Pick me up, dammit!
December 6, 2005 10:12 AM   Subscribe

For most of human history, infants have needed to stay in close proximity to their mothers simply to survive. The result? Most cultures developed and used some kind of soft baby carrier that straps to the mother's or caretaker's body. Despite research, doctor's advice and celebrity endorsement, American and European babies spend less time in arms and more time in containers than babies in more traditional cultures. Somehow, the concept simply picking up and carrying the baby continues to elude many parents.(warning: music)
posted by Biblio (30 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Admittedly, I am a babywearing advocate, having comfortably hauled my now 5 year old around in a sling for 2 + years. I was convinced the "little guardian" was a fake ad in our local parenting paper until I visited the website. Note how in one of the pictures on the main page Mom is happily demonstrating how wet her baby gets while she hogs the umbrella.
posted by Biblio at 10:15 AM on December 6, 2005

We used to use a Baby Bjorn carrier but one mega blow out (read that, crap EVERYWHERE!) and we decided that those weren't really for us.

Its tiring though to haul around a 20 some-odd pound squirming kid. And it puts kinks in your back. But I do end up carrying my son around alot because I like to.

I hope its okay to use strollers though because there's no chance we're giving them up!
posted by fenriq at 10:24 AM on December 6, 2005

I don't know, I saw a father on the subway the other day with his baby and he was just...carrying him. In his soft, natural-baby-carrying arms. I mean, he had a sort of semi-strap thing connecting the baby to his waist, but still. While I have read and agree with all the research as to how a lack of human contact interferes with natural development, babies are just so...squishy. They should have shells.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 10:26 AM on December 6, 2005

Now that is a well-researched FPP. And it just as well could have been a one-linker. Thank you, Biblio.
posted by Plutor at 10:33 AM on December 6, 2005

My wife carried our baby in a Chinese cloth baby carrier, which they both appeared to enjoy. Once you do that for a while, other kinds of carriers seem impersonal. Babies probably detect their mother's heartbeat, and surely feel the warmth and smell the smell of skin. That Little Guardian thing does look like a joke, or at least a source of one awful set of muscle aches. Can you really want to avoid touching your baby that much?
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:34 AM on December 6, 2005

I use a pashmina-type scarf to hold my 5-month-old close, while still using my arm to stabilise her. It takes some load off my back so I can carry her longer. And I have one hand free to do whatever.

Strollers are less and less practical in places like malls and even out walking with other mothers. Footpaths are wide enough for one stroller but if you want to walk side-by-side, it's not that easy. And with Christmas coming up, shops are so cluttered with stock that you just can't manouevre a stroller.

When my baby was but a noob, I did carry her from car to house inside the seat but I've heard enough stories about the damage to a baby's back caused by prolonged time in seats that she never stayed in there longer than necessary. Sometimes things are a little too convenient.

If, by chance, someone is interested in learning to carry their baby in a sling, mamatoto.org is a great resource.
posted by tracicle at 10:42 AM on December 6, 2005

My kid couldn't stand the sling, the backpack or the Bjorn. I tried. She hated it.
posted by jrossi4r at 10:52 AM on December 6, 2005

I do/did the things that work for particular situations. When I needed to be hands free the kid was in a Baby Bjorn when he was small and in a back pack now that he's bigger. For short trips, he walks or is in my arms or on his mom's lap in her chair. Sometimes he's up on my shoulders. As a wee babe he sometimes stayed in the car seat because he was asleep and I didn't want to wake him up. Sometimes he's in a stroller because I can't carry 27.75 pounds for two miles. I tried to add slings into the mix but he hated it. As I understand it, a child is in danger of a getting a flat head, not from strollers, car seats, bouncies, swings or the like but from sleeping on their backs. Our pediatrician advised us to make sure he slept on his back because it seems to prevent SIDS. The kid's fine. Good luck to all of you as you navigate the mass of products and advice and you try to work out what's best.
posted by firstdrop at 11:11 AM on December 6, 2005

My kid was a sling junkie (www.mayawrap.com). And strangers would always come up and ask where I got the cool looking sling. My son was born 2 wks early and as a result was tiny and luuuuved to be held. The perfect sling child.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:16 AM on December 6, 2005

Now that is a well-researched FPP. And it just as well could have been a one-linker. Thank you, Biblio.
posted by Plutor at 1:33 PM EST on December 6 [!]

