Jeri Carr: Babies Love to be Held

Mother holding infant
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Take a look at all the baby gadgets parents have to choose from, and it soon becomes clear that many parents think babies should spend a good deal of time anywhere but in their parent's arms. Baby stores stock an amazing array of things where parents can put their baby when he's not being held - bouncy, vibrating, and/or rocking baby seats, high chairs, boppy pillows, play mats, play pens, baby swings, exersaucers, cribs, and more.

And let's not forget strollers and car seats. Most parents routinely put their baby in a stroller when they go for a walk, or they take their baby's car seat out of the car and carry him inside and keep him in his car seat while they shop or visit with friends. There are times when some of these baby gadets are necessary and good for a baby and helpful in keeping a parent's sanity intact, but sadly, some babies end up spending very little time in their parents' arms.

More and more parents are choosing a different approach - that of holding or wearing their baby in a front pack, sling, or back pack for at least several hours a day. This is often referred to as "babywearing."

Some parents wear their baby because they love the closeness it creates and how well it helps them know their baby. Other parents wear their baby simply out of necessity. They've found out that while some undemanding babies willingly spend their early months sleeping and observing the world from a plastic seat or through the bars of a crib or playpen, their baby will not accept anything less than the best and communitcates his need to be held by crying unless they hold him.

Babies miss the warmth and closeness they had when they lived inside their mamma's womb and need time to adjust to this world. Plus, studies show that a lot of touch is essential to healthy infant development, so, naturally, babywearing has many benefits.

One of the most clearly seen benefits is that a carried baby is a more content baby. Studies and the experiences of many parents have shown that carried babies cry less. Also, it helps to build and strengthen emotional closeness between a baby and his parents. The physical and emotional closeness help parents get to know their baby well.

When parents wear their baby in a sling or other carrier, they will easily be able to accomplish many of their day to day activities. Their baby will be part of family life and not feel like an outsider, and siblings are less likely to feel that baby is an intruder. Many parents have found that wearing their baby in a sling helps calm him and often helps him go to sleep. Plus, nursing a baby in a sling can be convenient and discreet.

Some parents feel guilty for holding their baby to help keep him content or are afraid that if they carry him too much he will become too dependent. Recently, a new mom told me that her baby got held a lot because she didn't like to hear him cry, so she worried he was being spoiled.

Experienced babywearing parents have found these fears to be unnecessary. A baby cannot be held too much. When parents listen to their baby's cues, and responsively meet his needs, their baby will grow to trust them. A strong attachment will be built between themselves and their baby. From the base of this secure relationship, a child can grow into a healthy independence as he becomes ready.

Appreciate your child's babyhood. The next time you try to decide where to put your baby down, take a look at all your options. . . perhaps your baby would be happiest in your arms. Help him develop his potential and carry your baby while you can. The time when a child wants to be carried all the time goes by quickly, and one of your toddler's first words may be "Down!!" (Mine's was.)

Jeri Carr is an Infants editor at, or read even more of her work at The Kidz are People Too!

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