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Babywearing for beginners – a must read guide

Babywearing for beginners, Ring sling, baby, spring

7 Mar, 2023

Babywearing for beginners

If you are pregnant or have a new baby and are looking into what products you will need then you might have come across babywearing. This blog is a babywearing for beginners guide.

You might have ventured into a local department, or baby store and been overwhelmed with the different carriers with buckles or long expanses of material? There is a lot of choice out there, and carriers/wraps are like shoes – you might need to try some before you find your perfect fit.

If you don’t know where to start with babywearing then this babywearing for beginners guide will help you to make sense of an amazing parenting tool.

 

What is babywearing?

Firstly, babywearing is the process of carrying your baby in a carrier or wrap. A carrier or wrap is designed to allow the wearer hands-free time whilst their baby is cuddled close to them.

Babies have an in-built need to be close to a caregiver, and the caregiver has a need to get on with their day-to-day jobs sometimes.

Using a piece of material to help support baby being carried on the body has been used for centuries across the world. It is certainly not a new concept. But it is something that can make our lives a bit easier as new parents so it should be a parenting technique in everyone’s toolbox.

A baby will need to be carried everywhere, to enable their needs to be met. As they develop their own ability to move around it does not mean that babywearing will stop.

There will always be times when a toddler or pre-schooler needs to have a moment of connection. Or their legs will just be so tired that they need to be carried.

You will be carrying your child for longer than you might expect, so it is worth learning about babywearing and the different options available.

 babywearing for beginners babywearing for beginners

 babywearing for beginners babywearing for beginners

Benefits of babywearing

There are so many benefits to babywearing for beginners to consider. Ranging from practical to emotional benefits.

There are benefits for adults and benefits to baby too. The main one being that a well fitted and supportive carrier will allow you to carry a child comfortably until potentially around age 7. It won’t always be in the same product, but it is entirely possible for a carrier to be comfortable and supportive for the entire time that your child requests to be carrier.

Practical and convenient

Perhaps you are travelling on public transport where a bulky buggy is difficult to use. Babywearing is a sensible solution. Babywearing for beginners

Having your baby supported in a carrier can also allow you to get one with jobs around the house too. Putting out/away washing, preparing dinner or lunch, hoovering. All two handed whilst baby remains happy, or asleep!

Many babies prefer to be held, rocked and moved rather than laid stationary for sleeping. The convenience of babywearing can mean an easier time when it comes to baby sleep.

Less crying

Generally speaking, a carried baby is a happy baby. Evidence suggests that babies who are held and moved cry less.

Scientists say the best way to soothe a crying infant is by carrying them on a 5-minute walk — ScienceDaily.

Babies are more able to regulate themselves physiologically when they are in close contact with their caregiver’s body. This helps reduce the amount of crying from a young baby.

Enhanced bonding

Studies have shown that the close physical contact of babywearing promotes attachment and bonding. Parents who babywear are more responsive to their baby’s needs and are more attuned to them.

Evidence clearly shows that comforting your baby and responding to them, as well as using a baby sling helps create secure attachment bonds; encouraging your child to feel safe.

The close physical contact between caregiver and baby produces oxytocin. This hormone is the hormone of love and bonding and is released when there is close physical contact for over 20 seconds.

The physical closeness, and the ability to respond quicker to baby’s cues can also mean that breastfeeding can be enhanced by babywearing.

These may also help to reduce the impact of postnatal depression too.

 

 

Different types of carriers

Just like with prams and buggies, there are several brands of wrap and carrier on the market. And just like prams and buggies, there are different types for different ages and stages of baby-toddler.

Below is a babywearing for beginners guide to the main different types of carriers.

All brands will be slightly different in terms of details and weight limits, but it’ll give you an idea of what type appeals to you.

 

Stretchy wrap

This is a long piece of stretchy fabric that is used to tie around you and baby is then placed in and sits facing towards you.

It might look scary at first, but once it is on you can keep it on and place baby in and out throughout the day. A perfect solution for babywearing for beginners.

The stretchy of the fabric gives a lovely cosy feeling, almost mimicking the sensation of being in the womb. Hence why it is so lovely for little ones.

Mother carrying baby in a stretchy wrap.

Stretchy Wrap

While it is a fairly inexpensive piece of equipment, depending on the brand and the type of stretch it will likely only be comfortable for the first 4-6 months. This depends on baby’s size and the wearer, of course.

 

Woven wrap

A woven wrap works in a similar way to a stretchy wrap but because of the make-up of the fabric it offers more support for a longer period of time. Babywearing for beginners.

This requires a bit more fabric knowledge, but taking some time to learn can really put off.

Suitable for your entire carrying journey, from birth until 5+ years.

Mother carrying child in a woven wrap

Woven Wrap

Woven wraps are versatile, offering lots of different carries and finishes. Inwards facing, hip carries and back carries are all possible. They come in different sizes depending on length and do take more learning to get right than a stretchy wrap. But understand the basics and all will be fine!

