Benefits for Your Baby
Carried babies cry less. Parents of fussy babies who try babywearing relate that their babies seem to forget to fuss. In 1986, a team of pediatricians in Montreal reported on a study of 99 mother-infant pairs, half of whom were given carriers and asked to carry their infants for at least three extra hours a day. These parents were encouraged to carry their babies as much as possible, not just in response to crying or fussing, as is common in Western society. In the control, or noncarried, group, parents were not given any specific instructions. After six weeks, the infants who were carried more cried and fussed 43 percent less than the noncarried group.
This has been my experience as well. I believe that being close encourages being calm. Wearing a baby lets a mom keep a close eye on her child. She'll also be more likely to spot her infant's first signs of fussing and have a better chance of preempting an all-out fit. This also helps Baby understand noncrying modes of communication: She learns that these initial signals receive an immediate nurturing response.
Carried babies may learn more. If infants spend less time crying and fussing, what do they do with the free time? I think they spend it learning! I've found that carried babies do not sleep a lot more but actually show an increased awake time called "quiet alertness" -- the behavioral state in which an infant is most content and best able to interact with the environment. The child is stimulated by participating so intimately in what her mother or father is doing, but she's not overwhelmed by what she sees and hears because she's comfortable in her parent's arms.
Concerns that carrying babies too much will delay crawling are unfounded. In fact, some infant developmental specialists believe that it actually helps infants develop because they divert the energy they would otherwise spend fussing into learning and growing.
Carried babies get "humanized" earlier. These babies get to know their parents, and people in general, quickly and well. Baby is exposed to the facial expressions, body language, voice inflections, breathing patterns, and emotions of her babywearer. Also, because Baby is up at voice and eye level, she is more involved in conversations and learns a valuable speech lesson -- the ability to listen. Carried infants sometimes seem to click in to adult conversations, as if they were part of them.
Normal ambient sounds, such as the noise of a vacuum cleaner or a radio, can sometimes surprise or scare a child. When a baby is worn, a sound that might otherwise be frightening has a learning value because the mother can comfort the infant when she is exposed to unfamiliar sounds and experiences.