I fall more in love with the idea of baby-wearing every day, despite the fact that my husband gets a repulsed look on his face every time I mention the word “baby-wearing.” It’s not that he doesn’t agree with the benefits of it, but for him the term conjures up an image of literally wearing small children like an article of clothing (“Do you like it?” “I love it!” “I got it from my womb!”). For him, I say “hands-free baby-carrying,” and he seems to like the idea of doing it with our future babies a bit more.
Semantics aside, it’s easy to see why the idea of baby-wearing was embraced by our current parenting culture. We certainly didn’t come up with the idea…mothers in Africa have been wearing their babies for centuries…but it’s hard to argue against a brilliant idea when you see it. Want to be able to use both hands to more efficiently get errands, chores and work done all while maintaining constant contact with your growing baby? Yes please!
There are some who believe that holding a baby too much will spoil them, cause them to become dependent and clingy and keep them from learning to self-soothe. I’m not really in that camp as I see a difference between a four-year-old’s temper tantrum and an infant’s cry: one is because they’re not getting what they want, the other is because they’re not getting what they need. A baby does not yet understand the concept of manipulation and if they begin to cry when there is a lack of skin-to-skin contact with mom and dad, I believe there’s something instinctual going on there.
The cognitive and developmental benefits of wearing your baby have been proven by medical studies: babies who were worn an average of three hours longer than a control group (who either didn’t wear their babies or didn’t wear them much throughout the day) cried 43% less than the those who were carried less. It’s hard to gauge the concrete accuracy of statistics, but every one I know who wear their babies have children who don’t cry very often. Their baby’s need for contact is consistently met, which I believe creates the opposite of a “clingy” child; because those needs are met in infancy, they aren’t trying to fill a void later in life and become comfortable soothing themselves when it becomes developmentally appropriate.
Other benefits include faster socialization skills, as they can see more of their world and interact with adults more consistently (you don’t learn much about other people when you’re staring at the cover of a stroller all day), greater cognitive development (when you spend less time crying you get to spend more time learning) and better regulation of their internal systems (some doctors argue gestation is actually 18 months: 9 in the womb, 9 outside the womb. Your body still regulates your baby’s after they’re born!). Benefits to parents are that they don’t have to spend the better part of their day opening and closing a cumbersome stroller.
Don’t get me wrong: register for that jogging stroller and get a car seat that detaches so if baby falls asleep in the car you can take him out without waking him up. It’s nice to keep your options open for different situations you’ll encounter. But when you can, as often as you can, hold your babies close: there will come a time where they won’t want to be held any more, and it’ll come sooner than you’d like. And I promise you won’t spoil them 🙂