Are you curious about how parents around the world carry their babies?
Babywearing is a practice that has been around for centuries, and every culture has their own unique way of doing it. From traditional slings to modern carriers, babywearing has evolved over time, but the benefits remain the same – keeping your baby close and your hands free.
Babywearing is a practice that has been around for centuries and is used in cultures all over the world.
Babywearing has a rich history and is often seen as a natural and instinctive way to care for a baby.
There are many types of baby carriers, from traditional slings to modern carriers, each with their own unique benefits.
History of Babywearing
Anthropologists have found evidence of traditional babywearing in many different cultures, including Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
In Africa, babywearing has been a common practice for centuries. Different cultures have their own traditional ways of carrying babies. For example, the Inuit people of northern Canada use an amauti, a traditional parka with a large hood that can be used to carry a baby on the mother’s back.
In West Africa, women often use a kanga, a brightly colored cloth that can be tied around the mother’s waist to carry a baby.
In Asia, babywearing is also a common practice. In India, women use a sari to carry their babies. In Indonesia, women use a selendang, a long piece of cloth that can be tied around the mother’s waist to carry a baby.
In China, women use a mei tai, a soft-structured carrier with shoulder straps that can be worn in front or back.
Native American cultures have a long history of babywearing. Different tribes have their own traditional ways of carrying babies.The Ojibwe people of the Great Lakes region use a cradleboard, a wooden frame with a cloth or leather pouch that can be used to carry a baby on the mother’s back.
The Navajo, Apache, and Iroquois also use cradleboards. In the Southwest, the Hopi use a papoose, a soft carrier made from animal hides.
In the United States, babywearing fell out of fashion in the 20th century. However, in the 1970s, carriers began to make a gradual comeback with the invention of the Snugli by Ann Moore, a soft-structured carrier with shoulder straps that can be worn in front or back.
Types of Baby Carriers
When it comes to babywearing, there are two main types of carriers: slings and wraps, and structured carriers. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for you will depend on your needs and preferences.
Slings and Wraps
Slings and wraps are made from long pieces of fabric that are wrapped around your body to create a secure pouch for your baby. They are often used for newborns and younger babies, as they provide a close and snug fit that mimics the feeling of being in the womb.
Ring Slings: Ring slings are a type of sling that has two rings sewn onto one end of the fabric. The other end of the fabric is threaded through the rings to create a secure pouch for your baby. Ring slings are adjustable, which makes them a good choice if you want to share the carrier with a partner or caregiver.
Woven Wraps: Woven wraps are long pieces of fabric that are wrapped around your body to create a secure pouch for your baby. They are available in different lengths and thicknesses, which makes them a versatile option for different body types and climates. Woven wraps require some practice to get the hang of, but once you master the technique, they can be very comfortable and supportive.
Structured carriers are designed to be easy to use and provide more support than slings and wraps. They have a structured frame that holds your baby in a specific position, which can be more comfortable for longer periods of wear.
Soft Structured Carriers (SSC): Soft structured carriers are a type of carrier that has a padded waistband and shoulder straps that clip together to create a secure pouch for your baby. They are easy to use and can be adjusted to fit different body types. Brands like Ergobaby are known for their comfortable and ergonomic SSCs.
Onbuhimo: Onbuhimo is a type of carrier that is worn on the back, similar to a backpack. It has a padded waistband and shoulder straps that clip together to create a secure pouch for your baby. Onbuhimos are a good choice for older babies and toddlers who want to see the world around them.
Cultural Significance of Babywearing
Babywearing has been a traditional practice in many cultures around the world for centuries. This practice involves carrying a baby in a sling or other form of carrier throughout the day. Babywearing has cultural significance in many countries and has been passed down from generation to generation.
Inuit mothers have been practicing babywearing for centuries. The Inuit people live in the Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Russia. They have developed specific baby carriers called “amauti” that are made of animal hides and fur.
The amauti has a large hood that can be pulled up to protect the baby from the cold. Inuit mothers believe that carrying a baby in an amauti is the best way to bond with their child and keep them safe in the harsh Arctic environment.
Kenyan mothers use a traditional baby carrier called a “kanga” which is a rectangular piece of cloth tied around the mother’s waist and over one shoulder. The kanga is colorful and has different patterns that represent different meanings.
