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I Slings

Therese Tee
Hong Kong
From New Beginnings, Vol. 28 No. 3, 2009, pp. 8-9

Everyone at our local La Leche League Group knows how much I love wearing my baby in a sling. I never fail to bring the subject up at meetings because I'm a firm believer that using a sling provides numerous benefits.

I didn't always use a sling. I was given one of the best-selling baby carriers at our baby shower, which I used for six weeks. I also had a very popular stroller that had been recommended by a friend. There were a number of shortcomings with my best-selling carrier that made it difficult for me to enjoy baby wearing. It needed quite a lot of adjusting whenever my husband and I shared it; it was cumbersome getting my daughter, Brianna, in and out of it; and I started to feel shoulder and back strain. Although the stroller I had was neither the largest nor the heaviest, I had trouble maneuvering it through crowds and lifting it up the many flights of stairs that one often finds in Hong Kong. Neither the carrier nor the stroller worked for me, and I needed to find another solution.

I was first introduced to the sling when I spoke to one of the Leaders at an LLL Series Meeting. She explained how in a city like Hong Kong, which is not stroller-friendly, a sling is the perfect baby carrier. I had never seen one before and was intrigued by the idea. I decided to try one out. I was hooked straight away and, most importantly, Brianna loved being in it.

When my daughter was a baby, the sling made getting around Hong Kong much easier. It was lightweight, breathable, simple in design, and it allowed me to have both hands free while I carried her. I could even breastfeed while she snuggled discreetly inside, which helped me gain confidence breastfeeding in public during the first few months.

Since then, my collection of slings has grown to include five in all different colors and fabrics to match every outfit!

The idea of baby wearing has been around for millennia and in many cultures around the world. Traditionally, baby slings and carriers were used to carry the baby around while mothers worked in or outside the home. In Hong Kong and China a few decades ago, it would be commonplace to see mothers carrying their babies and small children on their back in the "mei dai." Since babies were close to their mothers, their needs were easily met.

Today there is something of a revival in sling use. Many mothers, like myself, have been won over by the comfort and convenience of baby wearing. But also, our preference is backed up by scientific studies, which show that baby wearing has advantages for our babies. Studies have shown that babies who are carried cry and fuss less.

Research carried out in 1986, by pediatricians in Montreal, reported on a study of 99 mother-infant pairs. The parents in the first group were provided with a baby carrier and asked to carry their babies for at least three extra hours a day, whether or not their baby was crying. In the control, or non-carried group, parents were not given any specific instructions about carrying. After six weeks, the infants who received supplemental carrying cried and fussed 43 percent less than those in the non-carried group.*

To me, the most important benefit of the sling is that it promotes a loving and intimate relationship between my daughter and me. By wearing her, I feel that I have more opportunities to talk to her, interact with her, play games with her as we walk around town, and experience everyday life with her.

Now that Brianna is a toddler, she will still ask to be carried in the sling because it gives her a sense of security to know that she's close to me. She also knows that if she is tired or wants to nurse, she can snuggle up to me in the sling. But the best part about wearing her in the sling is that I can shower Brianna with kisses any time and anywhere because she's right there with me!

*Hunziker U.A., Barr R.G. Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 1986 May; 77(5):641–8.

Adapted from a story in LLL Asia's Close To The Heart.

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