I love babywearing. I’ve been doing it for four years now, and I plan to continue as long as my children let me. With the right carrier, it’s easier to toss even a heavy preschooler on your back than to persuade them to sit in a bulky stroller (and then negotiate the stroller over whatever terrain you find yourself in, which in Atlanta is rarely a well-kept sidewalk). If you’re at all familiar with babywearing, then you’re probably familiar with the well-publicized benefits: it keeps baby close, is good for development, and makes high-needs babies easier to manage. But I’d like to point out some of the unexpected benefits. These are not things I knew about before I started doing it. But they just add to the reasons why I love it so much.
1. Weight loss. I’m not going to claim that babywearing makes weight loss easy any more than breastfeeding does, because both of them together (combined with walking all the time) do nothing for my postpartum weight without some serious dieting added on. But I’m sure that I’d have even a harder time losing weight without babywearing. Here’s why: babywearing makes you move. All the time. Sure, a stroller or an infant carseat is heavier, but when you sit down next to a stroller, you can actually sit still. When you’re wearing a baby, you never sit still. A little bit of jiggling will keep a light sleeper asleep a little longer and soothe a fussy baby. And so you quickly gain the habit of staying in constant motion. You’re always swaying a little to invisible music, bouncing on your heels to keep the baby content. You become like that annoying ADHD boy in elementary school who never stopped tapping his foot against your desk. And all that movement burns calories. It may not seem like a workout to you, but it really does add up. Heck, even the fact that you hardly ever sit down helps you lose weight–standing burns more calories than sitting. And after you’ve been babywearing for a few weeks, you’ll get those benefits even when your baby isn’t with you, because the habit will keep you bouncing even when you’re standing in line in the grocery store all by yourself.
Bonus: You can jiggle your baby without using your hands. Which means you can type while soothing a fussy baby. Yes, I’m doing that right now.
2. Strangers see–but don’t touch. I love this for multiple reasons. First, I love getting the benefit of the happy, adoring expression that strangers have when they look at my baby’s face. Yes, I could see this if the baby were in a stroller too, but when they’re looking at my baby in the carrier, it feels like they’re looking at me, too. I get to bask in the edge of their admiration. This is nice. And I deserve it, because hey, I grew that baby, and half of his beauty is due to my genes. Maybe I’m silly, but I enjoy it when people look at me admiringly. Hey, don’t judge me.
But even better, nobody touches the baby when he’s in a carrier. Now, I’m not the kind of person to worry about germs–I figure they build immunity–but it’s still nice to have control over strangers touching my baby. When baby is in a carrier, they can’t poke him without invading my space, and most adults are hesitant to do that with other adults, at least in normal, non-flirtatious social circumstances. I never have to worry about baby getting passed around at family reunions, either, at least not until I choose for him to be.
Bonus: I get a close-up view of baby’s gaze, too. There is nothing sweeter than a baby gazing adoringly into your eyes with his face just inches from your own.
3. You can do everything while walking. Almost everything, anyway. I’m a master now at breastfeeding while walking–I seriously never sit down to nurse; I always get confused when people talk about how nursing keeps you stuck in the house, because I go for a walk to nurse–but you can do tons of other things while walking when you’re babywearing, too. Like eating (super useful when you have a preschooler, to be able to eat while walking, but try eating a sandwich while you’re pushing a stroller), reading (not recommended, but definitely possible), and writing blog posts.
Ok, just kidding about that last one. I could do it on my iphone, though.
Bonus: A baby in a carrier is incredibly portable. In many ways, I consider newborns easier than any other age for this reason–I can go to movies, go out to eat, and attend social activities more easily with a newborn than any other age I’ve experienced so far.
4. Carriers are pretty. In fact, they’re dang gorgeous. I own 7 carriers, which I think is pretty reasonable and demonstrates that I’ve been able to keep this particular baby-gear obsession in check (unlike my cloth diaper obsession, which is admittedly out of control). But if you want to get serious about buying carriers, and you have the money for that sort of thing, there is some amazing stuff out there. (I’m sort of lusting over these gorgeous embroidered carriers that are traditionally used by one ethnic group in southern China right now, ever since I saw one at the Koala Mommas meeting–thanks, Elizabeth!)
Bonus: If you do decide to go crazy and buy lots of different types of carriers, then you can choose one to match your outfit every day. Also, they hold their value, so you can resell them when your babywearing days are done.
5. You’re tuned in to how your baby feels all the time. You don’t ever have to wonder if he’s too cold or too hot; you can feel his temperature without even having to think about it. You know exactly when he falls asleep and exactly when he wakes up–and you can tell what sleep cycle he’s in at any given moment, too, if you care about that sort of thing. I like to pay attention to sleep cycles so I can time transitions (like putting baby into the carseat) when he’s in a deep sleep and won’t wake up. You are also much more likely to notice EC signals. And hunger signals, and tired signals, and overstimulated signals, and anything else your baby communicates throughout the course of the day.
Bonus: You can influence your baby’s state much more easily. If you really want him to take a longer nap, you can stand up and jiggle him for a few minutes when he starts to stir, and chances are he’ll settle back for another hour of sleep. If you really want to focus on EC and catch the next pee, you can take him out and offer the potty as soon as he starts to wake from a nap, before he’s had a chance to go in his diaper.
What about you? What do you love most about wearing your baby?