By Rynette Tan, Babywearing Consultant & Louise Yow, Principal Physiotherapist at Phoenix Rehab
Babywearing is the art of carrying your child
Babywearing is a practice from olden times that has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. It has regained popularity due to the convenience of allowing caregivers to be handsfree, thereby allowing them to attend to other daily matters. It also enables closeness to the child, and facilitates bonding and attachment.
Common questions that potential babywearers ask are:
1. Why babywearing is better than carrying in arms
- Why should I carry my child in a carrier instead of just using my arms?
- Will I get back aches carrying my child in a carrier?
- Is babywearing good for my child?
- Who can babywear?
When carrying a child in your arms, you are mainly using your arm muscles to take on the child’s weight. Arm muscles are smaller and usually used in connection with other muscles to achieve a task such as pushing, pulling, taking a book etc. When you use a baby carrier, the baby is carried close to the body so you utilise the back/spine muscles to help to take on the weight. The whole spine musculature and bones are meant for weight bearing, so you ensure that baby's weight is better distributed as compared to using arms only. It is therefore less taxing on the body.
Moreover, babywearing enables you to have more carrying options, such as carrying on the front, hip and back. There are options and tweaking that can be done to determine what is most comfortable and suitable for the babywearer. For example, if you hurt yourself and have a wound at the front, you can carry your child on your back or on the hip to avoid pressing on the wound.
Finally, kids can be squirmy - especially when they are looking around to see the fascinating world around them! By carrying in-arms, they are essentially only resting/sitting on your arm. If they suddenly decide to lean back, there is a fall risk. With babywearing, there would be fabric or a carrier panel that supports the child at the back, thereby minimising the risk that they might fall out.
2. Will I get back aches carrying my child?
A well adjusted carrier that fits your build and frame should not cause back aches. Of course, other factors such as your natural fitness, how long you carry your child for, and how heavy the child is are also determining factors of whether you feel any strain after carrying your child. As a general guide, the average healthy parent carrying a child less than 8kg should not feel any aches when using a well-fitted carrier for at least 1 hour.
There are some exercises you can do to prepare your body to take on the task of carrying better. (Look out for our post on exercises for babywearing, coming soon).
3. Is babywearing good for my child?
Carried babies have strong emotional development as they learn to develop a sense of security and trust through secure attachment. As they are also more directly exposed to adult conversation and parents’ facial expressions, babies who are worn often have improved speech development. Additionally, babywearing helps to improve reflux and colic as being in an upright position with gentle pressure on their tummies can help to soothe a child in discomfort.
In terms of physical development, babywearing can help to improve a baby’s core strength by allowing baby to exercise his/her neck, head and back muscles. It also prevents flat head syndrome, which is common in babies that are placed on the back a lot.
4. Who can babywear?
Mothers, fathers, grandmothers etc
Babywearing is suitable for just about anyone.
What about mothers who just gave birth? Can they start babywearing right after delivery?
Babywearing is great for bonding with the newborn, and most mothers who had their babies vaginally can babywear right from the very start. However, pregnancy does take a toll on a mother’s body so caution should always be exercised when babywearing right after birth. If unsure, always seek clearance from your obstetrician prior to babywearing.
If a mother has not recovered fully from the pregnancy and has pelvic floor issues such as stress incontinence, babywearing can exacerbate the condition due to the downward pressure on the pelvic floor while carrying.
For mothers who underwent a caesarean section, babywearing too early could put a stress on the wound which would be painful and potentially dangerous if the wound reopens. While every mother is different and most mothers are able to babywearing once they stop feeling the pain from the surgery, we recommend that mothers who have undergone a c-section seek clearance from their obstetrician before babywearing if they are unsure.
Other common issues that mothers have during pregnancy are pubic symphysis (pain at the front of the pelvis) and sacroiliac joint pain, which is pain at the base of the spine region at the back. With baby carriers, the child’s weight is meant to be spread across the shoulder blades and spine/pelvic region. Therefore, if a mother has had pre-existing issues with these areas, babywearing might make it worse.
Does that mean that I can’t babywear if I have any of these conditions?
No. It depends on the technique and type of carrier used.
Depending on your condition, a specific type of baby carrier, best suited to your needs may be recommended. A certified Babywearing Consultant will assess your condition and work closely with you and your doctor to find the right solution for you.
As with any task we do in life, moderation is also key.
If you carry a heavy load for a prolonged period of time, your muscles and joints will feel the effect of it and this can unnecessarily stress your body over time.
The same applies with babywearing.
Having breaks in between to let your muscles and joints 'catch a breather' and relax rather than be on constant tension will ensure a happy and pain-free babywearing experience!