New mothers often walk in to my practice after giving birth to be adjusted. Pregnancy can do a number on the body, and proper care can aid and speed the healing process once baby arrives. I generally see mothers enter with a heavy infant car seat in one arm and strain across their face. Those car seats are not light, and they only get heavier as baby grows. I love introducing mothers to babywearing and the benefits it can provide for a family. There’s an entire babywearing world out there that can free you from the lugging of a car seat, keep your hands free, and increase your bonding time with baby.
From a chiropractic standpoint, I want to stress the importance of choosing a carrier with an ergonomic design. Not all baby carriers are created equal, in all actuality, the most common carriers have come to be known as ‘crotch-danglers’ because they put significant pressure on the pubic bones, forcing the legs to dangle. These carriers also cause excess stress to the wearer’s back and shoulders, making babywearing uncomfortable. I highly recommend joining a babywearing international group in your area and borrowing multiple carriers before purchasing; however, you cannot go wrong with any of the recommendations from the group.
Choosing to babywear provides the following:
Transition to the World
Babywearing mimics the movements the baby felt in utero. It is a safe and comfortable place for the baby to be. There is little to no overstimulation due to being worn on the chest and close to the heartbeat.
Bonding Opportunity for the Family
While keeping baby skin-to-skin, or close to Mom’s heartbeat has many benefits, babywearing also gives family members a chance to bond with the baby. Babies learn voices, smells, movements, and faces by being worn.
Babywearing helps keep baby happy while also providing two free hands to continue daily tasks.
Environmental experiences stimulate nerves to branch out and connect with other nerves, which helps the brain grow and develop. Babywearing helps the baby’s developing brain make the right connections. The baby is closely involved in the mother and father’s world and is exposed to, and participates in, the environmental stimuli that mother selects and is protected from those stimuli that bombard or overload her developing nervous system. She so intimately participates in what mother is doing that her developing brain stores a myriad of experiences, called patterns of behavior. Babywearing also enhances speech development; baby is up at voice and eye level, and he is more involved in conversations. This all adds up to brighter, more alert, more intelligent children.
According to Babywearing International:
It is very important to understand basic babywearing safety before ever putting on a carrier. As with any baby product, baby carriers can pose potential safety hazards if they are not used carefully and correctly.
Make sure your child’s airway remains open at all times while babywearing. The best way to do this is to keep him or her in an upright position, high enough on your body to monitor breathing and ensure that her chin is off her chest. Babywearing International recommends that infants only be held in a horizontal or cradle position while actively nursing (if desired) and return to an upright or vertical position as soon as they have finished.
It is also important that your carrier provide adequate support for your infant’s developing neck and back. Ideally baby should be held with his knees higher than his bottom with legs in a spread squat position and support from knee to knee although with older babies and toddlers full knee to knee support is not always possible or necessary. An ergonomic carrier (whether a soft structured carrier, Asian-style carrier, sling, or wrap) will provide better support for baby and will be more comfortable for the caregiver as well.
Always inspect your carrier for wear or damage before use examining it for weak spots, loose stitching, worn fabrics, etc. BWI recommends purchasing a carrier from a reputable manufacturer to ensure that it meets all current US safety, testing, and labeling standards.
Practice all carries—especially back carries–with a spotter, over a bed or couch, or low to the ground until you are completely confident. A BWI meeting is the perfect place to learn new skills with the assistance of a Volunteer Babywearing Educator. In most cases it is best to be comfortable with front carries before attempting back carries.
Always exercise common sense while babywearing. Baby carriers are not an approved child restraint or floatation device and should not be used in moving vehicles or boats. Avoid babywearing in situations where it would not be safe to carry an infant in your arms.
Resources: LaLecheLeague, Babywearing International, and Ask Dr Sears