My friend Alice, who just had a sweet baby girl, emailed me a while ago to ask about baby wearing. I thought I’d post an edited version of my response to her, because I get this question a lot.
Babywearing is awesome. It might be my favorite baby-care thing.
- It’s easy.
- It’s comfortable.
- You have your hands free.
- It helps encourage connection with your baby.
- It promotes core muscle development (did you know that babywearing may count as “tummy time”?).
- The baby can see what you are seeing and learn about how the world looks and works.
- The baby can be contained while not feeling like it (I still do not go into certain stores if I can’t strap Silas to my back).
- It helps them feel organized when they are out-of-sorts. Even now, with Silas a big two-year-old, I find that I can put him on my back on days when he’s purposelessly grouchy, and just go about my life for an hour, and then he’s fine. One of the major challenges of late pregnancy for us was that I really couldn’t wear him anymore. We still had tons of cuddle time, but it’s not quite the same.
- Plus, it may have made our ancestors’ brains bigger (no kidding!).
It takes a while to get the hang of wearing the baby, and you definitely need to educate yourself and make sure that you are doing it correctly (because it is possible for a baby to suffocate in an improper hold, or for certain kinds of carriers to cause hip problems). Some carriers are easier to figure out than others. If you can borrow a wide selection of them to try out before you buy one, that would be a great thing to do.
- Get a good, ergonomic carrier. Baby Bjorn and Snugli are crap. They are “crotch danglers,” which means pretty much what it sounds like–the baby’s whole weight is supported on his crotch. This can cause bad hip development and also (less bad long term, but terrifying) can cut off circulation to their legs so their feet and legs turn purple. We had a Snugli for Silas, but totally stopped using it after a month because we were pretty freaked out by the purple feet. For a carrier where the baby will be sitting upright, you want to make sure their knees are above their hips. Ergo and Beco are both good brands for this (or any mei tai).
- I got a second-hand Moby on Craigslist before Silas was born. I really liked it, but it had a few downsides–it took a while to put on, and it’s a LOT of fabric to manage, say, if you want to put the baby on your body in a muddy parking lot. I’ve seen people wearing 2-year-olds with this, but I kind of was done with it by the time Silas was about 4 months old. It just took too long to use. JC hated it, but I don’t think he had the patience to get it tied right.
- I made a mei tai when Silas was about two months old. I still use it, and love it. Mei tais are easy to wear, safe, and versatile. You can wear the baby on front, back, or side, and it’s relatively easy to adjust. The mei tai was also the only carrier that I had an easy time nursing in. My mom, who is not that big and has had back problems, can comfortably wear big toddler Silas in the mei tai. I made Silas one as a “big brother” present. Now I can wear my baby, and he can wear his. I sell mei tais for parents and big siblings on my etsy site.
- We have a new experiment this time. I made a raw silk ring sling before Petra was born. She’s only a week old (today!), and I already love it. Following some pointers from my stepmother, who used to be a “wearable artist,” I experimented with dying the sling. That was tremendous fun, and I’m eager to experiment more with it. She gave me some ideas about how to create resists that would have the baby’s name on the tail of the sling, too, which I think would be neat. I’m selling custom-dyed ring slings on etsy, too. The ring sling is much nicer for a newborn than the Moby, which was my go-to when Silas was an infant, because you can put it on without setting the baby down. I know that doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but I will never forget Silas screaming in anger as I fiddled with yards of cotton jersey, trying to get it tied right before I put him in there. I’ve heard that it is easy to nurse in the ring sling, but I haven’t tried it yet. The long tail would make a nice cover for discreet nursing.
- For slings/carriers that I didn’t make, my very favorite ever is the Ergo. I love that thing. I stuck Silas in it when I took him to a professional conference in Houston (by myself!) at 8 months old/20 pounds, and we were both comfortable and happy the whole time. My husband likes it the best of all of our carriers. It adjusts in a million different ways, and he doesn’t have to remember how to do a square knot or worry that it’s not adjusted safely. Also, I had a problem where one of the clips broke last summer, and the people at Ergo had a new one in the mail to me THE NEXT DAY for free. Love them.