Lots of babycare fads come and go, but there's one mode of care that will never go out of style"”holding a baby in your arms. Whether it's to soothe her or keep her out of harm's way, almost nothing can be as wonderful as cuddling up to a rosy-cheeked infant.
For babies, the benefits of being held or carried extend far beyond the obvious. That's why so many experts in the field of infant development recommend "babywearing""”keeping a baby close to one's body for long periods of time"”as one of the best ways to promote infant health.
What are some of the benefits of babywearing? According to information on the website of Dr. William Sears, nationally renowned pediatrician and author, "The womb environment automatically regulates baby's systems. Birth temporarily disrupts this organization." Babywearing extends the womb experience, giving the baby an opportunity to adjust over time to life in his new environment. As Dr. Sears explains, babywearing provides "an external regulating system that balances the irregular and disorganized tendencies of the baby."
Other researchers have discovered that a special kind of babywearing, called "kangaroo care," dramatically improves the health and growth rate of premature infants. In kangaroo care, preemies are worn skin-to-skin on their mother or father for extended periods of time each day. The skin-to-skin contact has been shown to stabilize premature infants' heart rates and breathing, allowing them to develop faster than babies not given kangaroo care.
And back to one of the obvious benefits of babywearing for infants"”being carried close to a parent or other care provider reduces a baby's overall fussiness. One randomized, controlled study published in the journal Pediatrics demonstrated that babywearing reduced infant crying and fussiness by as much as 43%.
But what do parents have to say about babywearing? Winona resident Chris Livingston, who owns and operates The Book Shelf, sometimes uses a baby front pack when he is working at the store with his three month old son, Nolan. "Nolan prefers to be held. Being able to put him in the front pack allows me to work on the computer and check out customers," he says. "The key is both hands are free."
Livingston says that he and his wife, Mari, use the front pack most often when they are out shopping. He points out that being in the front pack close to his mother or father's chest keeps Nolan calm and reassured. "The walking movement puts him to sleep, like being back in the womb. It keeps him asleep and protected from crowd noises."
The bottom line on babywearing? With benefits for both babies and parents, it is definitely worth exploring.
Tips for Babywearing
Slings and front packs are the two most common babywearing devices in the United States. Both come in a variety of sizes and styles. Which will work best for you will depend on personal preference"”yours and your baby's. When trying a sling or a front pack, be patient as you learn how to maneuver your baby in and out. Doing so can be awkward at first, but with practice you will become an expert.
Both slings and front packs are available locally. Baby Connections will give a free infant sling (regularly a $30-$40 value) to families who have a "Welcome Baby! Visit". The Wee Ones, 126 East 3rd Street, carries a variety of gently used front packs. Target carries front packs ranging in price from $14.99 to $89.99. La Leche League of Winona is having a garage sale of baby and pregnancy-related items on Saturday, November 22 at the First Congregational Church, 161 West Broadway. Slings and front packs are also available at a variety of on-line stores. You can also make your own sling. For more information on resources, call Baby Connections at 507-494-0812. Dr. William Sears' website is www.askdrsears.com).