The Benefits of Babywearing

By Dr. William and Martha Sears
Posted with permission. 
Read more from the Sears family of physicians at AskDrSears.com

International Babywearing Symbol by Natural Mother Magazine


There's a problem here its become quite clear.
Got a 6-month-old Sling fanatic who is clearly an addict.
Wakes in the mid of night screams with horrific might.
So outa the bed I fling and don the medicinal Sling.
Over the head the tool I fit and in it, him I sit.
Instantly he begins to cooo tis amazing what the sling will do.
Which route should I pursue, when he's 20 what should I do?
I gotta wean him from the Sling I tell you, its an addictive thing!
~ Bondweign, Hanrath


I would like to introduce you to a style of parenting which will bring out the best in your baby and yourself. During my thirty years as a pediatrician, parents in our practice would often say, "As long as I carry my baby she's content." After years of watching a whole parade of babywearers we dubbed these thriving infants "sling babies." Many kids ago we noticed that the more we carried our babies the less they cried. With each baby, we began carrying them more and more. By the time baby number six, Mathew, entered the family we wanted to become more experienced at wearing our babies.

Because we noticed that cultures throughout the world carried their babies in homemade slings we began fabricating different styles of slings to carry Mathew. I remember one day when Martha fabricated a sling out of material from an old bed sheet and said, "I really enjoy wearing Mathew. The sling is like a piece of clothing. I put it on in the morning and take it off in the evening." Hence the term "babywearing" was born in the Sears household.

Since that time we have worn two more infants, Steven and Lauren, and over the past fifteen years have encouraged hundreds of parents in our pediatric practice to wear their babies, as well as promoted the art and science of babywearing in our many articles and books. Since 1985, when we began our personal study on the beneficial effects of babywearing on babies and their parents, we have logged many miles wearing our own babies and have continued to advise this style of parenting in our pediatric practice. At their baby's first check up, we show new parents how to wear their baby. During this personal course on babywearing, we advise parents to experiment with various training positions to find the one that is most comfortable and allows the baby to mold to the contour of the parent's body. I encourage parents in our practice to wear instead of wheel their babies.

Babywearing means changing your mindset of what babies are really like. New parents often envision babies as lying quietly in a crib, gazing passively at dangling mobiles and picked up and carried only to be fed and played with and then put down. You may think that "up" periods are just dutiful intervals to quiet you baby long enough to put him down again. Babywearing reverses this view. Carry your baby in a sling many hours a day, and then put her down for sleep times and tend to your personal needs.

I wore Mathew a lot during the first year of his life. We were buddies from birth. Mathew grew up associating the sling with a fun and exciting place to be. When I would mention the cue word "go", nine-month-old Mathew would crawl to where the baby sling was hanging (because in his developing mind was a flashback that "go" meant daddy would put Mathew in the sling) and we'd take an exciting walk together. These babywearing moments Mathew may never remember, but I shall never forget.

THE BENEFITS OF BABYWEARING

1. Sling babies cry less. Parents in my practice commonly report, "As long as I wear her, she's content!" Parents of fussy babies who try babywearing relate that their babies seem to forget to fuss. This is more than just my own impression. In 1986, a team of pediatricians in Montreal reported on a study of ninety-nine mother-infant pairs. The first group of parents were provided with a baby carrier and assigned to carry their babies for at least three extra hours a day. They were encouraged to carry their infants throughout the day, regardless of the state of the infant, not just in response to crying or fussing. In the control, or noncarried group, parents were not given any specific instructions about carrying. After six weeks, the infants who received supplemental carrying cried and fussed 43 percent less than the noncarried group.

Anthropologists who travel throughout the world studying infant-care practices in other cultures agree that infants in babywearing cultures cry much less. In Western culture we measure a baby's crying in hours, but in other cultures, crying is measured in minutes. We have been led to believe that it is "normal" for babies to cry a lot, but in other cultures this is not accepted as the norm. In these cultures, babies are normally "up" in arms and are put down only to sleep – next to the mother. When the parent must attend to her own needs, the baby is in someone else's arms.

2. Sling babies learn more. If infants spend less time crying and fussing, what do they do with the free time? They learn! Sling babies spend more time in the state of quiet alertness . This is the behavioral state in which an infant is most content and best able to interact with his environment. It may be called the optimal state of learning for a baby. Researchers have also reported that carried babies show enhanced visual and auditory alertness.

