“The Fourth Trimester”1
Human babies are incredibly underdeveloped at birth.2 Some have theorized that the level of development is similar to possum and kangaroo babies, who are carried by their parents in a pouch after birth.3 Continuous contact between mother and child for the first few months after birth can provide an infant with an environment similar to the womb and makes the “transition and adaptation to extrauterine life as free from abrupt changes as possible.”4
The Key Benefits of Babywearing
Heartbeat – Babies who are carried close the parent’s chest (without extra fabric in between baby and the parent) can hear the parent’s heartbeat, an experience that duplicates the experience in the womb and calms the infant.5 The Belle Baby Carrier enables direct contact with the parent.
Motion – Being carried gives the baby motion stimulus, like being carried inside the womb, creating a pacifying effect. Children often fall asleep while being carried because of the calming effect of the parent’s movement.6
Crying – Scientific studies have shown that carried babies cry less than babies who are placed in a crib, stroller, or car seat. Dr. Sears reported in his article on Babywearing, the following study: “In 1986, a team of pediatricians in Montreal reported on a study of ninety-nine mother-infant pairs. The first group of parents were provided with a baby carrier and assigned to carry their babies for at least three extra hours a day. They were encouraged to carry their infants throughout the day, regardless of the state of the infant, not just in response to crying or fussing. In the control, or noncarried group, parents were not given any specific instructions about carrying. After six weeks, the infants who received supplemental carrying cried and fussed 43 percent less than the noncarried group.”7
Learning – Scientific studies have shown that babies who are carried learn more quickly because they spend more time in the state of “quiet alertness,” which enables learning and development.8 Researchers have reported that carried babies show enhanced visual and auditory alertness.9 In this state the infant is most content and able to interact with the environment. “It may be called the optimal state of learning for a baby.”10
“Carried babies are intimately involved in their parents' world because they participate in what mother and father are doing. A baby worn while a parent washes dishes, for example, hears, smells, sees, and experiences in depth the adult world. He is more exposed to and involved in what is going on around him. Baby learns much in the arms of a busy person.”11
Bonding – Babywearing promotes parent-child bonding. The constant interaction and facial recognition teaches the parent the child’s cues and the parent becomes more responsive to the child’s needs.12
Frequent Breastfeeding – Babywearing allows for regular breastfeeding on demand. Breastfeeding on demand facilitates milk production and is healthier for the child by reducing vomiting, reflux and crying.13 The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund recommend on-demand breastfeeding as the desired form of care for all healthy infants.14 Carrying your child regularly, especially in a carrier that is conducive to breastfeeding, helps facilitate more frequent feedings.
Flat-head syndrome (Plagiocephaly) – The bones in an infant’s head are not fused at birth, and sometimes the shape of an infant’s head can change when an infant is placed in a particular position repetitively. This condition is called “positional plagiocephaly.”15 Common causes of plagiocephaly are a restrictive intrauterine environment, sleep patterns, or perhaps muscular torticollis, a condition where one of the infant’s neck muscles are too tight, causing the infant to prefer a certain head position over others. The excessive use of car seats and strollers, compounded with the recommended back position for sleeping (to help prevent SIDS), has increased the incidents of plagiocephaly to the back of the head. This condition is thought to be purely cosmetic and should be distinguished from craniosynostosis, a more serious condition where the bones of the skull fuse together too early.16 It is important to properly diagnose any changes in your child’s craniofacial structure to ensure proper treatment.17 Carrying your child in a soft-structured carrier can reduce the risk of your child developing positional plagiocephaly.18
Don’t Leave Out Dad!
Much of the discussion of babywearing focuses on the bonding between mother and child and the ease of breastfeeding. But there are great benefits to dad babywearing as well. The baby becomes accustomed to dad’s smells and voice, and the unique way dad walks and moves. Babywearing also allows dad to have the experience of attachment with the baby. And, as Dr. Sears describes, a father who is comfortable wearing his baby, and a baby who responds to dad’s babywearing techniques “are real bonuses for mothers of high-need babies. It helps prevent mother burnout.”19
Belle Baby Carriers were designed by two dads, and the line includes styles that dad will be comfortable wearing, such as the Black, the Cappuccino, or the Organic Black or Sand. The size adjustment is made automatically when you put the carrier on, so all carriers will fit both mom and dad. And, the Belle is extremely easy to use. With the Belle, both mom and dad can wear the baby and can share the harmonious experience of babywearing.
