wear your baby

Can You Wear Your Baby Too Much?

Babywearing (or baby carrying) is the practice of carrying your Baby or toddler in a carrier. Though it may be new to some of us, babywearing is nothing new historically or globally.

In theory, babywearing seems like such a simple, natural thing. 

In practice, the art of wrapping a baby to one’s chest is more a complicated science – one that most new parents have trouble mastering even if they don’t want to admit it.

Babywearing is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 

The AAP says wearing your Baby helps prevent crying, encourages attachment and closeness, and promotes your Baby’s development.

But, it’s normal to be confused by that one long piece of fabric or stress over the complicated buckles and fasteners of a baby carrier.

 Heck, even famous parents don’t always get it right the first time. 

Parents have been wearing their babies for centuries, but if you’re a first-time parent, it may be all new to you. 

So what’s the deal? People say that wearing your Baby may help with anything from the Baby’s health to their mood.

Beyond that, babywearing can make life much easier in the fourth trimester and beyond as you learn to navigate the world with a little one in tow. 

Different cultures around the world have been practising babywearing techniques for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. 

And if you have a properly fitting carrier, it doesn’t need to be a pain in your back.

Read on to learn how to babywear, plus the benefits and safety concerns of babywearing, and what to look for when choosing a baby carrier.

What Are the Benefits of Baby Wearing?

If you talk to a baby-wearing parent, you may be inundated with a seemingly endless list of benefits. But are any of them backed by science?

While research is still limited, there’s a growing number of people who suggest that babywearing has benefits for both Baby and caregiver.

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Reduces Crying

Figuring out how to get a baby to stop crying is one of the more challenging parts of parenting. 

While babywearing won’t end all of a baby’s tears, some say it may help reduce crying and fussing.

Researchers discovered this hack back in 1986. Their randomised controlled study found that young babies who were carried cried and fussed less than babies who weren’t.

Additionally, carrying babies for 3 hours a day was seen to reduce crying and fussing by up to 51 per cent during the evening hours.

This was a relatively small study group and specifically on carrying rather than wearing. 

More research with a larger, diverse group is needed to understand the connection between babywearing better and to cry and fussing in babies.

If you’re looking for ways to reduce crying in your young Baby, babywearing may be worth trying. It’s low-risk and may provide additional benefits to the Baby.

Promotes Health

There’s growing evidence around skin-to-skin contact and the benefits it can have on babies, especially premature babies (babies born before 37 weeks) in the hospital.

Premature babies may gain some of those same benefits from a wearing practise called kangaroo care.

Studies show that wearing baby clothes, particularly with a particular carrier designed for skin-to-skin contact, may help regulate Baby’s heartbeat, temperature, and breathing patterns while they’re in the neonatal intensive care unit.

More research is needed to understand this connection fully, but some researchers suggest the need for increased kangaroo care, especially for the maintenance of hospitalised premature babies. 

It’s less clear if these findings apply to babies once they go home.

Assists With Breastfeeding

While there’s some speculation that babywearing may promote breastfeeding, the research isn’t there yet.

But if you’re a breastfeeding parent and practising babywearing, it’s possible to breastfeed while the Baby is in a carrier. 

That can make it easier to feed a baby on the go or to practice demand feeding.

Regular breastfeeding can help maintain or improve breast milk supply.

Enhances Connection

Let’s face it: connecting to a young, pre-verbal baby can sometimes feel challenging. 

The good news is that the simple act of being held can help strengthen that bond and connection for babies.

Babywearing may help support this bond. It may also make it easier for you to begin to read your Baby’s cues with more confidence.

For example, you’ll likely notice specific movements or noises that help you understand if the Baby is tired, hungry, or needs a diaper change. 

This connection can extend to anyone else who wears a baby as well.

Benefits from improved parent-baby bonding may extend into teen and early adult years, too. 

This isn’t to say that babywearing will instantly create a bond that will have long-term benefits — or that it’s the only way to create a bond — but it can be an early first step toward developing this type of bond with your child.

Of course, if you choose not to do babywearing, there are still numerous other ways to bond with a baby — for instance, baby massage.

Eases Everyday Life

There’s another potential benefit to wearing a baby on those days when they want to be held. It’s hands-free!

Using a baby carrier can make it easier to go about your daily tasks with both arms and hands available.

You can fold laundry, read a book to an older sibling, or even go out for a walk downtown. 

The possibilities are endless — well, almost. Maybe save deep frying food or skateboarding for when you’re not wearing a baby.

