Written by Belinda Davies, Babywearing Brisbane.
I can't remember when I first heard the term "babywearing"? Maybe this is the first time you have heard about it and it is an entirely foreign concept, bringing to mind babies attached to various body parts or perhaps worn as a hat or scarf. Babywearing though is really very straightforward, it is simply the act of you carrying your baby in a carrier as opposed to in your arms.
I was first introduced to babywearing as a child, watching my dad carry my little sister around on bushwalks in a framed backpack. The backpack had a little stand on it and when we stopped to catch our breath he could have her just sitting in it. I also remember seeing my mother use a Nursing Mothers mei tai, for my four younger siblings, over a number of years. I was never interested though until my first baby came along (seventeen years ago!), and with the support of my mum went op-shopping for just the "right" carrier, which for me at the time was a very colourful Kapoochi front pack carrier. I loved it!
I then followed my parents example and have been a babywearer to all of my three children, using a variety if carriers. After my youngest daughter's birth, I had difficulty connecting with other babywearers in Brisbane so I went in search like-minded mothers at ABA meetings, and talked to them about their experiences. Eventually my passion drove me to form a mothers group dedicated to sharing babywearing experience so that I and others like me could learn about the huge variety of carriers and safe techniques, and in turn to spread the "good word" to other mums and dads.
Here I would like to share with you some of what I have learned, in the hopes that you too will find the perfect carrier for you, and know that it is one of the best tools you can use to ease your path as a new parent.
Types of carriers
From birth babies naturally want to be held close. As a parent this helps you bond with your child. If you babywear, you can achieve the same level of bonding but also allow yourself the time to do all the things you need to in your day, hands free.
Here is a basic list of some of the different types of carriers available in Australia (in no particular order):
- Mei Tai - One of the oldest types of "made" carriers, used in Asia for thousands of years, a great basic carrier.
- Soft Structure - Like a Mei Tai, only have buckles instead of tying, and often have pockets/zippers etc as well as a hood.
- Front Pack - Suited mainly to newborns, these carriers generally face outwards as well as inwards (For the pros and cons about these carriers, please read this article).
- Woven Wrap - Basically just a long piece of strong woven fabric that is tied around your body and the baby.
- Ring Sling - A piece of fabric worn over one shoulder and held in place with strong metal rings.
- Pouch Slings - Simply a tube of fabric with a curved seam, sized to the adult.
- Framed back pack - Found almost exclusively in camping stores, this carrier has an aluminum or metal frame with a fabric body, and is normally used while hiking.
- Kanga or selendang - Pieces of printed cloth often used by women from Africa and Indonesia respectively.
Keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive and there are numerous other baby carriers on the market. Much more information is available than what I can share in this article. If, like me, you feel the need to connect to other parents to discuss babywearing, I recommend you visit Babywearing Brisbane, an online support group that also offers women the opportunity to meet in real life and learn about different carriers and to get some hands-on assistance.
Choosing the right carrier
When you go to choose a baby carrier remember that safety is the first consideration in babywearing, followed by comfort. To assist you in ensuring that your babywearing is safe you should choose a carrier that enable you to follow the TICKS guidelines, a simple acronym meaning:
Tight - having the baby firmly against you, this prevents falls, enables you to follow some of the other guidelines such as chin off chest and straight back.
In view - enables you to monitor their comfort levels and ensure they maintain optimal and safe position.
Close enough to kiss - because if they are in view but down at your hips then you won't be able to maintain position or monitor their comfort, plus having them low can throw off your centre of gravity.
Keep chin off the chest - this is crucial to maintaining their airway and therefore their breathing, the guide is you should be able to fit at least a finger between the baby’s chin and chest.
Supported straight back - assures correct spinal development
Advice for first-time babywearers
- Safety is first, as with all accessories we choose for our children, wearing your baby needs to be done with safety in mind, so only buy you carrier from a baby store or an approved stockist of the brand you choose, as there are many fakes out there that may be a risk to your baby.
- Get the shop assistant to help you try it on in-store (they SHOULD be trained to do this, although many are not).
- Choose a carrier that is right for you and your family, whether your choice is a "popular" carrier or not.
- Get along to your local babywearing group. Babywearing Brisbane provides online support and real life get togethers, join us on FaceBook or email admin@babywearingbrisbane and we can hopefully link you with other parents in your area.