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More and more frequently, parents can be seen with their babies tucked snugly into cloth carriers of various types in malls, on the street, and in the home. This mode of baby travel is steadily gaining popularity and for good reason: soft carriers have proven to be a simple, practical way to incorporate baby care into busy lifestyles.
Although baby wearing is an old concept, researchers in the past fifty years have confirmed the wisdom of this timeless practice. Studies have revealed that our children’s social, emotional, and physical development are all significantly affected by early exposure to motion and human contact.
Slowly, we are beginning to hear about the value of “attachment style” parenting, the “continuum concept,” and other parenting approaches which emphasize the importance of developing close and responsive ties with our babies. Even hospitals have become more baby- and relationship-friendly in the past decade, with rooming-in becoming the norm in most cases.
This focus on close contact and nurturing is in direct contrast to the oft repeated myth “you’ll spoil him if you pick him up,” which began more than 100 years ago and can still be heard today. Instead, the research has shown many benefits for babies receiving extensive physical contact by means of simply holding and carrying, or through the use of slings and other soft carriers.
A study at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons concluded that babies carried on their mother’s body in the first months of life showed significant increase in bonding and emotional health over babies carried in plastic infant seats. The study evaluated two groups for security after one year. One group had been given soft baby carriers and the other group had received plastic infant seats. A year later, the findings revealed that 83% of the babies carried in the cloth carriers were “securely attached,” compared to only 38% of those carried in the infant seats. In fact, the findings surprisingly revealed that baby wearing was more beneficial in respect to mother-infant bonding than breastfeeding alone.
Baby wearing as a parenting style usually refers to babies worn in slings or other types of soft carriers for a significant portion of the day. Besides the convenience for the wearer (usually Mom or Dad) and the most obvious effect of bonding, the benefits associated with regular baby wearing included: less crying and colic, enhanced learning and social development, and enhanced motor development.
It is easy to see how bonding and emotional security are facilitated by baby wearing. The closeness associated with using a sling allows for the development of an intimate connection between baby and wearer. As in all relationships, simply spending time close together and tuning in to one another can deepen the understanding and communication between two people. The same applies to baby wearing. Parents and babies who regularly practice baby wearing come to know each other very well. This is something baby wearing parents frequently comment on. The establishment of this connection becomes the basis for the formation of a strong relationship and results in other benefits as well. Most baby wearing fathers note that wearing their babies gives them a chance to feel more included in the care of their young children and they especially seem to enjoy the intimacy.
Parents who regularly wear their babies from birth on report that colic is often prevented and crying is minimized.