Babywearing can play an important role in a healthy postnatal lifestyle, promoting mental health and wellbeing. In fact, babywearing can support the mental health of baby, of both parents and of the extended family.
Babywearing promotes healthy attachment
A lifestyle of generous physical contact between parent and baby promotes the development of a secure attachment bond. A child with a secure attachment bond uses his or her parent as a secure base from which to confidently explore the world, as well as a safe haven to retreat to for guidance and comfort. Secure attachment forms a bedrock for a lifetime of mental health, wellbeing, and healthy, happy relationships. For many, babywearing is a convenient way to give generous physical contact to baby. In fact, it has been demonstrated in an experimental study that the increased physical contact of babywearing really does increase the chances that baby will develop secure attachment (Ainsfeld, Capser, Nozyce, & Cunningham, 1990).
Babywearing allows the primary caregiver to live a rewarding life
With baby snug and secure, and hands free, babywearing liberates the primary caregiver (who is often the mother). Babywearing enables her to pursue her own interests, passions and pleasures. It also makes regular physical exercise and social activities easier to pursue. This is not trivial. Living a joyful, rewarding life is crucial to keeping depression at bay. In fact, deliberately cultivating a rewarding lifestyle is an evidence-based treatment for depression. Babywearing can play an important role in building a rewarding lifestyle to prevent or to overcome postnatal depression.
Babywearing promotes strong bonds with secondary caregivers
Babywearing is not just for the primary caregiver. Fathers and even grandparents can also strap baby in! It can be a wonderful way for secondary caregivers to develop a stronger bond with baby. Generous physical contact promotes secure attachment because it encourages the caregiver to learn baby’s cues and to respond immediately to those cues. The skill of responsive care, once learnt, is a skill that you can draw upon for an entire lifetime of parenthood and grandparenthood. Of course, building stronger bonds between fathers and babies, and between grandparents and babies, also optimises the wellbeing of mothers.
Babywearing is seen across many human cultures and across human history for a good reason. Generations of parents have found it crucial to building a healthy, happiness-promoting lifestyle, for mum, for dad, for baby and for the extended family.
Dr Koa Whittingham is a parenting researcher at the University of Queensland, a clinical and developmental psychologist, a mother, and the author of a unique new book for mothers, Becoming Mum: www.becomingmum.com.au She regularly blogs about parenting on her blog Parenting from the Heart: www.koawhittingham.com/blog/
Ainsfeld, E., Capser, V., Nozyce, M. & Cunningham, N. (1990). Does infant carrying promote attachment? An experimental study of the effects of increased physical contact on the development of attachment. Child Development, 61 (5), 1617-1627.