August 18, 2008

Carrying The Future

I was really moved by the keynote address at the Babywearing Conference this past June in Chicago. TheBabywearer.com's founder, Jen Norton, was the main speaker, and her journey in motherhood was one we all can probably relate to in many ways.

Her babywearing adventures began by just picking up some books by Dr. Sears as well as The Continuum Concept. She had guilt about how she parented her first child, and resolved to do things differently for the next baby.


She found that it felt good to be close to her child, that parenting could be a positive experience, and she wanted to share this with others. At the time, there was not enough solid research to support babywearing despite the fact that it was just plain common sense and had been around for so long in many other countries.

Jen noticed obstacles for widespread babywearing... there were definitely studies about the benefits of Kangaroo Care- showing that stimulation & movement was good for development, touch, and communication. And all of that indirectly supports babywearing. But it was all about the benefits to the baby, and not about the Mom. And it just makes sense that babies get the best care when Mothers are happy and supported.

She started reading about maternal well being and how babywearing could help the Mother's state of mind. It's been found that the emotional and psychological benefits of babywearing is linked to the continuing of the womb-like environment when babies are carried close. It's snug and warm with constant contact & movement. Babies cry less when carried on a regular basis, which means they are happier and give contented feedback to their mother, with quiet alert times. They sleep and eat better, and are overall more positive than babies that are not carried on a regular basis.

So, this leaves the mother feeling a sense of competence- and you know how good it is to feel like we're doing a good job as a Mom!

It's a lovely waltz... Mother & baby interact more as babies are worn close. There is good verbal and physical contact, and naturally Mom learns to recognize baby's needs better. It's a dance they learn together and more quickly through babywearing as the bonding process is enhanced.

Jen explained an interesting experiment with a group of mothers that had babies with baby carriers and a group without. The babywearing group was found to be more securely attached as mother & child, the mother's sensitivity was higher and those mothers appeared to experience more joy in parenting than the non-babywearing group.

Now, one important note that Jen expressed with her heart was- that because a Mother's need for support is so very necessary in feeling like she is doing a good job as a Mom- we mustn't ever criticize someone for not wearing their baby. We should never make another Mother feel less-than or that what she is doing is wrong. If it works for her, that is what is most important. These findings about the benefits of babywearing that Jen Norton was sharing is what has been found through her extensive research, and while I hope that every Mom could experience the bliss of babywearing that I've known in my own life, I can not expect every Mom to be just like me. I want the "every Mom" to be just who she needs to be.

It's hard to put into words sometimes, but it's true that the benefits from wearing your baby goes way beyond just the obvious convenience of having your hands free to do other things. There is plenty of enjoyment through babywearing without the need to have a reason to hold your child or need to get something done at the time. You are carrying the future... and sometimes that is just enough!

22 comments:

  1. I don't know if it's because he was my first baby, or that he and I are so alike, or that I'm somehow so intune with him...or maybe it was because I did keep him close to me (wearing him and holding him all of the time because he demanding me to do so) but there is a different type of bond with my first born than with my second.

    Don't get me wrong, I love my second as much as my first and we have a bond but there is something different. Again it could just be personalities. Zane is very much indepedent like his Daddy. Nicky is much more sensitive like me.

    Anyway I just rambled. lol I guess we'll see what happens this time as I plan to do more babywearing this time around than the last. When you don't have a demanding baby it can be much easier not to keep them close all of the time.

    It's easier to put them down while you to the laundry, clean up the house etc. But this time around I'm much more educated on babywearing, co sleeping and breastfeeding and plan to do things differently.

    Also hoping I run into a big pile of cash so I can stock up on super cute ring slings, pouches, wraps and mei tais! LOL

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  2. My Mom in law made me a beautiful ring sling to try with this little guy; I'm hoping it works for us. I think I used the snugli about 5 or 10 times with DD, and would much rather carry my little one close than in a big, bulky infant carrier. All the baby wearing moms I see look so content with their little ones in their slings!

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  3. You are the queen of babywearing. I do see the benefits babywearing has. I know Gray loved it and I am sure Ivy will too. Keep them as close to you as possible.

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  4. I have a post up today about babywearing that I would LOVE your input on!!!

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  5. Steph, I have a couple questions about the babywearing, with little babies. Please don't take this as if I'm being critical, because I don't mean to be. When my son was little, like a month, I tried wearing him in a front pack. Which he liked and I liked. But I found that it was hard to actually DO anything with him on- I work at a camp, and once I tried to bake with him in the front pack & couldn't see whether I was breaking the eggshells into the bowl or not. Is this just because of the front pack or was I doing something wrong? I have a backpack which he loves now, but he has to sit up in it, so he couldn't use it when he was really little. Also, my dr. told me that babies need to learn to sit by themselves when they're little, and yes, my cried at first when I put him down, but now everyone comments about how he plays by himself so well, which I feel is an important skill to cultivate. Have you had any problems teaching your babies to play on their own, or not? Again, not being critical, just curious and trying to draw from your experience.

