International Babywearing week is coming up, and I thought I'd take a few minutes this morning to write about some prevalent misconceptions concerning babywearing...
The baby will be delayed in walking if you never put them down or Baby's spine development will be damaged by being 'unsupported' in a soft carrier or Baby will get bowlegs from having them spread out in a back-carry
Your baby will still learn to walk just fine, no he will not be delayed in doing so (I wore Bear almost constantly, and he walked at 11months). In addition, being against the caregivers body and feeling their motions as they walk and move often seems to help little ones learn that motion for themselves.
Some firm carriers (such as snuglis) have been reported to damage spinal development because they hold the baby up and do not allow him to learn to support himself, however softer carriers do not have this problem!
The bowleggedness seen in some traditional cultures is the product of nutritional deficiencies, not of being worn. Remember that babies and small children have much softer tissues than adults do, and are much more flexible.
The baby isn't comfortable "all squished up like that" or "with his legs sticking out that way"
Soft tissues = flexible = baby is comfortable almost any way so long as they are supported! It's pretty rare to meet a baby who doesn't love being snuggled and, yes, even squished a bit. The soft nature of fabric carriers means that the baby is more likely to be comfortable this way than in a carseat, crib, playpen, or roomier firm carrier.
The baby will be spoiled /never let you put him down /never learn to go to sleep on his own
I think these myths are based in the false premise that babies are meant to be independent creatures. They are not. As I discussed here, from an evolutionary standpoint humans are born only about halfway through the average mammals gestational development. In other words, until they are around 9months old, they are not even able to do what a 9 minute old baby of other species can do. A continued 'external gestation' is entirely healthy and appropriate.
In terms of the baby developing 'bad' habits, well, obviously I feel that it's acceptable and appropriate for a baby to want to be held all the time, and to go to sleep with a caregiver rather than alone. In terms of shyness, and the baby becoming a "mama's boy," studies indicate that children who are worn may take a little longer to strike out on their own, but when they do so they are more confident than babies who were forced into independence at earlier ages.
Babywearing is dangerous
There are several versions of this this myth--the baby is unsupported and will slip out the bottom of the carrier, the baby will flip out the top of the carrier, or that the baby will suffocate being all smooshed in there. The truth is that these are valid concerns, and all of them can happen if you are not paying attention. Just because you are wearing your baby doesn't mean you can ignore them--you do need to still pay attention, make sure baby's face is clear so they can breathe, and be sure you wear the carrier properly so that the child is secure. Here is a site full of help for how to properly and safely wear your child.
You can only wear them when they are little/lightweight or You can't wear a baby if you have a bad back
There are a few people in the world who have exceptionally bad backs, and yes, it's true that they cannot wear a baby, or at least not a older toddler. However, with the variety of carriers and carrying methods, most people (even those with somewhat-bad backs) are able to wear both babies and toddlers in comfort.
Back carries with wraps, structured-carriers, or ABCs (such as Mei Teis) are usually preferable for larger children or weak-backed parents because they offer more support and spread the weight around better.
You can't babywear if you're short/disabled/plus-sized/pregnant
Nonsense! Some carriers and carrying positions may work better for you than others, but you can certainly still wear your baby! Check out these two articles on plus-sized babywearing, this one on pregnant babywearing, and this one on babywearing for those with disabilities.
Babywearing is new or a fad
Babywearing has been around for about as long as babies have been around...indigenous peoples around the world have been wearing their babies for centuries, and using a variety of carriers and carrying positions to do so. The 'modern world' is the culture that is behind the times!
Babywearing is expensive
$140 for a wrap?! Yes, it can be expensive if you buy the name brand carriers, or have a dozen different ones (and yes, a lot of us do have several carriers of different types)...but it doesn't have to be. I got a good quality wrap for only $35, and many people find that they can make their own carriers for $5-20 (depending on the style and what fabric they choose). Here is a site with a list of different types of carriers, the pros/cons of each, and where to find them.
Babywearing is complicated
It is true that some styles of carriers (most notably wraps) look difficult to tie on. However there are a lot of great online demos (both pictures and videos) that can help you learn to do it correctly and safely.
If you are considering babywearing, or want to do it but don't know where to go next, I recommend looking for a local babywearing group such as NINO. (If you can't find one, look for a local chapter of LaLecheLeague, as a lot of breastfeeding moms also wear their babies, and you can probably find support or advice for babywearing there too!)
You can't wear twins
Wanna bet? Look here! And here!
For additional resources, I highly recommend visiting The Baby Wearer. It's a massive archive of helpful articles and tutorials on topics from choosing a carrier and reviews of specific brands, to how to correctly (safely) wear your baby in the various carriers, or how to make your own. They also have forums where you can chat with other babywearers and get encouragement and help.