Babywearing does take some getting used to!

You’d think babywearing would be as easy as falling out of bed, right? But like a lot of things with motherhood (hello, breastfeeding!), babywearing can be trickier than it looks.

Yes, babywearing can seem daunting at first. Most baby carriers have a learning curve, and they require practice to become comfortable with them.

But once you’ve chosen the suitable carrier and learned how to use it, babywearing will become second nature.

Are Baby Carriers Safe?

Yes! Each carrier will have its safety guidelines that you will need to review before use, but here are a few general guidelines to get you started:

  • The Baby’s airway should be clear. It would help if you did not have to move the fabric to see his face. His chin should not rest on his chest but instead, be tipped up. He should not be pressing his face into your chest. In this case, you can gently move the Baby’s head, so his ear is against your chest instead.
  • The Baby should stay in an upright position (unless the Baby is nursing, in which case you can return him to a good job when finished).
  • Practice with a spotter. This is key when you’re trying new carriers or ways of carrying. Practice over a soft surface or close to the ground until you are confident with the carrying method.
  • Check your carrier for signs of wear or damage periodically.

The Baby should be appropriately positioned. Baby’s knees should be higher than her bottom and legs spread so that her spine and hips are supported for healthy development. (Newborns can be worn in a cradle position, but the face should still be high and visible).

Forward-facing carriers and carriers where the Baby’s legs are dangling should be avoided, as they do not support proper positioning and can lead to hip dysplasia.

wear your baby

Things You May Not Know About Baby Wearing

There Are Many Ways to Wear a Baby

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you first look into baby carriers, wraps, and slings. 

There are many different brands and companies and styles all claiming to be “the best,” and often, a single wrap, for example, can be tied in multiple ways to reposition the Baby.

Ask around: Your friends who are parents can tell you about the carriers and wraps they are using. You might even experiment with trying them on. 

It can be a process of trial and error (but use caution if you’re considering buying a used item; some counterfeit carriers and wraps are not as safe as the authentic products).

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Know Your Wraps from Your Carriers

Baby wraps and baby carriers are two different things. Like the Moby wrap, stretch wraps are helpful when your Baby is tiny because they are lightweight and help keep the Baby snuggled up next to your body.

Wraps can be tied in multiple ways. Some are better suited for newborns, others for older infants, and others for big kids you are wearing on your back.

A well-tied wrap made of the suitable material (the right thickness and stretch) can be very supportive for the Baby and your back.

Most carriers can be used for newborns, too (sometimes with a special newborn insert). The difference with a page: You don’t have to tie them, which is easier for many parents.

You Can’t Spoil a Baby Through Baby Wearing.

Babies like to be held! It’s just not possible to spoil an infant by holding them too much, says the AAP.

Since baby wearing can reduce crying, that means less stress for everyone. 

Back Carrying Can Be Awesome

For older babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, you may find that back carrying works better, especially if you are, say, vacuuming or preparing a meal. 

The majority of carriers that allow you to wear a child on your front also allow you to wear them on your back. 

And you can also tie a wrap to allow your child to be on your back (your Baby should be able to sit upright unsupported before you carry them on your back).

Note, though, that there are some essential safety rules for wearing a child while cooking.

Watch out for burns. 

Whether your Baby is on your chest or your back, stay away from anything hot: Don’t use the stovetop or remove anything hot from the oven or even the microwave.

Keep babies facing in. 

If your child is on your chest, they should face in toward your body. Be very careful if you use a knife; if your Baby makes a sudden movement, the blade could slip and cut you.

Keep dangers out of the Baby’s reach.

If your child is on your back, make sure anything you can reach is safe for them to go. 

Please don’t assume that because they are behind you, they can’t grab hot pans, sharp knives, and so on. 

Stick with tasks that don’t put your child at risk, such as stirring with a spoon or whisk, cutting with a child-safe knife, and measuring and pouring ingredients.

If your child seems to want to see more of what is going on and your back is hurting from wearing them on your chest, you both will be happier wearing the child on your back. 

The weight distribution is typically most favourable for the adult when wearing the child on their back.

Baby Wearing Is Not for Everyone

Some babies and some parents find that baby-wearing does not work for them, and that’s perfectly OK. 

Every baby is different, and every parent is foreign. But since every carrier is other, too, you might want to try several options before you decide against baby wearing

Your preferences may change as your child grows, and your child’s preferences may change too: Some prefer to be worn on the chest, while others would rather be on the adult’s back.

