I first want to give the disclaimer that there is all of the grace in this conversation, Mama. We cannot do better until we have the information to know better. So if this is new information to you, don’t let a single ounce of Mom guilt arise. Take a deep breath and move forward, knowing you are the best Mama for your baby. I also want to acknowledge that we are being asked to do a LOT and are being stretched so thin with a new way of living during the pandemic. Our job is to take the knowledge we have and implement it in a way that suits our family but then also give ourselves grace upon grace that we are doing the best we can in our current circumstances.
As a Pediatric PT, motor milestone development is near and dear to my heart. It is the foundation from which your baby will spring from into toddlerhood and adolescence. In my career, I have witnessed many delays in babies simply due to a lack of knowledge, which is why I’m so passionate about educating and empowering parents toward purposeful play. There is a billion-dollar industry that is telling us every day that we need more things for our baby. Things for them to sleep in more soundly, to be more entertained by, to keep them happy and contained longer so that we can be more and more productive. My mission is to encourage you that all your baby really needs is YOU and the space to move and explore their body in this big new world.
One of the leading causes of developmental delay in babies is what experts are now calling Container Syndrome. A container is any baby toy meant to keep your child in one spot and entertain them (think bouncers, swings, exersaucers, infant seats, etc). They are built for convenience and have been allowing mamas to get more done for years (see: the rise of working moms). But you know what isn’t convenient? Fitting PT appointments into your already-busy schedule. Shucking out thousands of dollars for a head-reshaping helmet that insurance doesn’t like to cover. Or spending countless hours worrying about your child being delayed in milestones. Toys like this limit movement exploration that is necessary for cruising through motor milestones and developing the strength and range of motion required for foundational building blocks to independent mobility.
Do I (a pediatric PT) own some of these items?? AB-SO-LUTELY. But I use them when necessary and for very short periods (<15 minutes TOTAL per day before 6 months of age and <30 minutes total per day after that). The reason for this being primarily that children learn through movement and freedom of exploration! Yes, my baby is more preoccupied in a device that holds them in place and sticks toys at less than an arm’s length away but they aren’t building new brain connections by encountering different objects and scenery each day. With the rise of baby containers came a spike in developmental delay, attention deficits, and increased childhood obesity—Aka “Container Syndrome”.
But I get it, Mama. You can’t sit around entertaining your baby all day. Enter: Babywearing. Now you might be thinking “well doesn’t that restrict movement, too?” Technically, yes. However, the developmental benefits of babywearing far outweigh those of baby containers. The floor is still the best place for your baby to learn to move, but the second-best place is right there with you--where you’re hands-free and able to crush it in your personal and professional life, feeling beautiful and empowered to take on your day.
Here are some of the developmental benefits to Babywearing:
- Identification of Torticollis//gentle neck stretching: Torticollis is when your baby’s neck muscles are tight and resistant to looking in one direction. When you babywear and switch which side their head is facing each time, it gives you an opportunity to assess if they have any tightness that is worth talking to your care provider about and gently stretch it as they tolerate
- Reduced container use: Babywearing is a great solution for a fussy or tired babe
- Development of vision: Babies learn to use their eyes as they’re presented with different stimuli. Their eyes begin to adjust to variations of light with a walk outside in the sunshine. They work to develop long-distance vision as they’re able to see trees down the block or learn to track as a puppy runs by.
- Vestibular system input: Your vestibular system is located in the inner ear. It works in synchrony with the brain, eyes, and the sense of touch to tell babe where their body is at in space —meaning “I’m leaning forward, I’m leaning back, I’m spinning in a circle”. With babywearing, they get all kinds of vestibular input as your body moves with them.
- Hip socket molding: When your babe is born, their hip socket is very shallow—making them more at risk for hip dislocation or dysplasia. Developmental milestones allow them to reshape the socked into a cup that firmly holds their leg bone in place, and babywearing with the correct M position (pictured below) also aids in this
- Upright head control: You may notice your babe popping their head out to see their world. This allows them to build upright head control in a safe manner with your hands nearby for support.
- Attachment: What better way to form a strong bond with your babe than feeling like you can have your cake and eat it, too--soothing your baby while also getting your to-do list done.
One of the most common reasons I hear that Mamas don’t babywear, though, is a lack of confidence in HOW to wear your baby or WHICH carrier to choose (see below). It took me a week straight of committing to try it every single day to first learn how to tie my wrap carrier. And with each new carrier, comes a new learning curve, but one that is so worth the hands-free time without a fussy babe.
I also completely identify with how physically challenging and exhausting Babywearing can be, so check out the infographic below to ensure you’re being mindful of your own body, Mama.
So now that you know better, let’s go and do better together! Return those expensive baby containers and buy yourself a beautiful carrier that will last you through numerous developmental stages!
Here’s some helpful links to continue building your knowledge around Babywearing:
- For the full Instagram Live @LegendairyMilk on Babywearing to Promote Motor Milestones, click here.
- For my wrap carrier tutorial, click here
- For my ring sling tutorial, click here
- And for a list of all my favorite tried and true baby carriers, click here.
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links that aid in supporting The Movement Mama at no additional cost to you.
Kailee Noland PT, DPT
Pediatric Physical Therapist, The Movement Mama