck her in it when I wanted to shower. Otherwise, carrying her in the sling was just easier.

      Weatherwax wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Removable car seats (“baby buckets”) are GREAT for the car! They’re awesome for getting baby buckled in inside when it’s raining or snowing, or for bringing the baby into the house when they fall asleep in the car.

      But the are AWFUL otherwise…and really aren’t meant to be used the way people end up using them! They are awkward and heavy to carry – you’ll likely end up with back or pelvis issues if you do it for too long. They aren’t good for bonding, for the baby’s social development, or the baby’s muscular development – baby wearing or carrying in arms is better for these. I see far too many people using them to “sit” the baby, for ex. in a restaurant, the baby come in strapped in the baby bucket, is rested on an upside-down high chair in the baby bucket (and maybe a bottle is propped in there for the baby to drink from), and then the baby leaves the restaurant, all while tucked in the carrier.

      Over-use of plastic containment devises can also cause flattened-head syndrome.

      Karen C. wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • We called our babies’ infant car seats their “box”. We tried to take them out of the box as often as possible.

        Amy wrote on January 29th, 2013
        • Haha! We called them their Tupperware. Hated those things!

          Hilary wrote on January 31st, 2013
    • Congrats! As others have said, it gets awkward and heavy very quickly. Someone seemed to have designed the seat with 65 per mile crashes in mind, rather than ease of carrying. ;) I weightlift once or twice a week and I still totally find them awkward.

      Our solution: bring a sling/backpack but also have an empty “frame” stroller meant specifically to put an infant car seat in that we kept in the car. (Not a travel system – these are like new $50 and take most car seats.) My babies always seemed to sleep in the car. With the frame I could roll the stroller right up to the side of the and never do anything more than a transfer. They are very compact and maneuverable. Then of course, we had the sling/backpack for non-naps.

      Amy wrote on January 29th, 2013
      • Thanks for the info, folks. I will definitely keep it all in mind. It’s great to hear from all of you parents!

        Jen wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I wrote a post about why it is better to wear your baby than use the car seat carrier. You can find it here: http://naturallifemom.com/2012/10/why-should-you-wear-your-baby/

      Julia wrote on January 29th, 2013
  20. I held my babies all the time, but could never figure out the baby sling I had. I tried and tried but mostly just looked like I was suffocating them or about to fall through the side closest to me…
    I should have had someone actually show me.
    A video of someone showing how to do this would be great addition to this post.

    Anon wrote on January 29th, 2013
  21. True story: a friend of mine got on the subway wearing her baby and carrying the stroller just in case. Two dudes got in fight and one grabbed the stroller to use as a weapon. Babywearing may have saved her kid’s life.

    Violette_R wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • The dudes may have not grabbed it with a baby in it, though. Far less effective weapon when it’s full of little tiny human. That said, babywearing is hands down the best in emergency situations like that. No need grab the baby/figure out the stroller thing – just act and react.

      Amy wrote on January 29th, 2013
  22. I love how you promoted this for bottle feeding moms too. I know too many mothers who feel sad and judged because for various reasons their body would not cooperate with breast feeding.

    Personally, I see a baby, I think “Cute baby!” Doesn’t matter if it is latched to a bottle or a breast. The mom is doing the best she can with what she knows. (Granted, more education may be needed, but that needs to happen before baby arrives and in the general public.)

    CrazyCatLady wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I had a neighbor when my eldest son was born who was sort of an early “granola”. She breastfed in the 60’s/70’s when it wasn’t particularly in. Her last set of children was twins, however, and she literally couldn’t keep up. (She was a very petite woman.)

      When I told we were planning to breastfeed, she was very happy but she told us not to fret if it couldn’t happen. She found she could cuddle and love them just as much when she fed them formula. Nice lady, she was. :)

      Amy wrote on January 29th, 2013
  23. I love, love, love that you are tackling these parenting topics!

