Babywearing plays a role in postnatal depression prevention and recovery

baby in carrier with mum

Perinatal depression and anxiety is a serious illness, affecting more than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads each year. So it’s really important for all expecting and new parents, and those around them, to be aware of the signs to look out for and where to go for help.

Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) says first-time parents navigating the responsibility of a new baby face a whole host of emotions, from lack of confidence to shifts in their own identities. And it’s not just first-time parents who are vulnerable.

Solving the riddle of postnatal depression and anxiety can be a complex issue, but there’s evidence to suggest that babywearing – the use of baby slings and carriers – might be helpful to reduce the risks as well as aid recovery.

Babywearing feature

Benefits of babywearing for parents

The close bonding with baby that babywearing allows means parents can learn their baby’s cues, helping them stay calm and feel more in control. Holding baby close can also help soothe anxiety, as parents feel the comfort of their baby breathing against their chest, and the security of knowing baby is safe.

Since one of the risk factors for postnatal depression is isolation, the increased sense of flexibility and freedom which comes with babywearing may reduce the risk for some parents. Babywearing can help parents to balance some of the baby’s needs (for warmth, closeness and attention) with their own needs (for social interaction, getting out of the house, or even just drinking a coffee).

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Babywearing promotes healthy attachment

University of Queensland parenting researcher Dr Koa Whittingham is a clinical and developmental psychologist, a mother, and the author of Becoming Mum

Dr Whittingham says babywearing can play an important role in a healthy postnatal lifestyle for baby, both parents and the extended family, “Secure attachment forms a bedrock for a lifetime of mental health, wellbeing, and healthy, happy relationships. For many, babywearing is a convenient way to give generous physical contact to baby.”

Keep depression at bay

With baby kept close and safe, and hands free, Dr Whittingham says babywearing liberates the primary caregiver, who is often the mother.

“Babywearing enables her to pursue her own interests, passions and pleasures,” Dr Whittingham says. “It also makes regular physical exercise and social activities easier to pursue.

“This is not trivial … In fact, deliberately cultivating a rewarding lifestyle is an evidence-based treatment for depression.

“Babywearing can play an important role in building a rewarding lifestyle to prevent or to overcome postnatal depression.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing postnatal depression or anxiety, your doctor can help. Visit PANDA for more information.

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