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October 7th, 2014

The Benefits of Babywearing – Dr Koa Whittingham

The Benefits of Babywearing - Dr Koa Whittingham

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.

Author Bio:

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.


January 26th, 2011

PInky McKay Releases NEW Book – Parenting by Heart

Parenting by Heart – Seize your power and nurture with confidence!

By Pinky McKay

In a few days I will be launching my latest book ‘Parenting by Heart’.  You may be asking, what does ‘Parenting by Heart’ mean?  As well as supporting you with a simple, stress-free  blueprint to nurture your baby (and yourself) through the awesome first year of parenting, the basic philosophy behind my book is to support you to ‘be the parent YOU want to be’ –rather than ‘the parent you feel pressured to be.’

Each day, in my work as a lactation consultant and baby massage instructor, I meet and receive emails from parents (mostly mothers) who feel confused, frustrated and overwhelmed by immense pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations of themselves. Many are burdened by feelings of inadequacy and guilt because they don’t have a ‘good’ baby (who is, of course, a reflection of their own competence). Mothers express fears that if they do hold and cuddle their babies as their instincts are urging, they may encourage ‘bad habits’

In our culture, values such as independence and control are prized. The pressure to be seen as ‘coping’ (or ‘in control’) perpetuates the myth of the ‘good baby’. Many parents are afraid to speak openly about how their babies behave: those whose infants don’t simply feed, play and sleep (preferably in that order) often feel as though they are somehow abnormal if they ‘give in’ to their baby’s cries; mothers whose babies ‘fail’ sleep training fear that they too have failed, as they secretly soothe little night howls; and many mothers exist in isolation because they are afraid of the stares and advice they will attract if they venture out in public with a baby who happens to cry – as all babies tend to do, at times!

For many parents in our culture, having a baby is an enormous shock, rather than a rich experience in the continuum of life, celebrated and supported by community. Incredibly, many women have never held a baby before their own is thrust into their arms. Invariably, as new mothers struggle with the notion of the ‘good’ baby, they are also struggling with an identity crisis  – who am I now?  Even when she looks in the mirror, the face (and body!) reflected back at the new mother is virtually unrecognisable when compared to the smart, savvy woman who used to have a clearly defined job description and a life that would fit neatly into her electronic organiser.

Babies magically draw people together, even before they are born. It seems that everybody loves to share the magic that a baby brings. Suddenly, too, it seems as though everyone is an expert – about your child. You can put yourself in the hands of these ‘experts’ or you can put yourself in charge. This doesn’t mean you have to ignore or dismiss advice – after all, most of it is given with good intent. Nor do you have to go it alone without seeking support or professional help. Taking charge is about trusting yourself and your connection with your child, but it is also about becoming informed by asking questions, reading and listening so that you can make the most appropriate choices for your situation.

From now on, you are choosing on behalf of your child. You will live with your choices. So will your child. This is an awesome responsibility. But as well as being your child’s advocate, you are also his or her most important role model: your strength and support will make your child feel safe, even when you don’t have all the answers.

You are unique. Your child is unique. To slavishly follow any method of parenting as though it were a religion, or to expect your child to fit a preconceived stereotype of success, is to deny your child’s individuality as well as your own. But it is also a fact that the connection between you can be weakened when you are under stress, lack support or feel you are in unknown territory. At such times, you may question your own wisdom and become vulnerable to pressure and inappropriate advice. When your connection with your child is strong, you will find it easy to ‘Parent by Heart’: to ask yourself ‘How do I feel?’ as well as ‘What do I think?’ And to trust your feelings.

When you follow your heart, rather than a single parenting ‘method’, you seldom fit neatly into a stereotype. When you sample various options from the stack of child-rearing techniques to form your own rich collage, this can often mean going against popular opinion. At times, following your heart can also result in challenges as you confront the wider (child-free) world. I have rocked up to weekend workshops with creative directors from some of the city’s top ad agencies – and a two-year-old at my breast. These people were more familiar with the association between breasts and fast cars!

Like all parents, I have experienced criticism and self-doubt at times. To parent against mainstream opinions (which seem to change according to which ‘expert’ is currently popular) takes courage – and a deaf ear. To care for children and to nourish their identities requires a strong sense of self: you need to know where you are coming from in order to know where to go to find support. There are as many ways of caring and loving as there are families. So, as well as evidence-based information, in ‘Parenting by Heart’ I have included the voices of other parents, who share their experiences and their feelings – of joy, sadness, fear, frustration, hope and humour. Often, sharing another’s experience validates your own, and realising that other people make the same mistakes can give you new courage. You can, of course, also learn from others’ experiences and apply this knowledge to your own situation, when it is relevant.

