I previously reported the results of my survey entitled “The Impact of Babywearing on Postnatal Mental Health: Mothers’ Voices”. A survey of health care providers was undertaken concurrently. Responses were sought only from those who have direct contact with mothers of children aged two and under in their current role. The response rate was extremely low but their contributions provide some interesting perspectives.
What do health care providers say?
All 100% of the responding health care providers were aware of the practise of babywearing and currently recommend the practise to mothers, which is pleasing as the Royal College of Midwives (2014) state that “encouraging mothers to use soft baby carriers” is recommended. Given that only 3% of mothers surveyed reported receiving information about babywearing from their health care providers, it is clear that this cohort of health care providers is unfortunately not representative of the whole population.
The majority (71%) acknowledged specific benefits of babywearing which they felt impacted on postnatal mental health.
Benefits of babywearing cited by health care providers include:
- Improved bonding and attachment between parents and babies.
- Release of oxytocin in mother.
- Positive impact on breastfeeding.
- A content baby resulting in a content mother.
- Babies have the feeling of security and ability to self-regulate.
“For parents, having your baby close to you helps bond with your baby and be more aware of the baby’s sounds, rhythms and cues for their needs to be met. Touch is our basic human need and babywearing promotes that.”
Family Support Worker, NI
For other benefits not list here, visit my other blog posts:
- Babywearing: An overview of information.
- The Impact of Babywearing on Postnatal Mental Health: Mothers’ Voices.
Those citing benefits agree that babywearing helps to ease postnatal depression with 43% of respondents having witnessed first-hand how babywearing has helped mothers through a period of postnatal depression or maintain positive mental health where there was a risk of mothers developing postnatal depression. However, not all responding health care providers were as certain:
“I think it is difficult to separate babywearing from other interventions in terms of the benefits specific to PND. I would be hesitant in making a definite association, but in the context of it increasing the bond, aiding breastfeeding, enabling some mothers to actually get out and about, and helping a baby become more content (which eases mother’s anxiety) then I strongly am in favour. However I couldn’t make the statement to a mother that it ‘reduces the risk of PND’.”
Despite this cohort’s awareness of babywearing and its benefits, all with the exception of one, had received no work related training or undertaken any personal development in the practice or benefits of babywearing. A significant majority (86%) of respondents received their babywearing knowledge from friends and family as babywearing occurs within their social circle. The remaining 14% gained information from their local babywearing group.
My view is that information on the practice of babywearing should be delivered to student health care providers as part of their studies and in the continuous professional development or revalidation procedures of current health care providers who are in contact with women during the perinatal period. Mothers, and their families, can then have the encouragement and support of front-line health care providers in this practise and benefit from the positive impact babywearing has, especially during the newborn period.
Encouragingly, 71% confirmed that they would find it helpful, in their current role, to attend a presentation on the impact of babywearing on postnatal mental health. Such a presentation could easily be incorporated into student training, revalidation procedures and continuing professional development via a guest babywearing consultant speaker which would enable health care providers to feel more confident about sharing information with parents on the practise and benefits of babywearing, and in referring them on to trained babywearing consultants for practical help.
Although it is recommended that health care providers encourage babywearing, this rarely happens as is highlighted by the mothers’ survey. It is unclear, from the survey results, where the reluctance lies as all the responding health care providers do currently recommend the practice. There is no doubt that babywearing provides benefits to mothers. However, there is some reticence among health care providers in accepting a direct link between babywearing and improved postnatal mental health. A scientific study, to compliment the many existing related articles, would go a long way to assuaging hesitant health care providers.
Health care providers are not expected to be able to provide advice or practical assistance in babywearing, unless they are also trained as a babywearing consultant. Rather, the role of health care providers is as an information source, an advocate, a referrer to those in a position to offer trained practical help, as in the case of baby massage, pregnancy yoga or hypnobirthing. Regular voluntary slingmeets are held by babywearing consultants for anyone interested in the practise to come along and find out more.
A respondent wanted to know, “[What is the] best way to promote babywearing to parents… mums and dads alike!” I would say simply to arm yourself with a little bit of knowledge and don’t be afraid to share that knowledge with them. You could read what mothers have to say in my previous blog. Recommend that they attend their local voluntary run slingmeet to learn more about it and how to do it while surrounding themselves with a support network of parents who are currently doing the same: reaping the rewards of such a simple practise – one of which is a positive impact on their mental health.
Royal College of Midwives (2014) Maternal Emotional Wellbeing and Infant Development: A Good Practice Guide for Midwiveshttps://www.rcm.org.uk/sites/default/files/Emotional%20Wellbeing_Guide_WEB.pdf