People carry their baby for many different reasons – here are just a few of them, in no particular order…..
Reason #1 – Your Baby May Be Calmer and may Sleep More!
Human babies are designed to be carried. When you pick up your newborn, you will notice that they will pick up their knees, bring their arms in and brace their neck. When held against your chest they settle as they can easily smell you, hear your heartbeat and feel the movement of your breathing. We all know that babies settle more quickly when they are held close, especially when we sway or move but, did you know that this even helps to regulate their heart rate and breathing? (Moore, et al. 2016). We also know that babies sleep for longer when they feel safe and sceure, so if they are calm and settled when we hold them, they sleep more deeply and for longer, than they would otherwise (Ferber, et al. 2004; Messmer, et al. 1997.)
Reason #2 – With the Baby in a Sling or a Carrier, You Have Your Hands Free to Look After Yourself, or Your Older Children.
When you have a new baby, you can often spend hours just holding them. They love knowing you’re nearby & the easiest way to be sure of that, is to be in bodily contact with you. Having your newborn in a sling means that you can make a sandwich or a drink for yourself, or your toddler, or whatever it is you need to do; just make sure you don’t overdo it while you should be taking it easy!
Reason #3 – Keeping Your Baby Close Promotes Your Breastfeeding Hormones and Can Allow You to Respond to Baby’s Hunger Cues Before They Need to Cry.
The hormone oxytocin is closely linked to breastfeeding & close contact with your baby. When you & your baby are in close contact, such as when you are carrying them in a sling, levels of oxytocin, in both of you, rise. With this in mind, should we really be surprised to find out that carried babies are up to 5 times more likely to still be breastfed at 5 months of age (Pisacane et al, 2012)? Early hunger cues can be as subtle as beginning to stir from a nap, moving to baby mouthing their hands & ‘head bobbing’ at their Mum’s chest, before they move to the need to cry. Having the baby held close to you in a sling or carrier, means that you are more able to pick up on baby’s early cues & can prepare for & begin a feed before they reach the stage of needing to cry.
Reason #4 – Carrying Your Baby Can Help to Reduce the Risk of Postnatal Depression.
Postnatal depression affects 10-15% of new mum’s, with many more Mums, & new Dad’s, frequently remaining undiagnosed. Babywearing can increase levels of oxytocin, lower stress levels, aid feelings of connection and lower the incidence of postnatal depression. Holding your baby close, even if you feel detached, still promotes the release of oxytocin & can help to encourage the feelings of attachment & love, in both of you.
Reason #5 – Carrying the Baby Can Help to Promote Bonding with All of Baby’s Important People & Care Givers.
Close contact with baby can help to strengthen relationships & connections through the release of oxytocin. The baby may be more willing to accept care from others, rather than just Mum, as they recognise the scent, appearance & voices of other care givers. (Knowles 2016). The bond created by carrying can help the non-birthing parent to feel more confident in their abilities to care for baby. Learning the subtle movements & noises baby makes, & learning their meaning can help parents feel in tune with their child & increase their responsiveness.
Reason #6 – It’s Easier to Use The Bus or The Train with Baby in a Carrier, Than a Pram.
Particularly when living in London, it can be far easier to jump on & off buses/trains with baby in a sling or a carrier, than having to wait for a bus with enough space for your pram, or plan which train/tube station you will use to enable step free access due to your pram.
Reason #7 – A Sling or a Carrier Takes Up Much Less Space in Your Home, Than a Buggy or Pram, When it’s Not in Use.
If, like so many of us, you have a finite amount of space in your home, then you may prefer to have a sling for the early weeks/months & get a buggy later. I often hear people talk about how much their baby hated the pram when they were newborns, so you may decide not to have one taking up space until you need it? You can always get a Granny Trolley to hold your shopping. :o)
Reason #8 – Being Carried Can Even Help Older Babies & Children, Like When They’re Tired or Teething.
Sometimes, even though your baby can walk, they’re can’t move as quickly as you would like them too, or walk as far as you would like them to. To get home from Nursery at the end of the day, or to rest their little legs on a long family day out, a sling or carrier can be very handy indeed. You can also use it to reconnect after a period of separation, such as a day at Nursery – a snuggle on the way home while they tell you about their day, is often just what you both need.
Are you an expectant parent, or has your baby already arrived? Do any of these sound familiar to you? How about you, what’s your favourite thing about carrying your baby?
Feber, et al. 2004. The effect of skin to skin contact (kangaroo care) shortly after birth on the neurobehavioural responses of the term newborn: a randomised, controlled trial. Pediatrics. 113:858-865.
Knowles, R, 2016. Why Babywearing Matters. Pinter & Martin.
Messmer,P, et al. 1997. Effect of kangaroo care on sleep time for neonates. Pediatric Nursing. 23(4):408-414.
Moore, et al, 2016. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. https://www.cochrane.org/CD003519/PREG_early-skin-skin-contact-mothers-and-their-healthy-newborn-infants
Pisacane, A, et al. 2012. Use of baby carriers to increase breastfeeding duration among term infants: the effects of an educational intervention in Italy. Actica Pediatrica. 101(10):434-438.