Hidden Benefits of Babywearing
Benefits of Babywearing
Before I had my kid, I thought I would carry my baby out of convenience. I’m a small person who has difficulty managing strollers. If you were to watch me try and push a stroller through the door of a grocery store, you would pity me. To protect my ego and to help ease the transition into motherhood, I purchased a baby carrier. I did not plan on wearing my daughter every single day, even at home, but that’s exactly what happened.
I found that wearing my daughter keeps her calm, well rested, and makes me feel strong. It’s optimized flexibility and bonding since I wear here while I do…everything.
I had not done much research on the benefits of babywearing prior to having my daughter. It didn’t even occur to me that there were benefits outside the convenience of being hands free. I noticed one day while I was wearing her that our breathing had synced. It made me very curious about the hidden (or not so hidden!) benefits of babywearing.
Here we go!
I mentioned the importance of vestibular stimulation in a previous article related to infant sleep. The vestibular system is the first to develop in utero and it may be one of the most important sensory systems you have as it is connected to every muscle in your body, controls your sense of balance, your posture, your ability to learn, and your body and movement map. In the womb, the mother’s movements provide stimulation to the developing vestibular system. This stimulation helps develop the baby's nervous system. Once a baby is born, the new world of gravity and all the challenges it brings begin to stimulate the vestibular system further and shape the nervous system with the new movements the baby learns. This is one of the reasons infants love to be held, rocked, and moved around.
A healthy vestibular system is crucial to having a healthy body. The more we move, the more we stimulate our vestibular system, and the more nerve connections we make in our brain and our body. Research is showing that babies who have been given regular vestibular stimulation in the earliest years of life, display improved brain and body development.
However, infants can't move on their own. They are entirely dependent on their parent to move them around. If movement is vital to a baby's development, and babies can't move themselves, babywearing should be strongly encouraged to enhance and continue the development of this particular system. Placing your infant in a stroller or swing only provides one direction of movement. However, when a parent walks with a baby they stimulate the back and forth motion, when they sway with their baby they stimulate side-to-side balance, and when they bounce or sleep with their baby they stimulate the up and down motion.
Sleep culture tells us we need to train the need to be rocked, bounced, or walked out of our babies so they can fall asleep independent of us, but infants need this kind of stimulation to help their nervous systems develop.
Vestibular stimulation calms babies and helps them become more alert. Changing positions triggers the reticular formation, which controls alertness. The reticular formation helps adjust breathing and circulation. One study found that babies who were held more during the day were more alert and active during the day and night, but remained calm.
Benefits of baby wearing:
-No need for tummy time! Wearing your baby helps them develop the muscles needed to sit, stand, and walk. Vertical positioning helps your baby use his head to maintain balance by strengthening the neck muscles.
-More integrated movements.
-In traditional cultures, carried babies skip crawling and go right to walking. It's a myth that babies need to crawl before they walk.
-Close contact with a parent helps regulate your baby’s breathing, heart rate, and emotions.
-Reduces postpartum depression.
-Makes breastfeeding in public easier (and discreet).