International “Babywearing” Week will be celebrated from the 4-10th of October this year. “Babywearing” or “backing babies” in Nigeria is the oldest form of baby care in Africa. It is the act of carrying a baby in a sling or any other form of material. It has been practiced in Africa for centuries. My grandma and mother did it. It’s common to see women carrying babies on their backs as they sing lullabies to them. Majority of western-oriented pictures of African mothers are of women carrying their babies on their backs. Babywearing is ubiquitous in Africa, although some wealthy and urban African women shun the practice. It is usually left for nannies and the less-rich. The rich people who do it at all, keep it within the confines of their homes.
A few years ago, on a train with my toddler son, I saw a Nigerian lady carrying a toddler on her back. He was held securely with an African fabric. The child looked so smug as he glanced with pity at my son (strapped in a pushchair). I felt a pang of nostalgia because that it was a sight I had not seen for a long time. Prams and pushchairs are commonly used in England. My son kept staring from the child to me, to which he got the “don’t even think about it” glares in return.
In recent years, babywearing has become the trend amongst celebrities and urban mums. It is now fashionable to ‘wear’ babies. Many designers have came up with different designs of slings, and major shops stock them. Babywearing is so ‘in’, that a whole week is annually dedicated to it!
This is why…
Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician, passionate about parenting, came up with the concept of “attachment parenting”. He advocated that babywearing has many benefits for both baby and mother. They include: increasing mother-baby bonding; and more success at breastfeeding. Mothers oxytocin (hormone needed for breast milk production ) levels are increased with physical contact with baby. Babywearing allows babies easy transportation. It is convenient for parents because they can multitask whilst caring for their babies. The rhythms of walking and heartbeat are soothing. It reduces the risk of plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) caused by extended time sleeping on the back. It reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, partly because the baby’s breath will be in sync with the breath of the person carrying him/her. Front or side facing methods of babywearing improves interaction between mother and baby, which stimulates brain development (Ask Dr Sears; BellyBelly)
My take on it…
If I knew then what I know now, I would have practiced babywearing. The benefits are numerous. There couldn’t be a better fashion trend than the one which includes your beloved baby. Attachment is everything. It’s worth noting that, babywearing has been associated with hip dysplasia (clicky hips – occurs when an infant’s ball and socket hip joint fails to develop fully and doesn’t fit snugly together (NCT). When buying slings, research the different types and adhere to the safety rules.
Images courtesy of Google Images