"Maybe you’ve seen a parent in the mall with an enormous backpack that looks like they’re about to hike the Himalayas. But when you take another look, you realize that they’re actually carrying a not-so-small kid rather than supplies and a sleeping bag. There’s a name for what you see, and it’s called toddler-wearing. And as it turns out, it’s not a bad thing at all — for you or your child.
“Toddler-wearing is an intuitive solution for some of the challenges of the toddler age,” Dr. Elizabeth O’Keefe Morse, a licensed psychologist in Long Island, NY, tells Romper in an interview. “Specifically, toddler years can be particularly tricky in that they consist of extremes: fiercely wanting to assert independence and then clinging to parents and caregivers in the next moment.” And since separation anxiety can also peak during the toddler years, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddler-wearing is a simple solution to a common parenting problem.
Of my four children, my youngest son (who, at 2 ½, is smack dab in the middle of the toddler years) is by far the clingiest. He wants to be held all the time. I’ve had him in my arms in almost every instance, from when I’ve been in the bathroom, to flipping pancakes, you name it. But he’s content when he’s being carried, and hysterical when he’s not. Because I want him to be happy (and all that screaming is no bueno for my nerves), he’s become an unexpected appendage of sorts. So I was delighted to discover that toddler-wearing is good for both of us. Read on to discover the benefits you’ll both reap by wearing your little guy or gal.
1. Boosts Bonding
Although it can be stressful for parents, toddler-wearing comes from an innate need to be comforted. And for sure, it can wear on you (literally), especially when you’re trying to get so many other things done. But when you look at it from your child’s standpoint, it makes it more sense. “Toddler-wearing provides the closeness and security they are seeking, especially during periods of heightened separation anxiety,” Dr. O’Keefe explains.
2. It’s Practical
Let’s face it: if your kiddo would just walk right next to you and not need to be held every second, you might not necessarily resort to toddler-wearing. If you need to be hands-free, though, it’s an excellent alternative to his tears. “It’s a safe and convenient option for parents who want to go on adventures with their children for which strollers may not be available or feasible to use,” explains Dr. Inna Leiter, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and Director of the Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in an email to Romper. For instance, if you go on vacation and want to hike with your kids, you'll be able to more easily.
3. Ensures Safety
Both my boys were runners. At any given moment, I never knew when one of them would take off down the street — and right into traffic. That’s where toddler-wearing can be a sound safety choice. “It allows both the parent and child to participate in activities together that would otherwise be difficult to navigate, such as a busy theme park, a crowded outdoor event, or a long hike,” says Dr. Leiter. “It keeps them close by and provides safety in situations where wandering would be inappropriate or dangerous.” Wearing your kid means that you don’t have to worry about him wandering off.
4. Offers New Vantage Point
The average height for a toddler is about 34 inches, reported LiveStrong. Which means that from a toddler’s viewpoint, they tend to be up close and personal with people’s crotches. But all of that changes once you hoist your child up. “Toddler-wearing gives children a new perspective of the world since they’ll be up closer to adult eye level,” says Dr. Leiter. “This can be very engaging for them and often triggers new questions and conversations.” It also gives them the ability to experience new things (which can be scary), from a comfortable place. That’s why you should take the opportunity to really talk with your child face to face when you wear him. You can even work on expanding your child’s vocabulary by talking about the things he’s seeing and feeling.
5. Makes Life Easier
Trying to get anything done with a toddler underfoot can feel like a total exercise in futility. I mean, I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to pee while holding my little guy because he refused to be put down. Sigh. Toddler-wearing, on the other hand, makes you hands-free, so you can live your life (somewhat) normally. “You can continue completing activities or daily tasks, such as shopping or traveling, much more easily when wearing their child versus holding him,” says Dr. O’Keefe.
6. Prevents Sibling Rivalry
Luckily, my cute little cling-on is also my youngest (and for sure, my last). But if I had to constantly hold him while caring for a baby, it would make life extremely challenging. Most likely, I would have had to invest in a toddler carrier just to get through the day. “Toddler-wearing provides caregivers with the opportunity to have their hands free to provide simultaneous care for other children,” Dr. Leiter agrees. That way, you can give your toddler the attention and reassurance she needs without neglecting the needs of your other children.
7. Relieves Parental Stress
When I have to put my 2-year-old down, his sobbing is straight out of a telenovela. Of course, this triggers terrible mommy guilt in me (he just wants to be held, for goodness sake), and I wind up hauling him around a whole lot more than I’d like. “Wearing your child can alleviate the distress or guilt a parent may feel if they are physically unable to hold their crying child at that time,” says Dr. Leiter. It can be very distressing to have a cranky toddler clinging to your leg or crying for you, so if it means carrying him around for a little longer, so be it. “Personally, as a mother, I believe in toddler-wearing because it is a win-win,” says Dr. O’Keefe. “It can make life easier for you and also be a source of bonding and comfort for your child.”
Toddler-wearing may not be not necessary for every parent and child. However, it can be a fun and helpful tool that parents can leverage to make life a little easier from time to time.