Isn’t it amazing how you automatically grow an extra set of arms when you have a baby? Oh wait, that’s not a thing? Damn. This is one of the major babywearing benefits–you don’t have extra arms, but your newborn doesn’t require your arms all the time!
Otherwise, when a baby enters the scene, you’re left with nothing more than two arms and a plethora of baby-related “stuff” that you’re stuck carrying around from one place to another.
How do you hold a baby and do the dishes, or eat your food? (Warning, babywearing may lead to occasional spaghetti on your newborn’s head. Trust us–it’s better than not eating!)
Since none of us can morph into an octopus, we’re so thankful that babywearing provides a way to actually get things done while also spending time with a little one on your chest (but not in your arms.)
This simple concept involves carrying your child on your chest or back using different devices instead of lugging around a car seat carrier or carrying your babe in arms.
What is Baby Wearing?
Simply put, baby wearing is the act of carrying your baby against your chest or back using some sort of wrap, sling, or carrier.
While many mommy trendsetters of the 21st century might choose to believe they put baby wearing on the map, this is far from the truth.
Examples of baby wearing can be seen in artwork and historical findings throughout history. Whether it’s Ancient Egyptians depicting mothers with baby carriers, or a 14th-century art fresco in Italy that conveys Mary wearing the Baby Jesus in a sling, evidence shows that baby wearing has existed since the early ages.
In Western Culture, however, baby wearing didn’t make its big debut until around the 1960s. An American woman invented the Snugli baby carrier after seeing African women wearing their children in slings during her time with the Peace Corps.
Since then, baby wearing continues to evolve and has become a popular option for many new parents throughout the world.
The Top 7 Benefits of Baby Wearing
Before I had my own children, I was always intrigued by the idea of baby wearing.
I knew it was something I wanted to try and was excited about the opportunity after my first daughter was born.
While I’d seen baby wearing take over Facebook photos and Instagram feeds, I was surprised to learn that there are several different baby wearing benefits many moms might not even be aware of, including:
1. You Can Free Up Your Hands for Other Things
Whether it’s grocery shopping, cleaning your house, or pouring a glass of wine and reading a good book, baby wearing provides a more hands-free approach to parenting. You can continue with your chores and activities while knowing your baby is right there with you.
2. It Makes Going Places Simpler
Traveling and going out-and-about with your baby is not always simple. With a baby wearing device, however, you can freely move, without the burden of bulky strollers and car seat carriers.
3. It Comforts Babies
Whether it’s the gentle rocking of your movements or the calming beat of your heart, baby wearing tends to comfort our little ones. In fact, scientific studies have shown that babies who are often worn typically cry less. Score for moms everywhere!
4. People Are Less Likely to Touch Your Baby
In our COVID-laden lives, reducing the number of people trying to touch your baby is essential. Thankfully, one of our favorite baby wearing benefits is that it can help dissuade others from giving them a friendly pat or kiss.
It’s not as easy, or socially acceptable, for someone to gravitate towards your chest to get closer to the baby.
5. You’ll Have a Smaller Risk of Developing Postpartum Depression
Research has shown us that skin-to-skin contact with baby can help elevate a new mom’s emotional state after birth. It can also help prevent painstaking social isolation by giving moms more freedom to enjoy their normal activities.
6. It Counts as Tummy Time
If you’re about to become a mother or father for the first time, let me clue you in on a little secret – tummy time sucks! Most babies just don’t enjoy being on their stomach (neither of mine did!)
It makes them cry, makes you cry, and can lead to parents spending much more money on wine each week!
Instead of continually suffering through the experience, why not just snuggle with your baby in a carrier? Studies have shown it’s a beneficial alternative to traditional tummy time!
7. It’s Good for the Baby’s Overall Well-Being
Baby wearing isn’t just beneficial for mom, though. It’s also an ideal way to help improve life for your little one.