Having a child does change your life. Forever. It changes your body, your soul, your mind and your bank balance. It affects your relationships – with your partner, your parents, your friends, and your community. Parenting by Heart shows you how to nurture yourself and your relationships, just as you nurture your children. It also shows you how to stand strong against those who undermine or oppose your choices. In other words, it acknowledges the real experts – you and your child. My aim is to help you unlock your intuition and nurture with confidence.

Seize your power! Whether you are making birth plans, choosing health care, education or child-rearing practices, or confronting the pain (and blame) of things gone wrong, explore all your options and take charge. Trust yourself. Trust your child. Trust your feelings. Take good care of yourself. Laugh, love, enjoy, and remember to be as gentle on yourself and your beloved as you are with your child.

Pinky McKay is an international Board Certified Lactation Consultant and best selling author of ‘100 Ways to Calm the Crying’, ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’, ‘Toddler Tactics ‘ and ‘Parenting by Heart’. For more information about Pinky and her seminars, consultations and gentle parenting information, check out her site www.pinkymckay.com

January 26th, 2011

Ditch the Rules – Be the Mother YOU Want to Be!

By Pinky McKay

You may have read a dozen books and been to a number of classes and you may have decided exactly what sort of parenting style will work for you.  The thing is that what seemed completely sensible before you had a baby may not actually fit YOUR baby now that he is here.

For instance, I have seen women with neatly printed and ruled routine charts and checklists ready to slot their baby in and then, when their  unique baby doesn’t eat sleep and play according to the routine, the poor mothers are thrown into chaos. The worst thing is that rather than realising that the routine ( prescribed by somebody who doesn’t know YOUR baby) is unhelpful right now, mothers tend to think they are doing something wrong and this self doubt erodes what little confidence they may have.

I have also seen many women who write down every feed, how many minutes, which side, how many wees and poos and how many minutes of sleep their babies have. They strive to find a pattern and become so obsessed about what their baby is doing (or not) that they are not only creating an enormous amount of extra work, but they are so focussed on outcomes that they aren’t spending any time enjoying their baby – gazing and smelling and smooching and ‘drinking in’ this beautiful being.  This is what really matters, not how long your baby sleeps, how often she feeds or whether you have her in a ‘routine’.

Remember, there are no rules.  Now you may be asking, so how do I know what is right and who to believe?  My criteria for discerning what is right –as well as trusting your own feelings – is to step back and check in by asking, ‘is it safe?” and, “is it respectful?” If you want to try some new advice or a new way of being with your baby and if it fits this criteria, then go ahead and see if it works for you and your baby. If what you are doing works for you and your family, it feels right and it is safe and respectful, then this is what is right for you. Of course, babies change so much that just when you feel you have things sorted and working well, suddenly what worked previously may not work so well any more. This is the time to reassess and perhaps try another strategy. Again, if you have any doubts about what you are doing, do your check in – is it safe? Is it respectful? Does it feel right?  This can also work if you are told advice that undermines your parenting.  And, if anything doesn’t feel right to you, step back and allow yourself to watch your baby and wonder ‘how is this working?’ ‘is it helpful?’  This is YOUR baby and YOU are your own best expert.

Pinky McKay is an international Board Certified Lactation Consultant and best selling author of ‘100 Ways to Calm the Crying’, ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’ , Toddler Tactics and ‘Parenting by Heart’. For more information about Pinky and her seminars, consultations and gentle parenting information, check out her site www.pinkymckay.com

Picture Credit: *NEW* Newborn BabyLegs

July 14th, 2010

The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution

Excitement shoots through my veins whenever I read real research on the origin of babywearing, the use of slings and carriers in other cultures and the ability of these tools to make life a breeze. With this in mind, you may understand the adrenaline that pulsed through me when I came across an editorial on Timothy Taylor’s new book “The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution” in The New Humanist Magazine Volume 125 Issue 4 July/August 2010.

Although I am not quite certain of my stance on evolutionary theory, I was excited to read that there was much room within this theory for babywearing.  I must admit, my eyes did glaze over initially with the parallels of evolution between human and monkey brain sizes and the like, but came alive again as Taylor moved onto the emergence of the sling in history. In many ways, women are painted within this article as the inventors of a tool which “smash(ed) the glass ceiling that had for so long precluded … humans into the world of accelerated cognitive thinking”.

Want more? Hop on over to the New Humanist for the abridged article, or find the book through a good book seller.