The behavioral state of quiet alertness also gives parents a better opportunity to interact with their baby. Notice how mother and baby position their faces in order to achieve this optimal visually interactive plane. The human face, especially in this position, is a potent stimulator for interpersonal bonding. In the kangaroo carry, baby has a 180-degree view of her environment and is able to scan her world. She learns to choose, picking out what she wishes to look at and shutting out what she doesn't. This ability to make choices enhances learning. A sling baby learns a lot in the arms of a busy caregiver.

3. Sling babies are more organized. It's easier to understand babywearing when you think of a baby's gestation as lasting eighteen months – nine months inside the womb and at least nine more months outside. The womb environment automatically regulates baby's systems. Birth temporarily disrupts this organization. The more quickly, however, baby gets outside help with organizing these systems, the more easily he adapts to the puzzle of life outside the womb. By extending the womb experience, the babywearing mother (and father) provides an external regulating system that balances the irregular and disorganized tendencies of the baby. Picture how these regulating systems work. Mother's rhythmic walk, for example, (which baby has been feeling for nine months) reminds baby of the womb experience. This familiar rhythm, imprinted on baby's mind in the womb, now reappears in the "outside womb" and calms baby. As baby places her ear against her mother's chest, mother's heartbeat, beautifully regular and familiar, reminds baby of the sounds of the womb. As another biological regulator, baby senses mother's rhythmic breathing while worn tummy- to-tummy, chest-to-chest. Simply stated, regular parental rhythms have a balancing effect on the infant's irregular rhythms. Babywearing "reminds" the baby of and continues the motion and balance he enjoyed in the womb.

[SLING TIP: The womb lasts eighteen months: Nine months inside mother, and nine months outside.]

What may happen if the baby spends most of his time lying horizontally in a crib, attended to only for feeding and comforting, and then again separated from mother? A newborn has an inherent urge to become organized, to fit into his or her new environment. If left to his own resources, without the regulating presence of the mother, the infant may develop disorganized patterns of behavior: colicky cries, jerky movements, disorganized self-rocking behaviors, anxious thumb sucking, irregular breathing, and disturbed sleep. The infant, who is forced to self-calm, wastes valuable energy he could have used to grow and develop.

While there is a variety of child-rearing theories, attachment researchers all agree on one thing: In order for a baby's emotional, intellectual, and physiological systems to function optimally, the continued presence of the mother, as during babywearing, is a necessary regulatory influence.

4. Sling babies get "humanized" earlier. Another reason that babywearing enhances learning is that baby is intimately involved in the caregiver's world. Baby sees what mother or father sees, hears what they hear, and in some ways feels what they feel. Carried babies become more aware of their parents' faces, walking rhythms, and scents. Baby becomes aware of, and learns from, all the subtle facial expressions, body language, voice inflections and tones, breathing patterns, and emotions of the caregiver. A parent will relate to the baby a lot more often, because baby is sitting right under her nose. Proximity increases interaction, and baby can constantly be learning how to be human. Carried babies are intimately involved in their parents' world because they participate in what mother and father are doing. A baby worn while a parent washes dishes, for example, hears, smells, sees, and experiences in depth the adult world. He is more exposed to and involved in what is going on around him. Baby learns much in the arms of a busy person.

5. Sling babies are smarter. Environmental experiences stimulate nerves to branch out and connect with other nerves, which helps the brain grow and develop. Babywearing helps the infant's developing brain make the right connections. Because baby is intimately involved in the mother and father's world, she is exposed to, and participates in, the environmental stimuli that mother selects and is protected from those stimuli that bombard or overload her developing nervous system. She so intimately participates in what mother is doing that her developing brain stores a myriad of experiences, called patterns of behavior. These experiences can be thought of as thousands of tiny short-run movies that are filed in the infant's neurological library to be rerun when baby is exposed to a similar situation that reminds her of the making of the original "movie." For example, mothers often tell me, "As soon as I pick up the sling and put it on, my baby lights up and raises his arms as if in anticipation that he will soon be in my arms and in my world."

I have noticed that sling babies seem more attentive, clicking into adult conversations as if they were part of it. Babywearing enhances speech development. Because baby is up at voice and eye level, he is more involved in conversations. He learns a valuable speech lesson – the ability to listen.

Normal ambient sounds, such as the noises of daily activities, may either have learning value for the infant or disturb him. If baby is alone, sounds may frighten him. If baby is worn, these sounds have learning value. The mother filters out what she perceives as unsuitable for the baby and gives the infant an "It's okay" feeling when he is exposed to unfamiliar sounds and experiences.

