The Disadvantages of Not Carrying Your Baby

I’m wondering whether I’ve been looking at everything from the wrong angle. It’s always interesting to re-look at something from a different point of view, and so that’s what I’m going to try to do now.

I have a well-read page on this site about the ‘Benefits of Babywearing‘; but have recently realised that this whole page was written starting from the assumption that the ‘normal’ baseline for how to move around with your baby is to put them into a buggy or other container.  So, when compared to those being pushed around in a buggy, babies who are carried regularly cry less, sleep better etc. etc. But is ‘using a buggy’ really normal? It may be the most prevelant baby transport solution in the UK, but it certainly isn’t so in many other cultures. And even if it wasn’t, is ‘culturally most prevelant’ necessarily the same thing as what should be considered ‘normal’ for a baby?

What is ‘normal’ for a baby?

So, to work out what might be considered ‘normal’ for a human baby, I’m going to try to look at a baby’s needs without assuming the presence of any particular cultural approach or solution to meeting those needs. Since I also find myself spending a lot of time telling people that the range of ‘normal’ for a baby is very broad and to not worry if they feel their baby isn’t what books or other parents might lead them to expect, I’m going to try not to assume any particular level of need for a baby and just assume the very basics.

Human babies need feeding at least every few hours, and often much more regularly, and so must remain reasonably close to their food source at all times. Since the normal food source for a human baby is it’s mother, I’m going to assume that this implies that a baby needs to stay close to it’s mother.

Babies are also not very well suited to being left on their own – as well as being unable to protect themselves from various harms, they need help regulating their own body temperature and must be kept warm.  The easiest way to keep a baby at the right temperature is to to hold it against the body of a nearby adult.  Caring physical contact, especially by a known person like it’s mother, also meets baby’s needs for comfort, familiarity and reassurance, promoting healthy brain development and a baby’s ability to learn from it’s surroundings. We’ve already assumed that the baby’s mother will need to stay close to it for feeding, and will be one of the adults most motivated to ensure the baby gets everything it needs so lets assume that the person most likely to hold the baby is it’s mother.

Compared to other animals, human babies are clearly not adapted for getting themselves about very easily (though actually many newborn babies are capable of wriggling themselves up to the breast to latch on), so now if the mother wants to go anywhere, the easiest and safest option is for her to just carry the baby with her. This assumes no particular cultural object or bias, and also allows many of baby’s immediate and most pressing needs to be easily met.

Using ‘being carried’ as the normal baseline for a baby

So, if ‘carrying your baby’ is the normal standard for human infants, anything else that replaces (or attmepts to replace) this should be compared to it. So, taking ‘carrying your baby regularly’ to be the normal situation, what are the effects for baby and mother (or other primary carer) of not doing this?  Taking some of the items from my ‘Benefits of Babywearing’ page, lets see what happens.

When NOT carried regularly a baby:

– will find it harder to regulate their body temperature, heart rate and breathing.

– will be less settled, more agitated and cry up to 50% more than a regularly carried baby. When crying or stressed, a baby’s brain is flooded with stress hormones, which impedes healthy brain development and their ability to learn.  They will be less alert to their surroundings, find it harder to take in and deal with new experiences.

– will not sleep as much, and will take longer to settle into a regular long sleep at night-time.

– is more likely to suffer from physical problems caused by the pressure from lying on or hanging from flat/rigid/unsuitable surfaces (such as lower blood oxygen and flat head).

– will take longer to develop good muscle tone and balance.

– will find it harder to digest as comfortabley and effectively.

– will find it harder to form a close, bonding attachment with it’s care givers, which would provide a secure base from which the baby can learn to be independent.

When not regularly carrying their baby a mother:

– will find it harder to establish sucessful breastfeeding

– will be more anxious and at more risk of post natal depression

– will find the task of learning to be a parent harder because she will not be meeting as many of her baby’s needs and so her baby is likely to be more fussy and demanding.

