Babywearing: A 50,000 year old "Technological Revolution"

Happy International Babywearing Week! [For more on our giveaway, see the bottom of this post.]

"Look to the animals for your example." - Jean-Emmanuel Gilibert, 1770

When my daughter was about six months old, I decided one sling wasn't enough. I had baby E snugged to my chest in a Sakura Bloom Ring Sling and I was in a never-ending line at Jo Ann Fabrics to cut a long swath of goldenrod colored linen to sew my first baby carrier. (Link to instructions at bottom.)

I noticed a woman in line beside me in an exuberantly colored dress, sending a big smile my way. In contrast to all the folks who had seen me use a baby carrier and commented, "those things weren't around when I had kids," this woman approached me and said how excited she was to see someone wearing a baby the way she had worn hers. She was from Ghana, and explained to me the basic differences between the carrier I was wearing and the ones she used with her children, except, she noted, she always wore her kids on her back because it was better for the mama's body. She also took the time to show me how to do a back carry with the sling- something I didn't even know was possible.

Here's how the goldenrod colored sling turned out, by the way! (And E passed out at her first rock concert.)

Here's how the goldenrod colored sling turned out, by the way! (And E passed out at her first rock concert.)

It got me thinking about babywearing and what all I didn't know (which, by the way, was a ton). Since then, I've looked into the history of babywearing and it's been fascinating. Sarah Blaffer-Hrdy is an American anthropologist and primatologist.  In her book "Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and the Shaping of the Species: A History of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection,"  she surmised that the same developments that led our ancient human ancestors to become bi-pedal (that is, walking on two legs instead of four) also presented problems for the mother/baby connection. Baby primates are able to use their hand shaped feet to clutch to their mothers, riding on their backs in an effortless fashion. Once early human feet adapted to walking, those hand-like features which allowed for grip disappeared. And it's far harder to hang on to someone's back when they're upright. These two evolutionary changes in human anatomy created a need that likely led to the first babywearers.

A mother who can carry her child with minimal effort while gathering food doesn't have to return to feed the child at intervals, and therefore expends less energy than a mother who must constantly run between two places. This seemingly simple innovation may have altered the division of labor between early men and women. And a better fed, more energetic mother, who doesn't need to traverse double the distance in a day to care for her child, is a healthier and more capable mother. Therefore, one might say that a mother's ability to keep her offspring safe and close is an essential adaptation that advanced the human race. 

In our modern world, with a million carriers to choose from, the concept of a baby carrier hardly seems novel. But for our ancestors, Blaffer-Hrdy called babywearing a "technological revolution." Since those early days, every known culture in the world has utilized a baby carrier in some form. A wheeled baby transportation device (aka stroller or pram) first appeared in 1733 when William Kent invented it. And it wasn't until the mid 1800's that prams were popular.

In 1969, after seeing African women carry their babies, a woman named Ann Moore developed a baby carrier that would create a comeback moment in western culture. And then in 1981, Rayner Gardner created a ring sling.

So there's your bit of babywearing history! In honor of International Babywearing Week, we're giving away a free Lucu Nest- compatible and comfortable over any carrier. In fact, we designed it with baby carriers in mind- you can tuck both "tails" of the Nest into the sides of your carrier to nestle baby in, and the high back of the Nest ensures you'll keep cool when wearing it over a carrier. Head on over to our Facebook page to enter! Winner will be selected at random on Saturday, October 10 at 5 p.m.!

I used the scraps from creating the ring sling to make my first Mei Tai carrier, which looks pretty cute under our best selling color combo: the Lucu Nest in charcoal/oatmeal. 

I used the scraps from creating the ring sling to make my first Mei Tai carrier, which looks pretty cute under our best selling color combo: the Lucu Nest in charcoal/oatmeal

And by the way, to make my ring sling, I ordered rings from here and followed the instructions here.

 

Posted on October 8, 2015 .