Like many moms, Elena Lashmet of Lombard had a lovely stroller when her eldest daughter, Fiona, was an infant. Her husband even enjoyed pushing it. But something about the set up didn’t feel right to her.
“My baby was in me for nine months and then when she was in the stroller, I couldn’t see her and felt like I couldn’t even touch her,” she says.
The alternative Lashmet found was babywearing—the practice of‘wearing’ a baby in a cloth carrier. It’s an ancient custom that has been experiencing a rebirth in the United States.
Benefits of babywearing
Modern babywearing has its roots in attachment parenting, a philosophy that advocates a strong emotional bond between parent and baby. Proponents list a long number of other benefits, including less fussiness.
Linda Gilkerson, director of the Erikson Institute’s Fussy Baby Network, says that babywearing coincides with what is known about crying in early infancy."Holding, responding to them is helpful. From research, we know that you can reduce the overall amount of crying with increased holding.”
However, Gilkerson cautions that babywearing is not a cure-all for fussiness: it won’t prevent colic or the‘unsoothable’ crying of early infancy. She also points out a potential drawback:"Babies continuously held and fed may cry less but then have more night waking.” While that’s an acceptable trade-off for some families, it might not be for others.
Babywearing advocates also claim that babies who are worn learn more, because they are up at the parent’s level and have a better opportunity to observe the world around them.
Clarendon Hills mom Amy Gabriel first turned to babywearing to bond with her son, Quinn, but soon found herself wowed by the convenience factor."I could get stuff done around the house, go grocery shopping without having to lug around the big travel system.”
Picking out a carrier
Choosing a baby carrier takes a bit of research. Many moms try out a number of different carriers before they settle on what works best for them.
Carriers can also get pricey. Slings start at around $25 and can exceed $100, depending on the style and fabric. If your budget is limited, you can consider making your own. Christine Woodard, a mom from Aurora, sews her own ring slings for $15.
Once you have your carrier, learning to use it can be a challenge. Plenty of information is available online, but live, hands-on instruction is invaluable. Chicago retailer Be By Baby offers babywearing classes. Several babywearing groups exist in the area and your local La Leche League can also be a good resource.
Proper positioning is important, especially for newborns, preemies and babies with developmental delays.
Always make sure your carrier is well made and that baby is securely attached. Then relax, start walking and enjoy.
Baby carrier basics
Mothers have probably been wearing their babies for thousands of years, but the modern ring sling was first developed in the early 1980s. It was then popularized by Dr. William Sears in his parenting guide The Baby Book. Today, a seemingly infinite number of carrier styles and fabrics can be found, mostly online, but also in places like Be By Baby, a babywearing retailer located in Chicago’s Roscoe Village neighborhood.
Your choice will reflect not only your taste, but also your baby’s size, needs and preferences.
A loop of fabric with a set of adjustable rings. Be By Baby co-owner Courtney Baros says the ring sling is"more flexible and versatile for breastfeeding positions. But it has a longer learning curve” and is not a good choice for those who don’t like adjusting.
A tube of fabric, worn like a sash. Baros describes it as the easiest carrier to use. Because it is not bulky, you can keep it on and pop baby in and out as needed. However, since it is sized to fit the wearer, a pouch often cannot be shared by partners.
Essentially a long piece of fabric wrapped and tied around the body. Baros says this is the most versatile of all the baby carriers, but with the longest learning curve. Once the wrap is tied, many users leave it on and pop baby in and out. On the down side, wearing yards of fabric can get quite warm in the summer.
A square or rectangular panel with straps that wrap around and secures the baby to the wearer. Variants include the mei tai (Chinese), podegi (Korean) and onbuhimo (Japanese). With an Asian-style carrier, you can wear your baby in the front or back or on the side. It’s a good choice for older babies and for warm days, since air can flow through the sides.
Soft pack carriers
Based on the mei tai, but with buckles and clips. These often appeal to men. Babies can be worn on the front or the back, but generally facing the wearer. Many models require that baby have good head/neck control.
Danielle Logacho is a writer living in Lombard with her family.