Or... Why Baby Wearing is Awesome and Your Kid’s Gonna Take Over the World
Oh the joys of parenting. They really are ceaseless. Every moment is magical…well….though at the exact moment that you are sleep walking your crying baby in circles to try and get her to go back to sleep at 2am when you need to be at work in 5 hours (and you’ve been doing that walking in circles thing for over an hour already) it may be hard to see it that way.
Which brings up an interesting question: What IS the best way to handle crying? My aunts were more the lovey-dovey coddle kind, so they were all about being close and baby wearing and all that jazz. However my mother subscribed more to the idea that picking your baby up every time she cries teaches her that crying will get her whatever she wants. The thing is, the baby already knew that. She was born knowing that (babies are so smart) (*1).
But it goes much deeper than that.
Crying appears to be an evolutionary response that has persisted for many good reasons. Once upon a time, our ancestors had babies while living in caves and, on occasion, having to defend themselves from predators (think saber-tooth tigers). In such a hostile environment you can imagine a crying baby may cause some trouble. It would alert any dangerous, man-devouring animals around and likely get everybody eaten (*2). Well, if you consider how natural selection works you may think all the whiney kids would get eaten and the crying response would be bred out, but in fact crying occurs BECAUSE of this hostile environment. It appears crying is primarily a response to being alone. A human baby is amazingly helpless, so if it realizes it is alone, and therefore in possible danger, it sends out a distress signal. Now, crying can also mean a number of other things (hunger, discomfort, etc.) as it is the only means in which a baby can communicate, but originally the distress signal was meant to keep a baby safe, in her momma’s arms.
So this appears to be the explanation for why babies that are carried MORE cry less (*3). (Wait til Mom reads THIS)
Anyway, as parents, we have also evolved alongside our babies. We seem to have an instinctual response to crying; an immediate urge to find a way to stop it. This may be from deep, loving concern or perhaps some leftover evolutionary fight or flight response kicking in because we are innately scared shitless of saber-tooth tigers. Either way, it appears crying has some deep roots, and, back to the point, keeping your baby close will keep her crying less.
Besides, closeness is a good thing. In fact, carrying and wearing our babies appears to have some deep roots too. Once upon those same ancient times, carrying babies around all day was not an option for the busy hunter-gatherer cave dwelling mom. She had work to do to help keep the family safe, well fed and happy. Strong evidence suggests that a primitive sling helped strap babies to the backs of their mothers so they could complete their daily toil. In fact, it is quite possible that this practice goes back far enough that the baby carrier/sling is responsible for the evolution of the human brain (*4). Bipedal, erect walking would suggest a different development (especially in the harsh environment of those times), particularly of the brain, unless some tool alleviated these constraints. Likely the baby sling created an exterior incubation chamber that allowed for babies to continue to develop outside of the womb, so their brains could get bigger and create the super-intelligent, internet reading beings we are today!
So, all that to say that being close to your baby regularly, in the form of baby wearing or just holding her, is a natural and evolutionary thing. It gives the baby what she needs; security, closeness to resources (i.e. your breast) and allows you quicker response to her body’s cues. It also appears to be slowly evolving super-genius mutants that may one day take over the universe. But hey, as long as it’s our kid, that’s ok, right?
If you are interested in raising a super-genius, world dominating mutant (or maybe you just want to soothe your baby and be closer to her more) then check out the Mo+m Carrier from Mothers On the Move on Amazon.
*1 Cassels – http://evolutionaryparenting.com/evolution-crying-and-the-fallacy-of-a-different-environment/
*2 Onya (author unknown) – http://onyababy.com/2013/04/evolutionary-parenting-babywearing/
*3 Palo Alto Medical Foundation – http://www.pamf.org/children/newborns/common/fussing.html
*4 Taylor – http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2010/08/artificial-ape-man-how-technology-created-humans.html