SAFE BABYWEARING

While you are getting used to wearing your baby, support him with your hands. As you go through the learning phase of moving and reacting, the urge to support your baby with your hands is instinctive. After you become a babywearing veteran, you can safely carry your baby in the sling with one or both hands free.

Wear baby cautiously in the kitchen. Do not wear baby while cooking or working with sharp or hot objects. Do not drink hot beverages when wearing baby, although wearing baby while eating is safe.

When wearing your baby and stooping over, bend at the knees, not at the waist, and hold baby in the sling with one hand. Toddlers, if worn are at your reaching level, can grab dangerous or breakable objects off shelves. Keep an arm's distance away from potential hazards.
When going through doorways or around corners, be careful that baby's body does not stick out past your arm and strike the wall or doorjamb. Do not ride a bicycle or other moving vehicle while wearing your baby. Baby carriers are not substitutes for an approved carseat.

FATHERS WEARING BABIES

As a father and certified babywearer, I feel that it's important that a baby get used to father's handling, too. Father has a different rhythm to his walk, a difference that baby learns to appreciate. The snuggle hold and neck nestle are favorite wearing positions for father.

THE NECK NESTLE.

Place the baby in the snuggle position and lift him up a bit until his head nestles into your neck and your neck and chin drape over baby's head. You will have found one of the most comforting and calming holding patterns. In the neck nestle dad has a slight edge over mom. Babies hear not only through their ears but also through the vibration of their skull bones. By placing baby's head against your voice box, in the front of your neck, and humming and singing to your baby, the slower, more easily felt vibrations of the lower-pitched male voice often lull baby right to sleep. As you rock and walk with your baby, sing a calming song such as "Old Man River."

Another attraction to the neck nestle is that baby feels the warming air from your nose on her scalp. (Experienced mothers have long known that sometimes just breathing onto baby's head or face will calm her. They call this "magic breath.") My babies have enjoyed the neck nestle more than any of the other holding patterns, and I have, too. Dads, become a shareholder in the family art of babywearing.

THE WARM FUZZY.

For a uniquely male variation of the snuggle hold, place baby's ear over your heart—bare skin to bare skin. The combination of the rhythm of your heartbeat and movement of your chest, plus the feel of abdominal breathing and the rhythm of your walk, introduce baby to the uniqueness of being worn by dad.

For a father to be comfortable wearing his baby and a baby to respond to dad's babywearing techniques are real bonuses for mothers of high-need babies. It helps prevent mother burnout.

Here is a common scenario a mother of a high-need baby recently shared with me:

"I love our new baby, but he is one of those high-need babies that needs to be worn constantly. He was wearing me down and I was burning out. My husband feels very insecure in calming fussy babies and for this reason I was reluctant to release our baby to him during those trying fussy times. The sling was the answer. After my husband got used to wearing our baby, and I saw that our baby liked it, I felt more comfortable releasing our baby to him. Initially, I would hover over my husband to make sure our baby would stop fussing, but as soon as he proved himself a competent babywearer I felt a sense of relief. Even though I wear our baby most of the time, just having my husband share this beautiful experience gives me a much-needed break."

My own experience is similar. I felt a real high the first time I put Stephen in the neck nestle and snuggled him securely against my chest for a walk. As we strolled together, I felt a sense of completeness. Sometimes I wear him for hours at a time. I feel right when we're together and not right (or complete) when we're apart. These are feelings usually reserved for the mother-infant pair. I wanted a piece of this babywearing action, too. The more I wore Stephen, the more comfortable we both became at trying different wearing positions. The more he liked it, the more I liked it, and the more we enjoyed being together.

TEENS WEARING BABIES

Teenage girls enjoy wearing babies, but this style of baby care is not easy to model to teenage boys. Here's how our fourteen year-old son, Peter, got hooked on wearing his two-month-old brother, Stephen.

Martha gave a talk on babywearing to a group of military wives at a local U.S. Marine base. To get their husbands to share more babycare, these wives asked us to make some slings in a camouflage pattern. We did. And the dads loved wearing their "baby Marines." Peter, who was into army things anyway, couldn't wait to put on the camouflage sling and wear his baby brother. It is necessary and important for boys to develop tenderness and paternal instincts, too. How heartwarming it was for me to see our son taking care of his little brother.