There are tons of great benefits for baby, including:
- Improves baby’s social and cognitive development
- Helps eliminate tummy troubles and enhances digestion
- Prevents Positional Plagiocephaly, otherwise known as Flat Head Syndrome
- Allows mom to discreetly nurse
- Reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
*Note: For even more baby wearing benefits, check out the infographic on our article about kangaroo care.
Understanding the Different Types of Baby Carriers
Once you’ve learned about the many baby wearing benefits, it’s time to start figuring out which baby wearing devices are right for you. There are several different varieties available, including:
1. Wrap Carriers
Soon-to-be moms often find themselves wondering, “Is baby wearing a newborn safe?”
The answer is a resounding, “yes!”
Not only is baby wearing a newborn safe, but it’s also an ideal way to continue bonding with your little one after they make their big debut into the world.
Of all the newborn baby wearing devices available, wraps are one of the most popular. They consist of one long piece of fabric that’s wrapped and tied around your body to create a safe space for carrying your little one.
When my first baby was born, I was thrilled to be gifted a Boba wrap. It was, by far, one of my favorite “baby gear” items that I received.
I always felt confident that my little one was safe while wearing her in it. While it may have taken me one to twenty YouTube videos to figure out how to wrap it, once I’d mastered the system, we used it constantly!
Pros of Using a Wrap Carrier
- Available in several different materials, i.e., cotton, linen, gauze, wool, and stretch jersey knit materials
- Versatile wearing options, i.e., chest, side, or back
- Easy Adjustability
- Newborn safe
Cons for Using a Wrap Carrier
- Learning to tie them can be difficult and takes time
- Depending on the fabric you choose, wraps can be hot
Our Favorite Wrap Carriers
- Solly wrap
- Boba wrap (Click here to get 10% off your first order!)
- Baby K’tan (Not a full wrap. Perfect for moms who don’t want to learn how to use the full wrap!)
2. Ring Sling Carriers
A ring sling consists of a long piece of fabric that’s fastened together by two rings. It’s fully adjustable to accommodate your baby’s changing size and is a popular option among parents.
Once you’ve adjusted the rings to fit your body, they create a snuggly pouch that your little one fits into. This type of sling is also an excellent option for nursing while baby wearing because it allows mommy to stay covered up while her baby is breastfeeding if that’s something she prefers.
There’s also a more affordable alternative to this type of carrier called a “pouch carrier.” This device uses the same basic idea, but it doesn’t include the adjustable rings.
Pros of Using Ring Slings
- Easy to adjust
- Ideal for newborns
- Available in a wide variety of different fabrics and colors/patterns
- Great baby wearing device for beginners, since they’re easy to use
Cons of Using Ring Slings
While ring slings are one of the most popular baby wearing devices on the market, they’re not for everyone. If you have back or shoulder problems, you might struggle with this type of carrier.
I speak from experience.
I bought myself a ring sling during my first pregnancy and was so excited to use it that I threw our dog in to give it a try (yes, you read that right!).
After just a few minutes I noticed an aching across my back. As someone with scoliosis, I’m used to random back pains and chalked it up to my dog being completely freaked out and squirmy.
Then our daughter arrived, and try as I might, I just couldn’t get my sling to work comfortably.
This is not to say that a sling isn’t worth trying if you suffer from back and shoulder problems, but you should prepare yourself in the event that you need an alternative carrier.
For new parents without such problems, ring slings are often favorite newborn carriers.
Our Favorite Ring Slings
3. Soft-Structured, Buckle Carriers
Soft-structured, buckle carriers are the baby wearing device that is probably the most recognizable within the parenting community.
They include soft-padded shoulder straps and waistbands that are buckled around your waist and back to create a soft, snuggly fabric pouch for your little one.
This type of carrier is also a great option for moms and dads who want a device that will grow with them.
Buckle carriers can be used from the newborn stage to the toddler years.
Omni 360 baby carrier all-in-one: Cool Air Mesh – Classic Weave
from: ERGO Baby Carrier, Inc.
