Thursday, March 05, 2009
Contrary to what we have been taught to believe, research shows that babies who are held and carried all the time and get their need for touch well-met in their first year do not become clingy and overly dependent. They cry much less and they grow to become happier, more intelligent, more independent, more loving and more social than babies who spend much of their infancy in infant seats, swings, cribs, and all the other plastic baby-holding gadgets that don't provide babies with human contact.
Slings are different than front carriers. A sling is like a hammock. From newborn to the sitting-up stage, babies' spines are best supported in slings because their weight is distributed along the length of the spine. Front carriers that hold the infant upright with their legs hanging down, can stress the spine because they put all the baby's weight at the base of the spine.
When we wear/carry a baby, we are providing more than the comfort of the sound of our heartbeat and voice and the touch and warmth of our body. According to research by James Prescott, a developmental neuropsychologist and cross cultural psychologist, "vestibular-cerebellar stimulation (which happens when we carry our babies) is the most important sensory system for the development of "basic trust" in the affectional bonding between mother and infant. It establishes the biological and psychological foundations for all other human relationships." We have learned that carrying infants is a vital part of nature's biological plan for mother-infant bonding, and that it is critical to the development of trust, empathy, compassion and conscience. Carrying or wearing an infant in a sling, keeping the infant in constant human contact, and breast feeding on demand are the biological design for optimal physical, intellectual and emotional human development. Research confirms that carrying human infants develops their intelligence and their capacity for trust, affection, intimacy, and love and happiness. Anthropologist Ashley Montagu refers to this carrying stage, or "in arms" period, as the "external gestation period" the infant needs to complete his/her development. There is even a brand of sling called "Womb with A View."
For decades, we have been taught to believe that holding babies too much "spoils" them, even though in much of the rest of the world, babies are and always have been carried or worn in a sling all day until they could walk. In cross-cultural studies of child rearing practices, James Prescott found that the countries that are the least violent are the countries where babies are constantly carried or worn on the body of the mother/caregiver. The United States has the highest rate of crime and violence in the world and it has the lowest number of constantly carried babies in the world. Is there a connection here?
Meeting our infant's biological need for human contact is not about following a particular parenting philosophy. It is about honoring and adhering to nature's biological plan for optimum human development. Keeping our infants in almost constant human contact for nine to twelve months may sound like an impossible goal in modern society. Sleeping with our infants provides that contact at night. Holding them or wearing them in a sling will give them more of the human contact they need. Now that research has shown that holding babies does not "spoil" them, but is, in fact, what they need most, we would be wise to listen to our hearts and "hold that baby all the time."
You can read the full version of the article here.
Labels: Mommyhood and Baby