Curious about the benefits of babywearing? Here we talk to Australia’s leading babywearing educator, Brooke Maree, about the health advantages, safety precautions and mastery tips of this ancient practice.
Writer: Rebecca Walker, The Conscious Wordsmith
What are the main benefits of babywearing?
Oh where do I start? The list of benefits sometimes feels endless! If I had to narrow it down, I would say practicality and bonding. Our babies simply want and need to be held for many hours a day for many months. They will be happiest resting on your chest next to your beating heart. So using a carrier is going to make your life so much easier! You’ll save yourself from sore arms and poor posture if you were carrying them without a carrier. And then bonding of course. When they are held close to us, oxytocin (the feel good hormone) flows throughout our brain and body which has so many benefits. We kiss our baby’s head, touch their toes and feel so connected to them. Here we are able to pick up their queues quicker and trust ourselves more as parents. It’s a beautiful bonding experience for all caregivers.
Why do babies (especially newborns) love being carried?
Our babies are born very prematurely compared to many other mammals and actually undergo a period known as ‘exterogestation’ where they continue to rapidly develop outside of the womb. This is because we have some of the largest brains and we must birth our children early so that their heads fir through the birth canal. When born, the brain is only 25% developed. Compared to other primate infants who have around 50% of their brain developed, you can see why our children rely so heavily on us and why we must nurture them as they grow and develop further. The act of carrying children is normal human behaviour, essential to our evolution and survival and the optimal place for a child’s continued physical, neurological, and emotional development.
Can you run us through the top rules of safe babywearing?
Tight: Carrier is tight and secure. All buckles are fastened and babies moves with you not against you.
In view at all times: Your baby’s nose and mouth is always visible to you. You can simply look down and see your child’s face completely unobstructed
Close enough to kiss: Your baby should be carried high so that you can simply look down and kiss the top of their head without extending your neck
Keep chin off chest: Make sure two fingers can fit between your baby’s chin and chest and that they aren’t slumping as this is an airway risk
Supported spine: Your baby’s spine should be supported in it’s naturally J shape firmly and not able to slump
Is it safe for pregnant mothers to babywear?
Always check with your care provider first. If you are healthy and they have given you the clearance, then yes. Every trimester will present a different challenge so always follow your intuition on what feels right. Be mindful of time and don’t exert yourself.
Is it safe to babywear after a C-section?
Again, always check with your care provider first, otherwise yes. Make sure you have no pressure near your scaring and don’t exert yourself. Carry your baby high and take it slow. You might like to use a carrier that’s soft and gentle around your recovering postpartum beautiful body.
Any tips for successful breastfeeding while babywearing?
Always get confident with breastfeeding first, and get confident with babywearing first, before attempting to combine the two. Breastfeeding and babywearing will be different for everyone as we all have different bodies, breasts, babies and are at different phases of feeding. Generally, it’s about loosing your child down to breast height, always keeping a hand on them, and navigating them over to your desired breast. Keep them upright as it’s safest when their fabric involved that’s holding your baby. Make sure you can always see their airways and they aren’t obstructed and just play around with making it work for you! It can take some practice and sometimes it won’t always work for everyone. But when it does…GAME CHANGER!
What if your bub doesn’t like the carrier? Any advice for mums with babies that protest as soon as they’re restrained in a carrier? Or tips to ensure babywearing success from the outset?
Make sure you’ve picked the right time where your baby isn’t overtired or due for a feed. Get yourself and baby set up while trying to stay calm and then started walking and soothing your baby. It’s a new experience for baby and sometimes bubs can be more sensitive to others and take some more reassuring to realise it’s a safe and nurturing place where they can relax. Getting outside and changing the environment often really helps to calm a baby. Carry in small spurts of time as they get use to it and keep it a positive experience. They should quickly come around! If they are persistently upset, a visit to a chiropractor or physiotherapist might be worthwhile to check there’s nothing going on under the surface that we can’t see.
Is letting your baby sleep in the carrier a bad habit?
Absolutely not! It’s so practical to let your child sleep in the carrier! You don’t have to stress about settling them and they often sleep so much longer next to your heart compared to in a cot. If it’s working for you and your baby, don’t stop! All of us learn to sleep by ourselves when we are ready. But even as adults we love a cuddle and someone to sleep next to right? So who can blame our babies for wanting a warm body to snuggle into and rest? Especially their mum or dad who is their absolute world. It’s a real gift to offer this to your child so well done!
Is there anything you should avoid doing while babywearing?
Really just common sense stuff that you wouldn’t normally do anyways with your baby held in your arms. No running, jumping, riding a bike etc. Be mindful of cooking with hot liquids or sharp knives. And just generally be mindful always when carrying your child that safety is front of mind.
When should parents stop babywearing? Is there a babywearing age/weight limit?
Carry as long as you’re both enjoying it! Check the maximum weight limit of your carrier (usually 15-20kg) and enjoy the snuggles until that point! Carrying toddlers has sooooo many benefits too. Keeping them safe and not running off, reconnection after tantrums, developing their speech by engaging in conversations while they are so close to you, giving them a break when their legs get tired, and so much more. Babywearing is such an investment that you’ll get so many benefits from when they are a newborn, toddler, and pre-schooler!
For more information about babywearing or to book a consultation with Brooke Maree, visit her website: https://brookemaree.com.au/