One of the sweetest ways to stay deeply connected to your baby once they’ve been born is babywearing. Whether worn in a wrap, a ring sling, a padded carrier or any other form of fabric that can securely attach a baby to their mother’s (or any other caregiver’s) body, the benefits remain the same, and they also remain vital.
BENEFITS OF BABYWEARING
Babies spend nine to ten months in the womb being lulled by their mother’s heartbeat, soothed by her warmth, and informed by all sensations felt within the entirety of her inner world. We call this period of growth “gestation,” and thus refer to the following nine months spent outside of the womb as “exogestation,” or “exterogestation.” Human infants thrive when a womb-like environment is created and maintained for them during their time of exogestation, and babywearing is the best way to provide the security the mama-baby dyad craves in order for that thriving to happen. It helps to imagine there is an energetic umbilical cord that connects a mother to her newly born baby; in this way it’s easier to understand just how close a newborn needs to be to their mother in order to truly thrive.
Babywearing primarily provides the opportunity for co-regulation. Babies rely on their caregivers to help them regulate their nervous system from the moment they are born up until about nine months old (the end of the exogestation period). Co-regulation is a keyword in regard to the postpartum healing experience of the mama-baby dyad. Because babies primarily co-regulate with their mothers, it is important for mothers to be efficiently cared for in their first year of motherhood. When a mother is cared for in such a way that her body heals in a proper amount of time, her ability to comfortably babywear increases, and the benefits of consistent babywearing for her baby are profound.
2. Brain Development
One of the main benefits of co-regulation via babywearing for babies is that their brain development is allowed to flourish. When a baby is in a safe, restful, comforting, womb-like environment, their brains are uninterrupted by stress and anxiety and thus stay in a delta brainwave state more often. This allows them to grow and adapt more readily to life on land, resulting in less stress, less crying, and less burnout for parents. Skin-to-skin is one of the ultimate “techniques” for meeting the co-regulatory needs of infants and mothers alike. Pro-tip: naked skin-to-skin while babywearing is a great way to calm a babe.
3. Neck Strengthening
Babywearing also serves as a near-effortless way to naturally weave tummy time into a caregiver’s routine - and babies rarely protest a tummy time venture that requires them to be heart to heart with someone who loves them. Using babywearing as a tummy time exercise helps babies calmly build their neck and core strength, especially as they begin to get curious about everything going on around them. It’s amazing how far a baby will strain their little upper body to try and see what’s being cooked for dinner.
4. Sustainable Milk Supply
Another critical benefit of babywearing is the potential for an increased milk supply. This happens for a variety of reasons, including the low-stress factor, which allows oxytocin (a necessary hormone for breastfeeding) to flow and be felt in the mother’s body. Another factor is touch and warmth. The physical connection between a mother and her baby when they are placed directly against their mother’s breasts signals to her body that milk is needed. Babywearing gets bonus points for helping mothers be better able to discreetly breastfeed on the go; simply position a baby’s head directly in front the breast so they can latch on while in their carrier, wrap, or sling.
5. Free Hands + Learning Opportunities for Baby
The final benefit we’ll touch on in this article is the fact that babywearing frees up a caregiver’s hands so that they can do whatever their heart desires while baby enjoys an endless snuggle against their body. This is especially beneficial for parents with multiple children. When a caregiver’s hands are free to accomplish routine tasks or to simply read a book while baby takes a long sleep, their stress levels are often lowered because they feel less nap-trapped. If baby is awake, they get to enjoy the show put on by the adult they are strapped to! Through observing the daily goings on while safely attached to their caregiver, babies engage their curiosity and learn about what it takes to be an adult in the modern human world.
COMFORT AND STRENGTH BENEFITS
Babywearing is a powerful tool for new mothers, but it must be done respectfully and with intention. A newly postpartum mother has a pelvic floor that needs to rest and heal. Improperly placing additional pressure on a mother’s pelvic floor could lead to discomfort and pain. Here are a few considerations to be had when beginning one’s babywearing journey in the interest of longevity and building strength.
1. Closed Pelvis
It is extremely important that a mother ensures her pelvis is closed after giving birth - no matter which way that unfolds. One of the best ways to do this is with a legitimate closing of the bones ceremony. Mothers should also ensure that they are at least six weeks postpartum, and that during their minimum six-week resting period they did in fact rest and lay low. This is important when it comes to protecting their pelvic floor.
2. Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is similar to a bowl that is designed to carry that which applies pressure to it from above. If a mother’s pelvic floor isn’t in a state that would allow it to handle extra pressure and weight on and off throughout the day (or night), it could potentially sustain trauma that results in the sensation of pain. This trauma could also increase the possibility of prolapse, or worsen an already existing prolapse. For more specific details regarding protecting the pelvic floor while babywearing, we recommend reading this brilliant article by Ibukun Afolabi of The Mama’s Physio.
In her article, Afolabi emphasizes the importance of proper posture in regard to the impact placed on the pelvic floor - especially when babywearing. Many caregivers overcompensate for pained areas when babywearing, often because they haven’t readjusted their carrier after long wearing periods or because they simply have a habitual standing pattern that is incompatible with the act of babywearing. Taking time to evaluate your posture in the mirror is always a good idea; make sure you aren’t leading too much with your pelvis, and also that you aren’t hunching over - or both. She recommends working with a physical therapist to give you insight as to where your unique posture pattern might benefit from re-wiring, as well as exercises to help you create new, more supportive patterns. This is helpful for any type of baby carrying, whether baby is being worn or held in arms.
4. How it Should Feel
Babywearing should feel like baby is being held in arms. There shouldn’t be too much pull downward on shoulders, nor should there by too much downward pressure on uterus. If either of these feelings are happening, it’s best to readjust baby until the ideal comfort level is attained. Never sacrifice your own physical stability when it comes to babywearing, as it will only wear down your reserves. Either reposition baby, readjust straps and waist belt, or try a different carrier style.
5. Take a Breath
The breath is incredibly important during babywearing because the diaphragm is “intimately connected” to your pelvic floor, as Afolabi shares in her article. Being able to take a deep inhale followed by a full exhale will ensure that the pelvic floor is able to work with the diaphragm more synergistically. More oxygen also results in less pain throughout the body overall, as well as better regulated stress levels. Practice taking a breath when baby is in the carrier and it’s tightened. If it’s hard to take a deep breath in, loosen the carrier a bit.
In regard to the breath and proper waist belt/tie positioning, Afolabi advises imagining a balloon that has a belt tied around the middle. In this visualization, the balloon represents the belly and the belt represents the carrier’s waist belt or bottom wrap tie. “The tighter the belt gets,” she writes, “the more the pressure inside that balloon is forced upwards towards the diaphragm and downwards towards the pelvic floor. Both muscles have to work harder to move against that pressure.” The goal in this scenario would be to have the waist strap placed below the belly as much as possible to avoid the potential forcing of pressure against the diaphragm or pelvic floor, and to also make sure it’s not too tight.
6. Optimal Positioning for Baby
“Ergonomic” is the key word for proper baby positioning in baby carriers. The ideal positioning is having baby chest to chest against the person wearing them. In this position, babies’ legs should be M-shaped/froggy style, with their knees slightly higher than their bum. They should be equal on both sides with no one hip positioned lower than the other. Toddlers handle outward/forward facing carriers much better than infants, as facing out can be extremely overstimulating for young babies, and thus it’s not recommended. The final component is ensuring that baby is high up enough to comfortably kiss the top of their head, meaning no neck straining is taking place to do so.
If you’re going to use a ring sling/wrap and plan on doing hip carries or putting weight on one shoulder at a time, make sure you switch sides often in the interest of balance. It does not serve the wearer to have a preferred side, as the brain desires variability. In keeping your left/right options open, your body will revel in gratitude and feel less pained over time.
TIPS FOR CHOOSING A CARRIER
There is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to babywearing. Each caregiver has their own unique body and equally unique routines and environmental factors to take into consideration. The following are what we believe are some of the most important factors to consider when choosing which carrier is the best fit for you or the person you’re gifting one to:
1. Consider the Season
What is the primary season or temperature range the carrier will be worn during? If babywearing is going to be a year-round thing and/or used for travel, it may be beneficial to purchase a few options - one for warmer months, one for cooler months - and to make sure that those options are appropriate for baby’s age during those months. For example, a lightweight Solly Baby wrap would be perfect for a newborn in the summer, while a thicker Artipoppe Zeitgeist carrier would be awesome for a one-year-old in the winter.
