Have you thought about buying a carrier for your baby but not sure if it’s worth it? I asked my good friend Vivienne Cruddace (www.slingfling.co.uk) to write a guest post this month to help explain why getting comfortable carrying your baby can have so many benefits…
Carrying your child in a wrap or baby carrier, is in its very essence, a lovely thing to do – hands free cuddles where you can sniff your babies gorgeous scent AND eat cake at the same time are probably the best kind. But, it can also be an incredible tool to help you cope with and manage a range of parenting challenges that you may face over the course of your babies first few years.
Breastfeeding can be a huge learning curve for both you and your baby, at a time when you are exhausted, hormonal and recovering from birth. Accessing support – whether it be through the local infant feeding team, breastfeeding peer supporters, breastfeeding counsellors, drop in groups, or helplines – can make a world of difference. If you need any help, no matter how much or how little, don’t be afraid to reach out. You aren’t expected to know everything straight away and you won’t be a burden by asking. Babywearing increases the production of the love hormone oxytocin, which is an important hormone for breastfeeding. It controls the milk ejection reflex, or ‘let down’, and it continues to be produced as your baby nurses. If your breastfeeding journey comes to an end before you wish, babywearing is often found to be an incredibly healing act, allowing you that close contact with your baby to enjoy the benefits of oxytocin in another way.
On a practical note, using a sling can give you a much needed break from the intense cluster feeding period – whether you go for a walk with baby, or get your other half/mum wrapped up with the baby and send them out – it can bring you that 5 minutes of peace to eat/shower/pee that you wish for!
Reflux can be a very distressing condition, and even in its mildest form, it can be frustrating and tiring to manage. It can cause a range of symptoms, including but not limited to the following –
- Vomiting during or after feeds, multiple times a day
- Gagging and choking during feeds, or refusing feeds altogether
- Crying during feeds, or excessive crying after feeds
- Sounding congested/blocked nose
- Arching their backs during feeds, squirming and pulling their legs up to their tummies
- Weight loss
- Persistent hiccupping or coughing
Having a baby with reflux can be incredibly overwhelming, witnessing the pain and upset of your baby, but being limited in the ways you can help. Babywearing isn’t a magic cure, but it does help relieve and manage these symptoms to minimise distress on both sides.
One of the first management techniques for reflux is keeping baby upright, which is easily achieved in a sling. By doing so, it helps keep the acid down and speeds up the movement of the milk from the stomach to the bowel, thereby reducing the risk that it will be vomited. Having your baby well positioned in a sling can also assist in successful winding, which also minimises this risk.
Being close to you, feeling your warmth, hearing your heartbeat, and smelling your scent is incredibly soothing to babies, and it is often said that slings come with ‘sleepy dust’. Being able to facilitate naps in this upright position, can often help reduce the cycle of ‘snacking’, whereby baby feeds to relieve the discomfort in their tummy, but in turn increases their discomfort by introducing more milk to cause the acid reflux. As long as your baby is in an optimal position, adhering to the TICKS guidelines, then it is absolutely fine to let them snooze in the sling – in fact, for some babies it may be the only place they have their daytime naps, as it’s hard to replicate the same comfortable position for easing reflux outwith the sling/your arms.
The gentle swaying motion of being carried also helps baby to settle faster, and reduces the incidence of crying overall (this is for all babies, not just those suffering from reflux). And it can have a positive impact on you too. Reflux can be hard to cope with – the vomiting and crying may wear you down, and make you feel like you can’t leave the house for fear of your baby crying or being sick at a group or class. Popping baby in a sling means you can be hands free at the same time as reducing their reflux symptoms. You can eat, do what you need too in the house, or take a walk and clear your head a little. Whatever you have to do to feel able to cope, it’s just that little bit easier when you’re babywearing. If you’re overwhelmed by the range of slings available, or don’t have the head space to try and figure out what you need (or make sense of the instructions!) then get in touch with your local sling consultant or sling library, who will be able to assist you. A one to one sling consultation at a time to suit you can be helpful if you don’t feel confident about taking your baby to a group, but wherever you go, you will be well looked after, and may come away with a sling that could change your day to day life. Find your local sling meet here
Low Mood/Postnatal Depression
Postnatal depression is more common than you would think, with at least 1 in 5 mums suffering from some form of perinatal mental health issue. PND can make coping with a new baby very difficult, and all too often mums struggle on alone, because they feel ashamed to admit they feel this way. Keeping baby close to your heart by babywearing can help stave off postnatal depression, by allowing the love hormone oxytocin to do its job, promoting bonding between you and your baby. This close contact can be restorative to you both, especially if skin to skin at birth wasn’t possible, your birth was traumatic or you were separated for a prolonged period of time after the birth.
Babywearing is a coping mechanism, a way of being able to survive the day, when you feel like you might not get there, or that you are failing. I wrote this last year, whilst reminiscing on why I carried my children;
‘I could carry my baby, everything we needed, get places we wanted to go, do what we needed to do, and home again, all whilst keeping him close and content. Letting everything pass us by, we were a little unit – me protecting him from the world, and to some extent, him protecting me, during that transitional period where I went from ‘me’ to ‘mum’. Breastfeeding was hard, the sleep deprivation was hard, trying (and failing) to do housework/remember things/do simple tasks like showering alone were hard, but carrying was easy, comforting, enjoyable and gave me the confidence to get us out the door. Without it, I would have struggled to meet people, get to groups and do things even just in the village – and I’m always grateful that I found my way with slings early on’
and it is still true – I would have been lost without slings. Sometimes when there doesn’t seem to be an answer, the sling will make everything right in the world again.
If you feel you are struggling, and that how you are feeling is beyond the normal hormonal baby blues, reach out. If you can’t talk about it without crying, write it down. Just let someone know – it isn’t a burden you have to carry alone.
Making friends/meeting other parents
The local babywearing scene is now buzzing and huge – over the past 3 years, it has grown at a tremendous rate, and you don’t have to look far to find a babywearer, no matter where you are. We are so lucky to have such a lovely community with numerous sling meets and libraries to allow as many parents as possible to access slings. No longer are they seen as the ‘hippy’ option, but as a baby essential, which is an encouraging shift in attitude, and the community is truly diverse in the parents it attracts and people it brings together. And everyone is so friendly – even if you feel completely clueless about slings, there will always be someone willing to make you a cuppa, get you a slice of cake, chat to you and show you where to start.
‘Finding your tribe’ has become a buzz statement on social media of late, but the need for a good support network is so important, trendy catchphrase or not. The parents you will meet through babywearing are likely to be some of the nicest you will come across, so take a deep breath and don’t be afraid to venture out in to your local sling scene.
Vivienne runs www.slingfling.co.uk and is more than happy to assist you in choosing and renting a carrier that suits you and your baby. Find her on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/slingflinglibraryandconsultancy/) or contact her through her website. She is also a breastfeeding peer supporter, a professional photographer, an award winning NCT volunteer and all-round lovely human being. What Vivienne doesn’t know about the early stages of life with a baby probably isn’t worth knowing…