Babywearing myths

Updated: Jul 2, 2021


This article was first published in the Natural Parent Magazine, 10th Anniversary Edition, Issue 40, Spring 2020.


This beautiful artwork is called "I carried you like that" by Gioia Albano via Artmajeur and is here with permission.


In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Natural Parenting Magazine, we have gathered ten of the most common myths surrounding babywearing and busted them for you with some suggestions to manage these concerns. Every baby and wearer dyad is different, and these ideas may not remedy all difficulties and situations, in which case please seek support from a babywearing library, meet, consultant or family to help you troubleshoot.


Myth 1: Babywearing is too hot

Babywearing can be hot. Wearing chest to chest is the warmest position and the one in which many newborns will be carried. It can be worrying for new carers that the baby is overheating. The truth is that being close to a carer supports the baby’s physiology to manage their heat, meaning the carer is dispersing the heat of two bodies. The carer feeling warm and sweating helps cool the baby. It is worth considering how hot it is for a child in alternatives such as pram or car seat, without the bonus of the carer’s cooling system.


Select a carrier of a thin and natural fabric that promotes heat exchange and if appropriate, wear the baby in a hip or back carry. Dress in light, natural clothing, with the ability to remove layers such as socks and head coverings (the carrier is considered a layer of clothing for the baby). Drink plenty of water, sit in the shade or near a fan if you need, and a cool flannel on your body – not on the baby – can also help.


Myth 2: That looks like hard work - you’ve got your hands full!

Babywearing means your hands are empty and the carrier does the work, setting your upper limbs free. You can do so many things with your child in a carrier, including hold the hand of another special person, eat, drink, write, type, and generally get things done (yes, even clean the house if that’s a priority).


Myth 3: Babywearing will hurt your back and neck

It is true that a poorly fitted carrier can cause discomfort. As a physiotherapist, this one of the primary motivations to learn more about babywearing – to reduce discomfort and improve daily life for carers with carriers that hurt.


Considering the fatigue, posture, and constraints of holding a babe-in-arms for prolonged periods, a well-fitted and appropriately sized carrier makes it a dream to wear your baby. With support in all the right spots and weight distributed across your body, plus a bit of postural adjustment as needed, the carrier does all the work. And when the carrier does all the work, there is less work for your body to do and less risk of injury.


Myth 4: Babywearing will spoil the child and make them clingy

In short, a baby cannot be spoilt or held too much. The neurological, physical, emotional, mental, social, developmental benefits for a baby being held close to a carer are enormous and all carers can be reassured that endless cuddles with their baby are doing everyone good! (1)


Holding your baby provides them with a safe place, where they can seek solace from the exciting, overwhelming, and busy world beyond. Knowing this safe place exists supports your child’s attachment to their carer and this sense of security encourages them to develop into an independent, resilient, and compassionate human being. (2)


All carers and children are different and in everything parenting, what works one day may not work the next. As with any relationship, listen to your child and yourself and wear your baby as much and as often as you both enjoy it.


Myth 5: Babywearing creates bad sleeping habits

Napping in a carrier has sometimes been given a bad rap and labelled junk sleep, when babywearing may help your baby’s sleep pattern. Wearing a child during the day can help calibrate their circadian clock. Day naps in the carrier, surrounded by noise, light and activity, contrast to night sleeps in a quiet, dark room. This helps the child to differentiate between day and night and aids regulation of healthy sleep. (3)


Additionally, babywearing helps families meet the needs of all members. Many carers choose to manage their daily rhythm with babywearing, rather than being constrained to the home because the baby is sleeping. This is especially true for families with subsequent children, where older siblings need to go to school or other activities.


Myth 6: Babywearing is dangerous

It is safe to wear your baby in an appropriate carrier in an optimal, supported, upright position, fitted according to the Babywearing Practice SAFE acronym:

· Secure – baby is securely attached to the carer’s body

· Airways – baby is upright, head is neutral, mouth and nose are unobstructed, chin is off chest

· Firm – baby is firmly held in the carrier, with no gaps between baby and carer’s body or carrier

· Eyeline – baby is in view and you can see them easily

Please seek help if you have any queries or concerns about the safety of your carrier.


Myth 7: Babywearing is exclusive – too hard, too judgemental, too expensive

Babywearing, like all new skills, takes time and support to get right. Libraries, meets, consultants, and other babywearing families would be delighted to help you find the joy of babywearing.


Babywearing need not be expensive, you can borrow from a library, be gifted one from a friend or purchase a second-hand carrier in good condition. It is easy to fall down the rabbit warren of babywearing options and many parents do find that they end up with a large selection of carriers for many reasons.


Babywearing is inclusive of everyone in a child’s life and a wonderful way for a special person to bond with the child. Fathers, mothers, siblings, aunties, uncles, grandparents, godparents - babywearing snuggles are for everyone, regardless of parenting philosophy or walk of life.


Myth 8: My baby doesn’t like to be carried

An unsettled baby in first attempts at babywearing can be very distressing for a would-be wearer. There are many reasons that babies appear to not enjoy being carried. It is worth checking these possibilities and trying again another time, with help if needed.


The baby could be hungry, tired, have a dirty nappy (or need to go to the toilet if you are following elimination communication), or just letting you know they aren’t happy about coming up or something else. Check for uncomfortable clothing and accessories – maybe the baby’s toes are squished in a onesie, or a piece of jewellery is digging in. If you are stressed or feeling uncomfortable, then the baby could be picking up on this and feeling distressed too. Sometimes the carrier itself wasn’t comfortable for the child, due to fitting, sizing, position or adjustment and another carrier might be a completely different story for you and your child.


Myth 9: My baby is too big or too old to be carried

One of the main reasons parents start babywearing in the first place is help to carry a newborn, who then grows into a heavy baby and heavier toddler. Even with a toddler, there are times when babywearing holds its own – climbing gorges, long walks, feeling unwell, needing snuggles, wanting to be up… There are many reasons that little legs need a rest and happily there are many babywearing options that cater to older and bigger children. A piggyback or shoulder ride can be made more comfortable for both parties with a carrier designed for older children.


Myth 10: There are no cultural considerations for babywearing

Communities worldwide have developed their own ways of holding their children close and supporting them to thrive. For many cultures, the connection with this practice has not wavered, while in the Western world, cultural shifts have seen a disconnect, with a recent resurgence in this time-honoured parenting tool. (4)


There are many cultural considerations for babywearing and many ways to demonstrate awareness. We ought to make ourselves aware of the history and origins of babywearing, by reading and speaking with others, especially those from other cultures. Respect is conveyed with use of the culturally appropriate name for carriers, such as meh dai, onbuhimo, podaegi, rebozo, cwtch and many more. It is imperative to recognise whether (or not) we have the cultural knowledge and experience that come from generations of families carrying their babies and passing this onto the next. Importantly, support for movements such as Black Babywearing Week, raises the profile and history of babywearing amongst diverse communities. (5)


Myths busted!

There are so many ways and reasons to carry your baby. Please don’t give up if the first carrier you try does not work for you and your family. Babywearing is a parenting tool that every family can benefit from. You can read more in the suite of articles full of babywearing tips found at www.babywearingpractice.com.au


Kato x


References:

1. www.carryingmatters.co.uk

2. www.circleofsecurityinternational.com

3. www.possumsonline.com

4. Beloved Burden – Babywearing around the world (2011). Ed. I.C. van Hout.

5. www.blackbabywearingweek.org

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