- Matthew Thorsen
- Alex, Amanda and Owen McClary and Nancy Sunderland with a doll used for demonstrations
New parents: Looking for a great way to multitask while simultaneously showing your baby some love? Strap that little one onto your body!
Babywearing is common practice all over the world — and for good reason. Wearing your baby is beneficial to both of you, says Vermont-based child-and-family therapist Shauna Silva. "Babywearing has been empirically shown to have many significant benefits, and not just for babies," she says. "'Worn' babies cry less, often grow faster and develop deep biophysiological attachment to their parents," she notes. And "parents themselves are experiencing increased confidence and parenting satisfaction from the time spent so close to their little one."
Babies are also easier to carry when you're wearing them — so says Bridport mom Nancy Sunderland, cofounder of Burlington Babywearers, a support group that meets on the second Saturday of every month at Pierson Library in Shelburne. Sunderland says she frequently hears "hallelujah" stories from caregivers who have discovered that "a cup of coffee or even a walk" have become attainable due to their new, hands-free method of bringing the baby along.
Sunderland notes that children sense stress — they are little "emotional barometers" — and a "certain something" happens to a child's demeanor when a previously frazzled caregiver finds comfort in a new wrap or sling. That's one reason she and Shelburne mom Amanda McClary started the support group in 2012. The two work hard to help caregivers find stylish, safe, budget-friendly ways to wear their babies.
The group owns a lending library of slings, wraps and other carriers; members who pay a $10 fee can take home items to try out before investing in their own purchase. The group reinvests the fee by purchasing new carriers for their collection.
During a demonstration at a recent meeting, Sunderland — a certified babywearing instructor — offered hands-on instruction and safety tips. She also confessed that her favorite aspect of babywearing is when her child falls asleep: "I will just walk and walk, enjoying the blissful moments, feeling his breath on my skin and his heart next to mine."
Carriers, Ages & Stages:
Ring Sling: Easy to use and great for newborns. Sunderland recommends these for beginners. They're also good for "hip carries" of babies 6 months and older, as they're easily accessible for toddlers who get up and down frequently.
Stretchy Wrap: Good from birth until the baby weighs about 15 to 18 pounds. Many caregivers find that the carrier starts to sag after 18 pounds. They're a little trickier to learn to use, but an excellent choice for keeping newborns extra snuggly.
Woven Wrap: Good from birth to toddlerhood and beyond! These wraps are supportive and multipurpose.
Mei Tai: A solid choice if you have babies of different ages or wearers of different sizes. An affordable option if you'd like to invest in one carrier that works from birth through toddlerhood.
Soft-Structured Carrier (aka Buckle Carrier): Wonderful for older babies and toddlers, and can also be used for newborns.
Sunderland notes that the most important rule is to keep your child's airway open at all times. The baby's face should always be visible, the baby's body should never be slumped and the baby's chin should never be touching his or her chest.
The baby should be "high and tight" on your body, with his or her legs in a spread-squat position. After breast-feeding, make sure the baby is repositioned upright again.
While Sunderland is always ready with safety rules, she says trusting instinct is vital. "If something doesn't feel right, start at square one and do it again."