We’ve written before about the positive impact babywearing can have on wellbeing for parents and children alike, but did you know that the act of wearing your baby can go a long way to building the secure attachment that will help your child thrive during their teenage years?
The focus of World Mental Health Day 2018 is on Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World, and it comes at a time when the resilience of our young people is perhaps more important than ever before. The pressures they are facing on a global, social, academic and personal scale are immense, and the impact of this can be seen in the steady rise of mental and emotional disorders.
As a parent, it can be hard to know what to do to help a child in your care overcome these challenges. The World Federation for Mental Health offers a wealth of resources for supporting teens and young adults, but it acknowledges too that there are ways that the risks of mental health problems can be mitigated, with building resilience key to facing the emotional rollercoaster of life successfully.
One of the best ways parents can help children build resilience is by nurturing strong attachment. And one of the best ways to nurture that attachment in the early years? Babywearing.
It might seem a leap to suggest that carrying your baby in a sling when they are tiny can help them grown into a happy and confident teenager – and of course it is only part of the picture – but there is no escaping that all of those positive impacts that babywearing has on an infant or toddler are laying firm foundations for the future.
Dr Rosie Knowles has written extensively about why building a secure attachment with your child matters and how babywearing can contribute to this – and also how carrying children can help build resilience as a buffer to adversity.
“There is little doubt that holding babies, providing loving close contact with them, creating relationships where problems can be discussed and shared is of huge importance on many levels, to babies, their carers, and the wider society. Holding, carrying, hugging, interacting, these all build the social brain and show children that the supportive networks around them are their safety net and their buttresses. However, holding growing babies is hard work, we don’t tend to encourage them to use their inbuilt gripping reflexes to make it easier for us. The pace of modern life and expectations or misconceptions often make us put our babies down; we hold and carry them in arms them far less than they really need. This is where a sling or carrier (I use the word interchangeably) can become very useful!”
The notion that early attachment can help bolster the long-term mental health of children and young people is supported strongly by Robert Winston’s work in epigenetics.
“Imagine if the hugs, lullabies and smiles from parents could inoculate babies against heartbreak, adolescent angst and even help them pass their exams decades later. Well, evidence from the new branch of science called epigenetics is reporting that this long-term emotional inoculation might be possible. The evidence on the role of loving nurture in the emotional, social and cognitive development of children is powerful. Parenting is therefore more important than we could ever have imagined.”
Parenting can also be, as anyone who is experienced in it will tell you, incredibly hard work. When you happen upon something that is both enjoyable and convenient and has both short and long term benefits for you and your child it is most definitely something to be celebrated.
So as you hold your baby close know that not only are you boosting your own wellbeing but you are nurturing their mental health, too – and they will feel the impact of that long after they are too big to be carried.