My first ‘encounter’ with babywearing was when I was a new mother to our firstborn in Timor Leste. I was walking back and forth on our terrace, in an attempt to soothe our baby, when I saw our Timorese neighbor — also with her fussy baby, born a few days before mine — and her mother-in-law. They were on their porch, too, because of the heat.
The mother-in-law had a large blanket with her and I watched, fascinated, as she ‘converted’ the blanket into a sling of sorts, placed her grandchild in it, and started walking around with her. The baby seemed to calm down soon afterwards.
A few days later, someone gave me a baby carrier from Indonesia, which I initially had no idea how to use. And so began my adventures in babywearing.
Now, almost eight years later, babywearing has become a part of our everyday life. There are many others who know of and promote the beauty of babywearing, and some have even banded together to form the Filipino Association of Babywearers, or FAB, with the aim of promoting babywearing and encouraging families to embrace the lifestyle.
In honor of International Babywearing Week 2014 (October 5-11), we list down what’s so fab about “wearing” your baby:
1. Babywearing promotes bonding. Eliza Santiago-Ypon — makeup artist, LATCH peer counselor, and mother to 4-year-old Basti — has seen firsthand how babywearing helps mothers bond with their children. “Babywear and bond,” she advises parents. “Babywearing keeps your baby close to your head and heart, both physically and emotionally.”
Jenny Ong, lawyer, owner of the online shop Mama.Baby.Love. and mom to Naima (6 years 10 months) and Erik (2 year and 10 months), says that babywearing actually benefits the whole family.“While only moms can breastfeed, bonding through babywearing can be done by the entire family — dad, lola, lolo, aunts, uncles, even older siblings. It is a family affair and brings everyone closer!”
2. Babywearing makes for healthier babies. Buding Aquino-Dee, LATCH and FAB co-founder, mompreneur behind SaYa Baby Carrier, and mom to Tommy, 15, Colby, 7, and Arie, 4, says that babywearing helps mothers provide “kangaroo mother care” to their babies.“The increased skin-to-skin contact promotes optimal growth,” she adds.
Eliza seconds the motion, “For newborns, the kangaroo care naturally helps the baby regulate their bodily functions.”
Buding and Eliza’s statements are actually backed up by scientific research. The World Health Organization’s publication, Kangaroo care: a practical guide, defines kangaroo mother care as “the care of preterm infants carried skin-to-skin with the mother. It is a powerful, easy-to-use method to promote the health and well-being of infants born preterm, as well as full-term.”
The same guide says that kangaroo mother care (or KMC) “has been shown to be effective for thermal control, breastfeeding and bonding in all newborn infants, irrespective of setting, weight, gestational age, and clinical conditions.”
3. Babywearing helps make babies smarter. Buding says that worn babies “are smarter” because they are in a “quiet alert state best for learning.” While this may seem a bit far-fetched, it apparently is true.
Dr. William Sears, a known pediatrician and the author of over 30 books on childcare, even mentions the benefits of babywearing on their website, AskDrSears.com.
“Sling babies are smarter,” according to the website. “Babywearing helps the infant’s developing brain make the right connections.”
Further on, it says, “…sling babies seem more attentive, clicking into adult conversations as if they were part of it.”
Babywearing also seems to promote speech development, as worn babies are — by default of their positions, i.e. being “at voice and eye level” — “more involved in conversations,” and, indirectly, learn the important art of listening.
Eliza affirms this, saying babywearing “benefits babies mentally through constant exposure to language and stimulation by seeing the world as Mommy sees it.”
4. Babywearing makes multi-tasking easier. Parents, especially mothers, know all too well how difficult it can be to ‘juggle’ different tasks at the same time. However, parents who babywear know that this ‘juggling’ becomes a lot easier when baby is in a sling or other types of baby carrier.
“Babywearing makes travelling, breastfeeding and doing day-to-day tasks and work with a child in tow light, easy and fun. It’s multi-tasking at its finest. Isn't it amazing?!” exclaims Bing Guevara, an IT Professional who also co-founded the popular breastfeeding support group, Breastfeeding Pinays. As a busy mom to Aidan, 9, and Rafa, 2, Bing can testify to how babywearing has helped make her life so much easier.
Denise Sehwani Gonzales-Bernardo, “yummymummy” of Indigo Baby, co-organizer of FlowSurfYogaSamba and sambista at the Imperiatriz Filipinense Samba School, also multi-tasks while wearing her baby. “I love that I can breastfeed while walking when I am babywearing, and that I can work, too, if needed.”
5. Babywearing makes travelling easier. My husband and I had to travel a lot with our young children for work, and babywearing made doing so hassle-free, because we didn’t have to bring a bulky stroller around.
Denise agrees, “Babywearing makes for amazing adventures with baby in tow! Who said having a baby means you can’t see the sights? Babywearing makes having a baby more fun!” Having worn both her sons, Benny (now 7 years old) and Pax (1 year 5 months old), Denise certainly knows what she’s talking about.
Buding says it well, “Have baby, will travel! Babywearing is mobility, portability and availability. You've got places to go, sights to see and babywearing makes it easier for you to pack light and keep your ‘precious cargo’ always within reach.”
Want to see babywearing parents in action, and learn more about it from a babywearing mentor? “Share the Adventure” and celebrate International Babywearing Week with FAB this Saturday, October 11, 2014! Registration is free — click here for details.