Back to Basics

Guest Post by: Miriam Christensen

What do you think of when you hear talk of “the basics” of babywearing? Do you think of proper positioning? Or maybe you think of safety? Perhaps that one, multi-purpose carrier comes to mind? Depending on whom you ask, “the basics” could refer to any number of aspects of babywearing: the history of babywearing in its most basic and simple form, the basic fundamentals of babywearing, basic safety precautions, the basics of proper positioning, the basic fabric content and construction of a carrier, and even the best, basic all-around carrier type for babywearing. For many wearers, “the basics” might be a first introduction of babywearing through the use of widely accessible, commercial products such as the Moby, Bjorn, or other popular product which often open the door into the wide world (obsession) of babywearing!

When discussing “the basics” it’s important to highlight the most basic reason for the whole thing – to simply wear our babies. While some may see the idea as a passing fad, babywearing has been in style for as long as mothers have been having babies and needing to do something – anything – while caring for their infant or toddler. Imagine a Neolithic mama with a helpless newborn baby, in some prehistoric time, fraught with danger. What are the chances that those ancient mothers left their babies in a cave somewhere, while they went about their day? Unlikely. If the invention of tools is what begins to delineate us from other primates, definitely a way to carry the incredibly vulnerable human offspring would be at the top of that list. Evolutionary archaeologist Timothy Taylor claims that not only did early man (mama) find a way to carry babies, but that the idea of carrying human offspring actually changed the course of evolution (read the article here). This idea leads into the discovery that many mamas over the course of history have made – not only is babywearing practical, it is good for the baby, and the mother.

Babywearing makes for happier, healthier babies (Benefits of Babywearing). When babies are closest to their caregiver, cues and signals are more easily read. A parent or caregiver learns to speak the ‘language’ of a baby earlier with close contact. Also, it is important to address the practicality of the practice. In some cultures, women with new babies are cared for by family and other women while they learn to be mothers. However in many modern societies, women must do more on their own. Many mothers find themselves singlehandedly caring for a new baby and themselves, if not other children and family members, for a good portion of each day. Multi-tasking is an essential part to what it means to be a mother, and is why babywearing can be found across time and culture.
While several forms of traditional babywearing may be more easily recognized by North Americans, many different versions of the same principle exist is varying cultures.

Examples of babywearing from various cultural backgrounds:
http://wrapyourbaby.com/blog/2013/02/cultural-babywearing/
http://www.slingbabies.co.nz/Site/History_2.ashx
http://9davids.blogspot.com/2011/02/babywearing-through-ages.html
http://www.pinterest.com/limeshot/wrapt/ (a big thank you to Katie Hanner for finding this collection)

As you can see, regardless of what comes to mind when you think of “the basics” of babywearing, there is a commonality amongst those that wear their babies…the basic principle of keeping baby close, and keeping baby safe!

References:
http://anthro.vancouver.wsu.edu/media/Course_files/anth-302-barry-hewlett/melkonner.pdf
http://rationalist.org.uk/2330/slings-arrows
http://www.lalecheleague.org/nb/nbnovdec04p204.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2245751
http://www.babywearinginternational.org/Blois_research_summary.pdf

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