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Carrying your child with you in a sling or another type of carrier, which is called babywearing, is one of the many ways in which you can transport your child. Furthermore, it is also an opportunity to offer your child a safe haven to enable it to develop itself. Quite often, baby’s and small infants that are carried this way like to sleep in their carrier or sling.

The advantages of babywearing

There are many advantages to babywearing. It benefits the bond between parent and child, is soothing to the child and by respecting your child's natural position it allows for a complete development of your child's muscles and hips. Wearing your child can also alleviate any cramps or reflux it might be suffering from. Babywearing has practical advantages, too. You've got your hands free, so you can squeeze in some household chores. No matter whether you are in busy shops, at the market or in public transport, walking on the beach or hiking in the woods – wearing your baby makes finding your way with a small child with you much easier. Children may be carried starting from the day they are born. But not only babies can be carried; older infants, up until 20 months, can be carried in a sling or a carrier too. There are countless ways to carry a child: in a sling (made out of either an elastic or a woven type of fabric), or in one of the many types of carriers available.

Babywearing and the development of the child's spinal cord

Right after the birth, the human spinal cord holds the shape of the letter 'C', but during adulthood is has grown into an 'S' shape. During the child's first year, the shape of the spinal cord slowly changes, in conjunction with the different developmental stages. First the head comes up into an upright position, then the baby is able to sit, and finally it is able to stand up straight. Therefore, when choosing a baby carrier, it is important to take into account the natural shape of the spine.

Characteristics of an ergonomically shaped carrier

In order to make carrying the child comfortable for both child and parent, the carrier should meet the following requirements:

  • The child is carried in an upright position
  • The carrier is flexible and fits narrowly around the back in order to fully support the child's spinal chord
  • the back of the child's knees is completely supported, so that the knees are higher up than the child's buttocks (called the M-, frog- or spread-squat position)
  • The carrier offers plenty of neck support for children who can not yet control their neck sufficiently.
  • The carrier is comfortable and ergonomic for both child and parent. The weigh of the child is distributed evenly over the shoulders and waist of the parent.

Types of carriers

There are many types of carriers on the market which do not meet the requirements just mentioned. Types of carriers which do meet the requirements mentioned above are:

  • A stretchable cloth, suitable for carrying on the belly. Particularly suitable for babyies.
  • A woven cloth, suitable for carrying on the back, belly and hip.
  • A ring sling: a cloth with two rings attached meant for carrying the child on the hip. Most suitable for short periods of time, for instance during a car drive or inside the house.
  • A mei tai: an (almost) square piece of fabric with four bands attached to each corner. The square is wrapped around the child, the bands are strapped around the waist and shoulders of the parent. There are several types of carriers similar to the mei tai, such as a podegi, hmong carrier, bei bei and obi.
  • Soft Structured Carriers (SSC's): pre-shaped carriers. These come with and without clasps and in many different shapes and sizes.

Which carrier is suitable for me?

Which is the carrier the most suitable for you depends on a variety of factors and is very personal. One carrier may be perfect for one person but quite uncomfortable to another. Babywearing consultants can help you learn different ways of tying a sling-type carrier, for both baby's and slightly older infants, but they can also help you choose the ergonomic carrier that suits you best.

External Weblinks - Waarom dragen? - Waarmee dragen?


The first version of this article was written by Mariëlle van Es - Verhaar. This article was translated from Dutch into English by Anna Visser


Babywearing, carrier, carriers, sling, slings, babywearing consultant, bonding, natural parenting, attachment parenting, AP, English

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