I second.

My wife and I are avowed babywearers. We have several different types of slings, including a Mayawrap (your basic sling), several Kozy Karriers (chinese cloth carriers), and an Ergo (has hip and shoulder belts that buckle, sort of like the straps on a good frame backpack... great for extended babywearing). I agree with most of you... why do (Americans) go to such lengths to avoid touching their children? I think that the mainstream style of parenting here in America (carriers and strollers, formula feeding, cry it out, etc) contributes greatly to the generally fucked-up nature of the country. We are born loving, and then the world slaps us around until we (partially) forget how. Having a child reminds you how to love. The heart-swelling, tear-inducing sound of your baby's first cry is something that reminds us of how simple life is and how little most of the crap we deal with every day really matters. American mainstream parenting seems designed to stifle that awakening of loving inside parents. Yet another reason I wish I could get out of this godforsaken country! :)
posted by krash2fast at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2005

Ohhh but you're going to spoil the child!
/sarcastic voice
posted by raedyn at 12:00 PM on December 6, 2005

fenriq - strollers are lovely for certain things, which is why I question the sanity of the people who invented the little guardian thing. I mean, they even make strollers that go with the car seats. They just snap right in. If the argument is that some places are not conducive to strollers, then they probably are the same places that a 30lb hard plastic bucket full of baby bouncing off your hip would get in the way, too.
Honestly, I see people lugging those car seats around all the time and I cringe to imagine what the poor baby is trying to make of the world as it jostles by everything at hip height. My husband maintains that because they've put ergonomic handles on them people assume they're meant as carrying cases.
I am particularly fond of seeing people frantically rocking the seats with their hands, or better yet, feet as the baby wails. I used to work as a children's librarian, and when I would pleasantly point out our comfy couches or indicate that I certainly didn't mind if they needed to waltz the baby around the children's room the parents would look at me like I was suggesting they take their hermit crab out if its shell for some air.
posted by Biblio at 12:02 PM on December 6, 2005

My sister swears by her hip seat, for a baby who's too big to be comfortably carried in a sling but not yet big enough to walk. Despite the co.nz address there, hers was bought in Britain.

(also, we decided that Baby Bjorn slings were possibly the most unnecessarily complicated things ever - that buckle goes where? and what are these toggles for? no, not those ones, the other ones? - and she found a nicer, cheaper, simpler one (whose name I forget) instead).
posted by Lebannen at 12:08 PM on December 6, 2005

Most times I carried our babies directly inside my chest cavity, although I *guiltily* admit that somedays I strapped them to my body with a web made of their mother's hair.
posted by chococat at 12:26 PM on December 6, 2005

I think that the mainstream style of parenting here in America (carriers and strollers, formula feeding, cry it out, etc) contributes greatly to the generally fucked-up nature of the country.

Everyone parents differently according to their abilities and circumstances. I hardly think that the adopted children in my life have suffered because they were bottle-fed by necessity. Nor is my kid going to be a miscreant because she was pushed in a stroller. What worked well for you may not necessarily be optimal for someone else.

Chococat--do you babysit, perchance?
posted by jrossi4r at 12:49 PM on December 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

Not that I'm against baby hugging and carrying. But I just wanted to point out that the results shown here as an example of US container carrying, are similar to the results of the Clakamas Indian's traditional baby carrying technique, compressing the head between two boards.
posted by dipolemoment at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2005

The only way my 2-month old will sleep is if I carry him in my arms. That being said....the guy likes to wiggle and squirm, which can get tiring. But, I'll take that over exhausted, lung-busting screams any time.
posted by drinkcoffee at 1:22 PM on December 6, 2005

I have one year old twins, and so constant carrying of both is impossible. The stroller is a life saver, and since I have a double (both a front back one and a side by side one), we do take up a lot of room.

I have occassionally carried the kids in somewhere in the bucket, only because I know I'm going to be in a situation where I will have to put one down and I need somewhere to put them. Those things are heavy! Even when I'm just carrying one, its heavy. I don't understand why, if you've just a single baby, you would carry one of those. Just the baby itself is much easier.

