Updated January 2017
People have been wearing babies for centuries. We could learn a thing or two from our ancestors.
American women went away from babywearing a couple of generations ago when doctors preached that a baby who received too much love, touch, and attention would be “spoilt.”
Now we know better: babies desperately want to hear the sound of your voice and the beating of your heart. They also have a very good sense of smell; just the scent of mommy or daddy is enough to calm their nerves. In fact, one study showed that infants who were carried/worn during the day cried and fussed 43% less (overall) and 51% less in the evening hours (4 pm to midnight)1. Yes, please! Sign me up for that.
Babywearing is also a practical logistical solution: wearing your baby allows you to go about your day like a normal person.
In the early days (before your baby can sit unassisted), babywearing is the only practical way to do things like grocery shopping, where you really need your hands free to push a cart. Things like getting the mail, walking the dog, going through airport security and boarding a plane, doing housework, or navigating through a crowded street market becomes infinitely easier with a baby carrier.
Nay, downright enjoyable!
As with strollers, there is no one carrier that is perfect for every situation, so my advice is to decide how you will primarily use the carrier, then go from there. Meaning… will you use it for shorter periods of time, for doing things around the house, taking short walks around the neighborhood – OR – will you use it for longer periods of time, like going on long walks or hikes. Or both.
Speaking of lifestyle, excuse me while I grossly overgeneralize and stereotype people, but I really have noticed that there are two very different types of families out there: the walkers and the drivers.
The walker is a parent who lives in a city or walkable suburb. They walk to neighborhood parks and cafes and take public transportation sometimes (or a lot). Perhaps they also go hiking, visit street markets/festivals, and generally have more of a metropolitan lifestyle. These moms and dads greatly benefit from longer-term babywearing. (I just described all of my mommy friends in San Francisco.)
The driver is a parent who lives in the suburbs and rarely gets from A to B on foot. This parent mostly drives everywhere and his/her little one tends to spend most time away from home in her car seat or stroller. Perhaps this parent also has a long commute from work and doesn’t tend to leave the house again once she arrives home. These moms/dads will be just fine with a “small” baby carrier and probably won’t need/use one after 6 months or so. (I just described all of my mommy friends in Atlanta and Tampa.)
After living in both environments, I can tell you that the needs of these two groups are very different (sorry for overgeneralizing, but it’s kinda true). (Yes, I know you can fall somewhere in the middle, just humor me.)
1 Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial by Hunziker UA, Barr RG