Babywearing of Hampton Roads

Keeping caregivers and children close since 2013

Special Needs Babywearing

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This guest post is written by one of BWIofHR’s sustaining members, Diana Warner.
Special Needs Babywearing
Babywearing to us has been nothing short of life changing and possibly life saving. My first child was born with a virus that caused many, many health issues. She is incredible and resilient and we are so lucky to have been blessed with her but that does not change the fact that her body works overtime to do things most of us do with ease and very little thought. She is deaf in one ear. What does that mean? That means she filters ALL sound through one ear and it causes her brain a TON of stress and can be very confusing and tiring. We were told from the time she was very young to expect her to be very fatigued after a long day in public or at school because her brain will work overtime to filter everything. She has right-sided hemiplegic cerebral palsy. What does that mean? It means only her right side suffers from motor delays and underdevelopment. It means her gait (walking pattern) is unbalanced and may lead to skeletal complications as she grows. It means that to keep her balance she works different muscle groups unevenly. It means she was very late to crawl, walk, run etc. It means she has to think VERY hard on how to control her muscles and where to guide her body. She is NOT wheelchair bound. What does that mean? It means she’s a free spirit who loves to run and play and dance but she falls, a lot. It means she can do so much but it also means her brain works hard to keep her body aligned and balanced and safe. She has delayed self-preservation reflexes. What does that mean? It means she can get hurt, easily, because her body doesn’t always sense when she is falling or in harms way. The worst part of all, she has myoclonic seizures. This means when her brain is overworked it has mild seizure activity that can lead to damage at any moment and her brain is overworked daily just to do normal activities. So what does this all have to do with babywearing? EVERYTHING.

I started wearing her around age 2. She was small for her age and only just starting to attempt walking at this point. We noticed she had a strong desire to explore. She wanted, so badly, to be a part of everything. She wanted to ROAM and EXPLORE. As a mom, I wanted to give her the world. Babywearing allowed me to carry here everywhere without her brain exhausting itself. Babywearing allowed us freedom. We could tour the world together and her brain could just relax and take in all the wonderful sites.  Instead of her brain giving in to the seizures and confusion of sound and muscle fatigue that lead to fits and frustration she could ENJOY the world around her.

Special needs baby wearing is no different than baby wearing a non special needs child with the exception that we need to be cognizant of a few things: body positioning, joint comfort for the child, medical devices and possible lines into the body. All the rules of safety still apply but we may have to adjust our carries to accommodate the child’s health. Baby wearing a special needs child can be life changing. It can allow us freedom to not need wheelchairs. It can allow us access to adventures we never thought possible. For special needs families we often end up wearing well past the age of toddlerhood. Many special needs children are small and able to be carried as long as the parent’s health and own body allows. I am still wearing my daughter. She is 6 and she loves it.  Baby wearing, in our family, has torn down barriers that many with disabilities face. We can help our daughter experience the world in a totally different way thanks to baby wearing.
For safety please keep in mind the following:

  • Back carrying can be especially challenging with babies who have low tone, or hypotonia. These children don’t hold themselves upright as well as other babies might, and they have a tendency to slump into their carriers. Any carrier must offer quality support not only for the baby’s upper back and shoulders, but for the hips, lumbar, mid-back, and neck as well. With older children who like to have more access to their arms and hands, this can be increasingly challenging. Many parents of children with a hypotonia symptoms prefer a more structured carrier than a wrap, such as a mei tai or soft structured carrier.

  • For parents with children who have Lines In you may want to consider tucking the lines into clothing and out pant legs to avoid entanglement.

  • If wrapping, keeping one are free and the other tucked into the wrap can encourage support and maintained upright positioning.

  • Make sure your child’s airway is in tact. For children with muscular issues this may require alternative body positioning.

  • Make sure your child is comfortable. The hips and other joints are particular areas of concern as many children with spastic tone experience spasms that can cause discomfort. Narrow based carriers can be good for these children.

  • Always watch your child for signs of discomfort but carry with love and confidence! 

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