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  • The beautiful language of Babywearing: Reasons Australian parents use a baby carrier or sling.

    Using the results of a study conducted at the Queensland University of Technology in 2014, I set about extracting the reasons parents choose to use a baby carrier or sling.

    My company Fertile Mind’s own Babywearing in Australia surveys conducted in 2013, 2014, 2015 gave parents a choice of 7 reasons to indicate reasons they used a baby carrier or sling.

    These were Comfort, Convenience, Health Benefits for Baby, Parenting Philosophy, I got a carrier as a gift, My friends use a carrier, It was recommended by a health professional or store.

    When chosen from this list, the top rated reason for using a baby carrier was Convenience, followed by Comfort and Health Benefits for Baby.

    My interest was in what reasons Australian parents themselves would offer up, if they could choose their own words in which to describe why they use a baby carrier or sling.

    The Queensland University of Technology study of 410 parents and parents to be (all but two of them were female) asked participants to explain why they had used or planned to use a “baby sling carrier” (the term chosen by the University to describe all baby carriers and slings)?

    From the hundreds of comprehensive answers, I have extrapolated an incredible 134 reasons parents and parents-to-be choose to use baby carriers or slings in their lives.

    I have then rated them in order, and it adds up to a surprisingly beautiful essay on how amazing Babywearing is for improving the lives of parents. As one parent says “It’s lovely.”

    Unsurprisingly, “Convenience” is overwhelmingly the main reason parents say they carry their baby in a baby carrier or sling. This reason appeared 101 times throughout the responses and was often paired with mentions of having to juggle a baby and other children, completing chores and being out of the house. A baby carrier clearly lets parents “get on with their lives.”

    “Hands-free” took second place with 92 responses. Here we see a glimpse of the life of a busy new parent, needing or wanting to achieve tasks ,or keep hold of a toddler, while baby watches, breastfeeds or sleeps.

    “Closeness” was next with 70, then “Bonding” with 53. Some parents admitted that they initially bought the carrier for convenience, but then realised how effective it was for bonding with their baby.

    “Getting things done” received 51 mentions. There are plenty of specific examples given, with chores around the house the most common task needing attention.

    Next was “Settling” (48), “Helps with handling other children or siblings” (42), “Helps Baby Sleep” (41). It follows that a sleeping or settled baby would help in allowing a mother to attend to her other children.

    Prams came in for plenty of criticism, and “Easier than a pram” was the most cited reason mentioning a pram with 31 appearances. According to the parents surveyed in this instance, prams are bulky, heavy, unloved by their babies and limited in their ability to go everywhere.

    “Comfort for Baby” also appeared 31 times. Whether this meant physical or emotional comfort was not stated.

    Housework and household chores are always there, and as mentioned above “Getting Things Done” was high up the list. However “Doing Housework” got 30 mentions on its own.

    “Keeping baby close” (27) has a protective ring to it.

    “Breastfeeding” was a reason for 27 respondents, with the words discreet or “on the go” often associated with the word. There are plenty of parents who are Babywearing and breastfeeding in public without anyone realising. The Australian Breastfeeding Association is one of the earliest advocates of Babywearing in Australia, and for 50 years has sold its ABA Mei Tai. While the ABA no longer sells products itself, it does endorse a brand of baby carrier.

    “Calm” came in 24 times. A calm baby has to be a good thing.

    “Reflux was mentioned 21 times, and to a lesser extent “being upright.” The Reflux Infant Support Association in Australia is an advocate of the use of baby carriers and slings, and soft structured carrier manduca is endorsed by the association.

    “Shopping” was a reason for 20 respondents, suggesting they found baby carrying a convenient tool for going in and out of shops.

    “Ease or Easy” came up a lot, 19 mentions, and “Easier way to carry than in my arms” followed with 16 and perhaps they are linked.

    Babies are happier when carried. “Happier baby” was cited in 16 answers.

    “Attachment parenting style” with 15 responses indicates that, while Babywearing is a key component of attachment parenting, not all Babywearers view attachment parenting as a main reason for using a carrier.

    We know babies love being held, and 10 parents mentioned this reason specifically.

    Baby carriers and slings make for an “Easier life” for them, said 10 parents. Note, the survey was conducted predominantly with mothers. Isn’t it wonderful that you can buy or borrow something that gives mothers an easier life?!!

    All other reasons received fewer than 10 mentions, but they still make compelling reasons for choosing to use a baby carrier or sling.