2. Weight + Body Type
This goes both ways: make sure the carrier you choose is appropriate for baby’s size, and also that it can be tightened or loosened to ensure a comfortable fit for the adult who will be doing the wearing. Some ring slings can be purchased at a longer length to better suit tall people, for example.
Where will babywearing take place the most? At home? On hikes? Around town while running errands? Again, a few options may be required, as not all carriers are suited to all activities. For example, a ring sling may not be as ideal for a hike compared to a symmetrical padded carrier, and a symmetrical padded carrier may not be as ideal for wearing around the house during naptime as a stretchy wrap might be.
4. Support Needs
Special needs in regard to the postpartum healing time should always be considered, but they aren’t always known until after baby is born. Regardless, following the basic how-tos as described in the section above will help to ensure that a caregiver knows how to make the carrier they choose work for them. Generally speaking, an adult with back issues will want to choose a carrier that can be tightened and stay tightened so as to maintain a good and supportive posture while being able to maintain a centered position for baby. Additionally, a one-sided ring sling may not be the best option for a caregiver who experiences localized shoulder pain. Meeting with a physical therapist or babywearing educator can be incredibly helpful when choosing the most supportive carrier for you if you aren’t able to intuit your needs on your own.
5. Waist Belt
As you’ll see below, there are baby carrier options that do not have waist belts, which make them fantastic options for caregivers who are concerned about a prolapse or are babywearing while pregnant. On the other hand, caregivers who need extra support for their backs may desire a waist belt to ensure proper ergonomic placement of baby, as well as to provide extra support when babywearing over long periods of time.
BRANDS WE LOVE
From simple and affordable to luxurious and limited edition, our top four baby carrier brands are crafted with high quality fabrics, certified Hip Healthy by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, sustainably made, and ethically resourced. Each brand was also started by a mother who believed in the power of babywearing with her whole heart, turning her shared passion for connected parenting into a business venture that gave the gift of comfortable and beautiful babywearing to families worldwide. Read on to learn which brands we recommend the most, what types of carriers they make, and why we love them so much.
Netherlands-based Artipoppe was founded in 2012 by Anna van den Bogert. The brand thoroughly explains its founder’s ethos, which includes tenets of beauty and the freedom to both be seen as mothers and to enjoy motherhood as the profound blessing that it is, all while fearlessly engaging in eye-catching means of self expression through attachment parenting.
“Motherhood is in need of a paradigm shift,” van den Bogert shares. “Mothers should have the time and space to deeply bond with their child and take up their place in society as unique and autonomous beings.” In this way, Artipoppe is rooted in the future of motherhood and the ways in which the brand can assist with the paradigm shift its founder speaks to.
Styles: Zeitgeist Baby Carrier, Baby Wrap, Ring Sling - all of which are certified Hip Healthy by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, and are suitable for babies weighing 7-45 lbs.
Price Range: $230-$7,484
What makes Artipoppe unique: Artipoppe is a brand that prioritizes quality, luxury, and artistry. They want the women using their carriers to feel confident, beautiful, secure, empowered, and majestic while wearing their babies. The brand is high fashion, if you will, in the realm of baby carriers - especially considering the detailed artistic designs and investment-worthy limited edition carrier options that are available for purchase.
The unique fabric options to choose from include linen, hemp, cashmere, cotton, silk, and velvet - as well as organic options and a variety of blends. Sustainability is a big deal to Artipoppe, so much so that they plant a tree for every item they produce and have made a commitment to invest in nature-based solutions to soften the impact they have upon the planet. All in all, Artipoppe carriers are fantastic heirloom pieces for sentimental families who seek meaning in everything they invite into their sphere.
Additional Offerings: Artipoppe has inserts available to ensure proper ergonomic forward-facing positioning for baby.
Video Tutorials: Informational videos for all carrier styles can be found here.
2. Sakura Bloom
Known for their incredible textile options, Sakura Bloom is one of the most oft-recommended carrier brands in the game. Sakura Bloom was founded by mother Lynne Banach, who runs the business with her partner, Eric, by her side in San Diego, California. You can learn more about them and their operations here.