When the kids were little, I would take a large baby blanket and swaddle them both together and then rock them, it was sometimes the only way to get them asleep. but they never seemed to go for the baby packs. They preferred the carseat.

I don't think Americans don't want to touch their children, I think they are used to having every convenience. And it is more convenient to put your baby down in a bucket in the restaurant and have both your arms free.

Are my kids going to be ruined for life because you can't possibly wear multiples all the time? I don't think there is any statistics that say that multiples are more likely to be serial killers. And I know that they don't get as much one-on-one parent time as singletons.
posted by Bueller at 2:02 PM on December 6, 2005

I was a stroller baby. I blame my dislike of people on it.
posted by Captaintripps at 2:30 PM on December 6, 2005

My wife and I raised a child 20 years ago without ever purchasing a stroller--it was baby frontpacks and backpacks and then her own two feet. So I don't understand the concept of strollers. Much less do I understand the current rage for the Humvee equivalent of the stroller.
posted by Creosote at 4:25 PM on December 6, 2005

There is one really good reason people end up carrying a baby seat around all the time - if you want to get into any kind of car, you need one. If you don't own your own car, this means carrying it around to put into your friend's car or a cab (if possible). But that's hard, which was one of the reasons we had to turn down rides and take the bus instead when we had my neice. They really need to design baby carseats that just strap in easily.
posted by jb at 5:40 PM on December 6, 2005

krash2fast: It's not all Americans who avoid touching their kids. For our 10-month old, our current favorite carrier is the Ergo. It's very comfy whether baby is worn in the front of back. We also have a Mayawrap, Kangaroo fleece, Mai Tai, and another I'm forgetting. Oh, and a BabyBjorn which we found uselessly floppy.

We purposefully don't own a stroller or playpen or johnny jumper or walker or swing or buzzy bouncy chair or bottle or pacifier or any other mommy/daddy substitute. Our little guy also sleeps with us, so he's been apart from us exactly 2 hours (grandma watched him while daddy took mama for a motorcycle ride) in his life. We think it will lead to a content, confident, happy child/person, and so far that's the case.

For an enlightening perspective on why we treat babies the way we do, I recommend Meredith Small's book Our Babies, Ourselves.
posted by Bradley at 7:01 PM on December 6, 2005

Technically, NONE of the people in those links were "holding" their babies. The consistent thing in every device linked to was that it was a way the parent could keep his or her baby safe and close while doing the hundred-and-one things that needed to be done during the day. Who's to say any of the sling-users wouldn't put their kid in a car seat or an Exersaucer if they had one?

Obviously, you don't keep your kid in a car seat for 10 hours until his head is flat.
But I don't think you should get all elitist about your baby stuff because you saw a picture of a native Guatemalan woman with her baby in a sling. You do what works best for you and your kid.
posted by chococat at 8:47 PM on December 6, 2005

Chococat, I think I love you.

"We think it will lead to a content, confident, happy child/person, and so far that's the case."

Bradley: Do you think that your way of raising your son is the only way to raise a content, confident, happy child/person? Because if so, I have news for you: I have one of those, too, even though he's in *whispers* daycare -- so by definition, he has been away from me for more than two hours, and yet he is sweet, funny, happy, confident, and loving. (Of course, he's only three, so I still have time to screw him up.) But I know children who have been sling-raised (excuse me, attachment-parented) since day one who seem much less well-adjusted -- who are clingy, emotionally labile, and angry. I mean, they're basically fine, and I'm sure they'll grow up into decent human beings one day. But they are not the marvels of being held constantly that one might expect if one were to only, for example, read accounts by babysling purveyors.

I find it absurd that you felt you needed to justify the two hours your son has spent away from you (unless he's only three weeks old, in which case, good for you). But if he's four years old, I fear that you and your mate are turning yourselves inside out never letting him be with another human being for nothing.

Does anyone really think children need to be worn close to their parent in order for them to feel safe and secure? Or do they just need to be worn close to a human being that they know and trust? Throughout history, children have been raised by surrogates (nannies, wet nurses, older siblings, etc.), and many of those children have grown up into happy, healthy, productive members of society. It is only in today's relatively stress-less society (hardly any predators roaming the subdivisions at night, for example, and few of us need to go out and hunt our food by day) that we have the luxury of staying home with our children full-time, and I guess that gives us the right to tell anyone who doesn't that they don't really love their children.