And, assuming that, in many situations, it is easier, more comfortable and more practical for a mother to use a well-fitting sling than to carry her baby in her arms, let’s take using the sling as the ‘most normal’ position and compare it to another common baby transport solution.

When a buggy is used rather than a sling, baby:

– talks and communicates less

– is held out of eye-line of those around him/her

– is held at traffic fume level

– is held in an unnatural posture and at risk of physical problems caused by this

And for a mum, using a buggy rather than a well fitted sling:

– will increase risk of damage to her vulnerable pelvic floor, back and abdominal muscles

– be bulky and difficult to store and to fit into a home, car, shop, up stairs etc.

– will be inconvenient when on holiday, on public transport or anywhere not designed with buggies in mind

Oh dear, I don’t use a sling much – is it really that bad if I don’t carry my baby all the time?

The good thing is that, even if they’ve never seen a baby carrier, most parents will find themselves carrying their baby in their arms a lot of the time, especially when at home. You carry your baby from room to room, from car seat/buggy to cot/play mat/bouncer, you carry them when they need feeding or winding or changing, and you often carrying them around in desperation to see if that will calm them when nothing else works! And even when a baby gets big enough to be more physically independent; to be better at regulating their own body and to be able to move around more by themselves, they’ll still want the reassurance and convenience of being hugged, held and lifted at least some of the time.

But what about out of the house? Assuming that carrying your baby (in arms or in a suitable sling) is still the ‘normal’ position, why might a parent choose to not carry their baby in a certain sitution?  I can come up with a few reasons that are very compelling in some situations:

Safety?  A car is not designed to be a safe place for an infant; and infant car seat is specially designed protect baby in the car environment in the case of an accident. Though your baby may protest that the car seat isn’t suitable to meet their instinctive needs for reassurance and human contact, using a suitable infant car seat when travelling in a car is safer (and less illegal) than holding your baby. As far as I’m aware, there is no evidence that buggy use is more or less safe for baby than carrying them.

Convenience? In some situations, it may be more convenient to have a buggy in which to put baby if the parent wishes to be able to do something without baby. For example, when shopping for clothes, it’s not very convenient attempting to try something on when you’re carrying a baby and there is nowhere suitable to put them. If baby prefers to nap alone rather than in their parent’s arms, then a buggy would allow a parent to go out for the day without having to plan to be home for nap times.

Culturally Expected? I suspect that this is actually the most compelling reason for most parents choosing not to carry their babies in many situations. In the UK using a buggy is the more culturally expected option, and because of this, good information about other options may not be as easy to access.  Where there is a strong cultural bias towards one particular solution, it is often very difficult to find and to use an alternative without feeling that you are having to justify and fight for what you’ve chosen to do.

Which is why it’s very interesting looking at this from a different angle.  Normally you might look at buying a buggy. You might ask whether you really need one, and find that most information available suggests that you do. Or you might think that it’s a choice between a buggy or a particular sling and weigh up the advantages of those. But to instead compare all options to a completely culturally unbiased position of just ‘carrying your baby in your arms’ really helps to put all of the so called ‘advantages’ and ‘disadvantages’ of each choice in perspective.

When looking at all of the disadvantages of not carrying your baby regularly, and comparing them to the few advantages, I can easily see why I found that I chose to use a sling for more and more of the time until our buggy ended up abandonded in the shed! Without knowing any of the background research, I simply found that, if I carried my baby whenever possible, my job as a mother was much easier. Thst doesn’t mean that I carried her all all day every day; I carried her whenever it was practical and I could fit it in with whatever else I was doing. Using a sling allowed me to fit carrying my baby into many more parts of my life than I could have done otherwise.

Finally, and I hope reasurringly, no single solution is going to be perfect for all babies and all parents in all situations. A solution can be the ‘most suitable’ or ‘best’ given a wide range of different factors that vary from individual to individual and from circumstance to circumstance. I’ve just tried to put forward a particular view that the baseline should always be the most simple, needs-appropriate solution, and that anything else (when taken as an over-arching baseline) is going to be more artificial and less suitable in various ways. This doesn’t mean that any particular choice is necessarily ‘bad’, or that you shouldn’t pick and choose your solutions to best meet the individual needs of you and your baby in each particular situation you’re in. Each parent must choose what they feel meets their family’s needs best, and I’m just trying to provide different ways of thinking about it all.

