While baby wearing may sound like the latest trend, it’s actually an age-old tradition practised by mothers around the world.
At its most fundamental, carrying your baby as close to you as possible allows you to keep her safe and happy while giving you the chance to go places or do things, such as grocery shopping, without hauling around a heavy car seat or pushing a stroller.
Besides the convenience of having your hands free, “the calming movements of rocking and swaying while walking, which are similar to those experienced in the womb, are soothing for your baby”, says occupational therapist and co-author of Baby Sense, Meg Faure. Compared to many other cultures, the Western tendency to push our babies in prams means that they spend a lot of time away from the comfort of our bodies, she explains.
Research has shown that baby wearing keeps babies calmer for longer, and that this, combined with skin-to-skin contact, will help to stabilise your baby’s heart rate, regulate her breathing and lead to better overall sleep patterns.
What to choose
Carrier, wrap or sling? It all depends on your lifestyle, says Lerissa Kemp, mother and creator of Lyssa Love, a small company that specialises in custom-made wraps and baby carriers.
Wraps made with stretchy fabric are most suitable for newborns and small babies up to 10kg, while slings or pouches with rings are fine for babies and toddlers, but better for shorter trips as most of the baby’s weight is on the parent’s shoulder, says Lerissa. If you’re a fan of wraps, consider one that is woven from lightweight fabric. Wraps are versatile and can be used to carry your baby from birth to toddlerhood. However, they take a while to master as they consist of a lot of fabric. If you’re a beginner, consider watching an instructional video on YouTube before purchasing one, Lerissa advises.
The latest Mei Tai Baby carriers are great too, because they’re made of strong fabric and are suitable for babies and toddlers up to 18kg. Furthermore, they can be worn to the front and on the back or hip.
Regardless of which type of wrap, sling or carrier you choose, it needs to be practical and easy to use. It must also distribute your baby’s weight evenly and be safe, so it’s important to consider a product made of breathable fabric and with holes or openings, adds Lerissa.
Baby wearing safety notes
Although there are many advantages to using slings or carriers, mother and bestselling author of the What to Expect series, Heidi Murkoff, highlights the following considerations:
Overheating. Babies can overheat in carriers, particularly if they are made from heavy fabric. This is because your body heat raises your little one’s core body temperature. To avoid overheating, dress your baby in cooler clothing, don’t cover her legs, feet or head, and check her frequently to ensure she isn’t sweating.
Understimulation. Although this isn’t a major problem in the first few weeks of life, if you intend to use a baby carrier for your child’s first year, make sure she’s not cooped up in one for too long. Carriers limit a baby’s visual perspective to your back or chest, so she won’t have the opportunity to really see the world, says Heidi. In this instance, interchangeable carriers are a better option as they allow your baby to face in for a nap, and out while you’re shopping or going for a walk.
Risk of injury. “Securing your baby in a sling or carrier may sound like a good idea if you want to go for a brisk walk or jog, but bear in mind that a young infant’s neck isn’t strong enough to support her head when she’s jiggled about,” warns Heidi. Because the bouncing can be risky, use a stroller when you’re exercising with your baby.
5 baby carriers we love
Noonoo pie Tie Wrap, R449 – R469, noonoopie.co.za
Our verdict: If you like the idea of a wrap but feel intimidated by having to tie it, this comfy, cotton wrap is easy to use thanks to a few simple instructions. Your baby’s weight is also spread evenly over your back and shoulders.
African Baby Carrier, from R600 – R720, africanbabycarrier.co.za and Kids Emporium
Our verdict: If you’re planning to take your little one for long beach walks or hikes, this traditional carrier is ideal. It’s made with denim and shweshwe lining and has hip and shoulder padding. Upgrade to the deluxe version and you’ll have an extra shoulder bag and pouch for your phone and keys. It’s safe to use from four months to three years, or about 20kg, making it a real investment.
Ryco 4-in-1 Baby Carrier, R699.90, Babies R Us
Our verdict: The best thing about this carrier is that it can be worn in four ways and opens flat to easily remove a sleeping baby. It offers great support for your baby’s neck and head, and can be used from birth to 18 months.
SnuggleRoo Baby Carrier, R550, Baby City, Baby Boom, Toys R Us, takealot.com and loot.co.za
Our verdict: This soft cotton carrier that slips on is easily adjustable for the perfect fit every time. It looks like a wrap, is soft and comfortable like a wrap, but there’s no complicated wrapping involved. Suitable for babies from birth to 12 months.
Sunshine Baby Carrier, R795, podbabycarriers.com
Our verdict: The Sunshine baby carrier gives you comfort, cuddles and hands free to get on with the day to day business of being a mom. This is the baby carrier that grows with your baby. It is suitable from 3.5 kg’s to 2 years with its revolutionary draw string seat adjuster enabling you to use this carrier from day one.