The Physical Benefits of Babywearing
Comfort, social and neurological development, and emotional well-being: these are among the many benefits to a baby worn in a carrier – but did you know that ergonomic babywearing also helps to benefit your child physically as well? From a physical perspective, babywearing has a number of benefits. Many babywearers are already familiar with oft-cited kangaroo care research, which shows that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster, but in fact babywearing benefits all babies physically, both preterm and term.
Dr. Bill and Martha Sears explain that babywearing helps babies to exercise their vestibular system, a system which utilizes parts of the inner ear to control the body’s sense of balance. According to Sears and Sears, this stimulation helps babies “breathe and grow better, regulates their physiology, and improves motor development.” Dr. Sears adds that babywearing has been shown to enhance visual and auditory alertness, and the closeness of interactions with the caregiver (as occurs during babywearing) has been shown to additionally promote healthy development optimal function of other physiological systems. That’s right – babywearing helps your baby’s balance and health get off to a great start!
Babywearing also allows for appropriate support of your child’s physiological positioning as he or she grows. Chiropractor Dr. Casses explains that babies are born with two so-called kyphotic curves in their spine – one at mid-back, and a second at the base of their spine. This appears as a C-shaped curve in the baby’s spine. As your little one develops strength in his neck and is able to begin to lift his head, the curve in the cervical spine begins to develop, followed by the curve in the lumbar spine later in development as the baby begins to crawl. This development enables an adult’s body to handle the stresses of gravity once he or she is walking in an upright position. It is important that the carrier being used adequately supports this healthy spine development, which means that babies should be placed in a position which supports the neck and back and ergonomically dissipates weight through the hips and legs in order to relieve pressure from the baby’s spine and hips as it develops. Wearing your baby in the proper positioning can actually help promote healthy spine development by supporting these phases as your baby gets stronger!
This position, which is demonstrated in Tula’s instructional videos for carrier, ring sling, and woven wrap, appears as a seated M-position, with knees higher than bottom, and weight supported throughout thighs and bottom, and resting in the hammock of the carrier, and with the spine adequately supported throughout. In this M-position, the carrier should not reach beyond baby’s knees, and your child should be able to dangle both knees freely down without any pressure on the insides of the calves. With any baby below 15 pounds, or any child not yet big enough for his or her legs to dangle freely at the knee, a ring sling or woven wrap is the perfect choice, or an infant insert must be used inside the ergonomic carrier.
These photos demonstrate optimal ergonomic positioning, with full support throughout the torso as developmentally appropriate, fabric supporting both the seat fully, and baby’s weight resting in the hammock of the carrier:A baby that is worn in an upright position or carried in a variety of positions during waking hours also has a reduced risk of plagiocephaly due to less time being spent on their backs. Chiropractor Dr. Jeanne Ohm explains that plagiocephaly, which is where portions of the baby’s head become flattened, is not only cosmetic, but can lead to neurological concerns for the infant. Carrying the child in an upright position can help to eliminate pressure on a small baby’s soft head.
It is worth noting that having a comfortable, ergonomic carrier is important for you, the caregiver, as well. Dr. Ohm adds that relaxin can remain in the mother’s system for months after birthing her baby. Relaxin, a hormone that is present throughout pregnancy, allows the ligaments in the pelvis to expand in order to open the birth canal for baby. Always, but especially while this hormone is present, it is important to be aware of what your body is telling you. Make sure that your carrier is adjusted comfortably and don’t be afraid to periodically reposition. Think of it as keeping yourself healthy so that you can be the best parent possible to your little one. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to carefully adjust the settings on your carrier or wear your woven wrap or ring sling spread widely across your, neck, and shoulders for optimal comfort. Here are some of our tips for getting the perfect fit in your Tula carrier:
From spine development to a sense of balance, the physical benefits of babywearing are many, so snuggle your little one close, knowing that you are giving your baby a head start on a strong, healthy body!
Cassiopeia Guthrie is Tula’s Project Superhero and Conductor of Awesome. She brings over a decade of experience in education and a background in publicity, event management, educator training, and non-profit program administration to Team Tula. Cassiopeia has a passion for mentorship and support and a heart for service, and has been involved in the babywearing community since the birth of her older son, where she enjoys giving back by volunteering as a babywearing educator. Cassiopeia believes strongly in supporting others in gaining the skills and confidence to be successful babywearers or educators, and is an optimist who believes in integrity, ownership, kindness, and action.