How the Belle Baby Carrier Makes Baby Wearing Easy
The Belle Baby Carrier was designed to be an extremely compact and simple carrier to use, making baby wearing an easy and enjoyable practice. The unique waist and shoulder belt system transfers the weight from your shoulders to your hips. Because the carrier is so comfortable for the parent’s back, it will inspire you to wear your baby more often and for longer periods of time. The Belle allows your baby to face inward, directly against the chest of the parent, without any extra fabric in between, and allows for easy breastfeeding. The supportive design cradles the baby’s back in a natural, healthy position. The inward facing position enables the baby to listen to the parent’s heartbeat and experience the warmth and scent of the parent.
Although the inward facing position is the most common position for a baby, the Belle is also designed to allow the baby to face outward on occasion, so that the baby may take in the world around him. This position is sometimes called the “kangaroo carry.”20 The benefits of this position have been described by Dr. Sears. “In the kangaroo carry, baby has a 180-degree view of her environment and is able to scan her world. She learns to choose, picking out what she wishes to look at and shutting out what she doesn't. This ability to make choices enhances learning.”21
We recommend only using the outward position once a baby can hold its own head up safely.
1This phrase is sometimes used to refer to the first three months after birth, when an infant benefits from experiences that duplicate the state in the womb. Dr. Sears refers to the 18 month gestation period, nine months inside the womb and nine months outside the womb. See Sears, William MD, “Babywearing,” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/T051100.asp
7“Sears, William MD, “Babywearing,” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/T051100.asp; see also Schön and Silvén, pages 113, 114 (discussing the causes of crying).
8Sears, William MD, “Babywearing,” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/T051100.asp.
9Sears, William MD, “Babywearing,” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/T051100.asp.
10Sears, William MD, “Babywearing,” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/T051100.asp. Dr. Sears also reports that the state of quiet alertness gives parents a better opportunity to interact with their baby, which also promotes attachment. “Notice how mother and baby position their faces in order to achieve this optimal visually interactive plane. The human face, especially in this position, is a potent stimulator for interpersonal bonding.”
11Sears, William MD, “Babywearing,” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/T051100.asp.
12Sears, William MD, “Babywearing,” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/T051100.asp; see also Schön and Silvén, page 105, 106.
15See Informational page on Plagiocephaly, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, last accessed 06/02/08; http://www.lpch.org/DiseaseHealthInfo/HealthLibrary/craniofacial/dfrmplag.html; Informational page on Plagiocephaly, Children’s Hospital Boston, last accessed 06/03/08; http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1453/mainpageS1453P0.html;Hockenberry, Marilyn J. and Wilson, David (2007) Wong’s Nursing Care of Infants and Children, Eighth Edition, page 450.
16Informational page on Plagiocephaly, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, last accessed 06/02/08; http://www.lpch.org/DiseaseHealthInfo/HealthLibrary/craniofacial/dfrmplag.html
17Informational page on Plagiocephaly, Children’s Hospital Boston, last accessed 06/03/08; http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1453/mainpageS1453P0.html;
18See Informational page on Plagiocephaly, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, last accessed 06/02/08; http://www.lpch.org/DiseaseHealthInfo/HealthLibrary/craniofacial/dfrmplag.html; Informational page on Plagiocephaly, Children’s Hospital Boston, last accessed 06/03/08; http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1453/mainpageS1453P0.html; Hockenberry and Wilson, page 450.
19Sears, William MD, “Babywearing,” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/T051100.asp.
20Sears, William MD, “Babywearing,” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/T051100.asp.
(Note that “kangaroo care” is a different phrase describing the practice of carrying preterm infants against a bare chest. See Schön and Silvén, pages 114 - 115).
21Sears, William MD, “Babywearing,” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/T051100.asp.