April 28th, 2010

New Kangaroo Care Research

Recently, on our Facebook page, we asked our fans if they had used Kangaroo Care when their baby was just a newborn.  There as an overwhelming response. All agreed that it had a positive influence on their baby’s growth in those early days.

Babes in Arms are an inquisitive lot, so we went on the hunt for some information that would support the belief that Kangaroo Care is a technique that can assist with bonding and improved health in the early days for both preterm and full term babies.  The following post is what we discovered.

Kangaroo Care

Before revealing the latest research into Kangaroo Care, it is best to explain the technique for those of you who are unfamiliar with the practice.  Kangaroo Care, in the broadest sense, is where an infant is held skin to skin with an adult. The baby is kept in a simple nappy, and rests against the mother’s naked chest, with her top loosely at the sides. The rise and fall of the mother’s chest as she breathes can assist to stimulate the baby’s own breathing.  (many of our fans commented that their baby’s oxygen levels increased each time they were supported in this manner). Slowly, as the baby’s strength increases, the time with babe in arms is increased. Some parents may use this technique for many hours per day.

Kangaroo care is very similar to Babywearing, although there are some fundamental differences. Whereas Kangaroo care is usually practiced with preterm babies with some equipment and medical supervision; Babywearing is practiced with babies of all ages using slings and carriers such as the Breeze Baby slings and the Ergobaby carrier.

Recent Research

On March 26, 2010, a supplement of the International Journal of Epidemiology, published the findings of research conducted by Dr Joy Lawn of Save the Children which revealed the most effective intervention to reduce newborn and child deaths globally.  The most fascinating finding arising from Dr Lawn’s study was the suggestion that up to half of these deaths could be prevented if Kangaroo Mother Care was readily available for preterm babies.

“We are more confident than ever that Kangaroo Mother Care works,” said South African-based Dr. Joy Lawn, newborn health expert for Save the Children, and lead author of the analysis. “No matter if babies are born in Lilongwe, London or Los Angeles, preterm babies need extra care to survive. Kangaroo Mother Care is low-cost and feasible, and we now have proof it is one of the most highly effective ways to give more babies the chance to survive and thrive.”

What is most exciting about this finding is that Kangaroo Care methodology is relatively affordable and readily available to mothers who cannot access the medical technology of richer nations. In fact, Malawi (where 20% of all newborn have low birth weight) is using Kangaroo Care in the majority of their hospitals.  A recent BBC documentary, Invisible Lives, told the amazing story of a baby born 14 weeks early and weighing less than 850gms who survived without technology and only Kangaroo Care.

You can read further on this study at “New Research Shows “Kangaroo Mother Care” Reduces Newborn Deaths More than 50 Percent, Proven to be More Effective than Incubators for Stable Preterm Babies”

Babywearing and Kangaroo Care

Earlier, we discussed the fundamental differences between the two, but there are also many similarities. Both practices adopt a ‘babes in arms’ approach. Baby is held closely to the parent, usually the mother, where the rhythm of her heart and the rise and fall of her breathing can be felt, and often heard, by the baby. Babywearing differs in that is usually takes place with babies who no longer require the medical support that preterm babies do. It is a practice where the baby is supported in a sling or carrier, and is hands free.

In many ways, Babywearing is the step after Kangaroo Care.  It allows the parent to continue the gentle, rhythmic closeness of kangaroo care, but is integrated into a parent’s regular routine. Baby can partake in your normal routines from the safety of their sling or carrier from when they leave hospital, right through to toddlerhood.

September 4th, 2009

The Language of Tears

by Pinky McKay

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, infant massage instructor and mother of five, Pinky McKay is the author of  ‘100 Ways to Calm the Crying’, Sleeping Like a Baby and Toddler Tactics (Penguin).
Website www.pinkymckay.com.au

“I feel like a really bad mother,” confided Sarah, mother of four month old Molly who, apart from an early bout of colic that was overcome with some simple changes to Sarah’s own diet, has been an easy, happy baby who rarely cries. Sarah explained, “the other mothers at mums’ group all talk about hungry cries, tired cries and angry cries and I am sure I wouldn’t recognise one cry from another.”

It seems there is nothing like infant crying to stir up confusion and strong feelings among mothers – and anyone else who wants to offer their ‘two bobs worth’. How often do we hear, crying is good for the lungs (like bleeding is good for the veins?), or if you pick him up every time he cries, you’ll make a rod for your own back (don’t you like a cuddle if you feel teary?).

