Firstly congratulations on having been matched with a child and bringing them into your family if you are reading this as new adoptive parents. The adoption route to parenthood can take far longer than having birth children and be far more stressful. As instant parents you will be concerned about meeting your new child’s needs, and as they often arrive some time on from birth you have to be ready to hit the ground running. No doubt you will receive much advice- both helpful and unhelpful, and the early days and weeks with your new child may be a whirlwind of discovery. Other parents will talk about aspects of baby care that you may know nothing about – co-sleeping, attachment parenting, child led weaning, elimination control to name a few and you may begin to wonder what is essential to know and what isn’t.
Friends may mention babywearing, or you may see parents carrying their children in wraps and carriers. but as new adoptive parents you may be unsure how to go about doing it, what are its benefits and if you should actually be doing this with an adopted child who is no longer a newborn.
Babywearing is exactly what it sounds like: wearing your baby or toddler in a sling or other carrier so you’re in constant contact. It can be started at any age and because you didn’t have your child from birth it doesn’t mean you have missed the boat and can’t get started with this practice.
Babywearing has many benefits for all families. Many parents start to babywear for convenience. This convenience is essential for new adoptive parents. New parents will report how difficult it can be to get anything accomplished with a new child at home,this is especially so with an adoptd child when you are concerned with meeting their needs in a timely manner. Babywearing makes maintaining normal functions possible — you’re able to give your little one the contact they need whilst being able to get on with the laundry, do the shopping, prepare a meal or even take the dog for a walk.
But babywearing has many additional benefits. It has been documented that it can help with temperature adjustment, in establishing breast feeding and it helps colicky babies to name a few of these. Babywearing also increases the production of oxytocin in both natural and adoptive parents so perhaps the biggest additional benefit for adoptive parents is it fosters attachment and delivers physiological benefits to your child.
Oxytocin is the ‘love hormone’ and has positive effects on hurman social behaviour. Babywearing is a great way to promote bonding and attachment between you and your baby or toddler. Being in such close proximity and in constant contact fosters attachment – both love for your baby is fostered and their attachment to you is secured.
Wearing your baby also allows for natural movement that promotes positive development. Wearing your baby can help to develop their core strength. Pushchairs that face away from parents not only prevent interaction, but also subject your child to bumping and jarring, as do the car seat-style baby carriers. When in the pram your baby is also down at the level of exhaust fumes when you are walking in the town or city. If you are parenting a child that spent time in less than optimal care or had a hard start in life — even prenatally through drugs, alcohol or toxins — you want to remain proactive and provide the best care for them. Babywearing is a way to help you give your child the best possible next step in life.
Getting started can be bewildering. There are a variety of types and brands of carriers available to suit different ages and sizes of babies, as well as different size and shape of parents. Friends will advise different carriers and you will often find their views conflicting. If you can, a good place to go to to find out about your options is a Sling Library, or even better by booking an appointment with a sling consultant. They will listen to your story and suggest carriers which will fit your circumstances and body shape and life style.
I have found with adopted babies it is best to start with a carrier that respects their personal space. A hip carry is a great way to start. This may be done using a ring sling, or woven tied as a hip carrier, a dedicated hip carrier such as the Scootababy, or a buckle carrier that can be used on the hip such as a Lillebaby. To begin with start with small periods in the carrier as it will build up their tolerance as well as your strength. Within a short time your baby will start to enjoy the closeness and then you will both be ready to continue with your babywearing journey.
When we talk about babywearing it is useful to remember that there are carriers for children up to school age but, if you adopt a child who is too big to “wear,” it is important to take the key principles of babywearing — physical proximity, staying attuned to the child and being in constant conversation – and apply them to your caring of your new child. The purpose behind babywearing remains important well beyond the years your child is small enough to wear.
“The single most important child rearing practice to be adopted for the development of emotional and social healthy infants and children is to carry the infant on the body of the caretaker all day long” James Prescott, 1996
[Prescott, J. ‘The Origins of Human Love and Violence’, Pre and perinatal psychology Journal, Spring 1996, Vol 10;3 p. 155]