Styles: Scout Carrier (7-45 lbs), Onbuhimo Carrier (no waist belt, 15-45 lbs), Ring Sling (7-35lbs) - all are certified Hip Healthy by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
Price Range: $198-$560
What makes Sakura Bloom unique: Crafted in Southern California, Sakura Bloom’s carriers are crafted in small batches by artisans and family businesses that are founded upon the same slow fashion, full circle ideology that the brand’s founders wholeheartedly adhere to. Fabric options include cotton, linen, and silk. Their Scout Carrier is unique in that it has leather shoulder straps and a ring sling style waist belt, while their Onbuhimo Carrier is unique in that it has leather shoulder straps, but no waist belt at all.
Additional Offerings: Mini Doll Slings for littles to use with their dolls and stuffies.
Video Tutorials: A variety of how-to videos, including how to wash your carriers, can be found in the “Learn” section of the top menu.
3. Solly Baby
Named the best wrap by NYT Wirecutter Magazine, Solly Baby is a much-beloved brand in the world of babywearing mothers. The fabric is wonderfully soft and stretchy, allowing for an easefully personalized babywearing experience for both caregivers and babies alike. The brand was founded by Elle Rowley, a mother of four, and is based in Carlsbad, California.
Styles: Stretchy Wraps (8-25 lbs) and Loop Carriers (“ease of a sling with the support of a wrap”; 15-45 lbs) - both are certified Hip Healthy by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
Price Range: $69-$92. Sign up for 10% off & free shipping on your first order of $80+!
What makes Solly Baby unique: The uniqueness of the brand is found in the fabric and textile patterns used for the wraps. The classic modal Solly Wrap is made in Los Angeles, while the newer organic cotton Loop, described as a perfect transition carrier for babies who outgrow the wrap, is made in Zhiangjiagang, Jiangsu, China. One of our favorite features of the brand is access to a free virtual 20-minute consultation with a certified babywearing educator, so as to receive feedback on fit and troubleshooting support. Solly Baby also created their own acronym to help caregivers remember the most important factors in regard to safe babywearing: TICKS.
Additional Offerings: Solly Baby has a large variety of swaddles, sleeper sets, and more, as well as a sweet Solly Dolly wrap for kids to use when wearing their own dolls or stuffies.
Video Tutorials: Instructional videos for both carrier styles can be found here.
This baby carrier brand has one signature style - the ring sling. Handcrafted in part by independent seamstresses, WildBird ring sling carriers are a true labor of love. The brand was founded by mother Tayler Gunn as a way of honoring the bond between mother and baby, and is praised for using lightweight, minimal fabric that allows for noteworthy ease-of-use. Investing in a WildBird sling provides caregivers with the feeling and benefits of shopping small, such as ownership of an affordable, handcrafted, high quality product created by a business that values sustainability.
Style: Ring Sling (7-35 lbs, available in two lengths as well as double-layered options) - certified Hip Healthy by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
Price Range: $35.98-$129.95
What makes WildBird unique: Besides its use of independent seamstresses for production purposes, WildBird is unique because of how transparent the brand is in regard to their processes. The #seedtosling movement is centered upon the idea that it is important to know all about the fabric their slings are made from; in this case, it’s Belgian flax. Their website includes videos to accompany the hashtag, all of which are beautifully made and extremely detailed as to how the fabric-making process unfolds. You can get to know their seamstresses via video, too. They even include a fabric comparison chart so you can make an adequately informed choice when purchasing one of their slings.
Additional Offerings: There are plenty to choose from, including Mini Slings for kiddos, linen sleep sacks, play mats, quilted blankets, crib sheets, pillows, loveys, maple + linen teethers, and totes.
Video Tutorials: Ring sling tutorials can be found here.
Babywearing is a lifestyle. It is a commitment to closeness and to creating the environment an infant needs to safely and comfortably adapt to life outside of their mother’s womb, while also allowing for mobility and ease on behalf of the mother or other caregiver. While babywearing isn’t always possible for everyone, whether that’s due to physical limitations of caregivers or because a baby simply doesn’t enjoy the process, a womb-like environment is something that can be created in many different ways; all is not lost.
It’s also important to remember that, while one carrier may not be enjoyable or doable for a mama-baby dyad, another style, fabric, or brand could totally be the perfect fit. Scheduling an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist or a babywearing educator could make all the difference in one’s babywearing journey. Check in with your local midwives, doulas, and childbirth educators to learn about babywearing resources available for you in your neck of the woods.
The content provided in this article(s) is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Neither Carson Meyer nor C & The Moon LLC are liable for claims arising from the use of or reliance on information contained in this article.