And creosote, I think baby joggers might more aptly be described as the "mountain bike" of strollers. They are generally not as enormous or gas-guzzling as SUVs, and the parents who swear by them are committed joggers, and more power to them. If we don't take good care of ourselves, as parents, how are we going to take good care of our kids? For some people that means keeping up an active exercise regimen even with babies and toddlers in tow.

I worry that we are becoming a nation of judgmental pricks. "Clearly, you people don't love your children. Only I really love my children, as you can clearly see by my purchase of product X."

(Oh, in the interests of full disclosure, we tried the various baby slings. They worked great when my son was in the "fourth trimester," and basically was craving that swaddling feeling. But as he started to grow and develop, it stopped being the be-all and end-all that it was when he was an infant. I have friends who sling-carried their kids until they were two or three, and God bless them, but it didn't work for us.)

Bleah. As chococat, and others, have said: You do what works for you and your kid. That something is not the same for every child. And frankly, 80% of what people want to attribute to their brilliant and perfect parenting is attributable to "good" genes. People are (imho) basically born with their personalities intact. Our job is mostly not to screw them up.

One day there will be a serial killer who will attempt to blame his behavior on the fact that he was held too much as a child. It is really only a matter of time.
posted by jenii at 2:27 AM on December 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

One of the worst things about being a parent nowadays is that *everyone* feels empowered to vocally disapprove of something you do. Luckily, I mastered the art of mentally giving people the finger pretty early.

*bats ii's at jenii*
posted by rodii at 4:50 AM on December 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

My comment was not intended to be judgmental of thoughtful parents who do things their own way based on what they feel is best for their child. And saying "do what works for you and your child" sounds good, but that's not how most people in our society operate. They abdicate all thought and judgement to the Experts. These are the people you'll commonly hear saying, "My pediatrician says...". It never occurs to them that Big Pharma spends $15 Billion per year (yes, that's Billion) on marketing directly to the 800,000 physicians in the US, on top of the Billions spent on TV ads, lobbying efforts in D.C., etc., so pediatricians have definite undeniable conflicts of interest. There's no way they can always have the child's best interest at heart. Vaccinations and formula feeding are rampant because they're profitable. "First, do no harm" went out the window decades ago. Why aren't US pediatricians insisting that we stop the barbaric and useless chopping of half of the skin off of baby penises? Circumcision stopped being the norm in Europe decades ago, and is not endorsed or recommended by any medical organization. Only reason I can think of for our US peds to keep it up is it's money in the bank. Fewer and fewer insurance companies in the US are covering it, thankfully, so the numbers of mangled little boys are dropping. And this is yet another area where parents often just "go with the flow", unthinkingly, not realizing that the procedure is the exact equivalent of chopping off a baby girl's clit, and just as senseless. If you haven't seen what a circumcision entails, check out the video.

So back to babywearing. My post was intended as support for the OP and the other posters chiming in to say "this works well for us", and to offer a different perspective to those who think all the baby paraphenalia available at Babys-R-Us is necessary. I'm amazed at the responses my wife and I receive from passersby (in the grocery store for example) while wearing our child. "Wow, you have a baby in there?" "I've never seen one of those...he looks comfy!" "I wish I could take his place." A huge number of people think infant care requires a series of "buckets" to hold the baby, from crib to bouncy chair to stroller to swing back to crib to car seat back to crib, etc. This is what their mom did, this is what they see on TV, this is what is marketed to them, so they do it mindlessly and continue being good Consumers, doing their part to support the national economy or whatever.