BABYWEARING BY BABYSITTERS

While infants enjoy being worn by their parents best, babies will adapt to substitute caregivers better if worn in the sling they are used to. "Home" to a tiny baby is in the sling. Brian, a toddler in our practice, calls his sling "my little house."

Parents of high-need babies often confide to us that they are afraid to leave the baby with anyone because no one else can comfort these special babies. High- need babies who are accustomed to being worn are more easily comforted by a babysitter who wears them. Barbara, a busy mom whose only hope of survival was to wear her high-need baby, relates this story. "Jason is so happy when he is in the sling that I feel comfortable briefly leaving him with a sitter. I transfer Jason to her while in the sling—sort of like the transfer of a baton in a relay race—and she takes over the wearing. He forgets to fuss, and I feel better knowing his routine is not disrupted."

BABYWEARING TO SLEEP

It's 9:00 p.m. and you're tired, but baby isn't. Nestle baby in the sling and stroll around the house until he falls asleep. This is what we call wearing down.

When you feel that baby is ready to go to sleep (or you are ready for her to go to sleep), wear her in the sling in the position that you have found to be least stimulating and most sleep inducing. Walk around the house. Try breastfeeding while moving. When your baby is in a state of deep sleep (recognized by a motionless face and limp limbs) lower yourself onto the bed until she is lying down and gently slip yourself and baby out of the sling. Wearing down is particularly useful for the reluctant napper.

BREASTFEEDING WHILE BABYWEARING

Babywearing allows breastfeeding on the move so that busy mothers can nurture
their babies with the best nutrition, yet continue their active lifestyles.

Babywearing is convenient. Breastfeeding while babywearing makes life easier for the mother of a marathon nurser, such as a baby who is going through a growth spurt. Breastfeeding while babywearing allows mother to be on the go and get things done around the house while meeting her infant's breastfeeding needs. It's convenient outside the house, too. If you are shopping with the baby and need to feed in public, private breastfeeding is very easy while wearing baby.

Because baby feels comfortable in the sling, he is content feeding there, even in a public place. Martha has spent many hours of babywearing and breastfeeding in the checkout line at the grocery store. Breastfeeding in the sling is especially convenient in restaurants and places where being a baby may not always be socially acceptable. Patrons in a restaurant would much prefer a discreetly breastfeeding baby to an annoying, screaming baby. Additionally, babies who are worn in public places tend to fuss less and are therefore more welcome —especially in a society that traditionally has not welcomed babies everywhere.

Babywearing organizes problem suckers . Some babies breastfeed better on the move, especially those problem suckers who need movement to organize their sucking. Tense babies (those with a suck problem called tonic bites) and back-archers often breastfeed much better in the sling because of the organizing effect babywearing has on their entire physiology. As the baby's whole body relaxes, so do the suck muscles. For babies who suck better on the move, first position baby in the sling in order to achieve proper latch-on, and then quickly begin walking.

Babywearing makes sibling care easier. Breastfeeding in the sling is especially valuable when there is a new baby and an older toddler. Feeding the newborn in the sling, gives mother two free hands and mobility to also attend to the toddler. As one mother said, "Breastfeeding our new baby in the sling gives me an extra pair of hands to play with and enjoy our toddler. This has done wonders to lessen sibling rivalry and allowed me to mother both children well."

Babywearing helps the slow-weight-gaining baby . In our practice, when a breastfeeding baby is showing a less- than-adequate weight gain and we have exhausted all possible reasons why, we have experienced amazing results by encouraging the mother to wear her baby several hours a day and breastfeed while doing so. Mothers report that babies feed more frequently and in a more relaxed way in the sling, and weight dramatically increases. This again proves what researchers have long known: Proximity to the mother encourages a baby to feed more frequently. In addition to this, it could be that the nearness of mother to baby enables and encourages mother to read and respond to baby's feeding cues more promptly. Also, because baby is always near the source of milk and comfort, he does not have to waste energy summoning mother; baby can use this energy to grow. For more see Babywearing Positions for Breastfeeding and Babywearing the Failure-to-Thrive Infant

WORK AND WEAR

Babywearing makes life easier for the busy mother. Mothers in other cultures have fabricated various sling-type carriers because it's necessary to carry their babies with them when they work or when they are on the go. Mothers in Western cultures are also on the go, they just "go" differently.

Besides mothering eight children, Martha is a lactation consultant and teaches breastfeeding classes. One day, just before a seminar, Mathew, who was then six-months-old, developed an ill-timed fussy period. Not wishing to cancel her class but more strongly not wanting to leave Mathew during a high-need period, Martha wore him in a sling while delivering a one-hour lecture to 150 pediatricians. After mother and baby finished "their" talk on the attachment style of parenting, one of the doctors came up to her and exclaimed, "What you did made more of an impression than what you said!"

