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Babywearing Benefits That Science Can Agree On

October 2, 2018
Mom kisses baby's head while carrying her in the pikkolo buckle carrier.

[Note from Catbird Baby: Thanks to Neve Spicer of “We the Parents” for providing this content in celebration of International Babywearing Week.]

The first week of October marks the 10th annual celebration of babywearing, with advocates of this parenting technique both celebrating and championing slings, wraps, and carriers. But is babywearing really worth all this attention?

Emphatically, yes!

First off,  wearing our infants is a wonderful convenience. After all, it puts our newborns in our immediate vicinity without straining our arms or backs. We can offer instant comfort to them, nurse/feed as needed, and even free up our hands to get something done around the house.

But go beyond the anecdotal evidence and you’ll find a wealth of scientific research in various fields which point to the developmental and health benefits of babywearing (both for parent and infant).

We The Parents has combed through this literature to provide a visualization illustrating the evidence-based benefits of babywearing.

 

Babywearing: 23 Science-Backed Benefits

At present, there are only a handful of direct babywearing studies (though more are planned). This means, to get a complete picture of the science behind babywearing, you’ll need to look at the research in closely related fields such as early child development and anthropology. When you do, the evidence comes flooding in.

Carriers, wraps, and slings not only promote bonding and attachment, but also can help mitigate the occurrence of otitis media (aka middle ear infections), lessen crying bouts, reduce reflux symptoms, and can even help cope with postpartum depression.

We are thrilled to join in celebrating babywearing and its many positive effects during this year’s 10th annual International Babywearing Week!  There are so many options out there, there is a carrier style that will work for everybody; read here to see which catbird carrier is for you.

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Medical Research Parenting

“Your baby is cold!”

December 9, 2011

A random grandmotherly woman told me this once when she passed me and my first child on the street. My daughter, who was born in early August of that year, was probably about 6 weeks old. It was heading toward October but it was still pretty warm out, as it can be in Chicago in the fall. This woman seemed to feel she knew whether my baby was warm or cold due to the fact that she had no socks on. She kept kicking them off and since it was not, in fact, cold out and she seemed fine, I put them in my bag, rather than lose them.

For some reason, a lot of people are utterly convinced that babies have a freezing point of about 65 degrees, but I’m here to tell you it’s just not true. (In fact, 61-68 degrees Farenheit is considered the ideal temperature range for sleeping.) Yes, babies are not as able to regulate their body temperatures as we are and we should pay attention to making sure they are at a safe and comfortable temperature. But some people only ever seem to be worried that they are freezing their little tushies off, which is rarely the case. Overheating is a serious concern.

I am writing this now because it’s now that time of year when I start seeing, on a daily basis, babies so bundled up that I wonder if I should say something or mind my own business. Just like I didn’t appreciate that woman telling me my baby was cold when she was not, I’m sure that strangers on the street don’t want me boldly informing them that *I* know better than them. But I often see babies who are dressed in snowsuits, hats, strapped into handheld infant car seats that then also have thick blankets or buntings tucked in around them, or even over their heads. A 2008 study found that the mean prevalence of head covering among SIDS victims was 24.6% vs. 3.6 in the control group. Researchers do not know if the risk associated with head covering has to do with overheating, hypoxia, or rebreathing, though. So, yes, bundle baby up when you go outside in frigid temperatures; but never cover the face or head and always remove layers when you go inside, even if  doing so risks waking a sleeping baby.

Babies are indeed sedentary compared to older children and adults and so may need a little more clothing than we do. But only as much as any person would need if they were merely sitting and resting instead of walking around and doing normal activities. If you are comfortably walking around outside with jeans and a short sleeve shirt, your baby really doesn’t need a fleece jacket over a cotton footed sleeper plus a receiving blanket and fleece hat (personally witnessed this one while strolling around an outdoor mall recently); a light blanket over the cotton sleeper and maybe a lightweight hat (maybe!) will do just fine.

In both sleep situations and during babywearing, it is important to keep baby warm but not so bundled as to allow them to become overheated. Remember that with babywearing, your body generates heat that helps keep baby warm. If you will wear baby in a carrier and then use a coat over both of you or a carrier cover of some kind, skip the snowsuit and use a light jacket and hat or possibly no jacket and just a hat. Bring extra layers with you in case you need to add them but don’t think that just because it’s winter that means baby needs a snowsuit (and a blanket, and a bunting, etc). Babies hands and feet may feel a little cool to the touch sometimes and this does not necessarily indicate baby is too cold! Feel the stomach or chest and if it is warm, baby is at a good body temperature.

 

(Citation: Blair PS, Mitchell EA, Heckstall-Smith EM, Fleming PJ. Head covering: a major modifiable risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome—a systematic review. Arch Dis Child. 2008;93(9):778–783)

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