Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or dad, or a parent who does the 9 to 5 p.m. (or beyond) thing, running a household with a little person can be quite challenging. Infants want to be held and toddlers want to play, but things still need to get done. Living life outside the home can also be a bit of a challenge with kids in tow.
Many parents have found a solution for everything from housekeeping to hiking – and that's babywearing.
Babywearing allows parents to carry a child hands-free with one of several types of carriers. No matter what carrier is used, the purpose of babywearing is connecting with your child while engaging in everyday activities, according to Babywearing International. The nonprofit organization strives to make babywearing a widely accepted practice while also providing education for parents and caregivers.
The first question many parents have when it comes to wearing their child is, “Which carrier should I choose?” While there are many options to choose from, there is a carrier out there for everyone. Baby carriers generally fall into five categories, according to Babywearing International. These include wraps, ring slings, pouch slings, Mei Tais and buckle/soft structured carriers.
Woven wraps, such as the popular “Moby wrap,” are the most basic carriers. Their popularity stems from their ability to carry babies in many positions, as well as their sizing capabilities. Parents often use wraps with newborns, but they can be used with toddlers as well. Woven wraps allow infants to be close to your body, which is particularly important when they are transitioning into the world.
Beth Buras, who is a local childcare director, has worn her 18-month-old daughter in a Moby since she was an infant.
“It definitely reduces her anxiety," Buras said. "When we were in the purple period of crying, I would walk my house with her in her Moby wrap. It was the only thing to calm her down."
The ring sling is a one-shoulder carrier consisting of a long piece of fabric and a pair of metal or nylon rings. The end of the sling threads through the rings and adjusts to the person wearing the carrier. Pouch slings are also one-shoulder carriers but cannot be adjusted.
Mei Tai carriers have have two short fabric straps that go around the waist and two longer straps that wrap over the shoulders. There are no buckles and it can be customized to fit each time, making it easy to share between spouses or caregivers.
Ashley Mott, a stay-at-home mom and military spouse living in Bellevue, uses all different types of carriers with her sons Wesley, 5, and Matthew, 15 months, but likes the customization of the Mei Tai.
“If my husband is going to be wearing, I use a Mei Tai because it's user-friendly,” Mott said.
The soft-structured buckle carriers go off and on like a backpack and allow children to sit comfortably using front, back and sometimes hip carriers.
No matter what carrier a parent or caregiver chooses, there are vast benefits for the wearer.
Andrea Comisar, an Omaha teacher, loves the hands-free perk of babywearing her sons, James and Oliver. Comisar is also expecting a third son in May and she plans on wearing him as well.
“I can get so much more done around the house while baby wearing,” Comisar said. “Even now, with Ollie at almost 18 months old, he still gets clingy from time to time and I feel like I can't get anything done. I just put him up on my back and away we go.”
Like Comisar, many parents appreciate babywearing when they have multiple kids to handle in and outside of the home. Monique Visocky, who is a social worker here in Omaha, and her husband, Brian, both wear their son Kayden, 4, and daughter Mira, 2.
“When Mira was little, it made it easy to chase Kayden,” Visocky said. “There were so many benefits at big events. I didn’t worry about them getting lost.”
Benefits extend beyond convenience for parents. Many moms say babywearing helped them with postpartum depression, a common condition that affects more than 3 million mothers each year, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Alexie Herrmann, a stay-at-home mom in Omaha, found babywearing to be a huge benefit when it came to her PPD.
“It has helped the depression by being able to work out, stay active, be independent, be social and, most importantly, build a bond with my son,” Herrmann said.
Benefits are also abundant for the children being worn. They include closeness to parents, skin-to-skin contact, seeing the world from an adult height and being involved in daily tasks.
Many parents find that for children with special needs, babywearing is an essential part of helping their child develop and grow, both physically and emotionally. Bellevue mom, Colleen Ogburn, credits babywearing with helping with her 18-month-old son’s developmental needs.
“My son has spina bifida, and babywearing instantly made a difference in his core strength and ability to hold his head up. Because his gross motor skills are delayed, while other babies were crawling, he would have been restricted to laying on the floor or stuck in a stroller for mobility,” Ogburn said. “Babywearing allows him to experience life from a different perspective and has contributed to him being spot on in his cognitive development.”
For parents and caregivers looking to start babywearing, there is local support available through Babywearing International of Omaha. Local meetings are free and parents can get support and resources to help them start their babywearing journey. For a small fee, sustaining members receive even more resources.
“Our meetings offer a free lending library of carriers to sustaining members and free education from trained and certified educators,” said Rachel Brutus Mcgarity, chapter president of BWI of Omaha.
Meg Graves, vice president of the BWI of Omaha chapter, has worn all three of her children – ages 5 years to 7 month. But she admits there can be some difficulties to overcome when it comes to babywearing. Nursing in different carries, as well as how to get baby on your back, are two learning curves many parents have to overcome.
Despite this, Graves likes to think babywearing "has overcome more challenges versus causing any.” For her, babywearing has brought her more confidence as a mother and caregiver.
Both Graves and Ashley Mott serve as volunteer babywearing educators with BWI of Omaha. VBEs help parents and caregivers with babywearing, as well as the different types of carriers. They must pass written and skill assessments, and have both newborn- and toddler-wearing experience. Graves and Mott are also involved with The Carrying on Project for wounded warriors, which gives military families a free carrier.
Both have the same advice for parents and caregivers looking to try babywearing.
“Don't give up! Come to a Babywearing International meeting,” Mott said.
“We'd love to help you and baby feel comfortable and content together,” Graves said.
Jen Schneider is a local middle school teacher and mom to two children.