All parents carry their baby in their arms at least some of the time. Using a well fitting sling or baby carrier makes doing so easier and more comfortable. Even as your baby grows into a toddler and can walk, carrying them comfortably is still often useful in many situations. With the right carrier and fit for you and your child, carrying them (sometimes referred to as 'babywearing') can be extremely comfortable and enjoyable for you both. Doing so may also have more benefits than you might initially have thought of!
Benefits for Babies
- An extension of skin-to-skin, it promotes bonding, and helps regulate baby’s temperature, breathing and heart rate, particularly important during the "fourth trimester".
- Provides a safe, comfortable sleeping environment.
- Can facilitate 'responsive' breast or bottle feeding, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
- Upright position facilitates winding, may reduce reflux and can help settle a baby with colic.
- Provides a natural curved spinal position for optimal spinal development
- Reduces ‘flat head’ syndrome caused by lying flat on back in the recommended safe cot/buggy position.
- Develops core muscle strength, when performed in addition to 'tummy time'
- Can support development of sociability, speech and smell.
- Helps develop babies' balance, as they move in all directions rather than just forwards and backwards like they do in a buggy or car seat.
- May actually reduce crying: in a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during evening hours**
- As baby gets more alert, it gives them freedom to explore, from a safe base. Some say that it ‘puts them at the centre of the action, but not the centre of attention’.
Benefits for Parents
- Leaves your hands free to eat/care for a toddler/do whatever YOU want to do, whilst meeting baby’s needs to be close to you at the same time.
- A great way to be close to and bond with your baby, and can be particularly good for dads, adoptive parents or other caregivers to bond with the baby.
- Also enables partners and family to settle a grumpy or tired baby to sleep and give mum a break!
- May be especially helpful for parents at risk of, or suffering from postnatal depression as it can increase parenting confidence and positive interactions between parent and baby*
- Uses less energy than holding your baby without using a sling or carrier.
- Saves disturbing your baby if you change room/go outside whilst it is sleeping
- Can aid gentle physical recovery from pregnancy, when worn correctly.
- Can feed baby whilst in the carrier (bottle or breast)
- Can be more convenient than a buggy, e.g. on public transport or in small shops, or places with stairs, or just for storing at home.
- Often cheaper than a buggy or double buggy, with some fabric slings costing as little as £30-40 or second-hand options even cheaper.
* Pelaez-Nogueras M, Field TM, Hossain Z, Pickens J. (1996). Depressed mothers’ touching increases infants’ positive affect and attention in still-face interactions. Child Development, 67, 1780-92.
Tessier R, M Cristo, S Velez, M Giron, JG Ruiz-Palaez, Y Charpak and N Charpak. (1998) Kangaroo mother care and the bonding hypothesis. Pediatrics 102:e17.
**Hunziker UA, Garr RG. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 77:641-648