Parents stay firmly attached to their young
While there has been a recent resurgence in babywearing in Ireland, it still lags behind other European countries, writes MICHELLE McDONAGH
ALTHOUGH BABYWEARING was a traditional practice in all cultures around the world for centuries long before the advent of the perambulator or buggy, it is only in recent decades that the practice of wearing or carrying a baby in a sling or another form of carrier has come back into fashion.
The resurgence in popularity of babywearing, which along with breastfeeding has been largely influenced by advocates of attachment parenting, has been slower to take off in Ireland than in other European countries, but the sight of parents – mainly mothers – toting their infants around in various types of carriers is becoming more common on our streets.
The US paediatrician, Dr Bill Sears, who coined the term attachment parenting, attributes many benefits to babywearing including the development of a more intimate maternal/ infant bond, easier breastfeeding, a decrease in postnatal depression and even a reduction in colic.
Studies of parent-child attachment, parental satisfaction and infant crying all point to babywearing as providing an optimum environment for attachment between parent and child.
Baby carriers and slings increase the number of hours per day an infant is held, and there is an inverse relationship between the number of hours spent crying and the number of hours a child is held, according to the research.
Even three hours of babywearing per day has been found to reduce infant crying significantly.
For Dundalk mother of two, Ina Doyle, breastfeeding and babywearing were a normal part of raising children rather than a choice that needed to be made.
She grew up in Dresden, Germany, where both practices are common and is now an active member of Babywearing Ireland, working part-time as a babywearing consultant and a breastfeeding counsellor.
“Since I moved to Ireland 10 years ago, babywearing has become a lot more popular here.
“You see a lot of people using mass-produced carriers which tend not to be an ergonomic way of carrying a baby and can be uncomfortable for both mother and baby, but there is definitely also an increase in people using ergonomic slings such as woven wraps, ring slings, mei tais and soft structured carriers.”
While many parents choose to stop babywearing once their children become toddlers, others like Doyle continue to carry their children in soft structured slings for longer.
She says she gets more smiles than funny looks when she carries her five-year-old son in this manner but these days, it usually only happens if they have been walking or hiking for a long time and he needs a rest.
“Our babies expect to be carried, it’s natural for them. All of the cultures in the world used to carry their babies at one time, it was the only way to get from A to B with 12 children and a couple of cows, but it was pretty much forgotten for a long time.
“The benefits for both the parent and the baby still in the so-called fourth trimester are great.
“It helps regulate the baby’s breathing, blood levels, insulin and temperature and, if used correctly, a sling can help the anatomic development of the baby.”