Babywearing is pretty much universally a positive experience. I always find that people smile at me when they realise there’s a baby on my back, and when I asked Bracknell Sling Meet members about what myths they’d heard about babywearing, they were keen to point out that on the whole the comments they receive are positive!
However, there’s quite a few misconceptions about babywearing (as there are many parts of alternative or attachment parenting) and I thought it would be useful to have a babywearing mythbusters page that we can add to as things come up.
MYTH: It will hurt your back/ it’s bad for your back
Most people who I’ve met who think babywearing will hurt your back either used non-ergonomic high street carriers and possibly wore their babies facing out and found they were uncomfortable after a while, or never used a sling and found that carrying their baby/toddler around all day in their arms on their hip was uncomfortable and heavy.
Proper ergonomic (we use that word a lot, it just means “designed to minimize physical effort and discomfort, and hence maximize efficiency”) slings, wraps and carriers are designed to spread the weight well in both front, hip and back carries to ensure that babywearing is comfortable and will not cause damage to parent or baby. If a specific sling is hurting your back, then you may need some help adjusting it differently, or maybe need to try another kind of carrier.
It’s easy to see from this image the different amount of strain on the parents back from the two very different carriers.
Especially when your toddler starts walking, you will probably find they want to walk for a bit, then get tired and want “up”. Carrying your toddler in your arms can be very tiring and put strain on your back as you often end up carrying them on one side and having awkward posture to compensate. With a sling, you can carry them more comfortably as the wrap means the baby or toddlers weight is spread across your shoulders, chest and waist.
MYTH: My baby is only happy facing outwards so I need a forward facing carrier
Of course this links to the image above. Reasons not to carry your baby forward facing out include:
- Doesn’t support babies hips and legs properly
- It places your baby in an arched or hollowed out back position which places pressure on their spine
- It places extra pressure on their groin (if not an ergonomic carrier)
- It can overstimulate your baby as they are unable to look away and cuddle into their parent
- It makes thermoregulation harder (see below)
- It throws the parents’ centre of gravity off forwards
Babies do naturally get more interested in the world around them as they grown and will often start to look around and strain away from their parent carrying them. There are lots of other ways of carrying babies that are safe and comfortable that does not involve them facing outwards. For example ring slings and wraps can do hip carries which mean the baby can see all around whilst still comfortably snuggled up to their parent and able to turn away from over-stimulation. When they are sitting well by themselves, you can also do back carries in lots of different kinds of slings.
This is no to say that babies cannot be carrier forward facing out on your front at all, but there are few slings that do this with the legs in a good “m” postition (Lilebaby and Ergo 360 being two of them) and most manufacturers recommend a time limit of around 20 minutes and not to let your child fall asleep in that position.
MYTH: Your baby will get too hot in a sling in the summer
In the UK our seasons fluctuate a lot, and so when it comes to the summer a lot of parents worry about their children overheating in a sling or wrap. Firstly, it’s important to remember that parents sling their babies in much warmer countries than a UK summer! Secondly, our bodies thermoregulate themselves so as long as you stay hydrated and wear the right kind of clothes, you’ll be fine. Yes you might sweat a bit, but that’s part of your body regulating it’s temperature!
Connecta posted this handy photo to remind us of how to keep our babies safe and the right temperature when being carried.
MYTH: If you carry them everywhere,they will always be clingy.
All babies go through stages of being more or less clingy. And as we all know, all babies are different anyway so it’s likely that one baby may be more “clingy” than another. However it’s a popular misconception that by carrying your baby (or for that matter co-sleeping or breastfeeding) that you make them more clingy. Research has however shown the opposite to be true. Babywearing increases the feeling of security between parent and baby, which in turn means they tend to be more content with higher self esteem. (Link to Canadian Study in regards to babywearing and “clinginess” http://www.portareipiccoli.it/trial_hunziker.htm )
It’s also important to mention that “clinginess” is both subjective and relative! A baby relies on it’s parents for it’s every need, and this is natural. A baby doesn’t understand that if you put it down, that you’re coming right back once the kettle is boiled/ you’ve visited the toilet/ answered the door, so whilst if we judge their behaviour against that of an older child or adult, we may see them as being “clingy”, their behaviour is biologically really quite normal!
