Experiences with “Babywearing”: Trendy parenting gear or a developmentally attuned parenting tool?

Lela Rankin Williams, Patricia R. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Close proximity to infants increases mothers’ awareness of her infants’ needs and subsequent responsive maternal behaviour. Limited research on infant carrying or “babywearing” (i.e., holding or carrying a baby in a cloth carrier that is worn on the body) indicates that frequent close physical contact increases maternal responsiveness and promotes secure attachment between mothers and their infants. This community-based intervention study of adolescent mothers (N = 56; M = 19.2 years, SD = 2.3; 47.8% White, 40.6% Hispanic) uses a mixed methods approach to assess mother's experiences with babywearing and the potential use of infant carrying practices to improve mother-infant bonding. Mothers were randomly assigned to the intervention condition (n = 30; used an infant carrier one hour daily) or the control condition (n = 25; read to their baby). In-home interviews were conducted at 2–4 weeks postpartum (W1), and 3- (W2) and 6- (W3) months later. At each wave, mothers in both conditions were asked open-ended questions about their experiences with babywearing. Five predominant themes emerged following an open coding scheme of their primary experience: bonding, calming, convenience, infant well-being, and dislike carrier. Participants who babywore primarily for bonding (r = 0.32), calming (r = 0.37), and infant well-being (r = 0.36) were significantly more likely to have spent more time babywearing overall. Mothers who babywore but disliked the carrier were significantly more likely to have postpartum bonding difficulties at W3 (r = 0.30). Mothers in the control group who chose to babywear emphasized the carrier's convenience across development, whereas the intervention mothers primarily identified bonding and calming benefits. Mothers in the control condition typically used the carrier to complete tasks/activities in lieu of a stroller rather than to calm their babies or to hold them longer. Differences between conditions may be due in part to the marketing of infant carriers as transportation aids rather than parenting tools. Promoting the use of infant carriers is a cost-effective and culturally relevant practice, which may promote parent-infant calmness and bonding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104918
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Volume112
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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