Baby Wearing: The Art and Science of Carrying Your Baby – Part Three
After the first few months, twins are usually too heavy to carry one in each arm. Baby wearing is the solution. Either wear one baby in the baby sling while holding the other in your arms (safer than two babies in arms in case you trip) or have two slings — one for each baby and parent. Besides being convenient for parents, twin wearing allows interaction between babies. As the parents are relating, so are the babies, because they are face-to-face rather than behind each other in a stroller.
Baby Wearing for Medical Benefits
Premature babies. 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 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 water beds.
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 the preemies. 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 to thrive. Being close to mother enticed babies to feed 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, mothers are encouraged to wear their babies as much as possible., the practice called kangaroo care.
Failure-to-thrive babies. The infant who fails to thrive also benefits from baby wearing. Some babies, for a variety of medical reasons, are very slow to gain weight, the condition called failure to thrive. In some pediatric practices, baby wearing has been used as a therapeutic tool to stimulate thriving. Doctor’s orders to the 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 to thrive.”
How does baby wearing 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 baby wearing stimulates growth. Frequent feedings are a potent stimulus for growth. Perhaps baby wearing promotes growth hormones and body enzymes that enhance growth. This has been shown to be true in experimental animals. It is believed that in addition to these growth-promoting effects baby wearing helps babies thrive because of the organizing effect on the baby. The baby’s overall biological system seems to work better when she is worn.
The handicapped baby. Parents often spend much 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 — baby wearing. 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 eye, ears, and mouth. Baby is in constant touch.
Cerebral palsy babies who arch and stiffen are greatly helped by baby wearing. 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. (See Baby Wearing Enhances Learning to follow.)
How Baby Wearing Benefits Infants and Parents
During a study of the effects of baby wearing on infants and parents, many benefits were noticed. Here’s how this age-old custom of infant care brings some of them about.
Baby Wearing Organizes and Regulates the Baby
It’s easier to understand baby wearing when you think of a baby’s gestation as lasting eighteen month — nine months inside the womb and at least nine more months outside. During the first nine months the womb environment regulates baby’s systems automatically. 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 baby wearing mother (and father) provide 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. Mother’s heartbeat, beautifully regular and familiar, reminds baby of the sounds of the womb as baby places her ear against her mother’s chest. As another biological regulator, baby senses mother’s rhythmic breathing while worm tummy to tummy, chest to chest. Simply stated, regular parental rhythms have a balancing effect on the infant’s irregular rhythms. baby discount store