The impact that slings can have on bonding with your baby are written about often. The rush of Oxytocin, that love hormone, that is key to emotional bonding with your baby is incredible, and whilst we often expect to instantly love our child, bonds can take longer to form. But close contact with your baby can help, and slings can give you very close, even skin-to-skin contact with your little one. Carriers can help you to build a relationship with your baby even helping through perinatal mental health problems, or recovering from a traumatic, or just plain exhausting birth.
We have touched on this in articles including Why Carry Your Newborn Baby?
This article is about ALL the relationships that slings can help with, not just the archetypal mum and baby one!
Bonding in the Immediate Family
Parents and baby
Slings can help all parents bond with their babies. Bonding can be really hard for the non-birthing parents or caregivers. Birth can be a frightening and disempowering time for them too. It is easy for them to feel scared and powerless to help, and they don’t have the same extreme hormonal reaction afterwards to help the bond form. Close contact with the new baby can help them to release oxytocin too, and it can help them be useful and settle the baby, when sometimes it can feel like mum is the only person who figures in the baby’s world. It is also a tool that they can use in the mornings and evenings around their working day, as many other parents will only have 2 weeks of parental leave after the birth of a baby, and this can be overwhelming for someone thrown back into “work as usual” when their identity and home life has changed dramatically, and can feel like it does not leave them a lot of time with their brand new bundle of joy.
Parents bonding with each other
It’s not just about building a relationship with the baby though- slings can help parents bond with each other. They can help us to meet each others’ needs for showers, and food, but also for quality time together. You can go out for a meal with a baby sleeping peacefully on your chest, and chat about the things that matter to you, you can go for walks, and hold hands. you can engage in activities that you did together before your baby arrived (safety considerations not-withstanding, it is not a good idea to take your newborn jetskiing or what-have-you).
Slings can help siblings bond with the new baby, because they come along on all the toddler and big kid adventures, and begin to participate more as they grow and look around, and slinging older sibling can help give them valuable closeness and one-to-one time with their parents so that they feel secure in their relationships and do not feel threatened by the arrival of a new and demanding younger sibling.
Older siblings often also love having sling cuddles with their baby sibling themselves. (Please be aware that it is really important to supervise closely when younger children are carrying babies as they cannot be responsible for ensuring positioning maintains their airways.) We get sent lots of photos of teenage siblings sharing the carrying load, and enjoying the bonding time with new and not so new siblings.
Extended family and friends
Slings can help extended family members and friends form bonds with a new baby. Having a host of sling proficient trusted friends and family can also provide a huge support to the parents and families and make caring for the family and spending time as a family easier. It can make it even more possible, and fun to continue pre-baby friendships whether parents are carrying baby and keeping them calm allowing the parents to spend time on friendships, or whether the friends are taking part in carrying too.
Getting out and about
Meeting new people
Slings can make getting out and about, and going to groups easier. So many people we talk to tell us about how they struggled to get out with babies in pushchairs and car seats before they discovered the right sling for them. Getting to new mum groups, to baby activities, or to any social, or hobby group can help parents to build new relationships, and slings can make actually getting there easier!
Pursuing your interests
Before you become a parent you were a person with individual interests and hobbies and many of those interests don;t go away, but they often become dormant when we become parents and parents can feel like they lose a big part of themselves and their social circle by feeling unable to continue attending these groups. Slings can make it easier to carry on attending groups if you have a baby that is content to be snuggled into a sling, and occasionally admired by other members! This was how I kept up going to my knitting group, which was a fortnightly burst of sanity, perspective, and non-baby focus with people who had been there, and people who hadn’t who still thought of me as Jenni and not as “mum of …”.
Slings can help you develop a whole new set of friends- going to sling meets, coming across other people using slings when you are out and about and having a talking point to get you started, and online communities of support that extend beyond tips and tricks with slings into friendships, and safe online spaces to chat about all things parenting, and life related!