I taught a babywearing class today at Barefoot Herbs Barefoot Kids. Babywearing is another one of the million+ things that I absolutely adored about having babies, one of the many things that I'm learning to grieve as the younger of my babes grows by the day big enough to run and hike and climb by herself without needing or wanting to be carried by Mama.
What is babywearing, you ask?
It's a way of life. It's a method of bonding to your newborn, promoting a positive breastfeeding experience. It's a way of comforting and calming a person new to this world, whose only idea of security is the warmth and closeness of an adult body. It's a connection to a more traditional, less detached society, in which babies and children are included necessarily and matter-of-factly in all aspects of life.
Babywearing helps babies cry less. Babies like to be in contact with bodies; they do not like to be put down alone--this is an instinct ranging from a time in which a helpless infant lying alone would be in desperate danger from any number of predators. Some babies tolerate being put down well, but for other babies, to be put down alone is confusing, frightening, and stressful. Stressed babies don't nurse as well or grow as quickly as happy babies.
Babywearing is good for the baby intellectually. Baby's job is to learn about her world. When worn she learns about bodies, about movement/motion, about her environment, about human behavior.
Babywearing is good for the baby physically. Conforming to a warm body shape is more comfortable than conforming to a carrier or crib. Constant motion stimulates the balance reflex and the inner ear. Proper positioning is good for hip/joint development. A carried baby avoids flat head syndrome. The wearer's body temperature regulates the baby's body temperature, and the wearer's respiration reminds the baby to breathe.
Babywearing socializes the baby. The baby sees faces from near head height, learning about people and their behavior, seeing dialogue, experiencing the wearer's interaction with the world. Proper positioning allows the baby to gauge her own appropriate level of stimulation.
Babywearing is especially beneficial for special needs children--preemies, ill children, children with mental or motor delays, children who fail to thrive. It's comforting, comfortable, and good for their brains at the same time. Less energy spent crying/fussing/maintaining their own body temperature is more energy spent growing and learning and healing.
One of the great things about native-style carriers, however, is that they're mainstream enough that you have a good choice of independent crafters and WAHMs and a few businesses from which to purchase one, but they're not so mainstream that ugly and ill-sewn ones are available at every Wal-mart in the country. It's open season, then, for the independent crafter and small business, and it's nice to find a product in which this is the case.
For ring slings, I like Divas N Babes, especially this red and black one, and Chicken Scratch Slings, especially the skulls one (I think skulls belong everywhere), and this one with the skulls and crossbones all over it, on account of I like things that are awesome.
For mei tais (which, seriously, I won't correct you or anything, but is pronounced "MAY-tie"), I way love, of course, BabyHawk, especially this one with the tattoo print, but I also like KozyCarrier, especially the blue camo fabric. I bought my own pink skulls and black mei tai from MaterialNana--it's a nice thin one, with no padding, good for going and getting gone.
But one of the other great things about native-style carriers is that you don't absolutely have to buy one--you can sew these yourself. The best instructions, I think, are from Jan Andrea at Home on the Web. I followed her instructions to make the ring slings I used for myself and gave as gifts, and the mei tai I used myself.