Monday, June 16, 2014

Motor Monday-Babywearing

A friend of ours from Seattle, whose baby girl is due any minute, asked a long time ago for me to do a Motor Monday post about baby wearing.  Here you go Molly!  As you can probably tell from other posts and pictures, I am a big fan of baby wearing.  We were lucky enough to have a number of different types of carriers and such that people gave us or loaned to us.  It took a lot of trial and error to figure out which carriers I liked best for different activities or different stages.  I think different carriers work well for different people so I'm not writing this to say "buy this carrier" but rather to say "wear your babies!" I'm also not coming at this from an attachment parenting stance of "don't put your baby down," which I'm sure you also know if you have read other posts about tummy time!
When I'm out & about with babies it's a good bet I'm wearing one
or more!
(note, this twin carrier was great when they were
  teeny tiny but is terrible on my body now!)
So why do I think new parents should wear their babies?

There are a ton of great reasons to wear your baby like reducing crying, increasing bonding, having the baby involved in activities, exposed to more language, etc. but my focus, as usual, is on the motor related aspects! Here are three sensory-motor related reasons to wear your baby:

1. Head and trunk control: being held in this upright position is good for developing head control.  And as you move they learn to control their heads during that movement.  As babies get older and depending on the carrier it can also help with upper trunk control such that as you lean over a bit your baby may activate trunk muscles to try to stay more upright.  Many babies also start to use their forearms to push off of mom or dad's chest which is a good start for developing those arm and trunk muscles.

2. Vestibular activity: as you move through space with your baby he or she gets a lot of vestibular input. You know that feeling in your head when you get on a playground swing for the first time in a while or go on a roller coaster? That's your vestibular system getting a lot of input! In our inner ears we have these teeny tiny crystals and when we tilt our heads, turn, lean, etc. those little crystals move a bunch of itsy bitsy hairs and that movement sends a message to our brain that we are moving.  The great thing about baby wearing is that you can get things done and every time you lean over to reach something, squat down to pick something up, etc. your baby is getting great practice learning about movement.

3. No flat baby heads: In the US we are big on baby "equipment" and a lot of babies spend a lot of time in swings, infant carriers (car seats), and bouncy seats.  Between that and sleeping on their backs, lots of babies spend the vast majority of their day putting pressure on the back of their head leading to positional plagiocephaly (or flat spots on the baby's head).  Wearing babies gets them in a more upright position and gives them a much needed break from pressure on the back of their head.

No pressure on this baby's head! This should also help the hair
grow back in her bald spot! (Note to self...wear Ellie more!)
There has been a bit of hub bub about babywearing, specifically Baby Bjorns, and hip dysplasia.  I did a little searching and as it turns out there really isn't any research on this in the literature.  The concern with Baby Bjorns and other similar carriers that allow/encourage babies to face out and/or only have a narrow piece of fabric through the crotch (AKA crotch danglers) is that they don't support the babies hips in a natural position and could worsen the hips of in an infant/child with hip dysplasia.  (For more info on hip dysplasia, check out the International Hip Dysplasia Institute website)  There might not be any research on this, but it does make sense that we want to support babies in the best possible position for their hips.  The treatment for infants with hip dysplasia is often a Pavlik harness. Check out this picture of the Pavlik harness which places the infant's hips in flexion and abduction, which seats the femoral head (top of the thigh bone) in the acetabulum (hip socket).  In my opinion, good babywearing emulates this position perfectly, placing the baby's hips in an M position with the carrier supporting the baby's thighs.  

So, overall, I agree that the Baby Bjorn is not the best option for baby wearing.  Now that being said, we did use a couple of Bjorns when the babies were teeny tiny because that thin fabric through the crotch was actually wide enough to keep their hips spread. And with newborns, you actually keep their legs in the carrier in a froggy position. (you can google/youtube tons about this)  Now that they are bigger though I don't like their positioning in the Bjorns at all, even facing in. Not to mention that I personally feel like the Bjorn is hard on me now that they are bigger!  I passed a woman on the street the other day and I seriously wanted to stop her and ask if I could take her picture for my "how NOT to wear your baby" example, but I chickened out!
teeny tiny Avery in a ring sling
(you can't see it, but her legs are frogged inside the sling)

There are LOTS of other options for babywearing that let you get the proper M position of the legs to support the babies hips.  We have a nice "stash" of different carriers including ring slings, a Seven sling, a couple of mei tais, two Ergos, and a Beco.  All of these will work to properly support the baby's hips.  Here are a few pics of our babies in a couple of these different carriers.  (please note I don't claim to be an expert baby wearer and there are LOTS of different and perfectly great ways to wear babies not demo'd here) 

You can see how the fabric goes out to her knees on both sides
Avery is in the Beco in this pic
Isaiah in a ring sling front carry
With less support up his trunk he has to work more as I move

Ring sling hip carry

My current favorites are the soft structured carriers like the Beco, the Ergo, and the Tulas we borrowed from friend for our Hawaii trip. For me they are the simplest/quickest and also the easiest on my body. I wear one of our babies pretty much every time we go out and sometimes, especially around the house, I wear two babies so comfort for both me and the babies is important! I've tried a LOT of combinations of carriers for duo babywearing & at the moment my favorite is the Beco & and Ergo.

Here are some fun babywearing pics through the months:

Baby wearing frees up your hands for cooking dinner....
or eating dinner
or drinking wine!
Grandmas can get in on the babywearing too!
And uncles too!
 Here's a series of double baby wearing experiments!
ring in front, mei tai in the back

ring in front, ergo in the back

Bjorn in front, Ergo back
 (notice, already Ellie's legs aren't well supported in the Bjorn)

Baby wearing is good for airplane naps

and taking babies through security!
The TSA agent was very confused when I handed
her 3 boarding passes!  She said "where's the other baby?"
(back carrying is stealthy!)

"So, are you gonna wear your baby or what?!"


  1. I love the Beco on the front, Ergo in the back for double carrying.

    Nowadays, my ring slings get used to carry my original babies: Wheezie & Gideon. I'll take those doofus cats out to the mailbox and back and they feel so "wild" and "outdoorsy".

  2. Sounds like a lot of good information for any parent, Mari. they certainly have come out with many variations since the "snuggly" that I carried you around in! Love the last photo and caption of Isaiah!

  3. Love this blog post! And love that hat on Mr. Handsome there! :)

  4. Love it!! Thanks for sharing all that you've learned - It's nice to be reminded of yet more great reasons to baby wear!


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