Many mothers who have part-time jobs outside the home have been able to wear their babies at work. They call this "work and wear." Jobs such as selling real estate, shop keeping, demonstrating products, and housecleaning lend themselves well to babywearing. Janice, a mother whose business involves cleaning houses a few hours a day wears her baby in a sling while doing housework. A pediatrician friend wears her baby to the office. She often wears her baby during well-baby exams. Her office staff wears her baby if she is examining a patient who might have a contagious illness. Work and wear helped her and her new baby stay together, yet allowed her to continue working in her profession.

Catherine works in the office of a medical practice. Work and wear helped her and her new baby to stay together, yet allowed her to continue working. Imagine what Catherine's baby, Wesley, learns by "going to work" with his mother. When Mom answered the phone, Wesley answered the phone. When Mom talked to people, Wesley heard the conversation. When Mom was filing charts, Wesley was interested in, and observed, what she was doing. When Mom was typing, Wesley saw and heard the typing. He was intimately part of the action, and the action must have been a valuable learning experience for him.

Some employers are initially reluctant to allow mothers to wear their babies to work, but we encourage them to give it a fair trial. Employers often find that babywearing mothers actually do a more productive job, since they so appreciate being given the opportunity to keep their babies with them. They make an extra effort to prove that they can do two jobs at once. One employer even found the baby to be an added attraction for his customers, as if they sensed that a centuries-old custom of working and wearing was being practiced in his store. Their customers felt that something right was going on. Try it and see!

BABYWEARING WHILE TRAVELING

Wearing your baby in a sling provides a safe, protective environment for baby when you are shopping or traveling in crowds. Walking through an airport with a toddler in toe is nerve-racking when you consider what could happen if you let go of his hand even for a moment (or take your hand off his stroller and get distracted). Between the ages of one and two, when the infant begins to walk, dart out from your protective arms, and explore the environment, babywearing keeps the toddler close to your side in any situation where a free-roaming toddler may not be safe. Have you ever noticed that a walking toddler's face is at the exact level that people hold their lit cigarette? Busy shoppers or travelers often don't watch out for little people. Bring your baby or toddler up to a safe level and relax—he won't go anywhere without you.

With babywearing, transitioning (changing environments or going from wakefulness to sleep) is easier. While you are standing in line at the airport, a worn baby is safe, secure, and happy. If your baby fusses a bit on an airplane, wear her and walk around the plane so that she is attracted by the visual stimulation of the environment. When baby is ready to go off to sleep in a hotel room, wear her down in the sling until she falls asleep and then slip out of the sling and put the baby on the bed. Home to a baby is where mother and father are, and the sling is a constant reminder of baby's "home." It makes adaptation to new environments easier and travel more pleasant for the whole family.

Here are some other uses for the sling while traveling:As a pillow. For breastfeeding or just for laying baby across your lap, a folded-up baby sling makes a comfortable pillow. Fold the sling the way it came in the package, and you have a useful pillow.

As a changing pad.

Place the sling on the floor or on a changing table (don't leave baby unattended on a table), place baby's head on the shoulder pad of the pillow, and presto! You have a comfortable diaper-changing surface. During changing, place a clean diaper under baby to protect the sling.

As a cover.

The baby sling makes a convenient cover during travel for napping, discreet nursing, and warmth.

For car travel.

In the early months the padded railing of the sling can be placed around the head of a tiny infant for stabilization during car travel We would wear out our baby from home to car, bend over the carseat and position baby securely in the carseat, using the sling as a head support. When arriving at our destination, we would lift the sleeping baby out of the carseat and put baby on. This maneuver usually requires two persons. The wearer holds the sleeping baby in the sling pouch while another person lifts the rest of the sling over the wearer's head.

While eating out.

How often have you said, "I'd love to go, but I've just had a baby." Some mothers go stir-crazy after a few months. There is nothing in the mother-baby contract that says you have to stay home and become a recluse after you have a baby. But a new mother is usually not ready to leave her baby to go out. Babywearing allows you to "have your baby and take her with you."

Formal wear.