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  6. Carrie- those are great questions. There are going to be many things you can't do with baby in the carrier- you need to do what is most comfortable for you, and of course safest for baby. As for independent play, because babywearing helps many areas of development, I sometimes credit it for the reason Gray sat up earlier, crawled sooner, and walked so much earlier than my other boys. I was often told he'd never learn to do those things on his own since I was always carrying him! But, of course I made sure to still give him tummy time and play time- and he did fantastic at that!

    Steph

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  7. I started using my "mommy pouch" with my third child (only girl) out of convenience, but found out for myself all the things you mentioned in the article.
    When my last child (a big boy) was born, I used it as long as possible, and I'm still sad that my body couldn't take the extra weight longer than I managed. I'm still thankful for the nine or ten months I got.
    Now that we're done with the babies, the one thing I miss most is grocery shopping with a little one strapped to me. There's nothing that could make that chore any better!

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  8. This was so good for me to read. I had such a hard time wearing my daughter because it hurt my back, and I just assumed that the only carriers out there were the ones the sold at target. It's not until I started blogging when she was 14 months that I realized how many options I had. If and when we expand our brood, I'm going to make a point of finding a way to wear that baby that is comfortable for me.

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  9. Amen! I love this post and have the same sentiments - I felt like a better mom when I was more in tune and able to understand my babies more.
    I have to tell you my favorite memory in babywearing (I'm pretty much past anything regular). Husband and I led worship at our church for years, each time we had a baby I would take about a month off, but as I was up to it would sing with him, baby in sling. It was usually naptime so after the first song or so, they would be off to sleep for the remainder of the set. Such precious times :) I sometimes worried that we would be distracting, but everyone in the service loved it and never heard a crying baby, at least from our family!
    I look forward for you being able to wear Ivy - she's so lucky!

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  10. Very interesting post. I just loved having my babies close, although it was hard to do it with twins.

    Thanks for your lovely comments on my blog. :)

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  11. While I love babywearing and definitely plan to do it more next time, I have to say I didn't find the fussy baby theory true. My lil guy was sooo demanding and fussy and would scream if I put him in a cradle carry. Of course I was new to babywearing too so it took us awhile to find a carrier he liked. Still he was held constantly, coslept with me and he was still very fussy and unhappy most of the time. We are very bonded and "attached" though so I hope that counts for something. :)

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  12. Okay Steph...
    I need help! I never did any babywearing with either of my first two babes, but I am sure that it will be enjoyable and necessary with the 3rd (especially since I will be chasing/playing with the others...) You may have written about this before, but if I am only going to get one to start with what should I buy? what is the best multi-purpose sling? what is the most comfortable? how about affordable?
    Thanks in advance!

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  13. Great post! Thanks for sharing that. The bit at the end really touched me. I think a lot of moms deal with guilt over what they are/are not doing with their little ones. I know, for me personally, I breastfed my son a week longer than I would have (he was losing weight a lot of weight) because I felt like everyone was telling me "breast is best." (Though in his case, it clearly wasn't.)

    I loved wearing my son around the house when he was smaller...him, not so much! He's always been a mover, and wanted to be on the ground playing. We've tried a few things--the baby carrier, a wrap, even some african kangas.

    Thanks for the reminder that we're all just moms trying to do the best we can!

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  14. I love wearing my little girl. I've never heard anyone say that they regret holding their child, so I'll do it for as long as we like!

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  15. this was a nice and informative post. i am really excited to start wearing my new baby. i did a little bit of it with my second, and still do at times, but not when she was really young. anyway. thanks for the info!

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  16. What a beautiful post, Steph. I love to wear my twins! And they love it, too. Only 31 more days? What kind of delivery do you plan on? Natural, medicated, C-section? Good luck this month!

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  17. I am so excited to wear this baby right away!

    Out of belly into sling.

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  18. Babywearing is so very awesome. I didn't wear my first in the same way as my second (baby bjorn vs. sling) and the sling just seems so much more natural and cozy. I still put him on my hip that way and we are good to go! : )

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  19. Oh, this is so very true. I wore my second a lot and loved every minute of it. I'm trying with my third, but haven't done it as much as I'd like. Perhaps I better go get that sling for when she wakes...

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  20. Re: not being critical of other mommies. I totally agree, but it's so hard not to offer advice because you care.

    I have a good, good friend who has a baby 3 months younger than mine. They are dealing with fine motor delays, etc, because they always put her in the infant car seat and bouncy seat. My heart hurts because I see how babywearing and other attachment parenting principles could help them.

    I am so thankful that God pointed me to some very wise parent/mentors. And that I have learned to trust my instinct in parenting. And wearing my baby (now toddler!) is what my gut has always said is right!

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  21. I didn't wear my daughter until she was 8 weeks old. If only I had known. If I get to have another one, I'll wear he/she from day one. I want to try a wrap! I treasure the time when I would put Kate in her sling and go for a walk around the block to get her to go to sleep. This post is beautiful. Could I use parts of it for the Peppermint newsletter/blog?

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