12 babywearing myths - busted

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 Photo: Getty Images

Babywearing is still something of a new concept to much of the Western World. Even though it's been around for centuries around the globe, here in Australia, a pram is still very much the norm.

While many more parents are choosing to have a baby carrier on hand, there are still plenty of parents (and other members of the public) who don't see a baby carrier as an essential tool, or even think they may be harmful to a baby's development.

Myths like this sometimes mean that parents and babies who might have benefited from this amazing tool end up missing out, so it's time we did some myth busting. 

Here are some of the top babywearing myths I've come across recently  - and the truth about them ...

'You'll spoil your baby' 

Actually, you can't spoil a baby at all. They're little for such a short amount of time, and one of their greatest needs (not just wants!) is to be held close and secure to you. Spoiling a baby by loving and comforting them is a strange myth that came about in the mid 20th century - and it's one that has been well and truly busted by today's professionals.

'Your baby won't learn to be independent if you wear them constantly'

Attachment parenting (which includes carrying and wearing your baby) has been proven to help babies learn independence. Babies who form a secure attachment learn to become independent at a pace that they are comfortable with, leading to greater independence, stability, lowered stress, and the ability to cope better with new situations.

'Your baby needs to learn how to nap in a cot'

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If napping in the carrier isn't working for your family, then sure, transition them to a cot or bed. But if your baby naps in the carrier, it can actually be a convenient way to settle them while you're out and about or just getting the housework done. It's only a *bad* habit if you decide it is. And don't worry – it won't be long and your baby will be a small toddler or child who prefers to nap in bed.

'Your baby must must really overheat in that carrier'

Yes, sometimes a carrier can be hot. This can depend on the materials it is made of, and the design of the carrier. But usually if you're going to be in a hot climate, you choose something suitable for it (just like your clothing). You can definitely still wear your baby in the heat of summer without overheating them.

'It will harm the baby's hips'

When you have a little person whose joints are still developing and growing, it is so important to be careful not to position them in a way that is unnatural for them. Situations where your baby's legs are held in a straightened position (tightly swaddled, jolly jumpers, etc) for long periods could be damaging to the not-yet-developed hip socket. Fortunately, when your baby is seated knee-to-knee in a baby carrier, it's a totally natural position for them, and won't harm their hips.

Different baby carriers will sit baby in a different position. Aim for the photo on the right, which shows the natural 'M' position with knees at belly button height. Photo credit: Manduca EU

'My baby didn't like the carrier we tried, so he doesn't like to be worn'

Just because you've had a bad experience with a carrier doesn't mean you or your baby won't get to enjoy babywearing! It might have been a range of factors leading to the experience, but it definitely doesn't mean that your baby hates being in all carriers.

'Your baby will suffocate in there – are you sure he can breathe?'

I was asked this question myself by a concerned older lady when my little one was sleeping on my chest with the hood over his head. I think she meant well! However, if you know about safe babywearing practices (upright, chin off chest, airways clear, kissable head, etc) and stay attuned to your little one, you'll be very much aware of their movements and breathing.

Babies have (in the past) tragically suffocated when parents have used carriers in the cradle position, which is unsafe. This is because the cradle position goes against T.I.C.K.S guidelines of having the baby's chin off chest to keep airway clear. In an upright position, this won't happen.

'Those baby carriers really hurt your back and shoulders'

Some baby carriers can be uncomfortable, yes - but not all! In fact, most of them are really well designed with padding in just the right places. If your carrier is hurting, it might not be fitted correctly, or something else might be better suited to your frame or your baby's size. Don't put up with a sore back or shoulders – ask a consultant for help, or head to a babywearing meet to try on some alternatives.

'That must be really difficult'

Parenting without a baby carrier is much more difficult, trust me - a few simply YouTube tutorials, and you'll be on your way! Pulling out a baby carrier or wrap is now one of the easiest things about parenting for me.

'Doesn't your baby need more tummy time?'

Tummy time is important to help your little one develop strong muscles and avoid spending too much time lying on their back (like in the cot, pram, car seat, etc). The great thing about babywearing is that it helps with both of those things! Your baby uses his muscles while being worn to compensate for your movements, and his head shape and development isn't obstructed by a flat surface. A carrier can actually help with tummy time.  

'But my baby will only face outwards'

Some parents insist that their baby prefers to face outwards. Maybe you are in the habit of holding your baby that way, or they prefer to watch what's going on. However, it is generally more comfortable for both of you to have your baby facing inwards. If you plan on babywearing for long periods, you could instead try a hip or back (if your baby is old enough) carry to allow your child to see more of their surroundings.

'Your baby can walk – he doesn't need to be carried'

Just because your little one has learnt how to walk doesn't mean he suddenly won't need to be held close or have cuddles with you. Little legs get tired quickly, little people venture into places that might not be safe, and sometimes the outside world is a bit overwhelming. At these times, a baby carrier is still so handy with a toddler or small child. There are carriers designed with bigger babies and children in mind, so you can still babywear comfortably. Ignore anyone who may tell you that your child is too big!

Read more about babywearing at brookemaree.com.au, or follow Brooke on Facebook.