Nowadays, parents have started to enjoy the feeling of closeness that comes with babywearing. Baby wearing is not a new concept rather it has been around for decades especially in developing countries. For many years, women from different cultures have been wearing their babies using carriers, slings or wraps as they attend to other house chores. However, several questions have come up in regards to the safety of baby wearing such as; Are baby wraps safe for newborns? Are they bad for baby’s legs? and What are their benefits?. The issue of baby wearing is therefore a hotly contested subject especially among medical experts in the western world.
What is babywearing?
Babywearing is simply an old fashioned way of carrying a baby in a carrier, a wrap or a sling. Initially, it was a common practice among women in developing countries but it has gradually found its way in modernised societies in the recent past.
- Calms a fussy baby
Carrying your baby in a carrier assures him or her of your presence which minimises their fussiness. They also cry less often than babies who are not worn according to medical professionals. This is because babywearing enables you to respond quickly to the needs of the baby such as feeding and changing diapers and in turn, the baby feels more secure and content.
- Helps to minimise gas in babies
According to medical experts, babywearing promotes digestion since the baby is carried in an upright position. The gentle movement made as the mother moves around helps to reduce gas in babies thereby minimising the symptoms of colic.
- Promotes better development of the baby
A calm baby will obviously develop better than a baby who is always fussy. According to medical experts, babywearing creates an intimate connection between the mother and the baby, which reduces stress levels in the baby thereby stimulating better brain development.
When wearing a baby, you will notice that they like to look around as you expose them to different sounds and sights. This stimulates their nervous system and encourages the development of their motor skills.
- Convenient for the mother
Babywearing is very convenient for the mother. Remember those long evenings when you have to prepare dinner for the family but the baby won’t stop crying? With babywearing, you can continue with your daily activities while your baby is enjoying the warmth inside the sling or wrap. You do not even have to sit down to breastfeed because the baby you can easily breastfeed in that position.
Types of babywearing techniques
- Using a baby wrap
- A baby sling
- Baby carrier
What are baby wraps?
A baby wrap is a long rectangular piece of cloth that is wrapped around a mother’s torso and across both shoulders creating a pouch where the baby is carried. It does not require any fastening with buckles or rings since the ends are secured around the mother’s waist.
Are baby wraps safe for newborns?
According to the majority of paediatricians and parenting experts, baby wraps are very safe for newborns. Most parents find them very useful, particularly within the first 20 months. A close friend of mine started using a baby wrap quite early. Here is what she said about baby wraps for newborns.
Basic baby wearing safety tips when using a baby wrap
- Ensure the baby is always upright
According to child safety experts, newborns should only be carried in an upright position. Their legs should not be swaddled inside the baby wrap as this may have a negative effect on hip development especially for babies diagnosed with hip dysplasia.
This means that a baby wrap is more appropriate than a baby sling because the latter puts the baby in a hammock position where the legs are also swaddled.
- Ensure baby’s airways are always open
This is actually the most important factor to consider when wearing a newborn in a baby wrap.
Avoid positions that may cause suffocation such as a curled up position where the baby’s chin touches their chest.
Newborns’ neck muscles are not strong enough to enable them to lift their chin off their chest in order to clear the airways. Hence, such positions should be avoided.
When the baby sleeps, support her/his head with the wrap but be careful not to cover their head or face as this may obstruct their breathing.
- Always check for signs of wearing out before using the wrap
Baby wraps, slings and carriers may wear out depending on how frequently you use them. This is likely to happen with baby slings and carriers since they have fastenings.
You should, therefore, have a routine check to make sure the buckles, rings or other fastenings are not loose. Also, ensure there are no signs of tear or loose stitching.
- Check the baby as frequently as possible when wearing him or her.
This is to ensure that the baby is always in an upright position and that their airways are open.
One way to test whether your baby is in an upright position is by gently pressing the baby’s back. If he or she moves closer to your tummy, it means the wrap is tied loosely hence the baby is curled up rather than upright.
Therefore, always make sure you can feel the baby’s tummy against yours as this determines whether they are in an upright position or curled up inside the wrap.
- Ensure the baby wrap supports the neck and back of the baby
As aforementioned, newborns neck muscles are not strong enough to support their head without being assisted. It is therefore important to ensure that when tying a baby wrap, the neck and back are well supported.
How to tie a baby wrap
Watch this video for the steps to follow when tying a baby wrap