I personally believe that babies are amazingly resilient, and you could probably keep them in a dog cage for 12 hours a day, feed them dog food, and they'd still probably turn out OK and only a tiny number would grow up to commit suicide or murder. So saying Day Care and baby buckets and other things aren't necessarily damaging to baby's mental and physical health is at least a partial truth...there are worse things. But I have a hard time believing that institutionalizing a baby in Day Care is for baby's own good. It has to do with convenience or necessity for the parents. I know there are times when Day Care is necessary so single moms can work to pay for food, but most commonly these days it's used so mom can have her career and do her thing, or so the family can make the payments on their fancy car and big house. And it's the common thing to do these days, so it's getting easier to justify and rationalize. We as a society are good at warehousing/institutionalizing our very young and very old. Saying "Junior loves to go to Day Care" is to me no different a rationalization than "We had to put Grandma in the Nursing Home". At some level, both of these decisions usually involve a lack of desire to make sacrifices to do what is necessary to keep Grandma or Baby out of the institution.

My personal preference for unassisted home birth, babywearing, cosleeping, extended breastfeeding with child-led weaning, etc., are a response to what I see as society's ills. It's called Attachment Parenting these days, but it was just how things were done, period, until not that many decades ago when the self-proclaimed Experts took over. Over the past 50 or 60 years, listening to these experts has helped us as a society become Obese Consumers, buying and eating and otherwise consuming in an effort to do what? I don't know. It has gotten to the point now that the normal 2.5-inch long needles to give people shots in the gluteal area aren't long enough anymore. We're fat. I have a feeling our current obesity crisis has to do with scheduled feedings (removing the ability of the child to know their own hunger needs) and a need to "fill a void" caused by the detachment effects of day care and baby buckets. Can't prove it...it's just what my gut tells me. So my wife and I have decided to use the old ways that worked for billions of years.
posted by Bradley at 5:59 AM on December 8, 2005

You do what works best for you and your kid. - chococat

This was the bottom-line message of the mom's group I was in during my Maternity leave (which is one year up here in Canada). We all had different ideas about how to approach things, but we were there to share ideas and to support each other's choices whatever they are. You do what works until it stops working. Then you try something else.

Some of us bottle fed, some breast fed. Some co-slept, some rocked the kid to sleep, some let their kids cry it out. Some would spank, some would not. Some played purposely educational games and flash cards and suff while others just allowed the kid to explore. And all of our kids are going to turn out fine, because we all cared and took an active interest in our kids and loved them actively. Those are the most important parts of parenting. The details don't make as huge of a difference as some would have us believe.
posted by raedyn at 7:27 AM on December 8, 2005

Thank you very much. I love my child very much, and the operative words in that statement after love are "MY CHILD."
posted by N8k99 at 8:19 PM on December 8, 2005

I know this thread is a bit stale, but I just saw Bradley's response, and I felt that I needed to comment, even if no one ever sees it.

Daycare as an institution sucks, yes indeed. And many people put their kids in daycare so they can have a fancy car, sure, I'll buy that. But you know what? Some people have their kid in daycare because they have considered the options and that option is truly best for them and their child.

I love my son more than anything in the world. I tell him that all the time. And I do, I love him. God, I love to listen to him learning to talk, and puzzle through things, and I love hearing my own words (sometimes this is good, sometimes bad) coming back to me. (My favorite one recently is, "I don't have enough hands!", which I say to him all the time. I say, "Sweetie, you have to carry your own [fill in the blank], mommy doesn't have enough hands," and lately, he's deliberately put things in both hands (doesn't matter what; last time, it was dreidls) and then said, "Mommy, I need help with [fill in the blank], I don't have enough hands!")

Anyway, if I wasn't a single parent, I'm sure I would have him in daycare less. I think half-day daycare would be ideal (for us). But I found the most wonderful daycare on the planet, where the teachers are stable and loving and consistent and creative and comforting. He really does love going there. It's a place he gets to hang out with friends, and he loves it there. Does he love coming home? You bet he does. Does he wish, sometimes, that he didn't have to go to daycare? Sure. (Just like I wish I didn't have to go to work, oh, every day. This is mostly due to that whole objects-at-rest-tend-to-remain-at-rest thing, though.) And he gets love at daycare, and sure, it isn't as all-encompassing as mommy love, but it's still good stuff. I'm a firm believer that a kid can't have too many people who love him in his life, and not just mommy and daddy.

But I'm pretty sure that even if I weren't a single mom I would still opt to work sometimes. I'm just not one of those women who thrives as a stay-at-home mom, and you know what? That should be okay, goddammit. We shouldn't all have to be devoted to fulltime childrearing. Because, you know what? That isn't the way folks did it for billions of years. The majority of people have only had the luxury of "staying home full time with their kids" -- unless they were the elite wealthy class, in which case, guess what? they had nannies and butlers and cooks to help them out! -- very, very recently.