Ring Sling

A ring sling is usually a woven piece of fabric but can sometimes be more stretchy. There will be metal or plastic rings at one end, and they are used to thread the fabric through to create a pouch that baby is placed inside. Ring slings are used over one shoulder and are suitable from newborn until 5+ years.

Ring sling, baby, spring

Ring Sling

These carriers are extremely convenient for quick up/down moments with toddlers and fold down small for ease of transportation. Mainly used on the hip, it is great to provide support for older ones wanting to be on the hip. But they can also be used for central body carries for smaller babies.

Half buckle

These are a good halfway house between wraps and buckle carriers. Usually consisting of a rectangular piece of fabric for the body panel, either a tie up waistband or buckled waist and wrap type straps.

Half buckle carriers can sometimes be called meh dais, if they have a wrap waistband.

These carriers offer good versatility across your babywearing days. Often they can take you from newborn until 18 months to two years. And then bigger versions for toddlers and pre-schoolers are available. There is usually an ability to alter the panel size for baby’s size, and the wrap straps offer nice support for the wearer.

Front, hip and back carries are usually possible with a half buckle, depending on brand and model.

Full buckle

Full buckle carriers come in a wide variety of options. Some are simple rectangles of fabric for the body panel and others have sliders, buttons, poppers or buckles to adjust.

Father with baby in front sling

Full Buckle

Some full buckle carriers are fully adjustable to cover inward facing, forward facing, hip and back carries.

While others only support a few, or even one type of carry.

Many carriers will be advertised as lasting from newborn to age 2, but the true longevity is dependent on the child and the wearer. There are also toddler and pre-school carriers on the market.

These are the carriers you are most likely to see in larger baby shops and the brands usually have bigger advertising budgets.

But each brand is made differently so it certainly isn’t a one-size fits all situation. It is worth speaking to a trained babywearing consultant before purchase. Especially if you are a beginner to babywearing.

Backpack carriers

These look like backpacks with a metal frame that baby sits inside and are generally advertised as a hiking solution.

The weight of the frame is often substantial, and the positioning for the child often makes them seem much heavier too.

A back carrier that brings baby closer to you, with an additional backpack on the front is often a more comfortable option depending on your circumstances.

 

Babywearing for beginners – Safety

babywearing for beginners babywearing for beginners

With all wraps and carriers, safety is of the utmost importance. If baby is securely attached and safety aspects are followed then there are no time limits that need to be followed. As long as baby is coming out to feed and have nappy changes then you can babywear for as long as is comfortable for everyone.

Depending on the birth, baby can be carried from the start. If there has been a caesarean, then waiting until some healing has started and you are able to move around without painkillers is sensible. And starting slowing with a few minutes at a time is a good idea for everyone and building up the time according to comfort.

Following TICKS (from the UK Sling Consortium) will help you to ensure that baby is safe in a sling or carrier.

T – Tight – an unsafe carry is one that is too loose. An unsupport and loose fit will allow space for baby to potentially move into a curled-up position and restrict airways.

I – In view at all times – baby positioned high up enough to easily see their nose and mouth. Any fabric should be moved out of the way. Wraps and carriers should go no higher than the nape of baby’s neck.

C – close enough to kiss – ensure that baby is high on your chest (on the hard chest wall) will allow you to see them at all times.

K – keep chin off the chest – to help maintain airways. A supported carrier will allow baby to sit comfortably in an upright position with their pelvis supported knee to knee. This will bring a gentle “C” or “J” shaped curve to their spine and position their head against the chest. A good pelvic tuck and a tight enough carrier will help keep them from slumping down and putting their chin to their chest.

S – supported back – the carrier should go up to the nape of the neck for a baby, and up to the armpits for a baby over 1 year. All carriers or wraps should be secure enough that by gently pushing on their back should not be able to move them any closer to you than they already are. Their body should not move away from yours if you gently lean over (supporting their head).

Positioning of baby

Ideally baby’s legs will be in a supported “M” shape position, with the carrier supporting them fully from knee to knee. The topmost tips of the M being the knees and the middle bottom being their bottom. This gives the best support to their hips, and to their heads as well.

Babywearing position

As you can see in this image, as baby grows their spine straightens out so that C shape turns into a J shape. But the M shape of the hips and knees remains. As baby grows this position will not always be sustainable as they move around and shift position. But that position gives the most support for wearer too so is the ideal.

Babywearing is a learning process, just like with all aspects of parenting. There are some fantastic resources available online but an in person service can be tailored to you and your baby.

A sling library service, like that run by Welwyn Slings, allows you access to a range of carriers to borrow.

A babywearing consultation, like that run by me, Jilly Clarke at CubCare, will allow you 1:1 space to learn, practice and understand the different aspects to carrying and finding the right solution for you.

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