It’s International Babywearing Week. so get hands free and happy with your baby
This week marks International Babywearing Week and B is delighted to talk to Professional Carrying Consultant and Founder of the South London Sling Library, Emily Williamson. Emily is committed to breaking down the barriers many parents have about babywearing and is passionate about empowering more parents to give it a go!
Emily, what is ‘babywearing’ and is it for everyone?
“Babywearing is an incredibly practical, accessible and scientifically-proven way to support your family, whatever type of family you may be! Everyone is different and you don’t need to be a particular ‘type’ of person or parent to babywear successfully. All you need is to find a carrier that suits you and your family; one that you find easy to use, comfortable and supportive. So look for your local Sling Library or Carrying Consultant who can help you try out different carriers and slings to find something that suits not only the individual you are, but the unique family you’re growing.
“Put simply, ‘babywearing’ is a convenient way to express the notion of ‘carrying your baby in a wrap, sling or carrier.’”
Are there known benefits of babywearing?
“There are countless research-supported benefits of regular babywearing for both babies and parents. The closeness that babywearing provides promotes successful bonding and breastfeeding, thanks to the hormone, oxytocin. Known as the ‘hormone of love’, oxytocin is released into the brains of both parents and babies as a result of close, loving contact, promoting bonding and enabling you both to relax and tune into each other.
“Babywearing has also been shown to reduce the time babies spend crying; it can aid with digestion and reduce the symptoms of colic and reflux, due to the baby’s more upight position. For parents, babywearing provides a greater feeling of connection and lessens stress and anxiety, which is commonly associated with Post-Natal Depression (PND).
“Also, don’t forget that babywearing gives you your hands back, so you can get on with your day and comfort your baby at the same time!”
How has your experience as a parent supported your work as a Professional Carrying Consultant?
“As a mum of two, I know just how life-changing becoming a parent can be. It sounds obvious, right? However, many parents-to-be imagine that the arrival of a new baby won’t change who they are. Although as a person you don’t change, we are all faced with learning and adapting to the new expectations and responsibilities of parenthood. Each of my children were so different as babies and each time I needed to learn new ways of parenting within my growing family.
“For me, babywearing saved my sanity and enabled me to grow into my new reality, my new identity, as a parent. I know I’m not the only person to be hit like a ton of bricks by the transition to parenthood. Over the seven years I have been a babywearing consultant, I have seen many strong, confident, capable adults thrown by the arrival of a new baby. They struggle to keep hold of who they are – or who they now need to be for their family. I was one of them but can honestly say that babywearing helped me learn to love being a parent.
“Finding ways to easily and comfortably carry my baby in a sling gave me the practical support (my hands back!) and my first experiences of feeling like a ‘proper’ parent that I desperately needed to lift me. And it was all about the hugs! For me, a hug is the simplest, most natural and uncomplicated way to centre my feelings. You can’t argue with a genuine loving hug, wonder whether it’s good enough, feel guilty or resentful about what it cost or the time it took. With my daughter secured in our carrier, I was wrapped up in a wonderful, reassuring perma-hug, lifting me out of my own head and into the present reality of what’s really important.
“Babywearing made me feel that I was finally good enough for my daughter. She was settled by my closeness, and whatever else was going on in my brain, I could be there for her simply by holding her. My sling made being a parent easier and with my hands free, I could get on with other things; I could walk down the street and go everywhere I used to – quite simply I could be myself again.”
Is it true that babywearing can also help those with Mental Health difficulties?
“As a new parent, our priorities and horizons necessarily change, however adapting to this change isn’t something we are taught to do. The transition into parenthood marks a deep personal shift that isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem.
“With this in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that Post-Natal Depression rates are so high. In the UK, PND affects at least one in 10 mummies and around one in 25 daddies during their baby’s first year. I think it is so important, now more than ever, to acknowledge the hidden struggles many people face and explore new ways to help.
“Babywearing really can help! Don’t’ just take my word for it either; research shows that carrying your baby keeps them calmer and more settled. A baby that cries less and sleeps better makes all the difference for a parent who’s already struggling. And that magic hormone, oxytocin, which is released in the brain of both parent and baby when babywearing, improves mood and promotes emotional responsiveness between parent and baby, protecting against PND.”
What advice would you give to parents who are unsure about babywearing, or who don’t know where to start?
“Give it a go! Babywearing gives you the practical support you need, supports your little one in countless ways and helps you to re-discover yourself as you adapt to your new responsibilities. With all those wonderfully sustaining hugs, babywearing made me happier – at a time when I desperately needed a reassuring boost – and that’s why I’m so passionate about helping others to find ways to comfortably carry their babies too. I couldn’t recommend it enough.”
After helping thousands of parents as a Professional Carrying Consultant and Founder of the South London Sling Library, Emily Williamson was pleased to launch her own baby carrier brand this summer, Izmi Baby