Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I thought I'd share this article from Today's Parent. I'm cleaning out my emails of things I've saved; I might as well post them here so others can enjoy/learn!
Again, bold and italics are added by me!
This was originally published on Dec 19, 2006, on my knitting blog
Carry Me!Good for you, good for your baby. So why don't we do it more?
By Teresa Pitman
Lenore Kilmartin is convinced that carrying her baby saved his life. "OK, maybe the doctors who did the surgery also had something to do with it, she concedes. "But I have no doubts that being carried around helped him."
Liam, her fifth child, seemed healthy and normal at birth. Kilmartin took care of him just as she had her older children, carrying him in a sling or soft carrier most of the day while she did housework, went shopping and helped her other children.
"He did seem a little quieter than the others, but I thought that was just his personality," she comments. "He nursed frequently but for short times; and that was easy to do with the sling."
During a visit to the doctor when Liam was five months old, Kilmartin was shocked to discover that he had a serious heart defect. They went straight from their family doctor's office to a paediatric heart specialist. The diagnosis? Liam had four holes in his heart and would need surgery to repair them.
"The doctor asked me, 'Didn't you notice his lips turning blue when he cried?' " Kilmartin recalls. "And I realized that he really never cried. He was always close to me, so if he started to fuss or squirm around, I could quickly shift his position or burp him or nurse him if that was what he wanted. He really never got to the point of crying hard."
The doctor was also very impressed by Liam's weight gain. "Most babies with heart problems like Liam's, because they tire so easily, have problems gaining weight," Kilmartin explained. "But Liam never tired himself out with crying, so his weight gain was very good. That meant he went into his surgery in good shape."
He also made a rapid recovery --heading home six days after the operation. "I tucked him back into the sling and he continued to do well," Kilmartin says.
Being carried has also been shown to be helpful to tiny premature babies. With these infants, it's often called 'kangaroo care' because it mimics the way mother kangaroos carry their babies in a pouch until the joey is more mature. The system originated in Colombia, South America, but research shows that when premature babies are carried in an upright position, skin to skin with their parents, they gain weight better, maintain body temperature and have better breathing and heart rates. Just as important, the parents feel a stronger attachment to the babies they have carried, and are less likely to abuse or neglect them.
Carrying may be good for babies with health problems, but what about normal, healthy infants? Is it a good idea, or will it spoil the baby?
Happy or Spoiled?
Harvey Karp, a California paediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, suggests we should consider that all babies are really born ÂprematurelyÂ Â at least compared to most other newborn animals.
"It's as though we made a contract with our babies," he explains. "Human babies have large brains that continue to grow through the first years, and in order for the baby's head to fit through the mother's pelvis, it needs to be born while it is still pretty undeveloped. So the deal was, the baby promised to come out early and we promised to imitate a uterus. That means giving the baby the constant contact, movement and soothing sounds that would be part of the uterine environment."
Karp adds: "The problem is that some parents are trying to wiggle out of the agreement. And babies let us know they're not happy with us not keeping our part of the bargain the only way they can; by crying."
Ronald Barr, professor of paediatrics at the University of British Columbia, says the link between carrying and reduced crying is very clear. He first discovered this in a 1986 study, where an extra two hours of carrying each day reduced the overall amount of crying by 43 percent.
Carrying a baby seems to make some other aspects of caregiving easier, which may reduce crying as well, says Barr. For example, the !Kung San in Africa ; who carry their infants almost all the time, respond to every fret or whimper the baby makes within 10 seconds. That's a lot easier to do when the baby is right there with you, not a wailing sound from upstairs heard through a baby monitor.
How important that quick response is may depend somewhat on your baby's temperament. Barr cites research which showed that babies who were described as irritable or sensitive and intense in their responses cried much less when their parents responded to them immediately and appropriately. Speed was important -- if it took a long time for someone to arrive, these irritable infants became very hard to soothe.
Despite the clear benefits of carrying, Barr's research shows that, in North America at least, babies are now being carried less, not more. There is good data to show that our babies are spending more time in car seats and strollers, and less time in body contact with parents.
Recent research by Barr, not yet published, looked at five-month-old babies in the province of Quebec. Barr recorded the total amount of contact time the babies had with their parents or caregivers over a period of 24 hours. This included feeding, diaper changing, dressing, bathing, carrying and holding -- and the average was six hours. "That seems very low to me," says Barr.
And it is much lower than in many countries around the world. Cathy Baldizon, a mother of two boys who formerly worked with CARE, says that when her family was living in Guatemala, the Mayan women carried their babies almost all the time, tied to their bodies with large shawls. One day I was looking at a book that had photos of Asian women carrying their babies tied in shawls, Baldizon recalls. I showed the pictures to my Guatemalan friends, pointing out that these women carried their babies just like they did. Their reaction was puzzlement: "What's the big deal? Don't all mothers carry their babies this way?" The idea that a mother wouldnÂt carry her baby was just unimaginable to them.
So why don't more Canadian parents carry their babies? Barr says: "I think it is almost a side effect of the campaign to get babies into car seats in cars, which has been very successful. It just seems convenient to parents to move the baby around in the car seat even when they arenÂt in the car, now that the seats have handles or can be popped into a stroller."
Tonya Brock, the mother of two-year-old Lindsay and four-year-old Jason, says: "It's the spoiling thing. I think people are worried that their babies wonÂt ever become independent or be able to separate if they carry them too much when they are babies. Certainly a lot of people said that to me when I was carrying Jason and Lindsay."