Studies have shown that babies who are regularly worn are calmer and cry between 43-56% less than non carried babies, if you carry them for 3 hours or more per day (Mansfield, 2007; Dr Sears, 2011; NCT, 2012)
It’s dangerous for the baby
There are a set of guidelines that we will ALWAYS refer to called TICKS:
As long as you follow these guidelines babywearing is NOT dangerous. There have been slings recalled over the years (in particular bag-slings) as they have been linked to deaths- but like anything (baby swing, baby bouncer, buggy), if the instructions and guidelines are not followed accidents can happen. In particular it’s important to note the “K” of TICKS- Keep the chin off the chest. If a baby is left in a curled forwards position with their chin on their chest, it can restrict the airways. It is important that their face is in site at all time especially when they are tiny because they don’t have the muscles in their necks to turn their head away if the fabric ended up blocking their airways.
(Probable) MYTH: My baby hates it
Often at sling meet, parents say that they’ve tried a sling and their baby hated it. In reality most children (though not all) love being carried, but like anything it might take some time for you both to get the hang of it. When my little one was small, he’d cry every time I got him into our slings. In fairness I wasn’t very good at it, and so would faff about, get hot and sweaty and it would take ages. Small person was very impatient and didn’t really enjoy waiting about whilst I tugged bits of fabric. However, it didn’t take long for him to stop crying once he was in the sling, and he eventually stopped crying as I got better and quicker at getting the slings on quickly and properly.
It’s also important to remember that unless the sling meet is held in your front room, you’re likely to be in a new environment trying something new. If you’d LIKE to get the hang of it one day, then make sure you hire or borrow something to take home and try in the comfort of your own home!
MYTH: Wraps are too complicated and I’ll never get the hang of it
This links a little to the above…. like anything in the world it’s not necessarily going to come to you straight away. Woven wraps in particular take some practice, especially with back carries. I was shockingly bad at wrapping when I first tried, but now am at least semi competent and teach other people how to wrap! This is of course not helped if you have a grumpy wriggling baby or toddler “helping” you out, but practice makes perfect.
(Above- from terrible low loose mei tai effort back at the start of 2014, to back carries with a shortie and ring finishes in 2015!)
MYTH: It’s painful to position a babies legs like that.
The International Hip Displaysia Institute say:
The healthiest position for the hips is for the hips to fall or spread (naturally) apart to the side, with the thighs supported and the hips and knees bent. This position has been called the jockey position, straddle position, frog position, spread-squat position or human position. Free movement of the hips without forcing them together promotes natural hip development.
The Babywearing Institute says:
A baby, when being picked up, will pull the legs up in the correct position which will place the hip joint into the socket in a perfect position to ensure correct hardening of the cartilage present the first few month after birth. This position is called squatting straddle position or wrongly called frog leg position.
So I don’t think I need to add much to this one!
(So here’s some pictures of the correct hip position)
MYTH: Your baby will never learn to walk or crawl if you carry them in a sling
This is clearly not true. I know lots of children, some who have been worn in slings or wraps, some who have spent lots of time in car seats or push chairs and children all just develop at their own pace! Annecdotally my little boy learnt to walk before 11 months old but didn’t ever crawl. You could try to pin that on any number of factors but I think he was just determined!If you think about the increased independence of babies that are worn, and that some paediatricians think that babies worn in slings often develop certain skills faster (like holding their head up, even without “tummy time”), it’s probably fair to say that it makes little or no difference!
Standing at 8 months
- Increases cardiac output, improves circulation, promotes respiration and aids in digestion.
- Provides the exact level and kind of stimulation an infant requires, energising their nervous system and creating a quiet, calm alertness in the infant.
- Decreases the levels of stress hormones circulating in a baby’s blood stream, resulting in a more relaxed, happy baby
- Develops the muscles needed for the infant to sit, stand and walk.
- Enhances motor skills by stimulating the baby’s vestibular system (balance organs) by exposing the baby to a variety of sights, sounds and motion.
- Offers easy access to the infant’s food source – mothers’ breast milk, without having to stop or sit down.
See more at: http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby/babywearing-the-benefits/
Thank you to all the useful sources of information, those referenced above but also http://www.bellybelly.com, http://www.hugabub.com, http://www.thestayathomefeminist.com, http://www.wrapsodybaby.com, http://www.naturalparentsnetwork.com,www.babycalmblog.com, http://www.sheffieldslings.wordpress.com 🙂