    “Safety” and “security”, “Calms upset baby” , “Baby doesn’t like to be put down/clingy”, “Pram too bulky”, “Better than pram” , “Brain development”, “Helps when out and about”, “Skin to Skin”, “Cuddles”, “Easy for Short trips”, “Baby Loves it!” , “Good transport”, “Practical”, “Enjoyable”, “Baby is happier than in pram” and “Baby Hates pram”, “Bushwalking”, “Nurturing”, “Close Connection”, “Baby likes to be upright”, “Physiological and psychological development”, “Fourth Trimester”, “Comfortable”, “Flexible”, “Walking/Walking dog”, “Multitasking”, “Support for spine”, “snuggly in winter”, “snuggles”, “Emotional needs”, “Good for Milk Production”, “Aids healthy outdoor activities”, “fitness” and “keeps me active”, “soothing”, ‘Good for baby” , “Relief”, “Helps me be a better carer”, “snug”, “comfort for mother”, “less distress for child”, “special needs child” and “special needs siblings”, “love and reassurance”, “way of life”, “natural”, “baby likes the motion”, “flexible”, “quick and easy”, ‘language development”, “interaction”, “easier to respond to needs”, “feel more mobile”, “portable/compact”, “helps when attending events”, “Baby falls asleep against my body”, “good for naps”, “wards off post natal depression”, “baby stays quiet”, “baby is inquisitive”, “allows hubby close time”, “Protection”, “Touch”, “Movement”, “Prolonged physical contact”, “Love Babywearing”, “Baby not a good self-settler”, “More interaction with adults”, “Discouraging people thinking baby is a plaything to pass around”, “Maintains my sanity”, “Understand baby’s natural signals”, “Baby loves it”, “Baby is content”, “Baby is up to my level”, “Light”, “Helps with my bad back”, “Pretty”, “Goes where pram won’t go”, ‘Stress relief”, “I talk to her”, “Reduced crying”, “Tenderness”, “They’re awesome”, “Attention to baby”, “Good for tired babies”, “healthy”, “Baby Feels Safe”, “Comfort after baby’s security”, “Comfort for sick kids”, “Beneficial for mum and bub”, “Helps baby deal with emotions”, “Freedom”, “Desirable environment”, “Able to meet baby’s needs”, “Baby can ‘switch off’”, “Lifestyle”, “Ergonomic”, “It’s lovely”, “Useful”, “Relaxes baby”, “Time saving”, “Good for managing twins”, “Use on public transport”, “Gives baby confidence”, “Baby likes to hear heartbeat”, “Takes weight off”, “Contributed to my baby walking at 7 months”, “inexpensive”, “Feels nice”, “Makes parenting easier”, “Addicted to Babywearing.”

    A comparison study of reasons people use baby carriers and slings with reasons people use prams would make for interesting reading.

    Without a study to call upon, I thought I’d try to write a list of my own reasons I would use a pram.

    Here’s what I came up with:

    Convenient for carrying shopping. Use as a bassinet when visiting friends or at a café. Baby may sleep in it. Good for heavy babies. Easy to use when nervous with new baby. Makes a good changing station. Gets me out and about. Walking/walking with dog. Looks nice. Can be “pimped” to look even nicer. Holds my coffee.

    That is 11 reasons. And how poorly does it compare with the overwhelmingly positive language used to describe the use of a baby carrier or sling.

    Words like “calm, closeness, love, connection, comfort, happiness, cuddles, snug, security, safety, touch, protection, ease, enjoyable, tenderness, healthy, freedom, confidence, useful, relaxing”.

    It’s like comparing the language of love with the manual of a DVD player.

    When we compare the TOP reasons people use a baby carrier or sling, and see how the pram stacks up with those reasons=

    Convenience YES Prams can be convenient. Hands-free NO (not while you’re pushing it anyway), Closeness NO, Bonding NO, Getting things done YES (but only if the baby is asleep or settled), Settling YES (Babies can settle in prams, but settle better in carriers), Handing other children or siblings YES (but only if baby is asleep or settled), Baby sleeps YES (babies can sleep in prams but are they as effective as getting a baby to fall asleep?), Better than a carrier NO, Comfort for Baby NO (While babies can be comfortable in a pram, a pram is not, of itself, comforting), Doing Housework YES (but only if baby is asleep or settled), Keep baby close NO, Breastfeeding NO, Calm NO (calming a baby by using a pram can work, but not as well), Reflux NO.

    To conclude, the reasons people gave in the QUT survey were varied, but the results show that babywearing is so much more than just a mode of baby transportation.

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