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BABY WEARING BENEFITS
AND CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISON

Regardless of whether or not you believe inevolutionary theory, one can see similarities between humans and primates, such as chimpanzees and gorillas. We areall social animals, which means that we need to be in groups and to be affectionate toward others tosurvive and thrive. It is simply nature that we long fortouch, and love, which is so often shown through touch. Babiesare no different. They also long to be touched and thrivewhen they are. When a mother or father plays with theirbaby, holds, talks to them, and cuddles with them, thebabies smile and react positively to that stimuli. It is notvery often that I see babies in strollers facing the samedirection as their parents, so they can not make facial contact,with smiles on their faces. They are lacking theinteraction they so desperately need to survive and thrive developmentally. Never do you see other primatesleave their young, assuming that if they touch them toomuch they will become spoiled. They are always in contactwith another primate, gaining new experiences that enable them to grow and learn.

Since baby chimpanzees and gorillas, etc... have the ability to cling, allowing for the mother to do thethings she still needs to get done, we need to find creativeways to accomplish the same task. Baby wearing is the answer.

Choose a method, backpack, front carrier, or sling,they all allow for physical contact, without hindering thedaily chores that need to be done. I choose the slingbecause of the versatility of being able to shove it in thediaper bag and the multiple positions it uses.

There have been numerous studies done by a variety of anthropologists on baby wearing and other cultures.In these studies, they have measured the amount ofcontact each culture gives their babies and the results ofthat contact. In America's traditional way of parenting,we touch our infants approximately 20-25% of the day,but in Korea they touch their infants 90% of the day, theAche spend 93% of the day and 100% of the night in contact with their babies, and the Kung!San babies are in physical contact with someone at all times, they arenever put down, or put on the back. They are encouraged to watch what their parents are doing. The crying timeof their infants rarely exceeds thirty seconds percrying spell. The results then of amount of touching is that allthe cultures that spend the majority of the day inphysical contact with their babies is that their motor skillsdevelop faster and their motor-cognition skills are betterthan our babies. Our babies were found to grow slower and have developmental delays.

There are so many benefits for our babies, when you 'wear' them most of the day. They cry less, and whenthey do cry it is for a shorter amount of time. Becausethey are tended to almost immediately, none of their signals (crying) go unanswered, enabling them to trust thattheir needs will be met, and in a short amount of time.Babies cry in order to get a message across to theirparents, that something is not right, by letting them 'cry it out'only sends a message back that their needs areunimportant, and that their parents will usually not answer themin a timely manner. These babies eventually stop crying atall, but also tend to be more clingy as they grow older, learning that they need to be upset to get attentionfor their needs, instead of trusting that any need theymay have will be met.

Another benefit of wearing babies is that they will become more attached to you and you to them, you getto learn every inch of their personality, such as which movements mean what. For instance, when my daughter smacks her lips one way it means she's hungry,another way she is usually playing with her teeth. I knowthis because I am constantly watching her movements, andif I don't see them, I can certainly feel them. I wouldnot know her as intimately as I do now, if she lived in acrib, swing, and car seat.

Wearing babies also helps to get them off to sleepwhen they are really tired, but are fighting sleep. I wearmy daughter around the house when she's really tired andI still have stuff to do, she sits up watching me, and eventually lays against me and falls off to sleep, nocrying at all.

Additionally, because the baby is sitting at the samelevel that you do things with your hands, they arepassively learning by watching you do something. She alsolistens as you carry on a conversation with those around you, learning the language she will one day speak. Sincethe baby is up in the action it increases verbal andsocial development. It promotes healthy nervous system development as well because of the movement they feel as you walk around normally, the same movements they felt in the womb as they developed.

A lot of people say, "if my baby is always with me,and never on the floor, she'll never learn how to rollover, crawl, or walk." My daughter is carried at least 99% of theday, is rarely on the floor, but on the few occasions thatshe shows interest in being on the floor, I put herthere, and every time she does something new. She learned allher skills anywhere from two weeks to a full month aheadof schedule.

If you're breastfeeding, wearing your baby (in asling) can also promote healthy breastfeeding, for a couple of reasons. The baby is able to nurse on demand, not ona schedule. This enables her to eat as often and onlyas long as she needs, which will also ensure that hermom has enough milk for her and won't get too engorged. Additionally, because you can nurse discretely in asling, it may help a mother to relax in public and thus feelfreer to be able to nurse no matter where she is.

Even just giving baby wearing a try would be good,and who knows - you just might like the closeness it willbring between you and your baby.

Written by: Gretchen Wieringa


RELATED LINKS:


Information in the above article was retrieved from the following sources:

Our Babies, Ourselves, How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent. Meredith F. Small. Anchor Books, New York, 1998.

Attachment Parenting, Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child. Katie Allison Granju, et.al. Pocket Books, New York, 1999.

The Baby Book, Everything you Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two. Dr. William Sears, and Martha Sears, R.N. Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1993.

The Fussy Baby Book, Parenting Your Hign-Need Child From Birth to Age Five. Dr. William Sears, and Martha Sears, R.N. Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1996.



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