Babywearing offers numerous benefits for both parent and child. The moms at Desert Baby Wearers can help you do it right.
Photography by Diana Alvarado Photography
Babywearing | verb
The action or practice of carrying a baby close against one’s body in a sling or similar carrier.
When a parenting practice is shared between numerous cultures all over the world and stands the test of time for centuries, there is probably something to it. Babywearing has grown in popularity in Western cultures in recent years, and one group of Las Cruces parents are helping other parents get into the “sling” of things.
Leslie Herrera is the mother of three children, now ages eight, six, and two. She jokingly says she got into babywearing for “survival reasons” when she needed help getting things done with a very attached baby who didn’t like to be put down. She did a little online research and got involved with Desert Babywearers, a parenting group she know runs along with fellow babywearer Sara Sanchez.
“One of the most obvious benefits of babywearing is that you can have your hands free to do other things, whether that’s folding laundry or chasing around a toddler. They can even nap right in the sling, so you don’t necessarily have to be home at a certain time,” Leslie says.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as babywearing benefits go. Leslie points out that humans are biologically conditioned to care for our children by holding them in our arms, and babywearing can help strengthen those emotional attachments between baby and parent. She adds that it’s also ergonomically more comfortable for mom or dad. Because baby’s weight is distributed differently, parents are less prone to back and shoulder problems. “The baby isn’t sitting off to one side, so you’re not trying to overcompensate for that hip poking out,” she explains.
According to Babywearing International’s website (babywearinginternational.org), “babywearing promotes bonding, supports breastfeeding, can help combat postpartum depression, makes caregiving easier, and can be a lifesaver for parents of high-needs children. Carried babies sleep, feed, and grow better. One study found that carried six-week-olds cried 43 percent less than other children.”
There are a number of different options for babywearing ranging from wraps and ring slings to pouch slings and buckle carriers. Personal preference, how long you plan to carry baby, and budget all come in to play when deciding which option to use.
One option is the rebozo, a flat length of woven fabric that ties in a knot at the shoulder or hip and is popular in Mexico. Parents can get an authentic rebozo, hand-woven by a Mayan women’s weaving cooperative in highland Chiapas, Mexico, from the locally-based non-profit Weaving for Justice. The group sets up at the Farmers’ and Crafts Market of Las Cruces on the first Saturday of every month, but they can also provide parents with rebozos at any time through email orders (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Leslie says it’s most important to find a carrier that suits the developmental needs of the baby, but adds that parents will probably get the most bang for their buck with a woven wrap. Because they are easy to adjust to different sizes, woven wraps can transfer to different adults and continually work as the baby grows. Leslie cautions that these types of carriers often tend to have the biggest learning curve—but that’s wear Desert Babywearers comes in.
The group helps people find the carrier that best suits them and will help troubleshoot for comfort, fit, and safety—all free of charge. They also allow buying, selling, and trading within the group and can direct parents toward other swap groups and an El Paso group that offers a lending library. Leslie says, “We don’t lend ours out, but we do bring several options to our meetings so new members can try them on and find their own best babywearing option.”
- Always make sure your baby has a clear airway and that you can see baby’s face, especially when they are very young.
- Never use a stretchy wrap when carrying baby on your back because baby could flip out.
- In order to get a good ergonomic position, the baby’s knees should be above the carrier’s hips. If your baby carrier doesn’t allow for this, Desert Babywearers can help with tweaks.
Ready to Start Babywearing?
Desert Babywearers holds meetings at Mountain View Market Co+op from 10am to noon on the third Saturday of every month. You can also get in touch with them or join their chat group at facebook.com/DesertBabywearersNM.