    Kristin wrote on January 29th, 2013
  24. Here is Esther Gokhale’s suggestion for the best way to hold your baby in your arms to help maintain your baby’s naturally perfect posture. http://www.kiwimagonline.com/2012/02/posture-perfect-the-best-way-to-hold-your-baby/

    Peace Karen wrote on January 29th, 2013
  25. Loved carrying my babies in slings and wraps. It felt so right.

    The Crunchy Mama wrote on January 29th, 2013
  26. Men, don’t forget: baby-wearing dads are sexy!!!

    Loving MDA more with every post!

    Ashley wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • My grandson was born in Savannah, Georgia – dad is in the Army. It never failed, when we were all out and about with grandson in the K’tan (best baby sling IMHO) that passers-by would nudge each other and say, “Look! the Daddy’s got the baby!” Gotta love the South! And … gotta love baby-wearing. I had a La Leche denim front carrier, it was awesome.

      Becky H wrote on January 29th, 2013
  27. I love these posts because now I see that I did do it right. My three babies all slept in our bed til about a year old. They woke up much at night because they were breastfed, much more than my friends’ babies, but then when they reached 1 1/2 or two, they were sleeping solidly without the fears and problems that other toddlers had.
    And about carrying – especially my firstborn was carried everywhere. I lived at my work and used to carry him around most of the day while I did things. One of my colleagues said to me that my child would struggle to learn how to walk because I spoilt him by carrying him all the time. My instincts told me to carry him – it made him happy so I continued to. He learnt to walk at 11 months. He’s always been a well-coordinated child and excellent at ball skills (far more than his mom and dad.) I wonder now if that’s to do with the motion of being in the kanga pouch or in my arms. He’s also a well-adjusted 14-year old, who doesn’t mind a hug from his mom. So maybe I wasn’t spoiling him after all.

    Kathy wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • All 3 of my babies slept with us. So much easier to feed a breastfed baby when you can just stay in bed. I’d always catch us both falling asleep right away. I don’t think I was as sleep deprived because of it either.

      And, by the way, I never rolled over or found them suffocating under me… I was always aware of where they were. Plus, I could “check on them” by just opening my eyes and go back to sleep. :)

      Anon wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Wore (and am still wearing) both of my kids. My daughter started crawling at 6 months, my son at 5 months. My daughter took her first steps at 10 months. My son is 6 months now and is already pulling up and looks like he will be waking early as well. So I always laugh when I hear that babywearing leads to kids not walking on time.

      Julia wrote on January 29th, 2013
  28. The Moby wrap gave me a HUGE complex. It’s been over a year but I’ll never forget it. I spent hours in front of a mirror twirling a six foot long cloth around my body, watching instructional videos on the Internet, consulting diagrams and finally enlisted an experienced friend to help. NO GO. The baby sagged, cried, and scarily she always ended up flopped over with her chin on her chest, which is supposed to be how they stop breathing and die in the thing. I wish I had had some of you around to help me. In the end, the Ergo saved the day.

    Anna wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • The Moby wrap is way too complex. The ring type slings are a bit easier as they already have a little pouch.

      Amy wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Wraps (stretchy like the Moby, or woven), in general, do have a bit of a learning curve. YouTube is a great resource for how to videos. You mentioned sagging though, which generally means the baby is beyond the weight limit of the wrap. Strethcy wraps are only good up to about 15-18lbs at the most. At that point a woven or other more supportive carrier (like the Ergo) is a better option.

      Lani wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • I love our Ergo, too! I did a post on the 4 different carriers that we tried and still love my Ergo. I do wish it had a fold up bag to put in for when she wants out, but no complaints here :)

      http://crunchyhotmama.com/2012/03/17/babywearing/

      Jess wrote on January 31st, 2013
  29. Random thought (those are always the best kind) about strollers:

    When our third was a newborn, I was too drained to go for walks and carry the baby. Once we got a stroller, I got out a lot more in our suburban neighborhood.

    She enjoyed the outdoors immensely, stroller or being carried. Going for walks became our default for getting her to sleep and through fussy periods. I would also actually take her out so she get (gasp!) get some sun.

