Happy babywearing week!
Emily and I are huge babywearing fans so here is an article about our best memories, preferences and advice.
Emily was fully signed up to the ‘fourth trimester’ concept when she was born. For those of you that aren’t it is basically a transition from womb to world. Making everything as cosy and comfy for your newborn baby as you can. As far as Emily was concerned it meant ‘never put me down, ever’.
Babywearing fits lots of fourth trimester goals:
- Keeping baby warm – a mothers body temperature will adapt to the baby’s needs. Clever.
- Keeping baby close – the little one spent 9 months inside you so feeling your heartbeat and smelling your smell reduces their stress levels and feels reassuring
- Keeps mama making milk. Breastfeeding is a lovely fourth trimester thing to do, it helps create a bond and is obviously very healthy. When mothers have their babies close it stimulates milk production so it could reduce low supply issues.
- Keeps baby feeding. When babies are close to the milk supply they are more likely to keep on snacking all day long which is great for those early weeks when weight gain is closely measured.
- Keeps baby better protected from SIDS. When babies can feel mother’s heartbeat and breathing they are more likely to regulate their own heart and breathing alongside it. This can help reduce the risk of SIDS but also the closeness to the mother means they are more likely to sense any problems sooner compared to when baby sleeps in a cot.
One of my family members is ‘against’ baby wearing. When Emily was tiny and my husband went back to work it was a massive struggle to do anything. She didn’t want to be put down whatsoever and I hated for her to cry so I had to hold her whilst preparing and eating food. I basically had to eat salami, sausage rolls, the tapas type selection things, biscuits etc.
I was a new mum and desperate to be able to find a way of doing things but paranoid that I was being told about how dangerous they are, that they are wrong, that babies die in them etc. If you look online the last baby death in the UK seems to have been in 2014 due to lack of oxygen as the baby was positioned incorrectly, thankfully the deaths are very rare. Now the TICKS guidelines are well publicised and keep babies safe:
As long as you follow the above, make sure their body doesn’t slump down into a C shape and their legs are in the M shape (or froggy legged) then they will be safe and comfortable. If you don’t feel confident then visit a sling library for a demonstration. West Yorkshire Sling Library are happy to demonstrate on your own sling or will lend them for a fee (currently £10 for four weeks and you can keep swapping slings in that time).
After a while I thought sod it, just because one person is telling me not to it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. We started with a Boba stretchy wrap which was very comfy for Emily but there is a bit of an art to putting it on. I had to watch a few YouTube demos and try it sat on the sofa to get her in and out the first few times.
What I didn’t like about the stretchy wraps is how long they are – they wrap around your body a few times so they are nearly 5m long. This is fine at home but you don’t really want it trailing around a car park as you get ready to go somewhere. The idea is that you leave it on all day but I found it a bit of a nuisance. You can breastfeed with a stretchy but I found the process a bit confusing and newborns need feeding NOW so the adjusting and baby handling was a couple of minutes too long for Emily.
Babies tend to grow out of the stretchies after a few months because they get too strong and heavy and can make them too loose if they push back against your body. At just six weeks Emily could wriggle her way out of one – the volunteers at the sling library were shocked at how young she could do this though. They showed me how to tie it tight so that she couldn’t get out but it was so uncomfortably tight we decided to go for a buckled carrier instead.
After the fourth trimester:
Our second (and current) sling is a Connecta who have rebranded to Integra. I think it is brilliant – there are just three buckles so it is very quick to get her in and out. There is a hood to either cover her head if it gets cold and windy or to clip over for her head to rest into if she gets sleepy.
The best thing is that it is super easy to breastfeed in, just loosen two buckles and baby slides down a little till they are level with your nipple. I regularly breastfeed while walking around shopping. It is so subtle that people often peer around to talk to her and still don’t notice (they just assume she is sleepy and resting on me).
You can loosen one strap and slide them around until they sit on your hip. It doesn’t feel super secure so I tend to keep one arm wrapped around her when in this position…but it’s a million times easier than actually carrying them in your arms. You can also do a back carry but neither Emily nor I am really into it. We like to see each others faces.
I really think it helps the baby’s development. We spend a lot of time out of the house and she gets a better view of the world from the sling. She is also at an adults perspective so people are always leaning in to chat to her and she has a better chance to hear and watch all of the conversations I have as well. Because she is so close to my face I tend to chat away to her as we are walking along or sing little songs and bounce around which is fun for her.
Sooo much better for mums (and dads…so piss off Piers Morgan douche bag)
From my perspective it is so much easier. The pram we got is a Silver Cross Wave which can go single or tandem…we bought it according to the plan that we would have two babies in quick succession. In reality my husband left, Emily will be an only child and I have a stupidly heavy pram which is a hassle to lug in and out of the car. And regardless of pram size you normally have to get it out in two sections (chassis and carrycot) then connect them together, load baby in and then cover them up with blankets / footmuffs and raincovers. Whereas with babywearing I just slip into the back passenger seat and put her in the carrier – then I get us both wrapped up inside an enormous coat or blanket type scarf before we get out of the car. That way we are both lovely and cosy and no one is faffing around in a car park getting wet and annoyed.
Through the winter babies are probably warm enough in prams, the snow suits keep them pretty toasty. I on the other hand got bloody cold. On babywearing days I had the snuggly little hot water bottle inside my coat and it was lovely. Now I don’t bother with a coat as much, I just take a massive scarf to wrap around both of us as a blanket, if I get hot I strap it onto my bag and if we stop I can use it as a picnic blanket to let Emily wriggle on. Perfect.
I plan to carry on baby wearing until she is a toddler and beyond. Lots of carriers and wraps can fold up fairly small so I figure it’s easier to keep one in your bag than having to piggy back a complaining child. Some carriers are designed to go up to 4 or 5 years old and some people manage to carry six year olds on them (depending on how big they are / how strong you are). I know Emily isn’t that big yet but she feels fairly heavy to me – when I see how many steps I do I always think how much more of a work out it is when I’ve been baby wearing all day 💪🏻
I think my Connecta is brilliant, however a friend used to volunteer at a sling library and she is going to give me a little demo next week with ring slings. I wasn’t that into them when Emily was 8 weeks old but now she is 8 months and likes to be in and out I’m thinking it could be good so she can go from cuddle to crawl quickly. But if not then I’m still in love with my Connecta.
These babies don’t stay little for long and by spending so much time babywearing (and bedsharing) I feel like I have definitely maximised my baby cuddles while I can.