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Babywearing 101 | Image Courtesy of Derek Owens via Unsplash
Babywearing 101 | Image Courtesy of Derek Owens via Unsplash

What is babywearing? 

Babywearing is the practice of transporting a baby or child in a sling or carrier that is worn on the body - a practice that has existed for generations, and has been observed across many different cultures.

What are the benefits of babywearing?

In the first few months of an infant's life, it is required of caregivers to perform many hours of carrying, a task that may be daunting if there are other children in their household that need caring for, or other responsibilities within the home that need tending to. Of course babywearing allows caregivers to be physically close to the baby while remaining hands free, but not only this, babywearing has also been shown to have emotional, physical and psychological benefits for both infant and mother. For the infant, maternal carrying of the offspring has been shown to trigger a calming response demonstrated by central, motor and cardiac signals in distressed infants.1 There is also research to support that can improve length and success of breastfeeding, improve infant temperature regulation, and sleep apnea.

In a recent survey conducted by the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy, investigators sought out to identify mental health and physical effects of babywearing on the caregiver. It was found that more frequent carrying seemed to have a positive, potentially protective effect on physical health including sleep quality, fatigue, and interest in sex.1 

Why do caregivers choose to discontinue babywearing?

The most frequently cited challenge was climate control - carriers were too hot to wear in the summer months. 

If the heat is limiting your ability to babywear and you would like to continue, we recommend wrap-style carriers made of a light, breezy material, such as the Solly wrap:

Solly Baby wrap for Babywearing 101

The second most frequently cited reason that caregivers stop babywearing was due to mechanical strain.

Back pain was often reported as a reason to discontinue babywearing in this survey, but further analysis of the data revealed that this pain was minimally disabling, according to functional outcome measure scores. 

For those with a history of back pain, we recommend the use of a structured carrier with increased lumbar support, such as the ErgoBaby OMNI 360, which features a larger, padded lumbar support:

Babywearing Omni 360 Baby Carrier for breathability

We also love the Lillebaby Carrier, which has similar lumbar support as well as a chest strap that can help to more evenly distribute baby’s weight across the spine.

Another product we love for low back pain is the TushBaby! This side carrier is perfect for babies after they develop independent trunk control. This carrier allows caregivers to maintain a more optimal spine posture when side-carrying or hip carrying.

 Babywearing 101 Hip Carrier by Tushbaby

Move often!

In a 2020 article published by the American Physical Therapy Association’s Section on Women’s and Pelvic Heath, authors sought out to find biomechanical differences in those who wore baby carriers who developed low back pain vs. those who did not. They found an association between those who remained more stationary in standing positions with higher incidence of low back pain, as opposed to those who moved around and weight shifted more often. It was found that increasing timing and frequency of weight shifting in standing was protective against the development of low back pain symptoms.2

Babywearing and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction:

There was a higher percentage of participants that were bothered by symptoms related to pelvic floor dysfunction, but the relationship of this to babywearing is unclear. The most common symptom cited was symptoms related to pelvic organ prolapse such as pelvic heaviness. 

Babywearing certainly places additional load on the pelvic floor muscles. When initiating babywearing, like with any novel activity, it is important to build up tolerance to this increase in loading that is being placed on the body. Consider starting with just 10-15 minutes of babywearing, then slowly increase that time by 10 minutes per day. If you notice any increase in back pain or pelvic heaviness, regress back 10 minutes of wear time. Discontinue using your carrier or wrap if you notice any increase in postpartum bleeding.

If symptoms like these continue to be in issue, our staff of highly trained physical therapists can evaluate your pelvic floor and whole body to determine any impairments, such as core or pelvic floor weakness, that can be addressed to help you get back to babywearing without symptoms! 

References:

  1. Havens, Kathryn L. PhD1; Johnson, Eileen V. DPT, WCS1; Day, Elizabeth N. BS2; Holdener, Caleb J. BS3; Starnes, Catherine P. PhD4. Infant Carrying in the United States: A Survey of Current Practices, Physical and Mental Health Benefits, and Challenges of Babywearing. Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy 46(1):p 25-34, January/March 2022. | DOI: 10.1097/JWH.0000000000000227
  2. Mannen, Erin M. PhD1,2; Havens, Kathryn L. PhD3; Kahney, Alexandra SPT2,4; Nelson-Wong, Erika PT, PhD4. Baby-Carrying Method Impacts Caregiver Postural Sway and Pain During Prolonged Standing. Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy 44(2):p 47-53, April/June 2020. | DOI: 10.1097/JWH.0000000000000163 

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by T.H.

I started seeing Heather in October 2014. For more than two years, I had been suffering from painful urinary tract infection type symptoms after my bartholins gland surgery which included constant burning and urinary frequency sensation that led to more and more painful intercourse. I had made multiple visits to internist, obgyn and urologist's offices, went through a range of treatment with UTI and bladder frequency medication that included antibiotics, vesicare, estrogen cream, but nothing worked.

Read more: Testimonial by T.H.

Testimonial by Carolina J.

I had tried Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy before (with another PT) and I had a really bad (painful) experience. A friend of mine and fellow patient, told me about Heather, Laureen and Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) and I decided to try again. I am so happy I did! Femina PT have, literally, changed my life. I was able to do again things I couldn't do for over 10 years!! Their bedside manners are impeccable, their knowledge and understanding make me feel comfortable to recommend this place to anyone in pain. Specially if you have Endometriosis. 100% recommended!!

-- Carolina J., 12/28/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by Rosanna R., age 35

Heather has affected my life in the MOST POSITIVE way and I am forever grateful. My husband refers to her as the "sex doctor" so you can only imagine how happy he is with my therapy outcome.

After the birth of my son I suffered from "Vaginismus", however, at the time I just thought I was broken. My "broken vagina" affected me physically but it was an emotional struggle as well. Many women in my life also suffered with pain from sex after their babies were born so I knew I wasn't alone. They told me they "just got used to it" but I couldn't see myself living that way.

Sex wasn't just painful, it was literally impossible - IT DIDNT FIT!

Read more: Testimonial by Rosanna R.,...

Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

Testimonial by R.H.

No one could tell me why I was having pain during sex--sharp pain, not just uncomfortable, pain. I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat after researching several different options. I had seen a specialist who told me physical therapy would not help and my only option was surgery. I really didn't want to go that route, so when we got a referral, I decided to try it--it can't hurt, I thought. I am so glad I did. She diagnosed the problem right away, which was a relief in itself.

To know why I was having pain eased my mind immensely. And to hear that she could fix it without surgery was another relief. She said she could fix the problem in 6 weeks. I think it was actually 4 for me. She was very methodical, and treated me as an intelligent human being capable of participating in my own recovery. I would absolutely recommend her to anyone. She did not try to prolong my session numbers, she worked hard to accommodate my schedule (and the fact that I had to bring a baby to sessions), and she was completely honest the entire time. It is so hard to find someone with these characteristics, much less a professional who is so good at what she does. She has my highest respect.

-- R.H.

Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

I would like to start off by thanking Heather Jeffcoat for educating me and curing me of Vaginismus. I had been married for almost three years before I was referred to Heather. I never knew about Vaginismus until almost three years into my marriage. I knew something was wrong when I went on my honeymoon and came back a Virgin. I had always imagined how magical my first night would be but boy was I wrong.

Read more: Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

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