The Real Science of Babywearing

Baby wearing is a new term, but not a new concept.

It was birthed from necessity. Long ago, baby wearing was a matter of basic safety. The child could be protected more easily when carried. Things still needed to get done; the baby couldn’t be left alone, so people (for thousands of years in every different culture) have been designing and redesigning the baby carrier. Now, we have the option to leave our infants inside of a crib within the safe confines of our homes.  Due to our advancement, many of the issues that made baby wearing a necessity are less of a factor.

A Physiological Need

Many parents still feel a strong emotional pull towards baby wearing. What we’re starting to realize is that this emotional pull may be instinctual, because the benefits of baby wearing far exceed nurturance, convenience and safety. Infants have a physiological need to be held… a lot.

  1. There is a natural rhythm of movement that is inherently human that no baby swing, bouncer or stroller can replicate.
  2. This motion provides constant and perfect vestibular stimulation which is crucial to infants.
  3. The vestibular system is an area of the brain that has several functions.
  • Maintaining balance in relation to the workings of the inner ear.
  • Helping babies locate where they are in relation to other people and objects.
  • Housing neurological connections that play important roles in posture, coordination, and vision.
  • An under-stimulated vestibular system can result in panic attacks and anxiety, problems with balance, abnormalities in muscle tone, constipation, and teeth grinding.

Mirroring the Nervous System: A Cure for Colic

As if that’s not enough to think about, there’s also the issue of colic. Colic is blamed on over-stimulation of the baby’s nervous system. This over-stimulation may be the result of many things; however, one of the best ways of reducing colic is to keep the baby in close physical contact with his mother.

Near constant contact with his mother’s mature nervous system works to regulate the baby’s immature nervous system.  It lowers the levels of stress hormones and adrenalin circulating in the infant’s blood stream. The baby doesn’t just feel better emotionally when she is held, she feels better physiologically as well.

This idea of regulation is one of the most amazing perks of baby wearing. A baby’s heartbeat, breathing and body temperature also regulate themselves to mirror the more mature functioning of a healthy adult. This establishes healthy patterns at a crucial developmental stage. This is one of the primary reasons why baby-wearing benefits premature infants and lowers their mortality rate.

“If I wear my baby, won’t she be spoiled?”

On the contrary, history and studies have consistently shown that baby wearing allows the child to be at the center of activity rather than being the center of attention. The baby learns that the world doesn’t stop for or revolve around him. Baby wearing fosters a healthy atmosphere for the development of empathy, understanding, learning, affection and a healthy sense of self.  There’s no need to deny our parental instincts to carry our babies any longer. Baby wearing may be thousands of years old, but it is in no way a thing of the past.

Dawn Papple

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3 Responses

  1. Swaddling your newborn is one of the 5 steps suggested by Dr. Harvey Karp in “The Happiest Baby on the Block”. The methods help parents survive infant colic by teaching them how to soothe cries and boost sleep.

  2. I wouldn’t have survived after the birth of my 3rd child if hadn’t worn her! It allowed me to care for her needs as well as my other children’s since I had 2 free hands!

  3. […] how important it is to sooth a child with physical touch via a baby carrier because I did that in a previous blog. I will assure you though, it’s not just “babying” them. When they need to be held, it’s […]

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