Can you ever hold a baby “too much” and spoil them? Not possible! Actually, touch is very important for brain development in babies. Studies have found that babies who are held and touched a lot are calmer, have better weight gain and develop faster. Premature babies who get kangaroo care (that is skin to skin contact on a parent’s chest) have more stable breathing and heart rates and breastfeed better.
While babies need to be held a lot, it is also true that parents have many other things to do. We need to eat, do chores, attend to older siblings, go for groceries etc. I sure wished I had a few extra hands to hold baby, eat and do chores all at the same time! Nature has only given us two hands, but here is where using a baby carrier comes in.
“Baby wearing” or “baby carrying” is using a baby carrier to hold your baby in close contact with you, while keeping your hands free. Voila! Best of both the worlds. In this blog, I am going to explain how baby carrying helps your baby’s development.
Using a baby carrier has lots of benefits for babies and parents. For the parents, it means they can hold the baby and have their hands free. Ergonomic baby carriers like the Kol Kol do not put strain on the parent’s back/neck or shoulders and the baby’s developing hip and spine. Ergonomic baby carriers are so good that you can even wear a 3 or 4 year old in them, without straining your back.
In most baby carriers in the market, often referred to as baby carry bag, the base where the baby sits is very narrow that it forcefully stretches out the legs, with legs straight and knees close to each other and that puts stress on the developing hip joints.
In contrast, see the baby’s position in the Kol Kol carrier? The baby is sitting with their knees higher than their bottom and their whole bottom and legs (knee to knee) supported by the fabric of the carrier, the same as they would be if they are held in arms. This position ensures that the baby’s hips and spine are safely and comfortably positioned. There are no abnormal forces pulling the baby’s hips outwards. This is why I recommend no swaddling and instead suggest that parents use only ergonomic baby carriers for newborn babies who need to be held for long periods.
As a lactation counsellor, I always recommend that mothers use the baby carrier and go outside for a walk as soon as possible after birth. This has two benefits, one, the mother feels emotionally and physically better with some fresh air and exercise; and two, the baby’s vestibular (movement) system is stimulated because the baby’s brain perceives that the baby’s body is moving. The vestibular system consists of three semi-circular canals in our inner ears, which constantly give feedback to the brain about our movement, posture and balance.
Vestibular input like rocking or gently swinging the baby helps calm them down. All parents instinctively rock new born babies to calm them down, don’t they? Walking in a baby carrier means that your baby can get the benefits of the rocking motion, without you having to tire out your arms.
Taking babies out in the day also starts the process of setting their day and night rhythms and is very useful for your baby’s sensory development via exposure to light, objects, sounds, movements and smells. Vestibular input helps make your baby quiet and alert. This quiet alert stage is optimal for learning and development.
It also helps your baby’s speech development. Yes, you read that right. Long before they can talk, babies are “learning” by listening to speech around them. Keeping your baby close to you by wearing them helps them “hear” a lot of speech sounds when you interact with other people and it motivates you to talk more with your baby. Make sure that your baby is exposed to all the languages spoken at home, because babies are hard-wired to pick up many languages.
It can help prevent babies from developing flat heads. Speaking as a physiotherapist who works with children, I can tell you that too many babies are developing flat spots on their heads because they spend the majority of their time only on their backs. Babies need lots of tummy time on the floor to help them develop muscle strength, vision and movement. After tummy time on the floor, the next best position for babies is to be held upright in the carrier.
We often get parents of 4 or 5 month old babies telling us that their babies want to “sit” and then “stand” by pushing down on the parent’s lap with their legs. This is not good, because we want babies to learn to sit on their own. Using an ergonomic baby carrier lets a baby be upright without this trying to “stand”.
It also makes it easier for other family members to bond with the baby. Many fathers and grandparents love the fact that they can get the physical closeness with their babies/grandchildren, that breastfeeding offers mothers. Using the baby carrier and walking around can also help fathers get their babies or toddlers asleep for nap or night time.
It makes travelling very easy. Mother can nurse baby in the carrier. Babies can take their naps on the go. Parents don’t have to lug around prams and strollers and look for ramps or lifts. Parents don’t have to struggle with tired toddlers who do not want to walk around. Simply pop your baby or toddler into a baby carrier and go!
So there you are. Using an ergonomic baby carrier is convenient for you and has many benefits for your baby. If you don’t have a carrier, get one today and enjoy!
Happy Kol Koling!
This blog is written by
– Puja Padbidri is a Paediatric Physiotherapist (USA) who has been working
in Early Intervention ( 0 to 3 years old), in New York and Connecticut for 8
years and now continues to do so in India. Her strong belief that early detection and treatment is ALWAYS better for babies and young children and especially for premature babies.
– Aparna Bhat is a Physiotherapist(USA) and Certified Lactation Educator Counselorwho has worked in a hospital and home health care setting for 7 years. She has raised her two children on principles of allowing development through natural exploration, baby led weaning, gentle attachment parenting and positive communication skills.