And the ones who did -- farmer's wives, for example -- didn't spend their time thinking up ways to entertain and educate little Jane or little Joe. They went about the business of running the farm; canning, cooking, feeding livestock, etc., and usually calling the kids into service at a pretty early age. I'm not trying to say that that's a bad thing; it isn't, necessarily. But the way we stay home with our kids today is not the way that any of our ancestors (except, again, some of the very wealthy ones) ever even dreamed of staying home with their kids.

And even if "attachment parenting" was the way we had done things for "billions of years" [sic] [?], unless we have really clear, unequivocal statistics about outcomes for children raised in loving homes that went to good daycare versus children raised in loving homes that were raised by stay-at-home moms (or dads), I don't think we should be passing judgment on people who choose either option.

Why do we continue to worship this mythology, about the "old ways that worked for billions of years"? And how do we even know that those parents who DID stay home with their kids full time raised the "best" (by whatever measure you want to use: happiness, financial success, health/longevity, number of progeny) kids? Why do we persist in this fulltime stay-at-home mom myth?

I mean, yes, my grandmother (the wealthy one) stayed home with the five kids, while her husband (the pompous, cold s.o.b.; don't get me started) worked a full-time job as a furniture company exec. He expected dinner to be on the table on the dot of six and if it wasn't there was hell to pay (but of course, it always was). Yeah, thems were the good old days! Boy, I sure wish I could stay home with my kids like good old Grandma did. (Of course, she wasn't allowed to speak at the dinner table, either, but I'm sure that was a small price to pay for the benefit of being able to stay home all day.)

The other grandma (the poor one) never did stay at home full time with her kids. She couldn't afford to. Her husband died when her oldest child was two, and there was no daycare back then. They stayed with a neighbor lady while my grandma worked in a shoe factory. At night, that grandma drank. A lot.

Yet, you know, my parents are both pretty good people. Neither one of them had a role model anywhere, but they turned out okay, and raised two self-sufficient, decent girls. I'm not saying that's what we should strive for; I'm just saying, this myth that in the good old days everyone was raised by a patient, loving stay-at-home mom and everything was so much better isn't true.

So again, I say let's stop demonizing parents who don't do what we would do. And I do agree with Bradley that a lot of so-called experts are often wrong, and we should educate ourselves, and then go with our gut, but you know what? Sometimes our guts are wrong, too. (On the other hand, you know, the whole "attachment parenting" thing is a Dr. Sears franchise. I agree with, and have followed, a great many of his recommendations -- the ones that worked for us, in other words -- but I also think Dr. Sears is the new Dr. Spock, except with a smaller cult following. IOW, the new expert who will be proven wrong about a great many things in about 20 years.)

One last thing: Maybe Grandma really is better off in a nursing home. As with daycare, there are good nursing homes and bad nursing homes. Sometimes, living with your kids, who probably resent your presence, even if they love you, is not so great. Living near your kids, who visit you often, while you get to live with other people your own age, some of whom might genuinely like you, and participate in fun activities (shuffleboard, anyone?) and have caretakers available who don't resent you, might not be so bad. (Again here I have my childhood to reflect back on: My grandma (the poor one)(did I need to explain that?) lived with us for a while, and in a senior citizens home (not really a nursing home, as the seniors had to be healthy and independent to live there), and while it wasn't quite as nice for her to be at the seniors center, it was waaaay better for my mom and dad. Their marriage barely lasted through the grandma years. I, on the other hand, loved having Grandma close at hand. But that is perhaps neither here nor there.)

I apologize for the length of this post. But I am so tired of hearing otherwise intelligent people repeat the canard that only selfish parents put their kids in childcare and having no one challenge it.
posted by jenii at 12:03 PM on December 13, 2005 [3 favorites]

I am so tired of hearing otherwise intelligent people repeat the canard that only selfish parents put their kids in childcare and having no one challenge it. - jenii

Thank you for your thoughtful, eloquent post.
posted by raedyn at 12:50 PM on December 13, 2005

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