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Rebecca Chicot PhD

Child development expert with a Phd from Cambridge University. She has worked on several best-selling books and BBC documentaries. She is the proud mother of three children.
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Stage 3 – 2 months

The benefits of babywearing

Bonding is really a process, it's not kind of a one-off event and bonding really begins during pregnancy. You can help begin to build a relationship with your baby when pregnant by taking time out to think about them, respond to movements felt, talk, sing to or stroke your baby bump. Sometimes naming your bump can also help you begin to imagine and bond with your baby. ‘Babywearing’ is a word that means carrying your baby close to your body in a sling or a carrier. It has been the norm for much of human history and is in many parts of the world today and is gaining popularity again in cultures where it had once fallen out of favour. There is no limit to how much you can carry your baby and with a properly selected and fitted carrier, no reason why it should cause a parent discomfort either. In fact, it can make life easier.
Video Tutorial
In Short
You cannot spoil your baby by carrying them.

Babies have been carried around by their parents for thousands of years, long before strollers and jungle gyms were ever invented.

Babies love to be able to smell your skin, hear your heartbeat and voice and feel the gentle rhythm as you walk around carrying them.

Babywearing or carrying your baby around in a safe, soft sling is something that can help both dads and mums to bond with their baby.

Find out what local support is available to help you find the best sling for you and your baby and for additional information on keeping baby safe while in a sling.

Babywearing helps to promote bonding. When you are at home you may be able to have your baby in skin to skin contact too. This and babywearing, in general, will allow you both to enjoy the release of a hormone called oxytocin. This is a hormone produced to help you bond with your baby and it increases trust and induces calmness in you.

When you practice babywearing, it’s important to follow some safety guidelines. These are often called the T.I.C.K.S. guidelines.

Note
Baby should be:

Tight (any looseness in the fabric could cause the baby to slump down which may hinder their breathing or hurt your back)

In view at all times

Close enough to kiss (so you can kiss the top of their head)

Keep their chin off their chest (a chin slumped forward can cause the airway to be compromised, and there should always be at least a finger space between baby’s chin and chest)

Supported back

In many areas, you can visit a sling library or find a baby wearing consultant who can help you choose and fit the right sling for you.

Babywearing and bonding

Bonding is really a process, it’s not kind of a one-off event and bonding really begins during pregnancy. Babywearing helps to promote bonding as the skin to skin contact you both enjoy will release a hormone called oxytocin at various points and this is a hormone specifically kind of evolved to help you bond with your baby and it increases trust and it induces calmness in you.

Some Mums feel an instant attachment and deep protective love the first time they hold their babies whilst others take time. The good news is that prolonged skin to skin contact is now more common practice plus less rigorous washing can mean that Mum and baby can smell and familiarise themselves with each other. This promotes earlier bonding.

Bonding continues over time just enjoying your baby, smiling and spending time with her will all promote the relationship over time. Babies that have this secure base in you enjoy lots of benefits. Well bonded and securely attached babies go on to have much better mental health, they’re happier, they’re more resilient, they feel like they can explore the world because you’re there, you’re their base and they can go out into the world. It sounds counter-intuitive but the more you give them, the more you carry them and care for them as babies – the more independent and resilient they’ll end up being.

Babywearing in a sling also allows you to spend a lot of time looking into your baby’s face and lots of face-to-face contacts also release oxytocin and promote bonding.

If you are worried about your relationship with your baby and you’re worried something isn’t right, remember that feeling worried and being concerned something isn’t the way it should be is a normal part of parenthood. However, if your instincts are telling you that you need some help dealing with your feelings, your health visitor and GP are there to support you and they are very used to talking to new parents about their worries.

Babywearing and the fourth trimester
Older baby in sling

Human babies are very vulnerable and require complete support from their parents in the months after they are born. There is a hypothesis that human babies are born early so their large heads can be safely delivered through the birth canal. This means they are born well before their brains are fully developed. Some child development experts have referred to the early months of a baby’s life as the ‘fourth trimester’. When your baby’s very little it’s actually a lot simpler often and a lot easier to carry them around, there are lots of very nice soft slings.

Your baby will really enjoy this because she:

  • is close to you
  • can feel your heartbeat
  • can feel the warmth of your skin and smell you
  • can hear you talking

This stage is considered almost an extension of the pregnancy but with the baby being carried, fed and looked after by the parents outside of the womb. Babywearing is not a new fashion but rather the timeless method of looking after babies whereby the parent or carer carries the baby around on their body all day and then co-sleeps at night.

Babywearing and social development

Babywearing allows you to kind of get on with your business without having to push a huge pram or carry an uncomfortable car seat all over the place. What’s also nice with a lot of these slings is you’re also very close to your baby and very tuned into each other – you know your baby is hungry or needs a nappy or diaper change straightaway.

When your baby gets more alert, they love to look around when you’re going out and about in the world or even doing things around the house. You can talk to her and interact with her. And what’s really nice is because your baby’s eye-line is quite high, when you go out shopping you’ll find that shop assistants and everyone will talk to her because they can see your baby. In contrast, babies down in a pushchair often get really ignored by members of the public, which is a real shame because it means they spend a lot of the time hearing conversations above them but not really taking part in society. So anything that makes them part of the community helps. This includes carrying them around a lot and facing them towards you, is really helpful in those early years.

Reference and Further Reading

Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N. 2007. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD003519.

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DISCLAIMER
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.