Read the rest of this entry »

September 4th, 2009

The Importance of Skin to Skin Contact

by Dr Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC.

There are now a multitude of studies that show that mothers and babies should be together, skin to skin (baby naked, not wrapped in a blanket) immediately after birth, as well as later. The baby is happier, the baby’s temperature is more stable and more normal, the baby’s heart and breathing rates are more stable and more normal, and the baby’s blood sugar is more elevated. Not only that, skin to skin contact immediately after birth allows the baby to be colonized by the same bacteria as the mother. This, plus breastfeeding, are thought to be important in the prevention of allergic diseases. When a baby is put into an incubator, his skin and gut are often colonized by bacteria different from his mother’s.

We now know that this is true not only for the baby born at term and in good health, but also even for the premature baby. Skin to skin contact and can contribute much to the care of the premature baby. Even babies on oxygen can be cared for skin to skin, and this helps reduce their needs for oxygen, and keeps them more stable in other ways as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

September 4th, 2009

The Baby is the Book

by Jan Hunt, M.Sc.

Jan Hunt, B.A. Psychology (Magna cum Laude), M.Sc. Counseling Psychology, is the Director of the Natural Child Project, an attachment parenting counselor, and a member of the Board of Directors of the CSPCC (Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). She is also a member of the advisory boards of Holistic Moms Network, Child-Friendly Initiative, and Attachment Parenting International.

On a recent Internet radio show1, I emphasized that babies are the true experts on parenting. I added that I often ask new parents if they wish they had an expert living with them to help them to figure out what to do next! I told the radio audience to “Just look to the baby. If you’re doing something wrong, the baby will tell you. If you’re doing something right, the baby will tell you that too. Babies know exactly what they need.”

The interviewer neatly summed up these thoughts by adding, “People say the baby doesn’t come with a book, but they do… the baby is the book!” Exactly. It is the baby – and only the baby – who knows just what she needs. She will give us immediate feedback on everything we do. A baby will tell us with frowns and tears when a legitimate need is not being met, and with bright smiles and cuddles when we meet her needs in a loving way. If parents can recognize and embrace this concept, parenting can be much simpler and more joyful than when the baby’s communications are mistrusted and questioned.

Read the rest of this entry »

September 4th, 2009

Risks of Controlled Crying

Position Paper 1: Controlled Crying

Issued November 2002; Revised March 2004
The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health Inc. (AAIMHI)
AAIMHI aims (in part) to: improve professional and public recognition that infancy is a critical period in psycho-social development, and  work for the improvement of the mental health and development of all infants and families.


Controlled crying (also known as controlled comforting and sleep training) is a technique that is widely used as a way of managing infants and young children who do not settle alone or who wake at night. Controlled crying involves leaving the infant to cry for increasingly longer periods of time before providing comfort. The intention of controlled crying is to let babies put themselves to sleep and to stop them from crying or calling out during the night.  AAIMHI is concerned that the widely practiced technique of controlled crying is not consistent with what infants need for their optimal emotional and psychological health, and may have unintended negative consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

September 4th, 2009

Reach Out and Touch Someone

by Pam Leo

Pam Leo is a Parent Educator in Gorham, Maine. She has been a student and teacher of human development for more than 25 years. She is a mother, a grandmother, a parent educator, childbirth educator, a doula, a feature writer for Parent & Family, a motivational speaker on parenting and birth, and a sponsor of community education events. Her life work is to “help create a society in which all parents have the information, resources and support to raise children who can realize the promise of their potential.” For more information visit www.connectionparenting.com

“One of our most important parenting tools is literally at our fingertips.” – Pam Leo

In many other cultures babies experience abundant touch. They are and always have been breast-fed, massaged, carried or worn in slings during the day and beside their parents at night. Cross-cultural studies show that infants, who are cared for in this way are: more social, more alert, less fussy and restless, sleep better, have smoother movements, and better intellectual and motor development than infants who spend the majority of their time out of human contact, untouched, in infant seats, car seats, swings, strollers, and cribs. Touch is one of our basic needs. As early as the 7th week of pregnancy, a baby reacts to touch. Touch is the earliest sense to develop and the last one to leave us at the end of life. Studies show that both people and animals develop very slowly and even die if they are denied touch. Mariana Caplan, in her book, Untouched, states that, “Many people actually become sick because they are touch-starved. Dr. Theresa Crenshaw explains that touch alters the chemical composition of the body and states that, “Lack of touch is as detrimental to health as lack of Vitamin C. Children crave and biologically need nurturing touch for the nervous system to develop normally and for optimal growth and development. Read the rest of this entry »