Babies and Buggies
When I began my baby massage instructor course I started to read clinical research around the impact of touch on babies and adults. I have also read around baby/child psychology including parenting styles and theories and how they have changed through time with the introduction of things like cots and the pram. Interestingly the pram and the ‘leave your baby to cry’ parenting theory were both male inventions…
The invention of the perambulator has radicalised how we transport our babies around. The first widely used pram was invented in 1877 and became a possession of the wealthy; a status symbol, so of course, it’s what everyone wanted. Before this, babies had been carried for centuries in a sling. These modern changes, whilst on the one hand, have made life somewhat easier for the parent; it has, arguably, had a detrimental effect on the baby.
Whilst I understand how useful a buggy can be and why it’s not a bad thing to own, I have also learnt so much about the sling. You can get one for £35 and use only this, if you want to, until your baby is around one year old or too heavy to carry in this way. By the time your baby is one their body has developed enough for a buggy to be the better way to transport them.
When your baby is first born they are rounded and stay in the foetal position for the first few weeks of life. Supporting their spine is so important in these early months, and being upright in a sling is best as it doesn’t put pressure on specific points of the spine and encourage it to lengthen before it is ready to.
Having your baby in a sling means that baby gets more body to body contact. It is this contact that helps your baby, in the first weeks, to regulate their breathing, keep warm and be constantly reassured that you are there keeping their stress levels down. A sling also means that you can get about without having to worry about carrying your buggy up and down stairs, finding room for it on the bus/tube/train. This will also keep your stress levels down and help you recover from the birth whilst you adjust to this new routine.
Keeping your baby upright for most of the time also helps their digestive system develop and work efficiently. Having them upright and close against you whilst they digest after feeding will help reduce colic and trapped wind as your movement gently massages their tummy.
Putting a baby down, especially in those first few weeks is a very scary thing to happen, which is why they have the ‘startle reflex’. This reflex is linked to when the world was a more dangerous place for new borns. Humans are the only mammals that can’t run away from birth, so when their body gets to a certain angle they are instinctively warned. Whilst we know that nothing will happen to them, this is linked to the ancient part of the brain that thinks we still live in caves. By transporting your baby in a sling, you won’t trigger the ‘startle reflex’ which means that their stress levels won’t shoot up they remain more relaxed. As your baby grows and develops, this reflex disappears as they become more able to protect themselves by being able to crawl, turn over, lift up their head etc.
Daddy time with a sling; this is such an important time for baby and daddy to be close together. By having a sling it means he can share the carrying and the bond between them can strengthen and develop. Whilst in a buggy you can talk to baby and smile – which baby recognises and responds to – nothing can replicate that feeling of being safe because they are wrapped up attached to Daddy.
This is a very short and brief overview as to why, if you can, using a sling is so much better for your baby.