In our modern “convenience” culture, there is more car seat carrying of babies than baby-wearing. Contemporary designs have made it incredibly easy for parents to transport their child in a car seat – from house to car, to multiple destinations and back home – without ever having to move baby. But, your baby’s body was made to move! Remember that even before birth, babies are moving in the womb. After birth, babies want to learn how to manage their incredible bodies. A baby’s quest to move is critical to their health and development, so parents should encourage and facilitate movement in every way. The best way to begin is by wearing your baby instead of carrying her.
Baby wearing is an excellent way to optimize the structural, neurological, physiological,
and emotional development of your baby.
When a baby is worn properly, his postural muscles get stronger, he learns to hold his head up, and his nervous system development is enhanced. Babies worn by their parents or caregivers are in a better biomechanical position for spinal and muscular development, and gravity helps in the development of postural muscle tone.
In contrast, when babies lay flat on their back in a car seat for a prolonged amount of time, babies can develop plagiocephaly (or flattening of the bones of the skull) causing deformation. It can also affect strength, muscle tone, biomechanical and neurological development of your child. Shorter amounts of time in a car seat will not lead to drastic changes, but limiting car seat time is best. When you get out of the car have a wrap, sling, or soft structured carrier ready to go. This way you can keep hands free and give support to your little one’s developing body. When you arrive home or at grandma’s house, have a blanket to lay your baby on. Baby can then experiment with movement – learn to roll over, crawl, hold their head up and strengthen their muscles and coordination.
When your baby is being worn there is constant movement in all directions which enhances brain development.
Baby-wearing gives continual input into the baby’s vestibular system (the balance centers in the brain). This movement builds neurological pathways and builds tone of core musculature and spinal muscles which give the body the ability to balance, coordinate, and stabilize.
Wearing your baby also provides the best way for them to see, hear, and interact with the world around them. Baby can look at colors and movements, watch social interactions between their parents and others, and see facial expressions during conversation while feeling safe and secure close to mom or dad. This input has a profound effect on your baby’s brain; enriching his life experiences and stimulating brain development. In contrast, when a baby spends prolonged time in a car seat it is very difficult to see much of the world around him; he sees only what he is set in front of.
When your baby is close to you it helps regulate breathing rate, heart rate, body temperature, emotions, and stress levels.
Moms and dads who wear their babies nurture a deep and lasting bond with their children.
Babies confined to extended time in car seats begin sedentary habits because a car seat restricts movement for babies. So, instead of experimenting with movement, babies who are confined are more still – with their muscles passive rather than active. In contrast, babies who are worn are more free to experiment with movement which enhances activity through early childhood and beyond, providing a hedge against obesity.
Encouraging Your Toddler To Walk
When babies become young toddlers, parents can use backpacks to carry them when needed. This keeps baby close to Mom or Dad, gives them a great view of the world around them, and keeps them moving. Avoid using strollers whenever you can. Certainly they are needed sometimes, such as when families are walking long distances with a toddler or young preschooler. But, when possible allow your child to walk. They will get more exercise and be able to interact with the world around them which enhances social, emotional and intellectual development.
Walking also helps children develop a sense of personal responsibility, importance, and strengthens their confidence and self-esteem.
I know it is challenging to manage a preschooler who wants to explore at the store – I’ve been there! But, take time to teach your little one how to manage their world in appropriate ways. It takes patience but they will improve!
So, consider the ancient art of wearing your baby, and keep your toddlers and preschoolers moving too. You and your little ones will be healthier for it!
For healthy kids,
SAFbaby’s Health Expert Adviser Doreen Bolhuis
Doreen Bolhuis is the President/CEO of Gymco Inc., a multi-sport facility for children in its 31st year of operation in Grand Rapids, MI. Doreen is the creator of Gymtrix, an innovative DVD series to teach physical literacy for babies – 10 yrs. She is a co-founder and partner of Motion Evolution, a licensed national fitness and physical literacy program for children. Doreen’s passion is advocating healthy lifestyles and fighting obesity by empowering parents to create active kids from infancy.