*~*~*~*~*~*

This article was written by Emily Williamson for the www.southlondonslings.com website on 20th February 2012. If you have any comments or questions, please either post below, or email southlondonslings@hotmail.co.uk

References:

Significant inspiration for this article was taken from the approach in the following excellent article about breastfeeding: http://www.infantfeeding.info/IsBreastBest.htm

I’m aiming to add proper references for many of the claims made here in due course, but some may be found on the Research Articles page.


© 2012 South London Sling Library

Dads Carrying

A couple of weeks ago, the family borrowing the Sling Library’s Lenny Lamb Mei Tai were kind enough to email me a lovely photo of it in good use. I love that it’s Dad doing the carrying as there’s sometimes an assumption that Mums do most of the carrying and that simply isn’t true. So I’ve added in a few more great pictures of Dads using some of the Sling Library carriers 😀

 

  

   

If you’ve got any photos of any of the Sling Library carriers being used, and you wouldn’t mind them being posted on the website or Facebook page, then we’d really love to have them!  Please email your photos to southlondonslings@hotmail.co.uk. Thank you! 😀


© 2012 South London Sling Library

Manduca Baby and Child Carrier

The Manduca Baby and Child Carrier is a Soft Structured Carrier (SSC) that has an integral newborn support pouch and an extendable body height so that it can be used from birth to toddler.  It buckles to your body with a supportive, padded waistband and two shoulder straps that can be worn in a variety of ways. All buckles are fully adjustable, with additional sliders for adjusting the length of the shoulder straps, so that the child’s weight is distributed comfortabley and evenly across the parent’s hips and torso. The carrier itself can be worn front, back or hip depending on how old your child is; it fully supports a child’s hips, legs and spine in the recommended position and also has a fold-away sleep hood to support a sleepy head. It’s made from organic cotton and hemp fabric, and though very strong isn’t too bulky or hot feeling on the body (so a good SSC choice for summer).  A very good quality carrier with lots of useful features and an unfussy, sporty look.

Here’s the Manduca used in a front carry:

And in a back carry:

Type of carrier: Soft Structured Carrier (SSC)

Features: Organic cotton and hemp fabric, dual adjustable buckles, sleep hood, integrated newborn support, adjustable height body for taller babies and toddlers, detachable chest strap.

Suitable for: All parents and all children, depending on carry used.

Carrying positions: Front, back and hip.

Ease of use: Fairly straightforward to use once you’ve got the knack, however fastening buckles behind your back for front carries can be a little tricky, as can scooting your baby around to your back for back carries.  The shoulder straps have adjustable length to fit different sized parents, which is great for comfort, but you’ll have to keep readjusting these if more than on person uses the carrier. SSCs are and easy and useful way to back carry an older child if you also have a small baby on your front.

Comfort: The Manduca has a very adjustable fit, and when properly adjusted, this carrier can be very comfortable and distributes the child’s weight very well.  However, as with most SSCs, it may not be possible to get the ideal fit and this depends on the shape of both parent and child.  Some may find the chest buckle digs when back carrying, and carrying without this can pull on the shoulders, which can become uncomfortable.

Overall Verdict: A top quality, feature filled and versatile carrier that’s suitable for all children and parents.  It’s a lightweight, convenient and comfortable carrier for mid length trips and holidays, though can become uncomfortable on longer trips if it’s not the ideal shape and size for you and your baby.

To hire this carrier from the South London Sling Library, email southlondonslings@hotmail.co.uk to check it’s availability and find out more!

The South London Sling Library’s Manduca Baby Carrier has been provided at a very reduced price by www.cheekyrascals.co.uk.


