Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"Posh Mama, Zen Baby": Benefits of Babywearing

by Sarah Davis

Image Credit: Oopa Baby
Last week, I took a class at Shining Light Prenatal Education about babywearing with Laura McCarthy of Pittsburgh Babywearers.  I have to say that I knew nothing about babywearing before this class (or prenatal classes in general, as this was my very first one). I had seen wraps on other people and at the store and noticed how convenient it was and thought it was a great way to bond with a baby, but that was it.

So, what is babywearing?
For thousands of years, people have been wearing their babies close to their chest in a cloth wrap or sling of some sort. There are many variations of these wraps, carriers, and ring slings and many price differences, but each one involves the same thing: wearing your baby so that your hands are free. 

What are the benefits?
Of course, babywearing wouldn't have such a following of "crunchy moms" if it were just for convenience. Although, convenience is a huge perk, as you can care for your other children, or if you are a new mom, you can cook, you can prepare their bottles, and you can even privately nurse underneath the wrap out in public. You can also move easier and faster out in public, compared to if you had a huge stroller with you.

There are many more benefits to having your baby so close. It is especially great for a newborn, who, for the first three months of his life, is in the fourth trimester (which comes from the book, Happiest Baby on the Block).  The idea of a fourth trimester is that a baby is adjusting to living in the world and it can easily get overwhelmed. Being close to Mom, especially close enough to hear your heart beat, which is a sound a baby knows very well, is very soothing to them.  

Babywearing is also a form of tummy time (called tummy-to-tummy time) because the newborn has to learn to keep their head up. While laying on the floor might be torturous for some newborns, tummy-to-tummy time provides a more comfortable way to learn this essential part of crawling. 

It soothes babies; they cry less, they are less fussy, all because they love being scrunched up against you, just like they were in the womb. You’re able to sense how they are feeling because they aren’t so far away from you (as when they would be in a stroller.) Baby wearing allows infants a better chance of becoming securely attached than infants who aren’t worn in carriers due to how close and how comfortable they are during the first year. Secure attachment is critical for normal human development.

There are so many carriers on the market-- what type of carrier should I buy?
During this class, we were all able to test out a Ring Sling and a Wrap, which are both preferred among babywearers, especially for newborns. For good brands to look into, you can look into Maya Wraps, Moby Wraps, or Sakura Bloom's Ring Slings (although they are very expensive.) From personally testing a few out, I would suggest a Maya Wrap. I loved the Sakura Bloom, but spending $180 on something so simple doesn't sound practical for a new parent, who needs a thousand other items. Another more practical, yet stylish, brand I found is Oopa.

Why should I go to a class about babywearing?
Classes are great to learn how to put these things on to safely wear a baby and also to how tight to make it. Learning about what products to purchase is valuable information because no one wants to blindly spend money on a sling they won't like or might be overpriced, etc.

Also, as I mentioned, this was my very first prenatal class during my pregnancy and I didn't realize how much I was going to love the environment. The environment at Shining Light Prenatal Education is very relaxed and calm and even if I didn't learn anything (which wasn't the case), I would have still gained something very valuable: time with other women in the same boat as me. I think it's important to go to as many classes as you can to meet other women with bellies as big as yours because it gives you confidence and allows you to feel empowered, rather than scared. Sometimes when I'm alone or with non-pregnant people, I feel different and sometimes scared. I feel abnormal when people are stare at my belly. Seriously, there is no greater spectacle for the general public, except for a car accident on the side of the road, than a woman with a pregnant belly. People love to touch my belly and everyone has a horror story about labor for me to listen to.

Usually, it's sweet to get so much attention, but sometimes, it can get overwhelming. I can get myself worked up about how scary childbirth might be, how scared I am that my life will never be the same after childbirth, and how scared I might be to have something so precious as a baby growing up in this crazy world-- far from the safety of my womb. But, when you're around other women who seem anxious for the birth of their baby or even just as scared as you, it's calming and it reminds you that you are actually just as excited as them to meet your baby. More importantly, it's great just to have someone who doesn't judge you when you talk about side effects, but instead says, "Me too!"

For more on Laura, you can visit her website at www.wearyourlittleone.com and to sign up for a class or a prenatal yoga session, visit Shining Light's website at www.shininglightprenatal.com.
Image Credit: Oopa Baby

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