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Published: Friday November 1, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday November 1, 2013 MYT 9:20:10 AM

Babywearing comforts

Without a baby carrier, homemaker Tan Shu Yin wouldn't have been able to travel to Singapore and back without any complaints about backaches, even though she carried her youngest, one-year old Lim Yiu Khye, for 12 hours a day, five days a week.

Without a baby carrier, homemaker Tan Shu Yin wouldn't have been able to travel to Singapore and back without any complaints about backaches, even though she carried her youngest, one-year old Lim Yiu Khye, for 12 hours a day, five days a week.

Mothers who are familiar with babywearing have only good things to say about it.

WHILE new parents often brace themselves for fussy babies and sleepless nights, many aren’t at all prepared for the challenge of carrying an infant for extended periods of time. Many mothers don’t realise that carrying their baby for several hours a day will take a toll on their backs.

“New mothers are especially at a disadvantage. After nine months of pregnancy, most would have lost the tone in their stomach muscles. If your stomach muscles are weak, you’re more prone to back pain,” says Kuala Lumpur-based chiropractor Moira Robertson, 36, who has spoken on “The Importance of Choosing the Right Baby Carrier” during a babywearing awareness campaign recently.

Breastfeeding mothers often develop a bad posture – hunched shoulders and flattened backs – as most sacrifice their own comfort in favour of the child’s.

Fathers who carry their babies will also feel the strain on their backs, especially when their children start growing and gaining more weight.

To prevent hurting your back, parents should try babywearing, says
chiropractor Moira Robertson (left). Homemaker Jasbir Kaur admits that babywearing takes getting used to, but is well worth the time. 

To protect their backs from the strain of carrying their babies, Robertson is advising parents to try babywearing, which is wearing or carrying a baby in any type of assisted carriers designed to provide comfort to parents and baby. Some of the more popular baby carrier types include the soft-structured carrier, hammock-style sling and toddler-friendly waist belt.

“Baby carriers are designed to evenly distribute a baby’s weight between the wearer’s hips and shoulders. When your child grows from 3kg to 10kg, all the weight will go into your hips. That practically leaves no pressure on your spine, as compared to carrying your baby without one,” Robertson explains.

Homemaker Tan Shu Yin from Penang recently travelled to Singapore with her two kids in tow. She held her four-year-old Lim Yiu-Shern with one hand, luggage in another, and her one-year-old Lim Yiu-Khye strapped onto her front in a soft-structured carrier.

“I used to have lower back ache from carrying my firstborn. I only started babywearing when my younger son Khye was born, since it’s near impossible to handle two strollers whenever I’m out alone with the kids. During the trip to Singapore, I carried Khye for 12 hours a day, five days in a row. And when I came home, I had no back aches,” relates the 31-year-old Tan.

Robertson says that good carriers must have a wide-enough base to support the natural development of the baby’s hip joints.

You may have noticed that newborn babies have very ‘open’ legs. The position actually allows for healthy hip development – the force-straightening of the legs to a standing position, on the other hand, can loosen joints and damage the soft cartilage of the socket. Improper postnatal wrapping, swaddling or carrying can lead to infant or child hip dysplasia, which is the deformation or misalignment of the hip joint.

“Parents should avoid crotch carriers or crotch danglers where the child’s legs and hips are dangling down or straightened as these do not allow the child’s hip to sit in the socket,” Robertson warns.

Fuss-free babies

Research has also shown that babies fuss less when in slings or carriers. Having their parents’ body warmth, familiar scent and breathing patterns close by make them feel loved and secure.

Mother-of-three Jasbir Kaur, 38, who started babywearing with her youngest, Sadhanaa Kaur Nanva, noticed that the 19-month-old is a much calmer baby compared to her older sisters.

“I didn’t use the baby carrier on my two older children because I wasn’t comfortable with it then. When Sadhanaa was born, I gave it another go. I think she turned out much calmer, and I’m much calmer too. I can respond to her cues easily and know almost immediately when she’s hungry or when she needs her diaper changed. She hardly cries and has never once had issues with colic,” says the homemaker, who is now a strong advocate of babywearing and an active member of the local babywearing community.

But Jasbir warns that perseverence is key in getting used to babywearing. “Initially, I found babywearing quite uncomfortable and my daughter didn’t like it. It’s not like a dress that you can just put on. It’s all about trial and error and you have to keep trying, even if your baby refuses to co-operate. Now I have the carrier on the most part of the day. When I put Sadhanaa in the carrier, she’d fall asleep within minutes, and I’d just carry about my daily chores.”

Indeed, babywearing allows a mother to multi-task and at the same time, watch over her child. Jasbir has also found it convenient to nurse in public, as most baby carriers are designed to allow discreet breastfeeding.

There are many different carriers available in the market, across the price range. Those who are planning to purchase one as a gift should actually refrain from doing so – the decision is best left to parents who should take the time to test out the carriers before buying one.

If babywearing is for you, here are some more things to keep in mind. In her book, Babywearing: The Benefits And Beauty Of This Ancient Tradition, Texas-based Maria Giangiulio Blois points out that parents who babywear need to stay attentive to the baby’s interaction with the environment.

Parents also need a little more space to turn around to avoid bumping the baby into counters and doorways, and carriers must be fit snugly and properly to prevent an active baby from wiggling out, she adds.

“As the baby has more freedom of movement and is closer to the adult point of view in a sling, compared to the knee’s eye view of a stroller, parents must also watch to prevent the baby from grabbing hot drinks or other dangerous items,” Blois writes.

Tags / Keywords: Family & Community, Babywearing

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