Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Babywearing- a Transition from womb to world

Babies spend nine months enclosed in the womb, where it is warm and safe, listening to the constant beating of mum’s heart and feeling her every movement. Then they are born into the world. Suddenly they are exposed to gravity, the cold, separation, bright lights and if placed in a cot on their own, stillness and silence. Human babies are born vulnerable and immature, unready to care or fend for themselves and completely dependent on their parents for their survival. So what better way to help our babies adjust to life outside of the womb and feel protected than to carry them in a sling. Being carried by mum or dad in a sling provides a continuation of warmth, touch, containment, constant movement and the rhythm of a beating heart that they are so used to.  Babies do not know you continue to exist when out of their sight- so stay close and keep them feeling safe.

Mum and Baby as one; Baby warm, safe and contained

For mum it can help her transition from being pregnant and being at one with baby to becoming two separate beings- it can feel so good to still have your baby close to you, near where they have been for nine months, snuggled up and in easy distance to kiss. In addition, with the right sling you can wear them skin to skin, increasing bonding and helping establish breastfeeding. Babywearing is not just for mum, but Dad and other caregivers, it is a great way for them to start to get to know baby and spend close, intimate time together.

Babies are designed to be carried, their natural positioning of their legs as a newborn fits us perfectly, their legs are bowed with feet turned towards one another so they can hold on fast to their carrier. They have a grasping reflex which, whilst now only lasts for a short time after birth, harps back to a time when babies held on to our fur. A baby’s point of focus is approximately 20 cms in front of them- just the right distance for baby to see mum’s face when being carried or fed. Babies quickly learn to actively mould to our bodies, moving with our movement and snuggling up to us.

Embrace your baby close to you

Carrying our babies does not stop having benefits after the early days, as babies become more curious and are able hold their heads up, being carried on your hip or back becomes a great place from which they can view the world.  Babies are social and learn through watching and communicating with others. They learn best when they are calm and in the sling they are upright and alert with the security of being near their caregiver. They can join in with all that the person carrying is up to, interacting with the same people and learning about the world but always able to tuck into mummy or daddy should it all become too much or they are too tired. It is so companionable to share all you are doing with your little one from chatting as you walk around the shops together to cooking the dinner or putting the washing on the clothesline.

Share your world with your little one

Babies are all too soon on the move! First crawling and then walking. Especially with walking, carrying in a sling is a great way of allowing a toddler to have the freedom to wonder- both hands free as no buggy to push- and then when they are tired or in need of reconnecting up they come into the sling for either a quick cuddle or maybe even a snooze.  They now often initiate when they want to be carried and even how- choosing their sling of preference! Carrying your child does not have to stop at any particular time, young children still get tired- a sling in the bag can be a lifeline when you least expect it. 

Up for a rest and a chat with mum

Our little ones are only little for a short while- their needs are constantly changing. Carrying helps enhance communication between mother and baby so that mum can hear and respond to their little ones changing needs. It is also a beautiful way to spend quality, cuddly time together and reconnect as little one slowly finds and moves into their own space and out into the world more. It is great for them to know that mum is always there to return to, through having always had that reassurance of closeness from their initial first days in the world.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Babywearing consultancy- why?

Carrying my daughter was one of the things that was important to me as a pregnant mum- I am not entirely sure what inspired me other than I felt it made sense to have her near me and more practical than lugging a pram around. I first put my daughter in my sling of choice when she was 5 days old- it felt good and brought a warm glow to my heart- I felt very proud carrying her.

Our early babywearing days

11 months down the line I was beginning to find we were not quite so comfortable but the manufactures instructions said the carrier was suitable up to 15kg so how could it not be working for us? Luckily at this point in time fate intervened and my path crossed with Lorette from Sling a Baby, a babywearing consultant, who asked if she could show me how I should be using my sling. The difference was phenomenal. She then pointed me in the direction of my local sling meet and as they say I have not looked back.

I feel lucky that I did have this intervention, which means I have been able to continue enjoying carrying my daughter. However many parents are put off by carriers/slings that are either uncomfortable, they do not feel confident using, become less supportive as baby grows or simply do not feel safe and secure. There are some key guidelines that can enable parents to ensure they are carrying their babies safely and comfortably. There has been significant research into the best way to position babies so as to respect their physiology and enhance the development of the spine and hips that is not recognised by all baby carrier manufactures- meaning some carriers do not enable this positioning and others do not have comprehensive enough instructions or in the instance of some wraps suggest carries that are no longer considered safe. The instructions to the sling I had did not clearly explain this, it recommended positions/carries that are not safe and do not respect the physiology of a baby and it also was not supportive enough for my growing daughter. It is disappointing that these products, which we use to carry our vulnerable, precious babies in, are giving incorrect and dangerous information. My daughter is fine but I still wish I had accessed this important information before starting my babywearing journey.

An optimum position for babies to be carried in is with limbs bent and close to their centre of gravity, in a deep seated position with their back rounded.

I have chosen to train to become a Babywearing Consultant so that I feel confident and safe in helping other parents get access to this information and giving them the tools that will help them carry confidently, safely and comfortably.

I often ask myself, would I have gone to a Babywearing Consultant had I known about them? I would certainly now advise myself to! I think I would have been interested in an ‘Introduction to Babywearing’ workshop, which is an inexpensive way to get an overview of what there is to consider when purchasing a carrier, learning about some of the benefits, understanding the importance of how baby is positioned and finding out more about the wide range of products on the market. I know I was overwhelmed by the choice on the market and had a feeling that not all the carriers being marketed to me were necessarily good. It was also hard to know what would be best for me and my requirements. It is great to get independent information on the pros and cons of different carriers.

Which sling/carrier to choose?

I think from there I would have wanted to get all I could from carrying my baby and so would have invested in one or two consultations so I could feel confident in using my sling of choice. There are other ways to learn though. The internet has a wealth of information, including Youtube videos, some of it is great and some not so great so you do need to be discerning as to what is reliable information. There are also sling meets and sling libraries, which are brilliant resources as you can try before you buy and get mother to mother support and help.  What you decide to do does depend on what you want to get out of carrying your little one and what is right for you.  For me it is how I transport my little one and an important part of our daily life so I am keen to learn about this vital tool in my life. Consultations have provided me with the chance to get one to one tuition, to flatten my learning curve, to learn those key tips that can make the difference between being safe and comfortable and not and enabled me to carry my daughter in the way I want to.

As a consultant I want to help parents get the most out of carrying their little ones. They are little for such a short time, it seems important to make the most of these early days and so much can be gained from having them close to you. I really want to share what I have learnt and to share what I love. The more the word is spread about the importance of a good carrier and the best positioning for baby, the more  people who will know and the less parents who will be put off carrying their babies due to uncomfortable carriers, distressed babies who are not comfortable, or just because they do not feel confident in using their chosen carrier. As I say it does not have to be overwhelming and it is not just for those quirkier parents but for everyone, however they choose to incorporate it into their daily life. It is not only a great way of being close to your little one but very practical.

I believe Babywearing is an art and it is highly individual- every baby and parent is unique, but when you get it right it is magical. I hope that I can share a little babywearing magic with others.

Useful links

Great website providing information on the benefits, the different types of carriers, instructions on how to use and where to buy.

If you are interested in a consultation look up a consultant near you.

Look up to see if there is a sling meet/sling library near you.

For reliable, excellent quality videos on various carriers by SlingaBaby