Last September, my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world. Being a parent, I wanted to give him the best possible start in life. I had done all kinds of research – reading articles, books, and blogs. I talked to parents, professors, and fellow chiropractors. I foolishly felt somewhat prepared for this whole parenting thing. Being a chiropractor, I knew the benefits of “holistic parenting” with our child. Finding ourselves in the all-natural parenting world, babywearing was something that my wife and I both enthusiastically supported. We both understood the benefits of babywearing (including benefits to our child’s structural, physiological, and neurological development) over carrying our son in an infant car seat or pushing him in a stroller all the time.[i],[ii],[iii] With that in mind, we decided to make babywearing a large part of our parenting style.
The more we read and thought about it, the more we realized the importance of me, as the father, wearing our son. For forty-ish weeks baby has been floating around in a swimming pool of mom’s physiology. They are so closely connected. Dad, on the other hand, aside from possibly talking to baby while inside mom, has not had time to bond or connect with baby at all. Babywearing gives dads a perfect opportunity to bond and connect with their babies. [iv], Baby can hear dad’s heartbeat, voice, breathing patterns, feel his energy and emotions, and move around with him. All of these things not only help develop baby’s brain but also help build bonds between baby and carrier (i.e dad).[v] Studies have shown that baby benefits from babywearing alone and has the chance to benefit much more when the father is involved in the babywearing as well, especially with baby boys.[vi],[vii],[viii] Until you can play, roughhouse, and wrestle with your kids, babywearing is the best way to connect, bond, and help them grow.
With all of this in mind, I planned to carry my son as much as I could. However, as my wife can testify, when it came to me, planning to do it and actually following through on those plans were two different things entirely! By the third week of parenthood, my wife was a pro at wrapping our son up in a stretchy wrap and wearing him around the house while she did everything. I, on the other hand, did not feel comfortable at all with the whole babywearing process. I had an incredibly hard time figuring out how, exactly, to put the carrier on, while holding my son, while making sure it was tight enough without being too tight, and making sure he was in the right position, that by the time I got him in it, he and I both were completely frustrated and completely over the whole thing. I ended up just holding him in my arms most of the time. Because I held him that way I wasn’t able to get anything else done around the house. Despite our difficulties, there were a few times I was able to get it right, and we both enjoyed the wearing experience. I just wished there was an easier way to carry my son.
When my son was about two months old, after more research into baby carriers and how to wear your baby, I discovered the soft structured carrier (SSC), like the Ergobaby Carrier. I could not believe I had not come across these carriers sooner, and I was amazed at the simplicity! Instead of having to be a boy scout to make all of the right loops and knots to form a perfect carrier for my baby, I could snap two buckles and loosen or tighten a few straps in seconds. Also, with my big boy’s weight being evenly distributed between both shoulders and my waist, the SSC made me feel like he was lighter than he actually was and it was great for my back. As a chiropractor the biomechanics of the SSC were great for both my son and me. With the weight being spread out over a larger area, I was more comfortable and could carry him a lot longer. As long as he was having a good time in the carrier, I could carry him for as long he wanted me too.
Although I think all of the different babywearing options are great for baby’s development, whether you go with a wrap, sling, or SSC, babywearing is only effective if you actively participate and work it into your lifestyle. I am a guy, and we like things quick and easy. That is essentially the description of the soft structured carrier. No instruction manual needed – load up and tighten down. It is comfortable, durable, and secure. The soft structured carrier allows me to carry my son wherever I go, giving us great bonding time together and fulfilling my goal of holistic parenting. As a chiropractor and a parent, I fully support and encourage babywearing with both my patients and in my family. And while parents must find the carrier that works best for them, for me, there really is no substitute for the soft structured carrier.
[i] Barney F. LeVeau and Donna B. Bernhardt, “Developmental Biomechanics: Effect of Forces on the Growth, Development, and Maintenance of the Human Body,” Physical Therapy 64 (December 1984): 1874-1882.
[ii] Mark S. Scher, et al., “Neurophysiologic Assessment of Brain Maturation after an Eight-Week Trial of Skin-to-Skin Contact on Preterm Infants,” Clinical Neurophysiology 120 (October 2009): 1812-1818.
[iii] Maria Blois, “Birth: Care of Infant and Mother: Time-Sensitive Issues,” in Will Gordon and Jodie Trafton, ed. Best Practices in the Behavioral Management of Health from Preconception to Adolescence (Los Altos, CA: IBP, 2007), 108-132.
[iv] YT Blomqvist, et al., “Kangaroo Mother Care helps fathers of preterm infants gain confidence in the paternal role,” Journal of Advanced Nursing (Nov 2011)
[v] R Feldman, et al., “Comparison of skin-to-skin (kangaroo) and traditional car: parenting outcomes and preterm infant development,” Pediatrics 110 (July 2002): 16-26.
[vi] R Tessier, et al., “Kangaroo Mother Care, home environment and father involvement in the first year of life: a randomized controlled study,” Acta Paediatrica 98 (September 2009): 1444-1450.
[vii] R Feldman, et al., “Testing a family intervention hypothesis: the contribution of mother-infant skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care) to family interaction proximity, and touch,” Jounal of Family Psychology 17 (March 2003): 94-107.
[viii] J Magill-Evans, et al., “Interventions with fathers of young children: systematic literature review,” Journal of Advanced Nursing 55 (July 2006):248-264.