Pros of Using Buckle Carriers
- Easy to use and adjustable
- An ideal option to share with your partner and other caregivers
- Boasts ergonomic design for continual comfort
- Great for long term use
Cons of Using Buckle Carriers
There’s really only one – money. No matter what type of buckle carrier you choose, it’s probably going to be a decent investment. If you’re interested in long term baby wearing, however, it’s worth the price.
Our Favorite Soft-Structured Carriers
4. Mei Tai Carriers
Stylish Mei Tai carriers are the perfect blend of a wrap and buckle carrier. While they have a similar look to soft-structured carriers, they include a tying system similar to the ones used in baby wraps.
Pros of Using Mei Tai Carriers
- Lots of different styles and design options
- Ideal for continual use as baby ages
- Comfortable padding
- Easily adjustable
Cons of Using Mei Tai Carriers
While tying mei tai carriers isn’t terrible, it is something that takes practice. Be sure to allow yourself ample time to learn the best ways of using them.
Our Favorite Mei Tai Carriers
4. Backpack Carriers
Does your family enjoy time in the great outdoors? Then a backpack carrier might be the right option for you!
This framed carrier is a great option for wearing your baby for more extended periods of time. They also include various storage compartments for snacks and other baby-related items.
It is important to note, however, that your baby should be able to sit up on their own and hold their own neck before placing them in a backpack carrier.
Many parents like the idea of wearing baby on their backs, but don’t feel like they need the full-framed carrier. Many soft-structured, buckle carriers also offer this position.
Pros of Using Backpack Carriers
- Great for active parents who enjoy outdoor activities, like hiking and camping
- Excellent weight distribution
- Ideal option for older toddlers who want to look around
Cons of Using Buckle Carriers
- Bulky designs
- Heavy to wear because of the frame
Our Favorite Backpack Carriers
Baby Wearing Tips to Make Your Experience More Enjoyable
Whether you’re looking forward to baby wearing a newborn or are interested in hiking with your toddler, it’s essential to know the right way to do it.
While there are tons of baby wearing benefits, things can become problematic if you’re not following the “baby wearing safety rules.”
Here are some baby wearing tips to help provide a more enjoyable and safe experience:
- Make sure your baby’s head and neck are supported, especially when wearing a newborn. If you choose a buckle carrier, many of these products come with a special newborn insert for this purpose.
- Keep your baby at a “kissable height.” When it comes to baby wearing safety, this is one of the most important rules to follow. Your baby’s head should always be close to your own. You should be able to plant a little smooch on them at any given time.
- Your little one’s face should be visible at all times. This is again geared primarily to women who are planning on wearing a newborn.
- Be sure to check your carrier for any signs of wear and tear regularly.
- It’s important to keep your baby in a safe, proper position at all times. If their little body isn’t resting in the carrier the right way, it can cause serious problems, like hip dysplasia. Always read carrier instructions carefully to make sure your baby is within your carrier’s weight limit, baby’s face is in proper position, and baby’s hip joints are in a good, ergonomic position.
Aside from these baby wearing safety tips, you should always remember to use common sense when baby wearing. That means avoiding hot drinks, bending at the knees, and being mindful of the baby’s position on your chest.
After all, you don’t want to accidentally knock your little one’s head against a wall while baby wearing, right? (That’s me – I did that! Eek!).
Is Baby Wearing Right for You?
Not everyone is going to love baby wearing, and that’s quite alright. However, if you’re on the fence about the subject, I highly suggest giving it a try.
For me, there was nothing quite like the cozy sensation I felt when my babies were nestled against my chest. I would carry on with my day-to-day activities while joyously looking down at their sweet faces and planting gentle kisses on their heads.
I will always cherish the experience.
Consider the vast baby wearing benefits and decide whether the practice is something that fits into your idea of what parenthood.
If you’ve practiced baby wearing, what is your favorite type of carrier?
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Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.