Professional view on Babywearing

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Indeed, babywearing – is an art of holding, but like any good cause, it must be approached intelligently.

Wearing a newborn

Every child is born with a “habit” to be in direct physical contact with the mother around the clock. His vulnerability is a cause for constant, almost continuous stay close to his mother. I emphasize the word – “stay.” A kid can be with mother in direct contact, if she rests, eats, moves around the house. In this case, he may be staying in her arms, lying close to his mother, or on her lap, feeling the warmth of her arms. Newborn needs this contact, but this is not the only need he has.

Everyone knows that most of the day the newborn sleeps. However, he often wakes up, about every hour. He stays awake for short periods of time, and cycle of active holding is replaced by a cycle when mom puts him down for short periods of time.

When sleeping, the child should be lying on his side, his head just above the level of the chest. This position is the safest for him, and is provided by deftly wearing him in hands and by the skill of co-sleeping in the position “in hand”. Naps in the vertical position are not physiological for the child, and will lead to a breach of the spine and cause overall anxiety. Mom should lay the baby down in his sleep for a short period of time, about 20-40 minutes. This will facilitate the process of separating the baby from the mother, which must take place, starting at birth and as they grow older. Part of this process should be performed by giving a child an experience of independent sleep during the day. Of course, it is important not to go overboard by laying him down too much, not to force the issue.

Time being awake increases at 1.5 months to 1 hour, and during this hour the baby may be put down several times. This can be for 2-10 minutes – to wrap him in a new blanket, to care for the navel, the skin, as well as to let the child explore his body, and motor activity. In addition to “cradle” position, starting at about three weeks, we use the vertical position on the shoulder. Active holding – carrying a child with frequent changes of positions and short cycle of putting him down – provides, first of all, the development of motor skills. Additionally, elimination communication process will help him to establish control over the sphincters, and health of the genitourinary system.

Now consider this in terms of Babywearing

First, let’s ask the question: in what time period, we will wear a sling (or wrap), and most importantly – why? To wear him for ten minutes before the next cycle of letting him down or before the next time he will need to pee? Most of the time, putting the baby in the sling while he’s awake is pointless. These 10 minutes mom can carry a baby in her arms in a “cradle” position without any harm. After all, he is not heavy yet. And if your hand is tired, you can switch it to another hand, or sit down to rest.

If you mean that you put the baby in a sling while he’s asleep, sleep vertically, as we understand, is not desirable. And if we put him to sleep in the sling in “cradle” position, you ask? Then the important phase of laying him down for short periods of time will not be passed! A habit of sleeping only in mother’s hands will show very soon, when the attempts to lay him down later will fail, and the child will keep waking up and show reluctance to sleep alone.

But that’s not all. Mother masters carrying the child in her arms, and her hands need to “get used” to the child. Mom hones this skill, not using “substitutes hands”, or “crutch”, in other words. A baby should get used to the maternal embrace and mother’s hands, so then he can safely and without any resistance get down. Active holding in this period is used as an effective method of upbringing.

If the mother in the neonatal period will use a sling, it will lose an important upbringing tool! In fact, mother’s hands are here to stimulate child’s growth – bone and muscle tissue, musculoskeletal system, nervous system – all it needs is an active stimulation. Keyword – active. Sling will hinder activity. Put the baby in a sling, and that’s it …  I will add that extended wear in a sling requires prolonged use of disposable diapers, and it is harmful for the baby.

We only consider babywearing after 1.5 months old.

Between 1.5 and 3 months

Child is awake for longer periods of time, and is more interested in exploring. We still don’t use wearing “on the hip” position, we use mainly “cradle” and “vertical” positions. The child becomes heavy, and putting him in a sling sounds very enticing … on the other hand, the growing weight of the child makes you want to lay him down. This is where it’s not an easy period to wear. Relief comes at 3 months, when it becomes possible to hold him “on your hip,” and release one hand. But before this happens, you need to carry him in your hands, and train his neck and back muscles. It will be useful for the ‘Hip” position in the future.

During this period, we start taking walks, if weather permits. Here using a sling can be very “handy”, but the baby should be in a cradle position, because he will most likely fall asleep with the breast in his mouth. Here, incidentally, it is also not good to sleep in a vertical. Should you ask when it is useful? Never!  You can go to different specialists and do a research on this matter, but the truth is – there is only one norm – one. Only pathology is diverse.

Therefore, those slings where sleep is only possible in a vertical position aren’t good.