© 2012 South London Sling Library

Wrap Conversion Ring Sling

This Ring Sling has been professionally made out of a Hopediz Costa Rica wrap by Sleeping Baby Productions.  Many professional carrier makers offer the service of converting a woven wrap into another type of carrier.  This means that you get the added features and ease of use of the new carrier, but also the support, flexibility and comfort of the specially woven wrap fabric.  This particular ring sling has large bronze coloured aluminium rings and a very neat pleated shoulder that’s not at all bulky, and allows the rings to sit comfortabley near your shoulder.  There’s no padding to position and it can be worn on either shoulder.  I loved using this for shorter trips from the car into shops or school as I put the ring sling on before we leave, wear it while driving and it makes the transfer from the car very quick and easy!  Great for using at a busy time of day when you don’t need any fussing.

Type of carrier: Ring Sling

Features: 100% cotton, made of wide and supportive specially woven wrap fabric, “SBP pleated shoulder” so can be used on either shoulder

Suitable for: All parents and all children, depending on carry used.

Carrying positions: Front and hip.

Ease of use: Very easy and quick to use once you’ve got the knack – the rings allow you to easily adjust the sling to get the best fit without having to fiddle with buckles or straps.  The positions used change as your child develops and from 6 months will mainly be in a sitting position – at this stage a ring sling basically supports you carrying your child in a natural position on your hips (where most parents will put a child if carrying in their arms).  Very convenient carrier for shorter trips and for using at home, and useful for toddlers who only want to walk some of the time as you can just wear the sling over your shoulder and pop your child in and out as required.  Using ring slings can also be a useful way of carrying twins.

Comfort: Very comfortable and supportive to wear for shorter periods (up to about an hour), though as a one shouldered carrier it can feel lopsided or uncomfortable for longer periods or with heavier/bigger children.  The rings allow the sling to be fully adjustable to fit both parent and child, holding the child close to parent’s body and putting less strain on the parent’s back.  As there are no buckles or fastenings (other than the rings), then there’s nothing to dig in or get in the wrong place.

Overall Verdict: A supportive, comfortable ring sling that’s very easy to use and in a neutral unisex colour.  The specially woven wrap fabric makes it very comfortable to wear and easy to adjust so it doesn’t need padding.  This makes it great for keeping in your bag as it rolls up small, and means that it’s not bulky to wear.  A very practical, reliable, solid carrier that we really enjoy using!

To hire this carrier from the South London Sling Library, email southlondonslings@hotmail.co.uk to check it’s availability and find out more!  We now have a very good range of different ring slings made from woven wrap fabric with different types of shoulder to suit different preferences. To see our selection, visit the Ring Slings and Pouches catalogue page.

This carrier has been bought with help from The London Door Company.

 


© 2012 South London Sling Library

Sling Hire Holiday Offer!

To celebrate the start of the South London Sling Library, we’ll be running various offers over the next few months.  Our little holiday offer is to allow for Library holidays, but lets you get more out of your sling hire too!

Holiday Sling Hire Offer:  Anyone who has hired a baby carrier that is due back during Library holidays may extend their hire period for free! The extension period is subject to available dates and must be agreed in advance.

This year the Library holidays are: from the 25th July to 7th August 2011, and also from the 11th to the 25th August 2011

For more information about the baby carriers that we have available to hire, browse the links above or email southlondonslings@hotmail.co.uk.  Enjoy your summer! 😀


© 2012 South London Sling Library

BabyHawk Mei Tai

This lovely reversible Mei Tai carrier has a pretty decorative panel on one side, but is plain on the other so it can be worn either way out.  It’s got comfortable straps that aren’t too wide or bulky, and that are nicely padded at the shoulder.  It has a lightly padded headrest area, which also helps to support the back of an older child if they prefer to have their arms out over the top of the carrier.  I found it very comfortable and supportive with my 16 month old, and it’s great in hot weather as you don’t have lots of fabric wrapped around you.

Here’s it out on a picnic in a back carry with arms in and then out.

BabyHawk Mei Tai to Hire  BabyHawk Mei Tai for Hire

And here on holiday with an 18 month toddler in a front carry:

Type of carrier: Mei Tai – fastens by securely tying the waist and shoulder straps around you to hold your baby or toddler close to your body. Find out more about Mei Tais here: About Asian Style Carriers.

