May 10 2012
By Andrea Henry, MS, PT
Babywearing has become one of the newest trends lately in regards to babies and I am so excited to have the opportunity with my newest little one to use it. I was mostly new to babywearing with this baby (there were not as many carriers when I had the twins 6 yrs ago, because I would have tried more babywearing then). Currently more baby stores are now selling a decent collection of carriers.
I started doing a bit of research on this and I purchased a BECO Gemini after consulting with my local baby store, Buggies and Babies. I began using it a few weeks after baby was born. I loved it immediately and began doing more research. I personally don’t think it matters whether you choose a specific personal parenting philosophy or style to embark on doing this. As a Physical Therapist, I would recommend to let your baby experience a variety of positions whether in or out of a baby carrier and that tummy time and independent walking (for the toddler and child) are obviously still very important-especially with the problem of obesity and kids today. As a parent, I love having my infant near and love the benefits and convenience babywearing provides. I also try to foster some play mat time and independence away from me in a safe environment as well. And being a running mom, my baby loves being in her stroller for weekly runs. There is definitely a way to balance all of it.
After reading and trying babywearing initially, I began to wonder as a Physical Therapist, about the benefits of babywearing for the infants and children that I treat and started a babywearing project during my maternity leave. I am looking forward to referring the families I work with here, to read about the babywearing benefits and will be using the carriers during therapy sessions and lending them out when appropriate.
Below are links to information on each carrier and possible uses and benefits of the carrier. Currently updated are the: Beco Gemini, Boba baby wrap, Boba soft structured carrier, Baby Ktan, Bali Breeze wrap, Snugli, Baby holder sling and Seven Sling). Information for each will be periodically updated as I get feedback from families. In addition I listed some general information and benefits on using them for typical infants and infants with special needs below:
Boba baby wrap (formerly Sleepy wrap)
Bali Breeze wrap (a type of gauze wrap similar to a woven wrap)
General Precautions for Typical Developing Infants:
As with all babywearing, common sense needs to be used. Always engage in safe babywearing. Here is an excellent link on basic safety considerations. Please do your own research and if you have any doubt, contact the carrier maker or seek further advice in person, with a professional. Always make sure baby is “Visible and Kissable.”
Recommendations/Precautions with Infants and Children with Special Needs:
- As always, discuss with your pediatrician, orthopedic specialist and therapists about your own specific situation and appropriateness of use.
- Test the devices during many therapy sessions to have two sets of hands and expert eyes available.
- If your infant/child uses pulse oximeters and supplemental oxygen or has respiratory issues, discuss with Dr. an appropriate course of testing and use these items to determine if infant/child can tolerate carrier, much like a car seat test before leaving hospital. Although several sessions, different positions and different time limits should be tested.
- Keep in mind that changing the position used in the carrier could change the tolerance of the carrier, medically.
- As with a typical infant/child, if your child is sick, this could change the way he/she tolerates the carrier. Consult with a physician before using it during this time.
General benefits for typical infants/toddlers and infants/children with special needs:
- Less forces on skull for development of plagiocephaly (flat head)
- Prevention or treatment of torticollis with positioning of head to both sides
- Uses and develops balance reactions with movement of parent
- Infant/child develops a sense of the rhythm of walking movement
- Infant and child gets sensory input over much of body via swaddling/deep pressure for calming and security
- Movement stimulates the vestibular system development via input
- The upright position and slight compression on trunk area helps aide digestion
- Infant gets “Tummy Time” like experience in a wrap as baby moves against against resistance similar to tummy time but in an upright position
- Tummy Time: movement occurs with resistance in all planes of motion more equally (unlike development only against gravity which usually requires a solid mastery of sagittal plane first, then frontal, and transverse last)
- When strong and healthy enough-baby can practice breathing against adjustable resistance, strengthening intercostal and other respiratory muscles
- Infants at risk for developing increased tone/spasticity in legs are not able to extend legs in hug hold infant/child must work on and maintain trunk control to some extent depending on type of carry used
- Infant/child is carried with hips in an abducted position with several carrying positions which can be an optimal position (link is to one perspective) on this, to develop hip in the socket
- Studies demonstrate that low weight and slow gaining babies benefit from kangaroo type care to help with growth
- Infants and children with speech and social delays are placed at an optimal position to interact and observe caregivers speech and social interactions
- Infants and children gain a view of the world for longer periods, that is not easily accessible from their strollers or chairs (ie. trick or treating, grocery trip)
- Hard of hearing child will get to feel (by using hands) and see a person talking up close.
- If the child uses O2 or an apnea monitor and has been approved for babywearing, it will free up mom for an extra set of hands to move around with baby.
Resources for Parents/Caregivers with Children with special needs:
Here are some links to some resources and inspirational/informative stories about moms that have completed babywearing with a child with special needs:
- Tiffany Speck, has a background as a pediatric nurse (she actually worked in an NICU) and knows oodles about baby wearing, lactation and issues that babies with special needs will face. Baby So Smart (www.babysosmart.com)
- The Babywearer forum for special needs This is a wonderful forum! A wealth of information and I wanted to link to many of the personal accounts. You will need to sign on and find the forum, but it is very worth the work!
- A Child with Cerebral Palsy and Spina Bifida
- Mom who baby wore with Ponsetti bar/Hip Spica Casting (I don’t advocate the poor posture for mom but there appear to be possible short term benefits for the child (getting child upright would have some benefits with attention/learning, getting circulation moving after surgery, relief for pressure points and a change from lying down when child may not be able to move much).
Photo credits: Respective sites offering baby carriers and www.photobucket.com
Purchased: Beco Gemini, Snugli and Baby Ktan. Borrowed: Baby holder sling and Seven Sling. Donated: Boba baby wrap, Boba soft structured carrier, Bali Breeze wrap. Thank you! I really could not capture the benefits of each without going through the actual babywearing process with each one.