Last week, I made the case for wearing and carrying your babies, highlighting the considerable evidence of benefit of the practice. Today, I’m going to discuss what to look for when you carry a baby. I’ll also explain what not to do, as well as give a brief rundown of the unresolved topics. Some people might balk at the idea of “learning” how to carry or wear a baby. After all, we’ve been carrying and wearing small, defenseless pudgy humans for millions of years without a blog or a book telling us how to do it. What’s changed to make us suddenly need it?
Not much has changed, actually. Back in the days before widely disseminated, publicly available child-rearing information, we had mothers, aunts, grannies, cousins, plus their male counterparts, to help us out. They’d learned from someone else, they’d done it themselves, and now they were there to show and tell the next batch of parents how to do things. They were the blogs and the books and the experts. It was a culture of baby wearing, too. It permeated the environment. There were no strollers; this is just what was done. You weren’t “expected” to wear your kid. There just wasn’t any other option, and so you knew how to do it.
Instead of Monday’s regular Dear Mark post, today I have the pleasure of bringing you a fantastic guest article from Mark’s Daily Apple reader Paul Attia.
At the age of 24, I was a two-sport varsity athlete while in law school; I thought I was busy. A very “short” decade later, I was a trial lawyer with an intense job as a criminal prosecutor, I was married, and I had three kids under the age of three; then I understood what being busy actually meant. In the intervening period, however, I needed to learn much and adapt vastly, my own lifestyle goals and patterns in order to continue to achieve some goals that I had set for myself. During that same period, I was introduced to the Primal Blueprint (via my brother Peter, whom many of you know).
For hundreds of thousands of years, humans have been trying to figure out ways to avoid carrying their infants so that they could drink Frappucinos and update their Facebook status on their phones. Ancestral Inuit mothers had sled dog strollers placed on top of skis. Native Australians kept several varieties of marsupials megafauna as pets and infant caretakers, using their pouches to store up to a half dozen human infants at once. I’m kidding, of course. Just as all members of the family hominidae are and were ardent co-sleepers, apes, humans, and (most likely) all extinct hominids carried or even wore their infants on their bodies as a general rule. And so, for most of human history, our infants have been swaddled, slung, carried, grasped, hugged, and otherwise attached to our bodies for a significant portion of their early development. Like other environmental inputs to which our ancestors were routinely and consistently exposed, there’s plenty of evidence that carrying your baby confers beneficial physiological and psychological effects – to both child and parent.
What are they?
Last week, I broached the topic of co-sleeping. The reception was almost unanimously positive, with plenty of you chiming in with your own c0-sleeping success stories. Before you toss the crib, however, realize that co-sleeping isn’t as simple as flopping down in bed with your baby and drifting off to sleep. Co-sleeping is a healthy, effective, and arguably “natural” way to raise independent children, but it must be done safely. Remember those studies I cited last week where co-sleeping was associated with infant deaths? Yeah, when co-sleeping is done poorly or incorrectly or unsafely, it becomes an effective way to harm children. Sadly, most parents no longer have access to the “village,” that treasure trove of knowledge full of parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and infinite cousins with parenting advice for days, so we read books, and articles, and magazines, and blogs for tips and knowledge. These aren’t the same, sure, but they are helpful in their own way. Certainly better than left to fend for ourselves.
So, how does one co-sleep safely?
Co-sleeping, bed sharing, or whatever else you want to call it – is an abomination of a behavior that no self-respecting mammal engages in. If you don’t believe me, consider how other mammals handle their kids. You know the old can and string phones we used to make as kids? New chimpanzee parents will string a vine between two empty coconut shell halves, placing one half in the baby chimp’s nest in the next tree over and the other half in the parents’ nest, allowing them to monitor the baby’s cries and activity during the night. If the baby wakes up, they’ll swing on over to the other tree and produce a hairy teat until the little chimp quiets down. Then it’s back to bed. The first thing female voles do after giving birth is dig a separate hole in the ground where the infants will sleep. Same with gophers. Kangaroos are famous for their pouches, which for years researchers assumed the mothers used to keep their infants safe, with easy access to the nipples. But in actuality, the kangaroo pouch is used to store shrubs, grasses, various other edible plants, and boxing gloves, as well as cover up their breasts (kangaroos are incredibly shy and modest creatures).
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