For this International Baby wearing Week 2017, I’m so thrilled to interview, Anna Baker on my blog. Anna is babywearing educator, postpartum doula, and parenting educator. She lives in Regina, Sask. She helps parents and families find the sweet spot where parenting feels easy – at least some of the time!
“Babywearing is a new emerging trend in the world of attachment parenting” – what are your thoughts about this statement?
I think it’s the exact opposite! Parents and caregivers have been finding ways to carry babies while keeping their hands free pretty much forever. In every culture around the world, you’ll find a rich tradition of babywearing. What we now call “attachment parenting” used to just be called “parenting” – in fact, in many cultures, it is still the norm today. Keeping babies close and responding to their needs is part of human biology – it really makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. Different cultures approach things slightly differently, but what we think of in North America as a new trend is more like the worldwide norm.
Why is Babywearing so important and how can it benefit parents and babies?
For me personally and for many of the families I work with, babywearing is a tool for parents. It’s a way to multitask by meeting the need for physical closeness while attending to other needs – getting your makeup on in the morning, walking an older kid to the park, getting household chores done, going for a walk, travel, and so much more. The baby pretty much expects to be held – this is hardwired into our biology. Babywearing is a way to meet those needs of the baby – for touch, warmth, movement, and all of the sensory and emotional needs that are being met by being held – while being able to carry on with our adult lives.
I have always desired to wear my babies. I even bought a few carriers when my kids were born. But I was intimated by them. Initially, I felt less confident using them. Why do parents struggle or feel less confident to use baby carriers? And how can they overcome this?
As you can probably tell by now, I like to take a long view of things – I’m always thinking about our human ancestors and how culture and biology affect us. If you think back to a time when your ancestors would have practiced babywearing on a regular basis – that might be one generation or many generations – there were probably other differences in how we learned to care for babies and young children. Growing up, we would have seen babies being cared for in a variety of ways – breastfeeding, babywearing, diapering/toileting, feeding solid foods, and so much more. We would have absorbed this knowledge naturally because we would have seen it regularly. Contrast that with how many of us begin our parenting journeys now – not having spent much time around babies, isolated in a nuclear family environment, and without a rich and living tradition of babywearing around us. No wonder it can be daunting to get started!
I think finding support in babywearing and in parenting in general is so important. Find friends to learn from, join mom groups or parenting circles, find a local babywearing educator like me! There are many ways we can work to reclaim and share the knowledge that our ancestors would have never given a second thought – and finding a supportive community is a big piece of that.
What are the safety measures one should keep in mind while babywearing?
I recommend parents purchase a new carrier and start by reading the instructions for their carrier. This will ensure that they’re using a manufactured product that has been tested and that meets current safety standards. If you do purchase a used carrier or receive a hand-me-down, head to the manufacturer’s website to download the instructions. It’s important to follow the recommendations from the manufacturer and not to alter the carrier in any way – if your carrier needs an insert for a newborn, please don’t use a rolled up blanket just because someone on Facebook said it was ok!
Next, the general guidelines suggested by Health Canada are Visible & Kissable – you can download a free poster with the guidelines here: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/consumer-product-safety/reports-publications/consumer-education/visible-kissable.html
This is taken directly from the Health Canada site:
Safe Babywearing Means:
- Face in view at all times
- High and upright
- Chin up
- Supported back and snug
- Close enough to kiss
If you’re in doubt about how to get your carrier working to meet all these guidelines, please ask for help! Often a little tweak is all it takes to get things adjusted so that everyone is comfy and safe.
I have heard this question over and over again by new parents trying to babywear. Their babies fuzz and cry and simply do not like to be carried. Why do babies cry when they are worn and how to make them feel comfortable?
It is hard to answer this question in a general sense, since every baby and parent are different and there many be many reasons why babywearing isn’t working. However, I observe a number of things with my clients in both my classes and my private sessions. First of all, babies are sensitive creatures and they can pick up on our uncertainty. If we are feeling nervous, our babies will often let us know that they are experiencing the same emotion – and they let us know in the only way they can: crying!
Second, because parents are often uncertain about how to use their carrier, there may be an issue that can be resolved by adjusting the carrier. The biggest one I see is that the carrier is too loose and the baby’s back isn’t well supported. This can feel unstable for both the baby and the parent and, again, the baby can only let us know by crying. If this is the trouble, the adult often feels that they need to lean back or have a hand on the baby and it’s not very comfortable or truly hands-free.
Finally, when we are just learning, it often takes some time to get the carrier on, and then we might just stand there wondering whether we’ve done it right. Get moving! Do your baby’s favourite bounce, start walking, add the magic bum pat – movement is natural to your baby and this can help the baby settle in after the process of getting into the carrier. Keep practicing – before you know it, you’ll have that carrier on in 30 seconds flat and the baby won’t even know what happened!
Professional help in the form of one of my classes or a private consultation can be the shortcut that helps you and your baby get over the awkward learning stage – I promise I can get you feeling confident and comfortable!
There are so many different types of baby carriers like wraps, ring slings, mei dai’s, SSC, etc., How can one choose carrier that works for them and their baby?
Two things can really help: impartial and expert advice, and the chance to try the carriers on. I teach an Introduction to Babywearing class where families can get both. If you’re not in Regina or area, try your local independent baby stores or find a babywearing educator near you.
I am often asked “what’s the best carrier out there?” Unfortunately, it’s a question without an answer – there is no “best carrier,” only what’s best for you. Every carrier will work, but most people find they have one or two that they prefer. Follow your instincts – if wraps just look totally overwhelming, that’s ok! There are always other options.
Is there a minimum age when you can start to wear your babies? and is there a maximum age?
The guidelines are more about weight than about age – it’s important to stay within both the minimum and maximum weight limits for your chosen carriers. If a baby was premature or has physical challenges like low muscle tone, it’s extra important to check with your healthcare providers before using a carrier, and if possible, to work with a babywearing educator to get some hands-on help.
But won’t my kids get too dependant if I babywear? How would you answer this concern?
The evidence says the opposite: that children whose needs for comfort and closeness are met early in life are actually more independent! North American mainstream culture prizes independence, and this can often shape the advice we receive as parents. This can take the form of pushing babies to do many things independently that are not developmentally appropriate – solo sleep in large stretches, so-called “self soothing” (I could talk for a few hours on this term alone – I’ll keep it short here and just say that it’s not a thing that a baby can actually do because of the way human brains develop), and spending long periods of time without loving touch or movement. Again, if we look at human history and diverse cultures around the world, what we now call “attachment parenting” is really the norm for us. So go ahead and carry that baby as long as they need it and it works for everyone – I promise you won’t need to babywear your kid to high school!
Can you share with us a personal example how babywearing changed your life?
Babywearing changed my life because it helped me have a life when my son was young. I could go for a walk or visit with friends without being stuck at home for naps. My son was a very happy baby – as long as he was touching me. It helped so much to have something that helped me meet his needs for closeness without making me choose between his needs and my own. Many of us experience isolation and loss of self as new parents, and I was no exception. Babywearing was one of the main things that helped me be myself and meet my own needs during that first year and beyond.
I’m so passionate about sharing this tool with parents and caregivers because I know personally how powerful it can be, and nothing is more satisfying than working with a family and seeing that moment when the baby snuggles in and that lightbulb comes on where the parent feels all the peace and possibility that babywearing can bring to their life. Seriously, I have the best job ever!