From 3 to 6 months

We can start using a position “on the hip.” But learning this position should be temporarily practiced without a sling. Child should learn to embrace his legs around mother. This helps to prepare the feet to crawl and then to walk. It may also resolve the problems with the tonus in the legs that babies often have. If to put the baby in a sling right away in the “ hip” position, without him learning to cling to you, baby feet will just hang down (make your own conclusions about that!!!). But, nevertheless, it is the best sling period! Because taking walks with the heavy child in the sling are very reasonable. It is important to use a sling only when you need to walk a long way, which takes a long time, with no opportunity to sit down and relax, or to use at home in situations where falling asleep  in a sling will be followed by laying him down as soon as the baby fell asleep. I guess this would work well for the urban mom.

Again, wear your baby to sleep in a cradle position.  There may be exceptional cases where the child fell asleep in a «sitting” position, when no one noticed that he fell asleep. But this is the exception rather than the rule. Therefore, we need a sling where you can shift from “sitting” position to cradle, without waking him up. Why not wear at home – because it is necessary to lay the baby down often. What’s important here is the frequency and timing. And remember about practicing Elimination Communication. You can of course, exercise Elimination Communication in a ring sling, by just pushing the edge of the sling. But this will not always work even with a very attentive mother. Then there is the risk of being peed or pooped on, and it is very unpleasant and even humiliating for a mother.

Cycles of putting the baby down can be evaluated by: 1) the degree of fatigue or how tired is the mother 2) the type of activity at the moment 3) desire of the child to pee. In this case, the mother holds the baby in the sight, focusing on him and his needs, while maintaining the principle of symbiosis, i.e. mutual comfort.

About each cycle in detail:

Degree of fatigue. Sling may be really convenient because it facilitates carrying heavy baby. It can be worn for 1-2 hours without taking off, according to the active sling-mamas. But think about it: how many times during this hour or two you could put your baby down, because you have tired arms and back? Frequent use of the sling in the home leads to addiction in baby to “life on a mother,” which is characterized by a sedentary first. Passivity and limited movement never contributed to a better development of the children, this fact is obvious.

House activity. Of course, a lot of household chores you can do with a baby, and some of them may be done while using a sling. Say, water the plants, to ennoble their appearance while holding the baby in a sling. Obviously, his close presence should meet two criteria: safety and convenience. In particular, we are talking about safety, if watering, say, cactus. By convenience here is meant mother’s convenience, because she’s the one who does useful work, and the baby only accompanies her, and should not interfere. This is where upbringing kicks in. But, if there is boiling soup on the stove, it is safer to put the baby aside. And mopping the floors with a baby, too, would be superfluous. You should be able to distribute the household chores so as to match them with the child’s need to explore and stay close to his mother. Rest is better to plan for the time when the child is asleep. You can also lie down, relax, or read, or sit down at the computer. With this approach the mother is always rested, and dinner is always on time, and the hair is styled, and husband’s shirts are ironed.

Desire of the child to pee. Important note – is to understand that after three months, a child stops giving a mother signals about his needs, and starts to pee on his own=). Knowing his rhythms he should be put down before it happens in mother’s arms. After he’s done with his business, the child returns to mother’s hands. It should be noted, that a child should only be picked up in a quiet state, calm. If he demands or cries in order to get on your hands, it shows serious mistakes in upbringing, and indicates the beginning of manipulation.

From 6 months until walking

At this stage, there is so much new stimulus for development that he finds on his play mat, so that he can explore and learn to crawl. There is such a big world around him, so much unknown and undiscovered! For us it is just a pan – a dish to cook lunch, but for a child it is something fascinating that attracts him with its form, sound, and new ways to play.  Mother goes to a background. He starts solid foods and continues exploring home space. At home sling is used very scarcely; mainly it is used to go for a walk. You can organize long, educational walks, and come back home for a day nap to put the child down.

If the child started walking, outside the house would be a great training, too! Training muscles and sprint walking with the toddler sleeping in a sling will bring mom by more frustration than pleasure. Here it will be useful to get help from dad or grandma to accompany the mother and the baby, who is still walking a little uncertainly. Sling is slowly losing its value in the life of the mother with a baby, it can assist the mother in the long-term walking, and only.

I think that many people simply forget about the fact that the baby is growing and needs a variety of incentives for development, and experience. Children cannot grow only by following their own instincts. Proper active holding and laying him aside on frequent basis are key incentives for successful separation from the mother and the formation of the child’s independence. In-arms phase should end with the beginning of walking! And there are other incentives, and other tools. Undoubtedly, the sling is very convenient and necessary for each mother. Its very convenience can be a trap! As sometimes I want to put my daughter in a sling and go do stuff! But she is in her second year and is capable to walk by herself!