Baby wearing is incredibly helpful in integrating baby into your daily life. You can interact with your baby throughout the day, breastfeed frequently, and still play with an older child and accomplish adult tasks. Babies benefit from spending time in the rich learning environment of the adult world. Parents feel more confident and less isolated. Baby wearing also makes the world more baby-friendly.
There's nothing in the world that compares to having your baby in your arms - the feeling of a sleeping child against your chest, the sweet-smelling, down-covered head under your nose. In the early days with a newborn, mothers have time to enjoy these moments. Then reality sets in.
Baby is still dependent on you for nourishment, care, and comfort but everyday tasks and errands demand your attention. And you may have other children who need you. Life goes on, and there is always too much to do. But busy mothers do not have to give up the bliss of keeping baby close. They can accomplish those tasks that need to be done and still enjoy their baby’s companionship by "wearing" the baby in a carrier.
Benefits for Baby
During the flutter of excitement and activity before birth, parents can get caught up creating lists of "necessities" for their soon-to-be newborn. Many expectant parents are led to believe that they will need a variety of specialized equipment in order to care for a baby. In reality, most babies need very little in the way of specialized equipment. Since you will be breastfeeding, the need for feeding equipment is non-existent. You already have the ability to meet baby’s nutritional needs without spending any extra money! The other thing, besides milk, that babies want and need most is human contact -— to be close to those who love them. This too requires little or no specialized equipment.
In many cultures, babies are constantly in the arms of caregivers. Anthropologists and psychologists who study the behavior of mothers and babies have observed that when mothers and babies are together, they are constantly shaping one another's behavior. When her baby whimpers or seems to be in distress, the mother responds and reassures her little one. If her baby seems hungry, she offers her breast. When the baby looks into her eyes, she smiles and talks to her baby, and her baby responds by gazing at her, smiling, or trying to "talk" in baby language. When babies encounter new people or new experiences, mothers and fathers who are holding them can help them overcome their fears and learn more about their world.
These sensitive, personality-shaping interactions happen most readily when babies are in the arms of their parents. When you wear your baby, the two of you move through your day together. You see the world from similar points of view. Your baby hears your voice as you talk to others, picks up on your emotions, and trusts you to provide safety and comfort. Even when a mother is focusing on other people or other tasks, a baby who is held in her arms or tucked into a sling is reassured by the physical contact. Wearing your baby provides closeness even when you can not give your baby one hundred percent of your attention.
Some parents worry that a baby who is constantly held or worn will become a fussy baby, always crying for attention. Actually, the opposite seems to be true. In cultures where babies are constantly in the arms of caregivers, infant crying spells are virtually unheard of. A study in North America showed that babies cried less when parents were instructed to wear or carry them for several "extra" hours each day.
A happy baby is quiet and alert. In this state of mind, he is ready to interact with people. When worn or carried by a parent, a contented baby can see what’s going on around him. When he sees facial expressions and hears his mother's voice, he is learning about the world.
In addition to helping infants develop emotionally and socially, baby wearing also meets their physical needs. Babies need and enjoy motion. In the womb, they become accustomed to the sound of mother's heart pumping blood and to the feeling of being confined in a small space. The experience of being in the womb also teaches them to enjoy the rhythm of their mother’s movements. After birth, the experience of being held close to a parent’s body helps them recall the peace they felt in the womb. A baby sling swaddles them and helps control the movement of their arms and legs. As parents move around the house or walk down the sidewalk, the motion soothes babies. Parents quickly discover that their newborn will sleep while in their arms, comforted by the rise and fall of mother or father’s chest. Lay that newborn down in a crib that neither breathes nor walks and baby wakes up in a hurry!
Bill and Martha Sears note that baby wearing stimulates the infant’s vestibular system, the parts of the inner ear that work like levels or sensors to control the body’s sense of balance. The stimulation "helps babies breathe and grow better, regulates their physiology, and improves motor development" (Sears and Sears 2001). This applies to both full-term and premature babies.
Baby wearing is usually associated with infants but it is very useful for toddlers, too. The world can be a scary place for toddlers. They will feel more confident when they know they can retreat to the security of the sling or carrier if needed.
Benefits for Parents
Baby wearing can make the hectic lives of parents much easier. For example, wearing baby frees mother’s hands for basic cleaning, preparing food, running errands, and other day-to-day activities. With baby tucked in a sling or carrier, she will not have to stop what she is doing when baby fusses or needs reassurance. A few words, a soothing touch, and baby goes back to being contented. Leaving the house doesn’t require as much preparation, either. No large stroller to pack into the car and navigate through crowds and no heavy, removable car seat to carry around. A sling or baby carrier can be folded up and stuffed into a diaper bag so that it is readily available for use. Some mothers automatically put their sling on, like a jacket, whenever they head out the door.
Parents also experience a boost in confidence when practicing baby wearing. A baby who is contented makes a mother feel more competent. Because her baby is there, right under her nose, she knows what has frightened him. She can sense when her baby is growing restless or hungry and can fix the situation before baby’s complaints become disturbing and upsetting to her. "The more confidence parents have, the more they can relax and enjoy their children".