Keeping Baby Close: Carrying
Although carrying a baby in some kind of cloth device may seem like a modern trend, it is a practice that is actually as old as parenting itself. For millennia, people have worn their babies tied to them with simple wraps or slings to keep the baby close and still attend to the normal activities of daily life. In many parts of the world, this is still the norm. Babies are carried or worn all day until they can walk, and beyond.
In industrialized western cultures, parents have been conditioned to believe that picking up and holding their child too much would "spoil" the child and discourage independence. Nevertheless, carrying is becoming increasingly common. Our society has rediscovered this instinctive way of natural parenting and found it to be enjoyable, ergonomic, practical, and helpful to baby's physical and social development.
Babies who are held and carried all the time and have their need for touch met in their first year do not become clingy and overly dependent. They cry much less and they grow to become happier, more intelligent, more independent, more loving and more social than babies who spend much of their infancy in infant seats, swings, cribs, and all the other plastic baby-holding devices that don't provide babies with human contact. The physical and psychological benefits associated with carrying encourage little ones to feel secure and content and build a solid sense of self-esteem. Babies feel safe when their needs for food, warmth and touch are met; and when they are within close proximity to their trusted parent or care-provider.
Holding your baby close resembles the "carrying" inside the womb. The baby is completely enveloped and therefore safe, comfortable and warm, and experiencing natural motions. Ashley Montague, who was an anthropologist, scientist, and humanist, talked about the eighteen-month gestational period: nine months within the womb and nine months without. The newborn needs the extra nine to ten months outside of the womb to mature. This is a period of time Dr. Montague designates as being the exterogestation. It is around the end of this period that the infant begins to crawl around and is capable of mobility independent of the mother. This period of exterogestation requires the constant care of a loving and nurturing human being who can learn to respond appropriately and quickly to the newborn's needs of touch, nourishment, and warmth.
Visual stimulation is another benefit of carrying. Unlike a baby on his/her back (who sees only the ceiling and objects on either side) a baby in a wrap or other carrier will lift his/her head and view the world at eye level.
Babywearing presents a natural form of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) prevention. Infants can be worn while they sleep, and none of the babywearing positions require infants to lie on their backs while being carried.
Another negative effect of infants spending too much time on their backs is that these so-called "container babies" who lie for long periods in cribs, strollers, car seats and other restrictive devices experience delays in motor development.
When lying on their backs, unable to move freely, infants cannot learn motor skills that require antigravity extension (rolling, crawling. sitting, walking). Such babies, in the first few months, don't grasp, crawl, stand or walk as early as expected.
Carrying your baby supports Attachment Parenting International's Ideals of Baby Wearing
- Babywearing helps satisfy the baby's need for closeness, touch and affection.
- Babywearing promotes and strengthens parent's emotional bond with their baby.
- The movement that naturally results from carrying your baby stimulates their neurological development
- Babies cry less when worn or held.
- Holding helps regulate their temperature and heart rate.
- Baby feels more secure.
- Babywearing facilitates easy outings and travel.