Barr has heard similar comments. "Whenever I talk about the !Kung San people and how they carry their babies constantly and respond to them immediately, the first question I get is "Don't they all grow up to be wimps?" The answer to that is a very clear NO! There is no way you can consider these people to be wimps! Just to give one example: the !Kung San mothers give birth without any help and without crying out from pain. There are many more examples of their strengths.
Barr also mentions a study done by Marjorie Elias, which compared babies of La Leche League leaders in the Boston area to other mothers. Barr says, She found that the babies in the LLL group --who were carried more, responded to more quickly and nursed more frequently --did not become more demanding or cry more as they got older. They did not show any more "spoiled" behaviours than the control group.
Brock has also had people tell her, "The baby looks so uncomfortable," when they saw Jason or Lindsay curled up in the sling. Once when she was walking quickly through an airport and carrying Lindsay, a woman stopped her and said, "You're going to make your baby sick by jiggling her so much."
Joan Grusec, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, says parents shouldn't worry about spoiling babies. "Babies most often cry because they are distressed in some way," Grusec explains, "and physical contact is soothing and beneficial. The spoiling comes when the crying is deliberately used as a way of getting something else, such as attention. This is more likely to happen as children grow older. But carrying a baby in arms, a sling or soft carrier is a good idea -- it provides both comfort and stimulation for the baby."
The Carrying Continuum
Grusec adds that, in general, our culture doesn't encourage parents to carry babies. She points out that "different cultures have different goals." Close body contact for infants tends to be prevalent in cultures that value group harmony and interdependence. Other cultures value separation and autonomy Â and Canada seems to fit into the second category.
"North American parents tend to use more visual contact and play with objects, and this is seen as facilitating greater separation," Grusec explains.
Of course, Canadian society is by no means a homogeneous mixture, like a purreed soup. We're more like a stew with a variety of different foods, so we have some parents who carry their babies a lot because of their cultural background or philosophy of parenting, others who carry them some of the time, and others who rarely take them in arms. These parents may have different aspirations for their children, different child-rearing goals. As Grusec says: Parents are comfortable with different things. There are many ways of raising children (including whether or not to carry them) and, within reasonable limits, most things work."
The baby's temperament may be a factor too in determining whether or not the baby gets carried. If carrying is the best -- or only -- way to soothe your crying baby, you may end up doing it a lot even if it wasn,t part of your planned approach to parenting. Tonya Brock says that easygoing Lindsay would probably be fine with less carrying, but Jason was a different story. "He was very fussy as a baby --not only did he need to be carried, but he needed me to keep moving," she recalls. "Carrying him was the only way we could both be happy."
When Brock returned to work seven months after Jason's birth, she spent quite a bit of time searching for a daycare provider who would continue to carry Jason. "I think the fact that Chantelle was willing to hold him made a big difference in how he adjusted to being in daycare," Brock says.
Sometimes carrying is just the practical way to go. With Jason a very active toddler when Lindsay was born, Brock found a carrier for her daughter was a very practical accessory. "It left my hands free to get work done, and I didn't have to worry about leaving her behind to chase after Jason."
So should parents carry their babies more? Barr has a lot of trouble with the word 'should.'
All other things being equal, the more body contact time you have with your baby, the better," he says. "If you can carry your baby more, you will both benefit because your baby will cry and fuss a lot less. But I also recognize that people may have important reasons that prevent them from carrying their babies, and so it can be a trade-off. The baby who is carried less will cry more, but will grow up just fine."
In the end, Brock and Kilmartin both say they carried their babies "because it felt right." Brock adds: "There is something about the feel of their little bodies and the way they mould themselves to you and relax. It's just such a good feeling.
The babies think so too.
Carrying Your Baby: The Practical Side
The right carrier can save your back and free up your hands. You might have to do a little experimenting to find one you really like. Ask friends if you can try theirs out before investing a lot of money and be sure to check second-hand stores.
Slings are popular and are great for discreet breastfeeding; or consider a wrap, which is a long piece of cloth that can be wrapped in different ways to hold your baby in place.
Try to find someone who can show you how to use your carrier in different positions. You'll soon learn which your baby prefers.
When's a good time to carry your baby? Anytime. But if your baby is fussy at a particular time of day such as the evening, it seems to work better to start carrying the baby an hour or two before he gets fussy.
Back to me:
I've known since Huey was born about the bonding/less crying aspects of babywearing. But once Megan was born, the convenience of it has been the best advantage. Yes, Megan does need a lot of attention; she is definitely high needs. Being able to 'wear' her comfortably for long periods of time has been a huge advantage. When I see parents struggling to chase one kid while carrying a heavy carseat, or manoeuvring a stroller through the small shops in town, or up to the children's room on the third floor of the library, I smile to myself and go on my merry way. But NONE of these women approach me. I get lots of questions from grandmothers, mothers past the toddler stage, and the occasional 'granola-ish' mother. Little kids love to see Megan being worn, and grandmothers are the next big lovers.
I wouldn't lug a carseat or stroller around now, even if I had a outrageously priced one with all the bells and whistles. My baby is safe when worn, I never have to worry about losing the stroller, someone stealing it or bags in the bottom, I can go where I want, no one whacks my baby in the face with a briefcase or dangling cigarette. These points alone would sell me on babywearing.
But it's the way she sinks into me and puts her head on my chest and tells me in her own way that everything is finally right, that keeps me doing it!