Babywearing: The Benefits and Beauty of this Ancient Tradition
by Maria Blois, MD
Hale Publishing, 2005
Available from LLLI, No. 1745
Order online at http://store.llli.org or call 800-LALECHE
Reviewed by Karen Meade
Schwenksville PA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 5, September-October 2006, pp. 226-7
Having raised several "sling babies" myself, I am always quick to suggest "babywearing" to any new mother who complains of not being able to get anything done because her baby always wants to be held. Until Dr. Blois's book became available, however, I was unable to direct these mothers to a single, comprehensive, easy-to-read and easy-to-follow resource on babywearing. Thanks to Dr. Blois, I now have two items to include in my standard baby shower gift basket -- a soft baby carrier and a copy of Babywearing: The Benefits and Beauty of this Ancient Tradition.
The term, "babywearing," was coined and trademarked by breastfeeding and attachment parenting advocate Dr. William Sears. To quote Dr. Blois, babywearing "simply refers to carrying your baby in a soft carrier close to your body as you go about the business of your life." As more parents continue to rediscover the ancient tradition of babywearing, more baby product retailers -- both small family-run and larger companies -- have introduced their own variation of soft baby carriers. Until Dr. Blois wrote and published her book, however, there hadn't been a single, complete manual that covered both the benefits and the how-to's of babywearing.
As both a medical doctor and a babywearing mother, Dr. Blois considers herself uniquely qualified to write a book about this topic. In her book's introduction, Dr. Blois makes three promises to her readers:
In this book you will: learn how wearing your baby can make your baby more content, sleep better, learn better, and cry less. Hear from experienced babywearers from all over the country. Learn how to choose and use the carrier that is right for you.
She delivers on all three of those promises.
Babywearing's Biological Basis
"Doesn't that hurt your back to carry your baby like that?"
"Is your baby all right in that thing?
"Shouldn't you put him down so he doesn't always want to be picked up?"
"Don't you ever put that baby down?"
Anyone who has been on the receiving end of these questions will definitely find the first section of Dr. Blois's book to be a valuable resource. While many parents stumble upon babywearing by accident -- discovering that keeping baby close calms baby and makes a mother's life easier -- far fewer realize that babywearing has its roots in ancient cultures where parents relied on personal instinct rather than today's modern infant care "experts." Stating that "biologically, babies need to be carried in order to thrive," Dr. Blois presents medical evidence of how babywearing enhances child development, noting that "babywearing allows for the continuation of a womb-like environment, giving the baby a chance for optimal brain and nervous system development."
The book's first section continues with a chapter that discusses babywearing in special situations, such as with twins, adopted babies, babies with special needs, those who are critically ill, and premature babies in Kangaroo Care. For babies with special needs, Dr. Blois asserts, babywearing has an even greater impact on their health and well being. After reading this section, new parents will have an excellent grasp of the rationale behind babywearing and will be better able to educate any well-meaning naysayer they might encounter while out and about with their baby in a sling.
Tips for Choosing a Carrier
Once armed with a grasp of why they should wear their babies, readers will then face the task of choosing the right soft carrier for themselves and their babies. The second half of Dr. Blois's book sets out to demystify the soft baby carrier. Especially helpful are the full color photographs that depict mothers and fathers wearing their babies in all sorts of positions and situations. "The Babywearing Basics" section offers tips for choosing the right carrier, a safety checklist, and even instructions for how those handy with a sewing machine can make their own carrier.
The remainder of the book lists, categorizes, and reviews practically every available soft carrier, including slings with rings, tie slings, pouches, hip slings, wraparounds, front/back pack soft vertical carriers, and torso/strapless back carriers. The brand comparison charts, complete with manufacturer contact information, eliminate the need for time consuming, individual research, and the book's numerous how-to photos and illustrations demystify the art of positioning baby for maximum comfort. Dr. Blois concludes her book with a section of frequently asked questions and a comprehensive sling resource listing.
Dr. Blois, who is also a La Leche League Leader, suggests that new mothers attend a La Leche League Series Meeting for hands-on help with babywearing.
The book's only drawback is its high cover price. At $29.95, it may well be too expensive for many families. Given this, I'd strongly encourage mothers to see if the book is available from their LLL Group's lending Library.