The Science of Babywearing

Practical, snuggly, hands free…. A good sling or carrier can be a life saver when your baby just ‘needs to be held’.  Anecdotally babies settle much better when they are carried, and babywearing is recommended for easing symptoms of colic and reflux, and helping babies to sleep.  We all hear that using a carrier is great for bonding with your baby, and being hands free lets us get on with all the other things we need to do too.

But is there any science behind this?  Is there proof that babywearing really does benefit you and your baby?

Here are three of the areas where science agrees that carrying your baby is an awesome way to support their development and make your life easier.

1. Movement

When carried, babies experience an automatic, deep relaxation; their heart rate slows, and their body moves into a calmer state [1].  The movement here is important; carrying your baby is more soothing than just holding them.  This response is not conscious; it’s mediated by very primitive parts of the brain and nervous system.  Carrying your baby essentially helps to switch off their body’s fight or flight reaction to stress.  They’ll be calmer and can even digest more effectively when in this more relaxed state.

Parents with baby

2. Oxytocin

Oxytocin is a hormone that’s linked to feelings of love and connection with others.  In women it’s involved during the birth process and released during breastfeeding [2]. In both men and women Oxytocin is released during positive interaction and contact with their baby [3].  Higher levels of Oxytocin correspond with parents engaging more with their baby, reduced feelings of stress and anxiety, and a greater feeling of attunement [4].

Babywearing is a great way to give you extended periods of positive contact with your baby, promoting healthy emotional attachment [5] and reducing the effects of post natal depression [6].

3. Skin to Skin

There are so many research-supported benefits of skin to skin contact with your baby.  It has been shown to stabilise a baby’s heart rate, breathing and temperature.  It improves weight gain in smaller babies, and helps to establish and maintain successful breastfeeding [7].  And skin to skin contact is an awesome way to maximise that Oxytocin boost too!

Baby in Izmi carrier

So YES! Using a comfortable, safe sling or carrier really can calm your baby, support their development and make you feel happier too!

Happy Babywearing!

Emily x

References

[1] Esposito, G.*, Yoshida, S.*, et al. “Infant calming responses during maternal carrying in humans and mice”. Current Biology, (2013) *These authors contributed equally.

[2] Pappas, S. “Oxytocin: Facts About the ‘Cuddle Hormone’” Live Science, (2015), https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html

[3] Gordon, I., Zagoory-Sharon, O., Leckman, J.F., Feldman, R. “Oxytocin and the Development of Parenting in Humans”. Biological Psychiatry, (2010). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.02.005

[4] Uvnas-Moberg K. The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love, and Healing (2003). Da Capo Press: Cambridge, MA.

[5] Anisfeld E, Casper V, Nozyce M, & Cunningham N. “Does infant carrying promote attachment? An experimental study of the effects of increased physical contact on the development of attachment”. Child Development, (1990)

[6] Peláez-Noguerast, M. al “Depressed Mothers’ Touching Increases Infants’ Positive Affect and Attention in Still-Face Interactions”. Child Development, (1996)

[7] https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/news-and-research/baby-friendly-research/research-supporting-breastfeeding/skin-to-skin-contact/

Emily Williamson - Designer of the Izmi baby carrier range

Emily Williamson is an experienced carrying consultant, the designer of the Izmi Baby Carrier range, and the founder of The South London Sling Library. She believes that every family and individual is unique and is passionate about helping parents to carry their children safely, comfortably and in a way that suits their family’s needs. Emily continues to provide expert advice and training on all aspects of carrying, slings and baby carriers to parents and to the nursery industry. Before her enthusiasm as a babywearing advocate turned into a full time job, Emily worked in child psychology research, and studied philosophy, psychology and child development. She lives in London with her two unique children.

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