How babywearing could revolutionise your practice
Babywearing is common in many cultures around the world, but less so in the west. We learn how it can be used to great affect in early years settings
We recently caught up with Kizzy Coll-Cats, the former early years professional and current founder of Baby Wearing South West. Kizzy is fully qualified to instruct others in the best and safest way to use different baby carrying, or babywearing tools such as slings, wraps and baby carriers. Although her work initially focussed on supporting parents with how to wear their babies, Kizzy's background in childcare has led her to some exciting projects with childcare settings of all different sizes over recent years. We wanted to chat with Kizzy about her work, and share some of her amazing insights into how babywearing can be used effectively in childcare settings.
What is babywearing?
Babywearing refers to any technique for holding and carrying a young child, without using your hands. There are all sorts of different tools which facilitate this such as strap-based carriers, papoose slings and simple lengths of fabric which can be used to wrap a child to an adult's body. In many cultures, babywearing is the norm, especially where new mothers have to be able to work soon after giving birth.
What are the advantages of babywearing?
Kizzy's website has a really good list of the benefits of babywearing for parents. We were keen to understand why some childcare settings have started working with her to introduce babywearing as part of their practice. These included:
- Helping childcare professionals to develop stronger attachments with key children, especially the youngest children in the setting
- Enabling young, pre-mobile children to be access and enage with more of the environment by being carried around, rather than stuck on the floor in one area.
- Supporting communication development naturally by having young children right next to carers' faces in a sling, enabling non-verbal communication to happen constantly.
- Providing an effective way to soothe an unsettled child, whilst still allowing the professional to engage with other children and/or contribute to the smooth running of their setting.
- Reducing back and other joint pain by reducing the need for children to be carried on the hip
"It's easy for practitioners to feel like glorified baby-sitters as they try to manage a sizeable group of children at once. Wearing a young child is a great way for professionals to form close attachment with a key child, and helps them be more effective at the same time."
Are Ofsted happy for us to use babywearing?
This is something Kizzy is often asked when she trains early years professionals. She always stresses that with the right policies and procedures in place, any concerns an inspector (or a parent) may have can be easily dealt with. Some of the most common questions include:
- Is a baby carrier just a container for a child to avoid engaging them? No; babywearing is an alternative to carrying a child on the hip which is more comfortable and safe for adult and child. By bringing a pre-mobile child out of a baby-room or play area, they are able to experience a much greater range of environments, observe and interact with more children of other ages, communicate verbally and non-verbally with their key worker more easily, and develop stronger attachment.
- Doesn't carrying a child a lot make them very "clingy"? The opposite is true. The basis for a child's confidence to explore and play independently is a strong and secure sense of attachment with the adult(s) caring for them. Babywearing enhances the attachments in a childcare setting, helping children feel more secure to face challenges as they grow older.
- Will using baby carriers make staff stand up, away from the child's level more? This is a reasonable concern, and highlights the importance of high quality training. A consultant like Kizzy who combines experience as an educator, with thorough qualification in babywearing is able to teach early years professionals to enhance their practice. It is perfectly comfortable to wear a baby whilst sitting down as well as standing up, and the nurseries Kizzy has been working with have not found a problem with keeping staff at the child's level.
- Isn't it dangerous to the child if you fall over? If you trip and fall whilst carrying a child on the hip, one or even both your hands may be supporting the child. This leaves you vulnerable to falling flat on your face/the child without hands to break your fall. Using a baby carrier means a professional keeps their hands free to avoid trip hazards, and in a worst-case scenario, break their fall.
How can we get started?
Introducing babywearing into your setting is something to consider carefully and prepare for thoroughly. Ideally you should seek out a babywearing consultant who can support you and your colleagues to fit equipment correctly, and to use it safely and effectively. Kizzy recommends the KahuBaby Carrier from Koala Slings to all the childcare settings she supports; Carissa at Koala is a trained carrying consultant
herself, and will be able to help you find a qualified consultant in your area.