Friday, July 11, 2014

6 Reasons to Wrap Your Baby

The concept of babywearing is as old as babies - I have a mental image of a cavewoman foraging near her cave with dogs by her side and a baby on her back. Tribal populations in India continue this practice but for some reason, this isn't very common among us city-dwellers.

I've been carrying baby E since she was 5 days old in a purple Flo soft carrier from Mamas and Papas. The Flo and other soft carriers is basically a strip of stretchy cotton jersey fabric - about 30 inches wide and 7 feet long - that you essentially wrap around your body and then stick baby in. It took a few tries to figure out how to use it properly but my sleepy newborn was the perfect test subject - she practically lived in there the first month.

There is some contention about the term "babywearing"; RIE practitioners like Janet Lansbury hate the term because it implies that baby is an item of clothing while the Sears' consider it one of the seven pillars of attachment parenting. I like the term baby-wrapping because gifts are also wrapped and a baby is a gift could I be any sappier?

Whatever you choose to call it, there is no denying the following:

#1 - Helps Transition From Pregnancy

My pregnancy ended quite abruptly as Baby E was born two weeks preterm. I wasn't entirely ready to be a mother and I really did miss feeling her in utero kicks and pokes. However, with her in the wrap, I could still feel the occasional reassuring squirm. 

More importantly, it helps baby transition from womb to room - baby is close enough to hear familiar voices and feel the warmth of your body, except now it's from the outside! It made all the difference between a crazy crying baby (as she was in the first 5 days I spent largely in bed recovering from childbirth) and a baby who only stirred to be fed.

Except newborns are mourning their eviction and that is one need that can't be met. 
Now, 4 month-old E has moved out of the newborn hug hold (with legs tucked under her body and inside the wrap), and into the front cross carry or kangaroo carry hold (with legs outside) so it feels nothing like being pregnant. But then again, I'm beginning to forget my pregnancy except for the constant heartburn.

#2 - No Need to Worry About Baby

If we wanted check on whether she was too warm/too cold, whether she was awake or hungry, and that near constant worry of all parents to check if she's still alive yes, I still prod my sleeping baby to check, she was right there nestled against my chest.

Hearing those adorable newborn breathing sounds I miss my sleepy newborn was enough to melt my heart and fuse it with hers. So if transitioning to motherhood was initially hard, having E snuggled against me all day really accelerated the process.

#3 - Some Semblance of Normalcy

Having her {literally} on me meant the whole family could eat together at the dining table; I didn't miss out on any fun conversations when we had friends over; and I could keep her out of the clutches of over-zealous relatives at her 28th day ceremony GERMS!  


Everyone else gets to enjoy happy baby while mother deals with Ms. Fussbudget Crankypants.
We could still go outdoors without the need to strap her into the car seat one never crosses 40 kmph in Bangalore. and it was a ready nursing cover for those times when I needed to feed her in the car. I also didn't need those abominations called baby nests because I didn't worry about her being warm enough.
We even managed to grab a few sit-down meals at restaurants - sleepy newborn would just sleep and we could eat, drink, talk, and be merry.

Nowadays, when we are out, she's in a stroller but I transfer her into the wrap when it's nap time, and it's lights out within 15 minutes - no matter how noisy the place. It also helped transition her from an in-arms sleeper to an in-bed sleeper

#4 - Baby Gets "Organized"

When I read about babywearing "organising" a baby in The Baby Book, I had no idea what it meant. Four months in, I see how E's sleep settled quickly - she didn't startle at loud noises and is quite able to tune out sounds when she's asleep a highly useful skill in Bangalore with its berserk stray dogs and clanging temples.

Her strange start-stop breathing normal for newborns disappeared in less than 3 weeks and she had her first social smiles before six weeks. Because she was so close to me, I knew the newborn's immediate need to be held was being satisfied, so if she stirred, it was either due to hunger or a dirty diaper. I didn't have to worry about reflux either because she was held upright in the wrap. All the wrapping in the world didn't make a difference to the inexplicable evening fussiness.

The important thing about getting baby "organised" is that they don't learn to associate crying with having their needs met. Responding to the first frown, yawn or whimper, especially in the early days, while tiring for the parents, allows baby to refocus the energy she would have wasted on crying into other more productive endeavours (Sears, 2011). See? I'm citing; I would never sound so pompous.

And that's why you should read a baby book.
#5 - Saves The Back

When E was around 10-weeks old, her legs had gotten too long for the newborn hold but too weak for a legs out hold. However, she had gotten so used to sleeping in the wrap that she refused to sleep in either her bed or the rocker. I had to hold her in my arms, rock and shush her because she associated noise and motion with sleep.

My upper-back was destroyed. If I lay her down on our bed, she's scream so I essentially spent two weeks praying for her to fall asleep fast so I could stop rocking her and sit down with some back support. I was actually beginning to resent her because I was in so much pain. That was when my heart went out to the mothers who didn't use a wrap.

Her refusing to sleep in the wrap worked out for me in the long run but the month I spent training her to sleep in bed has probably damaged my upper back forever. When I see mothers carrying their babies, I actually see women with really strong back muscles because I can't do it for more than five or ten minutes.

#6 - Extremely Versatile

There are many ways to wrap a baby with cloths ranging from 3 to 6 metres in length and about 30 inches wide. Admittedly, the learning curve is a little steep but it's easier than learning how to neatly drape a sari. YouTube has a bunch hundreds of how-to videos to help you get started.

After having mastered all of the ways to wrap baby nestled against my chest, I'm experimenting with wearing her on my back. Since she is accustomed to being wrapped, she patiently lets me joggle her around while I practice on the edge of a bed.

Wraps trump fixed carriers because baby gets customised support for her back, rump, and legs - it isn't one size fits all and baby isn't just dangling in front of or behind you, she is actually nestled close to you buttressed by your body. Another big plus, you can wrap your baby for as long as you intend on carrying her - you'll just need to find stronger fabrics to wrap your 3-year old in.

Actually, they both look equally dangerous. Wrap your baby!
Conclusion

A relative once cattily told me that my baby could suffocate in her wrap, especially in the heat. If this is your concern, know that suffocation is a risk only with newborns in ring-slings don't bother Googling, they're useless and will contribute to backache carried in a cradle carry, i.e., on their backs. A regular wrap with baby carried upright is of no risk provided you follow safe babywearing practices.

Ultimately, baby-wrapping is convenient for parents and reassuring for babies . In the early days, when all baby does is sleep, you get to have her close to you with both your hands free to grab a meal, do the laundry, or fix your hair. Other benefits include increased attachment and an accelerated ability to understand baby's needs.

E is wrapped everyday for at least an hour inside and outside our home. To her, the wrap is a portable home that she associates with safety. This gives me an easy way to calm her down when we're out without having to compromise on dexterity and that's invaluable.

If you're still undecided, poke around on Teh Gr8 Interwebs for more information. However, understand that in the US, babywearing is associated very closely with attachment parenting which, in turn, is associated with this TIME Magazine cover (I don't think it's NSFW but your office may think otherwise) and as such, elicits some extreme views.

It doesn't have to be either/or. I practise Whatever Works Parenting.
If you're new to babywearing, wear your baby around the house at first - start slow, a few minutes at a time and build your way up. Venture outdoors only when you are confident about wrapping and baby is comfortable being wrapped.

Drop me a line in the comments about your baby-wrapping misadventures!

No comments:

Post a Comment