    Basically, don’t let lack of energy stop you from taking a walk and getting everyone some fresh air/sunshine, even if it means breaking out the stroller. It’s totally worth it for everyone, if especially if your baby digs the out of doors.

    Amy wrote on January 29th, 2013
  30. Love love love! We live in rural Illinois so I get a lot of weird looks while walking around with my critter in her ring sling. I’ve loved it, though. Her daddy even wears her. We don’t cosleep (anymore) and this has helped maintain a sense of closeness with her. We never bought an infant carrier-type car seat, didn’t see the point, so we have carried her around since birth. Six months old and incredibly happy all the time =]

    Ande wrote on January 29th, 2013
  31. With so many mixed messages taught to parents from so-called experts, it’s good to hear people talking about treating kids in a way that comes naturally (i.e. there might actually be a reason we feel like hugging our babies all the time?! rather than ignoring them because it will make teach them “independence”).

    It never made sense to me that people were so happy to have kids, and then so eager to find ways to make sure they didn’t have to give up any time or activities from their child-less life.

    Perhaps these people love the idea of having the title of ‘parent’ more than they love being parents?!

    Isaac Warbrick wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • Yes! I think the obsession with titles directs countless people’s life courses and the distinction between a biological parent and true family is far too prevalent.
      Why are young mammals cute? Because when they aren’t anymore (or not babyish) that’s when they’d traditionally be ready to support themselves. Until then they are owed to be treated like a main priority.
      When I was a young kid my mom stayed at home and babysat for a bit of extra money. I adored a baby that she looked after. I used to love bottle feeding him at around five years old. My brother and I got him to say some mild rude things. His mom came to pick him up and he said “Shut up!” or something like that. She looked horrified. Anyways, my compulsion to give care to a new human being while I was basically still one tells me that nurturing niceties are a fact of life, not something to be done once in a while when you think you’ve got time to interrupt your schedule.

      Animanarchy wrote on February 5th, 2013
  32. I used a sling with my petite daughter 14 years ago. I was able to carry her in it until she was in the 2’s.

    My son was over 10 lbs at birth though and unlike my daughter, he was a beautifully chubby thing (totally breastfed, but that’s how he grew). I think he gained weight too fast for my shoulder because eventually (when he was only a few months old) the sling was just killing me. So I went to a wrap (I think it was a moby?). Awesome. Comfy for him, good for my shoulders and back :) I was able to carry him into toddlerhood too :)

    I love how you’re getting into parenting styles now :) Funny how I figured out the parenting stuff first but it took me years to figure out to eat the way our ancestors did too :)

    ShannonCC wrote on January 29th, 2013
  33. Not only does frequent, loving touch result in positive outcomes in children, the opposite is also true. Children raised in orphanages and other situations of neglect suffer serious mental effects that can last their whole lives.

    That said, my husband and I just went for our 10 week ultrasound and we’re definitely going to try babywearing. Knew we would long before this post actually. I’m thinking I’ll purchase the ergo carrier, and also ask my SIL to hand-me-down her Moby wrap, which she barely used.

    Abby J. wrote on January 29th, 2013
  34. I always knew I wanted to wear my baby, even before he was born. We weren’t very knowledgeable at first, though. We got a Baby Bjorn, and found it horribly uncomfortable, and thought the baby seemed uncomfortable as well. We soon found a ring sling and woven wrap (Girasol) that worked much better, though I had to practice quite a bit over the bed and in front of a mirror before I got the hang of the wrap. My husband traveled a lot, so bw’ing was a practical matter. I found it much easier to be responsive to our son if he was right with me. My husband also wore our son, but has always preferred buckle carriers.

    One thing that I found with wearing, is that I am much better able to respond to my son’s needs. He is up on my back and is able to see over my shoulder at my level, and can talk to me and ask questions. In the stroller, he often got fussy and bored. Strollers do have their place though, and we have used them as well. To this day, we both still wear our son. He is 3.5yo/42lbs and walks perfectly well, but still wants to be carried sometimes, and a carrier distributes his weight way better than picking him up and holding him in my arms does. We currently use a few preschool-size Kinderpacks, a Kanga XTP (custom preschool-size buckle carrier), and some very supportive woven wraps.

