What’s old is new again.
For thousands of years, mothers have carried their babies in slings on the back or near the heart. Though out of fashion in many Western countries for a while, they’ve come back into style with a vengeance. But this ancient idea has been adapted to modern times where it’s sometimes known as ‘babywearing’, with greatly enhanced benefits.
Slings are made of cloth or fabric, often nylon or some kind of blend. They’re flexible, comfortable for parent and baby, and provide a secure carrying method. They also provide a way of transferring body heat to keep the baby warm while offering physical closeness that is a value to both parent and child.
The styles available cover an astounding range.
Some are wraps that are modeled after ancient Asian methods. They coil around the parent’s back and waist, then wrap around to form a sling in which the baby can lie or sit securely.
Others resemble a backpack with some of the pieces removed. The straps flow over the shoulders and a thick belt wraps around the waist.
Either model allows a baby to be carried in front or back, and both positions have their advantages. In front, the baby is close to the heart where it can see or touch the parent’s face.
That creates a valuable bond that comforts the baby and will please any parent. Worn in back, the weight is distributed along different muscle groups, making it easier for a parent to carry the child for longer periods.
In either case, babies can be faced toward the parent or away, both of which also have their benefits. Facing the parent, the child is close and can see and feel they are protected. Facing outward, they can more readily explore the world, which develops perception and mental faculties, and also helps keep the baby occupied and satisfied.
Backpack-style carriers offer much the same benefits, with variations. A backpack style carrier is a little sturdier and offers additional places to attach harnesses and pockets. It provides a little stiffer frame so that babies can sit up more easily.
Backpack styles make it easier to shift the weight upward to the shoulders, where the baby can be ‘worn’ for long periods or distances. That’s especially helpful when taking nature walks or for long outings at the mall.
All the different styles come in every possible color and design. Some offer forest scenes, others may be covered with drawings of cars. Still others may sport only an abstract color scheme. In short, every possible variation is available to suit every individual taste or interest.
Traditional hard shell carriers, often a converted car seat or 3-wheeled stroller bed, still perform a valuable role. But slings or backpacks offer advantages that those designs can not. Every parent will want to have at least one of each type.