Babywearing and how it links to yoga

As Birthlight teachers and School of Babywearing tutors, Victoria Ward and Fiona Ashman are convinced of the links between yoga and babywearing. "For me, babywearing is a natural extension of pregnancy" says Victoria, who set up the School of Babywearing in 2010. "Not only does it keep the baby close, comforted and soothed by the parent's familiar movements but it also allows Mum (or Dad) to be hands-free and to connect with their baby while maintaining the rhythm of their own life".

Babywearing helps parents & babies to bond

When babies and parents are close, stress hormones are at their lowest and levels of oxytocin, the hormone of love, are high. Babies find it stressful to be physically separated from their parents, even if in a crib or baby seat near them and have a strong biological urge to be kept close. For parents, keeping their baby close allows them to bond with them, to learn their cues, pick up their body language and to respond quickly to them. Babies learn to soothe themselves by being soothed by those around them. They pick up on their parent's body language when carried and learn to regulate their emotional state by seeing how their parent reacts.

Babywearing helps babies develop

The theory of the 'fourth trimester' suggests that human babies are born developmentally immature in order to be born before their head is too large to fit through their mother's pelvis. Once born, it takes between 3 & 9 months for babies to reach the same stage of maturity as most other mammals. To help babies adjust to this early transition from the womb, keeping conditions similar to the womb can help - minimising light and unfamiliar noise, for example. Babywearing keeps the baby close to a familiar sight, smell and sounds and babies can be soothed by their parent's familiar movements. Babywearing can also prevent babies from developing plagiocephaly, flat head syndrome, and helps develop their core muscle strength in a similar way to tummy time.

Babywearing helps babies to learn

Being in a sling helps babies enter a state of 'quiet alertness', which is described as a period of intense learning and interaction. They are calm and peaceful and able to take in what is going on around them. Babies love to learn what the adults & bigger children around them do, they track movements that we make, observe where noises come from and copy the expressions on our face - and babywearing puts them in an ideal place to do all of those things, then to nestle in against us when they want to end this time and settle to sleep.

Babywearing helps babies to sleep

Babies kept close to their parents develop their own Circadian rhythm (their own sleep-wake pattern) sooner than infants who are separated from their parents. Although the development of the baby's own Circadian rhythm doesn't mean they will (or should) start sleeping through the night, it is associated with fewer night time wakings and longer periods of daytime sleep. Exposure to sunlight and frequent daytime feeding helps and using a sling or carrier makes both of these feasible. Using a sling for daytime sleep can also help babies follow safe sleeping guidelines that say the baby should sleep in the same room as you for daytime as well as night-time naps, for at least the first six months. During the day, this could mean sitting in the same room as the baby's cot, carrying a Moses basket from room to room, or using a sling so that you baby sleeps on you (which can also help them sleep more deeply and for longer, all under your watchful eye).

Babywearing helps the family unit

Bonding is essential for all families, be that one parent with a first time baby or a second, third or fourth baby born to two parents. Using a sling or carrier keeps baby close and allows parents and baby to bond, while meeting their own needs and the needs of any other children in the family.

Victoria and Fiona are busy organising the second European Babywearing Conference, which takes place in Bristol from the 19th - 21st of June 2015. Speakers include Dr Ann Bigelow, who will be speaking on the importance of skin-to-skin contact and social interactions between parents and babies; Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg, who will speak on the role of oxytocin; Dr Henrik Norholt who will discuss the role of fathers in parenting and many more speakers. There will also be workshops, a babywearing exhibition hall, sling library and much more. Birthlight teachers and friends can obtain a 25% discount on Conference tickets by visiting www.babywearingconference.co.uk and using code Birthlight2015. There are also opportunities to volunteer at the Conference and obtain a discounted ticket to attend on a day you're not volunteering. For more information, contact Victoria at victoria@babywearingconference.co.uk.

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