Features: 100% cotton, reversible, padded shoulders and child head/back rest,

Suitable for: All parents and all children, depending on carry used.  At the Library the BAbyHawk is our favourite mei tai to borrow, and the shape seems to suit a very wide range of parents and babies. Thie one pictured is the standard sized BabyHawk, which may start to feel too small for larger toddlers by about 18-24 months (a larger sized ToddlerHawk is available). The standard length BabyHawk straps may not be long enough for all parents – some taller or larger parents may find that they need longer ‘XL’ straps, which are an additional option when ordering a BabyHawk.

Carrying positions: Primarily front and back, though can be used as a hip carrier too.

Ease of use: It does require a little practice, but most people get the hang of mei tais quickly. Compared to some carriers you get the reassurance of tying the waist straps first to help support your child securely while you tie the shoulder straps.  And like all mei tais it’s also easier than most other carrier options to do safe back carries. There are different tying options for each carrying position, but each are very quick and easy to do once you’ve got the knack, and it’s a lot easier than a woven wrap to work out how to get the tension and support right.

Comfort: Comfortable and supportive to wear as you can easily adapt the tying style to suit different shaped parents and babies. For heavier/bigger children you may find it starts to pull more at the shoulders, and that you’d prefer more padding or that you need a bigger size.

Overall Verdict: An attractive Mei Tai that’s easy to use, comfortable and practical.  Has all the basic features and padding you need without so much that it becomes bulky to wear or awkward to carry around. Definitely scores extra points for being reversible, and for being easier for Dads to learn to use too!

To hire this carrier from the South London Sling Library, email southlondonslings@hotmail.co.uk to check it’s availability and find out more!

This BabyHawk Mei Tai has been bought with help from The London Door Company.

 


© 2012 South London Sling Library

Bebina Rainbow

This is one of my personal wraps that I’ve decided to make available to the Library so that others can try it.  It’s a beautiful woven wrap made by brand Bebina and is woven in gorgeous rainbow colours.  Here’s me with my 16 month old daughter, using the Bebina Rainbow woven wrap in a supportive and comfortable Double Hammock back carry.

Woven Wrap for Hire

Type of carrier: Woven Wrap

Features: 100% cotton, rainbow stripe, size 6 (4.7m long)

Suitable for: All parents and all children, depending on carry used.

Carrying positions: Front, Hip, Back and Breastfeeding

Ease of use: As with all woven wraps, it may require some practice to be able to use correctly.  Once you have learnt, it is as easy as using a Mei Tai or any other carrier that ties on.  As it is very long it can be less practical than other carriers when wrapping outside in wet, windy or muddy conditions.

Comfort: Very comfortable and supportive to wear for a significant period of time.

Overall Verdict: Lovely wrap in gorgeous, happy colours that’s wide, supportive and easy to wrap with.  One of my favourites!

To hire this baby carrier from the South London Sling Library, email southlondonslings@hotmail.co.uk to check it’s availability and find out more!

This carrier has been bought with help from The London Door Company.

 


© 2012 South London Sling Library

Welcome to South London Slings!

We are an independent, Mum-run service providing expert sling and baby carrier advice classes and hire from locations across South London. All of our Consultants are qualified and insured.

**Please note: ALL our Face To Face services (Drop-In Sessions, Workshops & Consultations) are currently suspended. Please consider an Online Consultation or buying a vBook (coming soon) instead. Postal Sling & Carrier Hire or Doorstep Collections are still available. Visit our blog (via our Home Page) for details. **

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South London Sling Library Blog

We use our Sling Library blog to post news announcements, carrier reviews, changes to the way the Library works, plus carrier tips and information articles. The most recent blog posts appear on the Library website Home page with the most recent first.  Older blog posts can be found by browsing the sections of the ‘News and Reviews’ menu to the right.

Any comments on blog posts are very welcome, as are suggestions for things for me to blog about!