Carrying is for all!
I have wanted to blog about this for a while, as there seems to be some misconceptions about carrying your baby or child and needing to be a certain type of parent to use slings or carriers.
Posting the above image on Instagram resulted in two people commented using specific phrases,
"I couldn't have survived without babywearing especially with my second but wouldn't describe myself as the "crunchy" type" and "People seem surprised that I still carry and feed S, I'm not an "earth mother" type but these 2 things keep me & S close, esp since I returned to work"
I do find people can be self-conscious around carrying their child, and seem to think you have to be a certain type of person to carry. That is simply not the case.
Sometimes I hear this at sling library sessions, or in passing from people who see us carrying, as a way to justify why they don't carry their children. I like the phrase "my choices are not a judgement of anyone else's choices they are simply my choices". If you don't want to carry your child then that is fine, that is your choice, I am here to help those that do and support others that perhaps are unsure as to why carrying is so useful and normal from an evolutionary point of view.
We carry for lots of different reasons, as do many people. It is not about one thing or another, or about being a better parent. Many carry for convenience, for financial reasons, as you don't need to use a pram or buggy which are more expensive than some slings/carriers. To be able to explore the world, to connect with an older child whilst being able to meet the needs of your baby at the same time, to be able to climb stairs securely, to have 2 hands free for the shoppings bags, for speed on the school run, for naps, The list goes on.
I think some of the issue is due to the use of the terms "Attachment Theory" (AT) and "Attachment Parenting" (AP) often used about carrying. In fact, they are not the same thing. AP describes an approach that may include carrying whereas AT is not about carrying at all, however carrying would help to facilitate a secure attachment, but it is not necessary to do so to have a secure attachment.
Attachment theory states that a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical to personal and social development. Bowlby coined the term after his research involving the development of children from various backgrounds. The premise is that a strong attachment to a caregiver (usually parents) provides a necessary sense of security and foundation. A baby who is attached securely to a caregiver has several of his or her most immediate needs met. Consequently, they are able to spend more time observing and interacting with their environments and therefore learning and developing.
Many studies have found a positive relationship between secure attachment in childhood and social competence as an adult[i]. Securely attached children are more independent, more confident, more intelligent, more socially adept, more curious about the world, better at adjusting to change, have more friends, do better academically, better at focusing on learning and on tasks, and have higher self-esteem than those who are insecurely attached[ii].
Attachment parenting is defined as a philosophy that suggests ways to promote the attachment of mother (or primary caregiver) and infant not only by maximal maternal empathy and responsiveness but also by continuous bodily closeness and touch." (Wikipedia) It was a term created by the American paediatrician William Sears.
The 7 B's are:
- Birth bonding
- Baby wearing
- Bedding close to baby
- Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry
- Beware of baby trainers
You do not have to follow every one of these. It is about going back to a natural way of parenting, following our instincts and more about an ethos, a way to live and parent, rather than something that you do. Rosie Knowles states in her book "Why Babywearing Matters" "Followers were often not mainstream and were frequently marginalised or labelled "hippies"." This seems to still be prevalent today based on the comments on the post on Instagram above.
So whilst there is overlap, you don't have follow "attachment parenting" to carry your child. If you want your child to grow up to be an independent happy adult, and quite frankly who doesn't, then carrying is for you!
Also from an evolutionary point of view we are meant to carry our young. James McKenna, Professor of anthropology and director of the Mother-Baby Behavioural Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, spoke to the Huffpost and he states that from biological anthropology informs us that:
"the human infant is the most vulnerable, contact dependent, slowest developing primate mammal....because humans are born neurologically premature....born with only 25% of its adult brain volume. This means that its physiological systems are unable to function optimally without contact with the mothers body" (or another human)
"Touching infants changes their breathing, body temperature, growth rate, blood pressure, stress levels and growth itself"
In terms of evolution your baby does not know it is 2017 and as such in a westernised country is expected to sleep in a basket or cot, and ride in a box on wheels. Your baby is evolutionary primed to be close, think of it as being the Stone Age, baby would not be left alone for that would be life threatening, we lived in hunter-gatherer groups of people, all sleeping in the same environment, living together moving around nomadically.
Rosie Knowles discusses this in her book "Why Babywearing Matters" which I highly recommend reading if this topic interests you as it covers all this in great detail and more but in a very easy to read accessible way, providing links and evidence without being academic and difficult to read.
She says "Modern babies spend more time physically separated from their parents than at any other time in history" and that the increase of industrialisation has led to a decrease in frequency and duration of closeness and contact than is biologically normal. in terms of human evolution for 99% of it we have carried our babies and children. The last few hundred years have eroded what is normal.
There is a push for children to become independent at a very early age, far more so than is biologically normal as that the adults can be productive and work longer hours, The Victorian age continued to erode the biological norms, the notion that children had to be in strict routines to be trained and not to be involved in adult life, to not interfere with the social pleasures of adults.
As we do not now live in close knit groups or communities that would support new families and children as our fore-bearers would have. There is a need to continue our lives, we need money to live now and are invested in the "system" so have very little choice in reality with some societies offering better maternity/paternity benefits than others. Carrying can help to bridge the gap between continuing our lives and meeting the needs of our babies/children as often these are at a discourse.
Carrying can help us to continue to work, carrying can help us to reconnect when we have been absent, carrying can make the food shopping easier or the school run easier. Carrying means we can hold our older children's hands whilst being able to meet the needs of the baby too.
I love this quote from Rosie
" Using a carrier does not mark you out as a particular type of parent, who subscribes to particular cultural beliefs; it simply means that you are choosing to keep your child close, according to your biological instinct and their biological needs, making life work the best way you can"
This is all we are doing.
[i] Coleman, P. K. (2003). Perceptions of parent-child attachment, social self-efficacy, and peer relationships in middle childhood. Infant and Child Development, 12, 351–368.Lieberman, M., Doyle, A. B., & Markiewicz, D. (1999). Developmental patterns in security of attachment to mother and father in late childhood and early adolescence: Associations with peer relations. Child Development, 70, 202–213. [ii]Sroufe, L. A., Carlson, E., & Shulman, S. (1993). Individuals in relationships: Development from infancy through adolescence. In D. C. Funder, R. Parke, C. Tomlinson-Keesey, & K. Widaman (Eds.), Studying lives through time: Personality and development (pp. 315–342), Washington DC: American Psychological Association.Kerns, K., Klepac, L., & Cole, A. (1996). Peer relationships and preadolescents’ perceptions of security in the child-mother relationship. Developmental Psychology, 32(3), 457–466.Crittenden, P. M. (1992). Treatment of anxious attachment in infancy and early childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 4, 575–602.Jacobsen, T., & Hofmann, V. (1997). Children’s attachment representations: Longitudinal relations to school behavior and academic competency in middle childhood and adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 33(4), 703–710.Wong, E., Wiest, D., & Cusick, L. (2002). Perceptions of autonomy support, parent attachment, competence and self-worth as predictors of motivational orientation and academic achievement: An examination of sixth and ninth grade regular education students. Adolescence, 37(146), 255–266.O’Conner, E., & McCartney, K. (2006). Testing associations between young children’s relationships with mothers and teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 87–98.