    Co-sleeping didn’t really work for us, but we had our son’s bassinet in our bedroom for many months. We believe our wearing helped our son feel secure, and he’s had few problems since we put him in the crib, and later, his toddler bed.

    Lani wrote on January 29th, 2013
  35. I love this series of baby care! Perfect timing–I’m 12 weeks pregnant. :)

    The kangaroo care is especially important to me because with my double uterus, I’m at risk for preterm labor.

    Michelle wrote on January 29th, 2013
  36. I am so lucky that I got my four children while we lived in Sweden where we have 18 months with salary to stay at home after you gets a baby. (80% salary) It makes it so much easier to breastfeed and be close to your child. I think 90% of the women breastfeed in Sweden. Now I live in USA and it is not a breast feeding friendly country. Woman have to hide while breast feeding and co sleeping is not recommended. How did the country USA turns so wrong against what is natural ?

    Liv wrote on January 29th, 2013
  37. Great article! The only thing I disagree with at all is the baby carrier. MOST of those I’ve ever seen are integral to the car seats, and having a baby fall asleep in the car seat only to have to remove them (which always woke my daughter up) and take them inside is a PAIN. I LOVE the carriers. Babies can’t be “worn” safely in a car, so the car seat/carrier is awesome.

    Mary G. wrote on January 29th, 2013
  38. My daughter saw right through the whole sling thing. She would only be happy if I was physically holding her in my arms. I did this for many hours of the day, for months on end.
    It would be nice if women didn’t do the whole isolated mothering thing we do in Western society as I think that just makes attachment parenting that much harder. I think humans are supposed to take care of babies with so much physical contact – but I don’t think we were meant to do it solo. My sister-in-law just had a baby and I have a second baby on the way. We’ve decided that we’ve had it with the way we’re “supposed” to raise babies all by ourselves and are now doing it together during the day. I’m amazed at how many mothers I know that completely don’t get that and really think there is something wrong with you if you don’t do everything completely on your own.

    Casey wrote on January 29th, 2013
  39. Carrying my daughter in a Baby Bjorn was one of the best things about her babyhood. I loved having her close to me – we both liked it so much better than when she was in her carriage.

    We walked many city miles together (in Manhattan), just like that It was great for me to have my hands free and have her super close, all at the same time. it was also great for getting around, because it was so easy getting on and off the bus. And when it was cold, I could wrap my coat around both of us.

    We got used to it, that’s for sure – wonderfully so. Then something unexpected happened. She didn’t walk until she was 18 1/2 months old. So I spent much more time carrying her than was ever intended. I ended up with arm and hand tingling that continues to this day (some 11 years later).

    At its onset, the pain was almost unbearable. Doctors recommended carpel tunnel surgery. Thankfully, a friend recommended a Rolfer who fixed most of the problem. For the pain that remains (arising only sometimes), I can self-fix it with yoga poses (mainly halasana pose).

    This is a cautionary tale. Baby carrying is a great thing. But the part where baby gets too-heavy can derail you, significantly and long-term.

    At the time, I wish I’d had (as a go between between carrying and walking) is a LIKEaBIKE (google it) – but they weren’t invented yet.

    :-)

    Susan Alexander wrote on January 29th, 2013
  40. Tons of Park Slope moms gave my friend grief for wearing a baby sling – likely they were all on juice clenses. Her children are the best behaved and socially adapted kids in the group as far as I can see.

    mlou wrote on January 29th, 2013
    • While I am not a fan of the Bjorn that the OP talked about, I am supportive of any babywearing. We all need to look at our lives and what works for us and our families. Though I always encourage babywearing if asked, I also respect those who choose to not wear. It’s a shame those moms chose to criticize your friend for choosing to wear, instead of trying to understand and respect her parenting choice.

      Lani wrote on January 30th, 2013

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple