The term “babywearing” was invented by renowned paediatrician, Dr William Sears in the 1980’s, to mean the various methods of carrying your baby.
In fairness to the human race, Dr Sears only came up with the name for something that had been going on since... well, since the first human mummy stood up, looked around and said, “Now, where did I put Baby?” Even before that, our simian ancestors did (and still do) carry their offspring in a variety of ways attached to the fur of different parts of their bodies.
Humans around the world have been carrying their offspring for several millennia, and of course it has been subject to local diversity, so it’s not surprising to find a variety of methods.
In less developed countries it is still regarded as the best way of getting your kids around before they can keep up, so you will find African, Asian and South American varieties. It even used to be popular in the “developed” west before the Georgian and Victorian aristocracy persuaded everyone that children should be kept as far away from their parents as possible, handing them to nannies to be genteelly wheeled around in perambulators.
Dr Sears came up with some other interesting facts too, for instance, carrying your baby upright can reduce the effects of colic and reflux – definitely worth considering if you have a colicky baby (and if you do, you will try anything…I did!). Babies who are carried learn more quickly, as they spend their time being involved in your world, not just watching, but participating; developing a brain that is learning to learn.
Some people suggest that having your baby in a sling will make him clingy. In fact your baby will become more emotionally secure and independent as he knows you are around as a safe base from which to explore.
Need I go on? Well, there are always the extra calories you burn by carrying your baby, and the way you can breastfeed discreetly. The snugly cuddles you both get to enjoy stimulate your new-mum hormones, and can help to reduce the likelihood and severity of post-natal depression. What do you do to get your baby off to sleep in a pram? You rock him and talk to him to simulate the motion and closeness of your own body.
Now who’s starting to look more “developed”?
There are a huge variety of baby carriers around, and every “Babywearer” has their own personal favourite, although some people switch between different styles.
My own favourite is the Mei Tai babycarrier, which is basically a square of fabric with straps at each corner. Because of its simple design it can be used in a variety of different positions - either on your front, back or even your hip!
So, are they easy to use? Surely they can’t be as convenient as a pushchair?
Yes, they are very easy - you can go up stairs, through narrow doorways or for a pleasant summer walk. And you don’t have to push an empty one round town when Junior decides he would rather walk. Not only that, but they're light and fold up small - can you get a pushchair in your handbag? More importantly, can you afford a pushchair to go with every outfit!?
Having said all that, the main benefit for me, at least to start with, was that I regained the use of my hands after months of trying to make lunch, hoover, iron and just about anything else, all whilst holding on to my dear son. So, slings, carriers, mei tais, call them whatever you like, are starting to sound like a good idea, aren’t they? I have to admit, I got in to babywearing through necessity rather than choice, but I do love it, and so does my now rather chunky 30(!) month old son. The only difficulty now is choosing which fabric for the next one…
Claire Willis, is mum to two children, and the owner of SnugBaby. After the birth of her second son, she discovered babywearing and, decided to design and make her own brand of baby slings, which she now sells through her website, www.snugbaby.co.uk.