When our son Stephen was two-months-old, we were invited to a black-tie formal affair. Rather than decline the invitation, as new parents usually do, we wore Stephen in a fashionable sling, and we all had a great time. With a few breastfeeding snacks, Stephen nestled peacefully in the sling during the three- and-a-half-hour affair. Stephen was not a disturbance, but he was often the center of attention. Onlookers initially had that puzzled expression, as if wondering, "What is that she's wearing?" The puzzlement soon turned to admiration: "Why it's a baby, how cute!" By the end of the evening, as the guests noticed how content we were with our babywearing arrangement, there was an air of acceptance throughout the room. Babywearing had achieved not only social approval but also social admiration.

Here's another scenario: Shortly after the birth of a baby, dad says, "Honey, how about a date? Let's go out to dinner." Mom replies, "But we can't leave our baby." The answer to this dilemma? Babywearing. Babies are quiet in restaurants when worn in a sling. They seldom cry and are usually seen and not heard. Babies can breastfeed discreetly and are rarely disruptive to restaurant patrons.

BABYWEARING BY SIBLINGS

When we adults wear babies, we model for our other children that big people carry little people. Children and grandchildren are more likely to adopt the style of parenting that they received or witnessed when young. For example, our own children have sometimes "worn" their dolls in homemade baby slings because they have witnessed us wearing a new infant so often. The effect of role modeling on children's views of the mother-infant relationship was brought home to us one day when our then six-year-old daughter, Hayden, was asked by her teacher to draw a mother and baby. She drew the two as essentially one person. She recognized that, at least in the early months, mothers wear babies, and the two are inseparable.

BABYWEARING THE PREMATURE INFANT

A premature baby, especially one with medical problems needing weeks or months of intensive care, is deprived of those final weeks or months in the womb. Instead, baby must grow in an outside womb. The problem is that outside wombs are static. They don't move. Research has shown that a premature baby whose "womb" moves gains weight faster and has fewer stop-breathing (apnea) episodes. Specialists in newborn care have fabricated a variety of moving wombs, such as oscillating waterbeds.

A group of newborn-care specialists in South America made an ingenious discovery. Some hospitals could not afford incubators and all the technology needed to care for prematures. They were forced to use the mother. These preemies were wrapped around their mothers in a sling like wrap, a custom called "packing." To everyone's amazement, the babies thrived as well as, or even better than, the technologically cared-for babies.

The researchers concluded that the close proximity to mother helped the babies thrive. Being close to mother entices baby to feed more frequently. Mother's warmth kept the baby warm; mother's movement calmed the baby, enabling the baby to divert energy from crying to growing. Mother's breathing movements stimulated baby's breathing, so that these babies had fewer stop-breathing episodes. Mother acted as sort of a respiratory pacemaker for baby's breathing.
As soon as a premature baby no longer needs oxygen and intravenous therapy and enters the growing phase, we encourage mothers to wear their babies as much as possible, a practice called "kangaroo care" .

BABYWEARING HANDICAPPED INFANTS

Parents often spend more time and money on infant stimulation techniques and better-baby classes when the best stimulation available at the lowest possible cost is right in front of them—babywearing. The handicapped baby especially profits from being worn. Picture the stimulation baby gets: He hears what you hear, sees what you see, moves like you move, because he is near your eyes, ears, and mouth. Baby is in constant touch. Babies with cerebral palsy who arch and stiffen are greatly helped by babywearing. The contoured, bent position of the cradle hold and kangaroo carry competes with baby's tendency to arch backward, and lessens this annoying back- diving posturing.

BABYWEARING FAILURE-TO-THRIVE INFANTS

The infant who fails to thrive also benefits from babywearing. Some babies, for a variety of medical reasons, are very slow to gain weight, the condition called "failure to thrive". In our pediatric practice, and for one of our own babies, we have used babywearing as a therapeutic tool to stimulate thriving. My doctor's orders to parents are very simple: "Put your baby on in the morning and take him off at night. Wear him down for naps and to sleep. Wear him when you go out and about the house. Take long relaxing walks while wearing your baby. This will help both of you thrive."

How does babywearing help babies thrive? Motion does good things for growing babies. It has a calming effect on infants. They cry less and therefore divert the energy they would have wasted on crying into growing. Also, proximity increases feeding frequency, another reason that babywearing stimulates growth. Frequent feedings are a potent stimulus for growth. Perhaps babywearing promotes growth hormones and body enzymes that enhance growth. This has been shown to be true in experimental animals. I believe that in addition to these growth- promoting effects babywearing helps babies thrive because of the organizing effect on baby. The baby's overall biological system seems to work better when she is worn.


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