Why Wear Babies? Where Do We Start?

Educating yourself as a mother is pretty powerful.

By Elizabeth Antunovic

Why Wear Babies? Where Do We Start?

Educating yourself as a mother is pretty powerful. You know what it feels like to hold your baby close to your heart. The bliss yet the calm that overtakes you when you smell her head. Yet there is a lot of science backing babywearing that is reaffirming what we already know.

Here are some benefits that you, your friends or your family may not know about...

1. Enhances immunological protection

If the mother is breastfeeding her baby, she will raise antibodies in response to all of the microbes that they come in contact with and transfer them to the baby. (Lawn, 2010)2 Touch is so important to the healthy development of an infant that a lack of touch, or separation of mother and newborn (even with strollers), actually causes high amounts of the toxic stress hormone cortisol to be released. High levels of cortisol in the blood and separation from mother may negatively impact immune function as the body may stop producing leukocytes (infection fighting cells).

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2. Prevents ear infections and eases the symptoms of GERD (Tasker, 2002)13

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3. Regulates body temperature

Baby can better maintain his own temperature even with dad or other caretaker. Baby can actually have “thermal synchrony” with mother. If the baby gets too cold the mother’s body temperature will actually warm up one degree to help warm the baby(Ludington-Hoe, 2006)10. If the baby gets too hot, the mother’s body temperature will decrease one degree to cool the baby. The flexed position on mother’s chest is a more efficient position for conserving heat than laying horizontal.

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4. Enhances lactation, the prevalence, and the duration of breast-feeding (Furman, 2002)9

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5. Enhances growth/weight gain

High cortisol levels that result from mother baby separation has a negative impact on growth hormone. With mother present to help assist in regulating the baby’s breathing, heart rate, and temperature, the baby has decreased energy needs and can conserve his energy and calories and direct it toward growth. (Charpak, 2005)5 

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6. Supports arousal regulation

When held upright on their mothers’ chests babies spend more time in a quiet alert state, the optimumstate for observing and processing.

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7. Reduces apnea and uneven breathing patterns

When a baby is worn on the chest of either parent there is usually an improvement in breathing patterns. The baby can hear the breathing and it stimulates the baby’s breathing so that the baby imitates the parent. (Ludington-Hoe, 1993)7 

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8. Stabilizes heart rate

Bradycardia (low heart rate below 100) is markedly reduced and tachycardia (heart rates of 180 or more) rarely occurs. (McCain, 2005)11 Heart rate is so important because a baby’s brain requires a steady and consistent flow of blood to get the oxygen it needs to grow and perform properly. 

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9. Relieves Stress Reactions

Babies deal with pain better and cry less in response to pain (for procedures such as heel sticks). (Kostandy, 2008)1 

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10. Improves neurobehavior

Score higher on mental and motor development tests in the first year of life. (Charpak et al., 2005)2

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11. Increases oxygenation of the baby’s body.

(Feldman, 2003)8 

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12. Provides longer periods of restful sleep

Babies remain more calm and transition from one sleep state to another (Ferber, 2004)4 and also sleep longer in general. (Messemer, 1997)12

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13. Mimics the environment of the womb

Baby continues to receive touch, rhythm and pressure and the soothing and comforting sounds of his mother’s heart beat, breathing and rhythmic rocking. Baby is in an ideal holding place during the “exterogestation“- or the second nine months after her birth.

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14. Saves lives

According to the latest studies, the practicing of Kangaroo Care, or the special way of holding your preterm infant skin to skin, shows a 51 percent reduction in newborn mortality when babies (stable and less than 2 kg) were kangarooed within the first week after birth and breastfed by their mothers. (Lawn, 2010)2 

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1 Kostandy et al., “Kangaroo Care (Skin Contact) Reduces Crying Response to Pain in Preterm Neonates: Pilot Results,” Pain Management Nursing 2008: 9:55-65

2 Lawn et al., “‘Kangaroo Mother Care’ to Prevent Neonatal Deaths Due to Preterm Birth Complications,” International Journal of Epidemiology” 2010: April.

3 Whiting, J.M.W., “Environmental Constraints on Infant Care Practices”. In Handbook of Cross-Cultural Human Development edited by R.H. Munroe, R.L. Munroe & B.B. Whiting, New York:Garland STPM Press, 2005.

4 Ferber et al., “The Effect of Skin-to-Skin Contact (Kangaroo Care) Shortly After Birth on the Neurobehavioral Responses of the Term Newborn: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Pediatrics 113 2004:858-865.

5 Charpak, N., “Kangaroo Mother Care: 25 Years After,” Acta Paediatric 94 2005: 5, 514-522.

6 Powell, A. “Harvard Researchers Say Children Need Touching and Attention,” Harvard Gazette.

7 Ludington-Hoe, S. Kangaroo Care: The Best You Can Do to Help Your Preterm Infant. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.

8 Feldman et al. “Testing a Family Intervention Hypothesis: The Contribution of Mother-Infant Skin-to-Skin contact (kangaroo care) to Family Interaction, Proximity, and Touch,” 2003 March Journal of Family Psychology. Vol. 17, 94-107

9 Furman, L. “Correlates of Lactation of Very Low Birth Weight Infants,” 2002 Pediatrics Vol. 109 (4) 57

10 Ludington-Hoe, S. “Breast Infant Temperature with Twins during shared Kangaroo Care,” 2006 Journal of Obstetric , Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, 35 (2) 223-231

11 McCain, G et al. “Heart Rate Variability Responses of a Preterm Infant to Kangaroo Care,” 2005 Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing,” 34 (6), 689-694.

12 Messmer P. et al., “Effect of Kangaroo Care on Sleep Time for Neonates,” 1997 Pediatr. Nurs. 23, no. 4 408-414.

13 Tasker, A., Dettmar, P. W., Panetti, M., Koufman, J. A., Birchall, J. P., and Pearson, J. P. (2002). Is gastric reflux a cause of Otitis media with effusion in children? The Laryngoscope, 112:1930–1934.

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