Also, if you are the parent of a preemie, you may need to use a wrap instead of a structured carrier, at least at first. 

When wearing any baby who cannot sit upright unsupported, they should be worn so that their chin stays off their chest. 

For the first few months, babies should only be worn facing in against the adult’s chest. When wearing a child on your chest, their head should be close enough to kiss.

The Most Common Baby-Wearing Mistakes Parents Make

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Buying the Wrong Size

One of the most common reasons parents give up on baby wearing is because their equipment wasn’t the correct size. 

Consider the Goldilocks principle when shopping for a baby carrier, wrap, or sling: it can’t be too big or too small, too loose or too tight — it has to fit just right. 

The best way to ensure a proper fit is to wait until you can go and try them on, ideally with your Baby.

Not Reading the Instruction Manual

It might seem simple enough in theory, but properly wearing your Baby takes plenty of practice. 

Don’t expect to get it right on the first attempt, and give yourself plenty of time to learn the different holds, especially for wraps that are just one long piece of fabric. 

Thankfully, the Internet has loads of YouTube videos and step-by-step guides to help you get the hang of it.

Wearing the Baby Too Low

Not only is a low-hanging baby terrible for him, but it’s also painful for you. 

Your Baby’s head should be able to rest on your chest, or when carried on your back, on your shoulder. 

Another issue with a baby being worn too low is that he’s likely also worn too loose and thus more likely to slump. 

A handy trick? Press on your Baby’s back. If he moves toward you, the carrier isn’t tight enough.

Having a False Sense of Being Hands-Free

Many baby-wearing parents rave about all the tasks they can accomplish with their infant strapped on, but it’s important never to have a false sense of security. 

Babies can move, and ties can come undone. 

Be especially present when multitasking — especially when it involves cooking over a hot stove — so that you can protect your Baby if the need arises.

Covering the Baby’s Face

You should always be able to see your Baby with a glance and never cover her head in fabric — a common suffocation hazard.

Not Giving the Baby Neck Support

In the early months, babies don’t have the muscles yet to support their head, and it will flop backward if not held snugly in place.

Restricting the Baby’s Airways

If you notice that your Baby’s chin is resting firmly on her chest, you need to readjust. Such a position can potentially cut off Baby’s oxygen supply.

Letting Baby’s Legs Dangle Straight

Even stars like Ryan Reynolds don’t get this one right. Babies aren’t meant to hang perfectly straight with legs dangling, as this position puts them at risk for developing hip dysplasia. 

Ideally, the Baby should be in a frog-like stance, with knees bent above her butt and – if in a carrier – her legs at your sides.

Switching to Front-Facing Too Early

Don’t rush to put your baby in a front-facing carrier. Newborns need time to build up their neck strength, and an outward look at the world can be overstimulating for infants. 

The general recommendation is to wait until your baby can hold his head up steadily, usually at 4 to 6 months old, before turning him around.

Letting the Baby Overheat

In the winter months, especially, you might err on the side of putting your baby in too many layers. 

All those bundles coupled with your body heat might make your infant hotter than you’d expect, so pay close attention to sweat or other signs of overheating.

Not Alternating Positions

If you found a position you love, you shouldn’t get too used to it. 

Not only is it essential to try out different positions to prepare for when your baby gets more extensive and more mobile, but in the early months, it’s vital to make sure your Baby’s headrests in both directions equally. 

Always having your Baby carried with his head to the left, for instance, can propagate any muscle imbalances and flat-headedness. 

Just guide his head to the right or switch sides in the wrap every so often.

When Can I Start Wearing Baby?

Right from birth! Slings and wraps are ideal for newborns (check the manufacturer’s weight guidelines) and are used as the Babygrows through toddlerhood.

What Is Baby Carrier Right for Me?

If you’re not sure which carrier will work best for you, your baby, and your lifestyle, consider joining a babywearing group to try on a bunch. 

Consider these questions when searching for a baby carrier:

  • Is the transport comfortable for you and Baby?
  • Does it support babies’ natural spine and hip development?
  • Are you able to get a baby into the page on your own?
  • Can a baby nurse in it?
  • How long will the Baby fit in it?
  • Can it be used from birth?
  • Does it help increase skin to skin contact?

Check with local or online retailers who may have a rental program for trying new carriers. Don’t forget to ask other mamas who may have pages they aren’t using that you could try out.

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