Have you heard of the term ‘Kangaroo Care’? It’s a catchy name for the practice of holding your newborn skin-to-skin, and it has been demonstrated to benefit both you and baby when it comes to bonding and attachment.
Think of the first three months of your baby’s life outside the womb; until now, your baby never knew hunger, could always hear your heartbeat and was always rocked to sleep. It can take baby a while to acclimate to life on the outside, and babywearing can help with the transition!
Fully responding to your baby’s needs and nurturing their attachment in infancy allows them to form significant neural connections that provide the foundation of their future personality and development, and regular skin-to-skin contact is also thought to contribute to the regulation of baby’s heartbeat and temperature. What’s more, this close contact increases the parent’s natural predisposition to care for their child, it can stimulate breastmilk production(1), and can even lower the prevalence of postpartum depression.
The benefits of babywearing don’t end there. Here are 5 more reasons why investing in a quality baby sling is good for your little one:
1. Babywearing supports early communication
A study by Anisfeld et al(2) demonstrated that increased physical contact resulted in significantly more secure attachment between mothers and infants. In their study, 83% of infants held in baby carriers were securely attached compared to 38% in the control group by 13 months of age. The presumed reason was that carrying the baby leads the parent to provide faster responses to the infant’s crying and cues.
Think of it this way: when you hold your baby close you become more accustomed to their signals and facial expressions to the degree that you can understand their cues and respond to their needs more quickly. With this, their trust in you is reinforced, learning improves, and confidence is enhanced.
2. Babywearing positively influences physical development
One of the most common ways babywearing can promote healthy physical development is by reducing the risk of hip dysplasia. Newborns are especially at risk of improper hip development in the first few months of life and babywearing promotes the spread-squat position that is linked to healthy hip development.
When carried, your baby becomes more accustomed to your movements and actions. This stimulation allows your baby to exercise the vestibular system, increasing muscle function and control. Research has also shown that preterm babies, when carried, grow faster than preterm babies who were not.
Lastly, babywearing can decrease the risk of your newborn developing plagiocephaly (aka “flat head syndrome”). This can happen when an infant is placed in a certain position for long periods of time, eg. a cot or car seat. The use of baby slings can greatly reduce this risk, as they don’t put baby in a position where s/he is resting on his or her head.
3. Babywearing can soothe reflux and colic babies
A randomized controlled trial of full-term breastfed infants by Hunziker, et al.(3) found that carrying your baby in arms or in a full body contact baby carrier for at least 3 hours per day (in addition to carrying regularly provided during feeding and in response to crying) reduced daytime crying by 43% and nighttime crying by 54%. Also, the normal peak in crying that occurs at 6-weeks of age was drastically reduced with regular babywearing.
Beyond this, keeping reflux babies upright aids baby’s digestion, helping to avoid additional painful regurgitation. Colicky infants also cry less when hugged close to a parent’s chest as it’s believed that the contact serves as a gentle massage to baby’s tummy.
4. A quality baby sling makes your life so much easier
You don’t really need a study to prove this one if you’ve ever navigated around a busy shopping center or supermarket with a pram. It can be an absolute nightmare!
Babywearing permits the parent the use of both hands whilst keeping baby safe and secure. It can also be very useful around the house for those times when baby won’t settle and you need to catch up on some washing! A wrap can also double up as a blanket or changing mat when out and about.
5. Babywearing can encourage a secure and confident baby
In the Anisfeld et al(2) study, the analysis showed that sling-wearing positively affected infant-mother attachment beyond just the increased responsiveness of the mother when wearing the baby close. It was shown that babies who were carried more often were less likely to be insecure, clingy and anxious, and were likely to be self-supporting earlier.
Additionally, as your baby grows and becomes more mindful of her environments, stranger anxiety is often exhibited. Kangaroo Care allows baby to hear the parent’s breathing and heartbeat, which several studies (here and here) have shown to be soothing to baby, even easing the anxiety of an unknown situation.
- Furman et al., (2002) Correlates of lactation in mothers of very low birth weight infants
- Anisfeld E, Casper V, Nozyce M, Cunningham N. (1990) Does Infant Carrying Promote Attachment? An Experimental Study of the Effects of Increased Physical Contact on the Development of Attachment. Child Development 61:1617-1627.
- Hunziker UA, Garr RG. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 77:641-648