A kanga with a heart pattern may represent love, while a kanga with a sun pattern may represent warmth and happiness. Kenyan mothers believe that carrying a baby in a kanga helps to strengthen the bond between mother and child.
In Mozambique, mothers use a traditional baby carrier called a “capulana” which is a rectangular piece of cloth tied around the mother’s waist and over one shoulder. The capulana is often brightly colored and has different patterns that represent different meanings. Mozambican mothers believe that carrying a baby in a capulana helps to soothe the baby and promote sleep.
In Benin, mothers use a traditional baby carrier called an “onbu” which is a wooden board with a cloth attached to it. The baby is placed on the cloth and secured to the board with another cloth. The onbu is worn on the mother’s back and is used to carry the baby while the mother works.
Benin mothers believe that carrying a baby in an onbu helps to keep the baby safe and close to the mother.
Benefits of Babywearing
Here are some of the benefits of babywearing:
Carrying infants close to your body in a carrier or sling can help promote bonding between you and your child. When your baby is snuggled up against you, they can hear your heartbeat, feel your warmth, and smell your scent, all of which can help them feel secure and comforted.
Helps with Breastfeeding
Babywearing can also make breastfeeding easier and more convenient. When your baby is in a carrier or sling, you can breastfeed them discreetly and comfortably, without having to find a private place to sit down.
Supports Healthy Development
When babies are carried in a sling or carrier, they are in a rounded back, spread-squat position that supports healthy child development of their spine, hips, and pelvis. This position is also known as the “M-position” or “frog position, always ensure your carrier supports your baby’s head.” Always follow safe babywearing rules.
Keeps Hands Free
One of the biggest benefits of babywearing is that it allows you to keep your hands free while still keeping your baby close. This can be especially helpful for parents who need to do household chores, run errands, or take care of multiple children.
Studies have shown that human infants who are carried in a sling or carrier cry less than babies who are not. This may be because they feel more secure and comforted when they are close to their caregiver.
Frequently Asked Questions on Cultural babywearing
What are some traditional baby carriers used around the world?
Baby wearing is a practice that has been around for centuries, and different cultures around the world have their own traditional carriers. For example, the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania use a cloth tied over one shoulder and under the other arm, tied with a knot in what is called a Traditional Sling Carry.
In Mozambique, they use a Capulana, which is a rectangular piece of cloth, tied around the waist and over the opposite shoulder. Carrying is not limited to African women, in South Asia, the Sari Wrap is used, which involves wrapping a long piece of fabric around the waist and over one shoulder. Babywearing international seek to provide help and education to parents to help them how to babywear safely.
What are some popular babywearing wraps and how do you use them?
There are many different types of babywearing wraps, but some of the most popular include the Moby Wrap, the Boba Wrap, and the LÍLLÉbaby Dragonfly Wrap. These wraps are made of stretchy fabric and can be used to carry babies in a variety of positions, including on the front, back, and hip.
To use a wrap, you first wrap it around your body and then place your baby inside, making sure they are snug and secure. These are ideal especially for premature infants where skin to skin contact is essential, with studies showing increased physical contact help neo natal babies.
What are some cultural practices around the world for carrying babies?
In many cultures around the world, babywearing is not just a practical way to carry a baby, but also a cultural practice with deep meaning. For example, in many Indigenous communities in North America, babywearing is seen as a way to keep babies close to their mothers, provide infant care and keep them connected to their culture.
In Japan, the practice of Omiyamairi involves carrying babies to a shrine to receive blessings. In China, the practice of Zuo Yuezi involves a month-long period of postpartum confinement, during which mothers are cared for by family members and often carry their babies in a Mei Tai carrier.
Does Infant Carrying Promote Attachment?
Yes, infant carrying can significantly promote attachment and generally makes life easier. Attachment theory, developed by psychologist John Bowlby, posits that a child’s sense of security and emotional well-being is closely linked with the physical closeness and responsive care provided by the primary caregiver, typically the mother.
Carrying your infant in a baby carrier, sling, or wrap allows for close physical contact, which not only meets the baby’s primal need for safety and security but also fosters emotional bonding. This continual proximity enables parents to promptly respond to their baby’s cues and needs, which is key to developing secure attachment.