Women all over the world carry their babies close to their bodies, in their arms, wrapped in a shawl or sling, poncho or papoose. The benefits to the mother and baby are huge. Mother benefits by a constant dose of oxytocin as she smells and feels her baby. Her heart rate and blood pressure are lower, her stress levels low, her mind free to focus on what she is doing, as she knows her baby is safe. Baby enjoys the same level of relaxed contentment, with heart rate and blood pressure stable. His reflexes are stimulated with the movement of the mother’s body, and he knows he is cared for. He learns balance, language and humour from watching and listening to her conversations. He learns he is loved and wanted, and he is instantly comforted if startled, hungry or in pain. Breastfeeding is helped as the proximity of the baby stimulates the let-down reflex. Breastfeeding happens naturally, the baby signals his hunger, he gets fed. Babies cry less, if at all, as all their needs are instantly met.
It’s a good idea to have a couple of slings, as different styles serve different purposes, and babies of different ages. I used a pouch sling exclusively for the first 6-8 weeks of my son’s lives, feeding them in the sling as we walk along. After 6-8 weeks my sons were too long to lie comfortably in the sling, and too small yet to sit on my hip in the sling, so I use the wrap sling with the baby on my front. This is lovely as you have both hands free to hold onto your other child / carry shopping / browse the clothes rails etc. I use the front carry for another couple of months, until the baby is craning his head around to see what ‘s happening, and then use either the pouch/wrap slings with the baby on my hip. I’m still learning to feed the baby in the wrap sling from the front carry hold, and need to swot up on youtube videos of this. So what I do if out and about with the sling and need to feed baba? I sit on a bench/ go for a cup of coffee, or at a push if clothes shopping, use a changing room. I remove baba from the sling and feed as normal, with the sling still wrapped around me, so it’s quick to put him back in.
I carry and feed my son everywhere, on the bus into town for an afternoon out, no wrestling with a buggy on public transport. In the shopping mall, I can sit and eat while he sleeps in the sling, the only thing I can’t do is try on clothes, but I CAN try on shoes! (Just get 3 year old to help, picking them up for me!). Literally, my life goes on as normal, I just have a baby in the sling. I hang out the washing with my baby in the sling. If I’m out for a walk with my two boys (3 years, and infant), the 3 year old cycles his bike with stabilisers, and I walk with the baby in the wrap sling, my two hands free for helping 3 year old cross roads etc. If it’s windy I wear a non-linting scarf and use it as a tent around the baby’s head so he can breathe easily. I’ve recently been wearing my leopard-print Sprouse-for-Vuitton copy scarf, so my baby is well-trendy! The baby always sleeps in the sling, and once he’s nodded off I tuck his head into one of the shoulder straps, to keep it from bobbing around, and I have my two hands free.
Baby is kept warm by your body heat, but you still need to dress him for the weather. I’d suggest buying larger knee socks you can add over his tights for an extra layer in the sling. A hat is a must when outdoors, but you don’t need a huge baby jacket. I zip my baby up into my jacket, and the part of him that doesn’t fit (his back, basically),I will sometimes fold a fleece baby blanket, place it over his back, and tuck it into the open portions of my jacket, so I don’t have to hold it in place. There is a great group called Babywearing Ireland who have regular meet-ups, and have a sling library, so you can try out a host of different slings before buying one yourself. Beware of front-facing slings like the Baby Bjorn, they arch the baby’s back, pushing the tummy forward, and put pressure on the spine, so are not recommended for any long outings, if at all. Much better to have the baby’s back gently curved towards you, their stomach concave, as it is in the womb.