Is babywearing natural?
Even if we don’t choose to use a sling or carrier, we all carry our babies in our arms.
The ways that we naturally carry our babies tend to be those that we find work best for us; whether because our baby feels better supported, or they seem more settled, or our arms get less tired. Our bodies are lazy! So when we carry our babies in our arms, our muscles will find the position that uses the least energy. And we want an easy life, so we naturally find ways to carry our babies that results in them (and us) being the most settled and relaxed.
So how does this relate to using a sling, wrap or carrier?
Well, the easiest and most comfortable ways to carry your baby in a carrier are usually also the positions that are closest to how you would naturally hold them in your arms. This is because your body will naturally try to hold the weight in the way that puts least pressure on your posture and muscles, and because each parent instinctively learns where their own baby prefers to be held.
A great way to check that you’re using the best carrier position for you and for your baby is to check that they are being held as close as possible to where you’d naturally hold them without a carrier. This is usually with your baby held close to your own centre of gravity, and at a comfortable height for your body to hold the additional weight with the minimum strain on your muscles or changes to your posture.
Let’s look at ‘Natural’ carrying in a bit more detail.
For most ‘in-arms’ carrying positions you create a ‘seat’ for the child using your hips, hands and/or forearms and then use a spare hand or arm to provide extra support for your baby as needed. Most parents carry their baby so that the baby’s bottom sits above or about level with the adult’s belly button and hug the baby’s weight in towards their body.
Carrying a baby with their weight leaning away from you or held too low will be more tiring and uncomfortable, and difficult to maintain for any length of time.
Here are some typical ways that you might naturally carry a baby in your arms. A newborn is usually held high and snug against the chest, with extra support for their head and neck. Older babies don’t need as much support for their upper body, but you need more strength to hold up the extra weight!
For optimum positioning and extra comfort for both you and your child, you’ll find that you normally carry your baby in a way that supports under their thighs and pelvis. For young infants their legs will often tuck up in a ‘froggy legged’ position; as babies grow, you’ll hug their thighs around your body to keep the extra weight close to your torso.
Now let’s take these ‘Natural’ carrying positions and see how they look in different types of sling, wrap and carrier. Whichever type of sling, wrap or carrier used you can see that the baby is supported at the same height and in the same position as when they are held in arms.
The only difference in positioning between how the babies are naturally held in arms and how they are comfortably held in a well-adjusted carrier is that the carrier lets you be hands free!
So ‘Natural’ carrying is a really helpful way to think about how your baby will sit on you when their weight is comfortably and safely supported in your wrap or carrier. You’re aiming for your baby to be held in a safe position, high and snug on your body, and close as possible to how you would normally support your baby in your arms.
With your baby in your wrap or carrier check whether you’d normally hold them a different place (e.g. higher or closer) if they were just in your arms. Take their weight in your arms and hold them in this more ‘natural’ position. Then adjust your carrier around you both so that your baby is held in this same high, snug position when you let go. This will usually improve comfort for you and safe support for your baby in any sling or carrier.