This week (October 8-14, 2012) has been declared International Babywearing Week by Babywearing International. I am so happy that there is an organized group “whose mission is to promote babywearing as a universally accepted practice, with benefits for both child and caregiver, through education and support.”
Read more here
Ashley Montagu was an anthropologist who promoted deliberate maternal care in his article, “Mother’s Touch”, published in the April 1981 issue of Science Digest. We received a reprint of this article in our Bradley Method® class as students. In it he makes several good points that convinced Bruss and I that we wanted to use a carrier to keep our baby close:
“The elephant, deer, seal and human all have long gestation
periods – ranging from an average period of 630 days for the
elephant to about 266 days for humans. Yet only humans are born
so immature, their growth divided into a period inside the womb
(uterogestation) and a period outside the womb (exterogestation).
At birth, the brain of an average seven-pound infant weighs roughly
380 grams. To be as talented and capable as a newborn elephant,
deer or seal, the human infant would need the 825-gram brain of a
one-year old. Clearly, infants can’t wait until they’ve grown a brain
that big before being born – their heads would be too large to fit
through the mother’s birth canal. They must be born with the
biggest possible brain that still allows them to get out and then do
their brain-growing after birth.”
He goes on to point out that it has been suggested that the period of exterogestation is over when a child can crawl on all fours – in essence, when they have achieved independent mobility as their other infant mammal counterparts. The average time for this achievement is 266 days – which is 38 weeks, three weeks short of an average pregnancy (41 weeks).*
He also comments:
"The human infant is almost as immature as the infant opossum or
kangaroo, but whereas the marsupial infant enjoys the protection of
its mother's pouch, the human infant has no such advantage."
This was the paragraph that ultimately convinced me that I would be “wearing” our children:
“When the human mother breast-feeds her child, the pair make eye
contact vital to the psychological development of the child. The
mother lovingly coos, talks and sings to the child, cuddling, kissing
and caressing it. As important as breast-feeding itself are its
associated sensory stimuli – the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and
warm feelings that comprise the enfolding love that out to be the
birthright of every child.”
Mothers that wear their children can learn how to read their baby’s hunger cues before baby starts crying. They can also learn to differentiate between “I’m hungry” and “I’m bored” and “I’m scared” among other things. I wanted to be able to offer food or comfort at the breast because I believe I am our children’s source of food and comfort when they are infants. In the long run, we want to raise our children to be independent and individual. An inanimate object can’t comfort them when they need a person to talk to as they grow up. I believe the trusting foundation that was laid down as I personally responded to their needs as an infant will carry us through the rest of their human development.
Writing this is also a good reminder to me. Even though three of our children are no longer carried, I still need to check in with them eye-to-eye to keep building on our foundation. I also need to remember to smile at them eye-to-eye, and be gentle so as not to scare them, just as I did when they were carried next to my body. We have gotten more comfortable with babywearing as we have grown as parents.
With our oldest, I wore her around the house and at work so I could be hands free while preparing cold food or typing or teaching. We used our stroller whenever we went out as a couple because we had the handy-dandy “travel system” (car seat snaps into the stroller).
It seems incredible, yet it happens all the time – complete strangers want to touch your baby! Well meaning people have even pushed back the “hood” on our car seat to see our sleeping baby. When our second son got so sick with RSV, we became painfully aware that he needed to be as germ-free as possible to keep him from getting so sick again. We found that wearing him kept people from getting too close to him. Because he was within my personal space, people were less likely to come into it to touch him. Although we graduated to a “Sit and Stand” stroller, sister did the sitting and the standing while baby brother is mostly carried out in public; he was carried until I got pregnant with baby#3.
Baby#3 came along and I was hands-full with our two older children. The only way to get anything done around the house was to wear him because I needed my other hands ready for his siblings. It’s great to have two hands to read them a book, to make lunch, to offer to hold when crossing the street, or to push the cart when we go grocery shopping. And all the while, little brother is sleeping or nursing or perfectly content to watch the world from his perch, nestled in with mommy.
Adding on to our family with Baby#4…now I wish my carrier had an extra hand!! Luckily, Big Sister can be a Big Helper when she wants to be. Since all three older siblings are mobile, we hardly ever use our stroller anymore. The only use it had was to move the older siblings through our theme park trip. Our double-stroller ran away after a family trip to Disneyland in March. Despite seven months without it, we have not found a reason to replace it. When we do, it will be for the older kiddos to use on our next theme park trip because little sister is still doing great in her carrier and I love having hands available for our older children.
As a new mom, I was resistant to using our carrier “in public” because of that old adage, “Let sleeping babies lie.” I was so scared – what if I woke baby up when I moved them out of their car seat? To quote another saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention”, or in my case, capitulation. As more compelling reasons presented themselves, I became more comfortable with the idea.
Four children later, I found that moving our sleeping baby from her car seat into her carrier was the only way I could have my hands available for everything we are doing now. We got to a point when we were all ready to start our homeschooling after a wonderful babymoon. We go to dance class, horseback riding, swimming lessons. We are out in public more than ever with grocery shopping for our growing (and hungry!) family, as well as trips to different attractions and parks for the kiddos to explore their world. And guess what? If baby is tired and/or it's naptime, she keeps sleeping!
Wearing our babies has been the best of all worlds for us. I learn to read our baby’s cues, I get close time with them, and it cements our mother-baby bond. Baby gets to nurse, rock to sleep as I walk around the house, or spend time in the state of “quiet alertness” as they learn the ins-and-outs of our world. And when they are ready, they hit the ground running and independent, knowing that there is always a place in my arms when they want it again. Recently, I found that baby was fussy in her carrier, so a move to our old single travel stroller calmed her down.
Oh, Arizona heat foils my babywearing plans! Time to break out my lightweight sling until the weather breaks. And who knows – it may be that my babywearing days are numbered…I will remember to enjoy every minute of it until Angelika is ready to walk and run along with her siblings.
What are your thoughts on babywearing?
Read more about the carriers we use HERE
Would you like to read the article by Ashley Montagu?
Send your postal mailing address for a copy of the reprint to firstname.lastname@example.org
*Click here for “The length of uncomplicated human gestation” Mittendorf R, Williams MA, Berkey CS, Cotter PF. Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.
More on the benefits of babywearing
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