Babywearing helps me accomplish many things with baby in tow, but best of all, it lets me get some exercise. By Esther Au Yong
Multi-tasking while babywearing. (Photo: 123rf.com/ Alexander Bogdanov)
Child-rearing has become a controversial topic, especially when they are babies. Everyone has an opinion on what’s best, including the way you carry your baby.
I should know: I wear my baby a lot, and I get plenty of opinions from just about everyone. Reactions to me wearing my children range from, “Wah, you’re one of those new-age mums, eh?” to “Will the spine development be affected? What about leg development?”
Babywearing is the practice of wearing or carrying a baby in a wrap, ring sling or in a soft-structured carrier (SSC). The latter works like a backpack for front or back carries; common brands of SSC include Ergo and Tula. Babywearing has been practised for centuries around the world and recently, has gained popularity in modern cities like ours.
I wear my baby out of necessity. Outside childcare opening hours (7am to 7pm weekdays), I have little to no help, a needy one-year-old and an active three-year-old. These little beings demand to be carried and in general, really suck your attention and energy.
Then, there are chores to be completed, meals to be prepared and, very importantly as a writer for a health and fitness magazine, exercising to be done! Seriously, being able to move freely – relatively freely – is one of the best parts of babywearing. In the early months of being a mother, the journey can be lonely and frustrating, and being able to go out for a walk or for some fresh air can do wonders to stave off, or manage, post-natal depression. Besides briskwalking or hiking, parents can also do babywearing yoga, babywearing ballet and even, babywearing zumba!
When I'm out with the baby, it’s also much easier to navigate crowded malls and tight, uneven walkways with kiddo strapped to me using an SSC. I am much more independent, compared to if I had him on a stroller. This is also the case when we travel – the cobblestoned paths of Paris might be romantic when you’re dating, sans offspring, but not really when there’s a stroller in the picture.
And of course, especially when he’s being sweet and nice, I love the feeling of having my baby close to me. It’s easier for him to fall asleep too – the comfort of being close to mum, plus the regulation of breathing, heartbeat and temperature, creates a conducive environment for some zzz.
Don’t get me wrong though - the stroller still has its place in our family’s arsenal of children-related paraphernalia. We use it sometimes when we go to the zoo or to the park.
So, what do I say when people question me about the safety of babywearing? Will it cause developmental issues with the child? Well, if baby is in an ergonomic position, no. As with anything we do, it is important to learn how to do it properly and safely.
Here are some tips from the School of Babywearing - using the simple acronym TICKS:
T: Tight. Make sure to tighten slings and carriers enough so that you’re carrying baby snugly. Any slack or loose fabric might allow baby to slump down in the carrier which can hinder breathing. The base should be supporting baby from the back of one knee to the other (also referred to as knee-to-knee). This means that baby is in an “M” shape (when seen from the back) and is in a deep, secure seat.
I: In view at all times. You should be able to easily see baby and he/she should not be turned towards your body.
C: Close enough to kiss. Baby’s head should be as close to your chin as is comfortable. By tipping your head forward you should be able to kiss baby's head.
K: Keep chin off chest. Always ensure there is a space of at least a finger width under baby’s chin. This is to ensure that he/she can breathe easily.
S: Supported back. The child’s back should be firmly supported in its natural position and his/her tummy and chest are against you. If a sling is too loose, baby can slump. This can partially close baby's airway.