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Sling Babies

Babywearing Benefits for You

Babywearing is convenient. Anyone who has put on a carrier will tell you that this is true. For a baby, home is where the mother is. If you're a few weeks postpartum and you're starting to go stir crazy or feeling homebound, there's nothing in the mother-infant contract that says you have to stay home and become a recluse after you have a baby. Babywearing allows you to have your baby and your life too.

Babywearing helps in sibling care. Having a baby in the sling provides extra mobility for the mother  -- especially valuable when there is an older child in the picture. As one mother said, "Carrying our new baby in the sling gives me an extra pair of hands to play with and enjoy our toddler. It's done wonders to lessen sibling rivalry."

Babywearing makes breastfeeding easier. Probably one of the most wonderful aspects of a sling or carrier is that it allows breastfeeding on the move. Busy mothers can nurture their babies with the best nutrition, yet still continue their active lifestyles. If you need to feed in public, discreet breastfeeding is very easy while wearing a baby. It also makes it easier to breastfeed at a restaurant or other places where babies aren't always considered socially acceptable. Martha used to breastfeed while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Our most memorable public breastfeeding experience was the morning that Martha wore Stephen on The Donahue Show. Stephen nestled contently and breastfed in the sling for 45 minutes as we discussed the benefits of attachment parenting on national television. We are sure that what the audience saw made more of an impression than what we actually said.

Babywearing can help you connect with your partner. Shortly after Stephen's birth, I was going through the usual "when will I get my wife back?" feelings that most postpartum dads have  -- and I realized that I really needed some alone time with Martha. Having our weekly "dates" has always helped us thrive with a large family. So we put the younger children to bed, and the two of us sat down to a quiet dinner. Well, three of us, actually. Stephen slept so quietly in the sling you'd never have known that he was there.

Babywearing can help in childcare. One way for a working mother to be sure her baby receives a lot of interaction in her absence is to encourage her caregiver to wear her. One of my patients had a high-need baby who was content as long as she was in the sling, but the mother had to return to work when her baby was 6 weeks old. I wrote the following prescription to give to her daycare provider: "To help this baby thrive and to keep her from fussing, wear her in a sling at least two hours a day."

Martha and I also found that the sling helped with the transition to substitute care. If we were in a hurry, we would greet the babysitter at the door, transfer Mathew to her while in the sling  -- like the transfer of a baton in a relay race  -- and she took over the wearing. Mathew forgot to fuss, and we felt better knowing his routine was not disrupted. Carriers can work at work. Babywearing can fit in beautifully with the complex lifestyles of a working mother. Some occupations, such as selling real estate or being a clerk, lend themselves well to babywearing on the job. In our pediatric office we encourage our front office staff to wear their babies at work for the first six months  -- and it's been a huge success.

Your employer may be reluctant to allow you to wear your baby to work, but try asking for a two-week trial with the agreement that if it's a problem then you will find an alternative arrangement. I've found that babywearing mothers are more productive: Since they so appreciate the opportunity to keep their babies with them all day, they make an extra effort to do their job well.

Carriers aren't only for infants. Even after our babies had outgrown their slings, we still kept one handy for those times when some misbehaviors would signal that, instead of "time out," our toddler needed "time in." When one of our toddlers seemed to disintegrate from a toy squabble, for example, we would put him in the sling and walk around with him for a few minutes. Somehow this bit of reconnecting, knowing that the sling was still available, seemed to be all the destressing the child needed to calm down. The sling was like a great big hug for our children  -- and that was just as nice for Martha and me too.