The benefits of babywearing for non-birthing parents
In this post I want to look at the benefits of using a sling for all those parents who didn't physically give birth to their child - these could be Dads, partners, same sex partners, stepparents, adoptive or foster parents, those who used a surrogate, or more… Families come in all sorts of diverse & varied versions, yet this is something which is often still not acknowledged or understood by society as a whole. In the media & on our social platforms, we still often are only exposed to the archetypal family structure made up of, Mum, Dad & child(ren) (& most of these images will also be of white, able bodied people too, but that’s a conversation for another day!).
Building safe, secure attachments with our children is key, not only to their physical & emotional development, but to ours too. So, using a sling right from those early days & months of their lives, can be beneficial for all:
For the birthing parent/primary caregiver it enables movement, (you can even get up & pee!) it can make looking after yourself & a little bit of selfcare more achievable.
For the partner/non-birthing parent it enables you time to be with your child, to bond with them & enjoy them. It also means you are more likely to be able to give your partner or the birthing parent some much needed rest & recovery time!
Holding baby close & safe in a sling can be such an enabling experience. The gentle touch & all over "hug" baby gets from being in the sling, releases oxytocin in both caregiver & child, helping you both to relax & bond. Baby is soothed by the familiar movement & sounds; they hear your heart beating & feel safe against your chest. This may mean baby is easier to settle for short periods away from their primary caregiver, be that through choice or necessity & can help that parent to feel more confident in their parenting abilities. It is also a great way to get some additional (discrete if necessary) skin-2-skin time with baby – something which is widely recognised as beneficial in the immediate postpartum period but is often forgotten about beyond the first few days of life. Skin-2-skin has many physical health & mental wellbeing benefits for both parent & child & continues to be a valuable parenting tool which can be used throughout infancy & beyond made more achievable by using a sling.
Time in the sling aids communication:
Right from birth we are learning to "read" our baby's cues. Watching them, waiting for them to let us know what it is they need - food, warmth, a clean nappy, comfort, etc... Learning to recognise these cues can happen more quickly & effectively, helping to build confidence & assurance in both parent & baby through babywearing.
As baby grows & begins to take in more of their world, they are learning from us too - about language, facial expressions, emotions, etc... They can sense our emotions & mood through the physical contact of being in the sling. Both of your hands are free, making the use of sign language more easily achievable. They have a good clear view of our faces to see our different facial expressions & watch our mouths move as we speak, learning about speech & language, as well as the unspoken social cues & “art of conversation”. If they have vision or hearing difficulties, they can feel the vibrations when we speak & easily reach our faces & mouths to touch us. They also become completely involved in whatever we are doing - watching us as we go about our normal daily routines, cooking, cleaning, working, playing, etc... experiencing life with us, from the safety & security of the sling.
Whether you became a parent to a newborn, older baby or even a toddler, carrying them in a sling can be hugely beneficial for foster &/or adoptive parents too. Despite whatever trauma, that child may have been through, the closeness & connection built whilst babywearing helps encourage children to learn to trust again & build new attachments with their new careers, parents & families, enabling social, emotional & physical development, where previously this may have been delayed. Carrying your child (in a sling) stimulates the neural pathways of the brain to make connections & build happy, healthy brains, giving carried children a greater opportunity for growth & development within a safe & nurturing relationship & space.
Carrying our children (in slings) encourages us to parent responsively, follow our instincts, be in tune with our children & trust them to show us the way. This leads to more emotionally literate, independent children who will hopefully continue to grow into happy, well-adjusted young people & adults venturing out into the world & making a difference.
No parent will ever regret time spent loving & nurturing their children – so enjoy all the cuddles & carry your baby(ies) with pride in the sling, for as long as you wish too.