Carrying children in various kinds of carriers became in recent years very popular. Professional and laic part of the population cannot agree on the same matter, whether it is worthy of praise or critique. From both camps are coming various different opinions. The effect of carrying children on the body is something that interests even scientists. It is also a field of work in physiotherapy, as well as prenatal psychology or neurology. Despite the often critical opinion it was proved that carrying children in scarves, baby backpack etc. helps their development of learning, gaining experience, orientation or development of their own ego.
ADVANTAGES OF CARRYING CHILDREN
- Faster adaptation
From a neurological point of view it is easier to carry newborn babies to adapt them to a new thing - foreign environment. It is known among the wide spectrum of population that the baby hears the heartbeat and breathing of the mother similarly as it was hearing it while it was in a womb. It smells the specific scent of the mother. Movements which the mother perform while walking are cognate to the movements which were affecting the baby while it was still in mothers womb.
- Perfect imitation of mother’s belly
Tightness of the carrier imitates and restricts the space of the uterus and the crouched position of the child which is similar to the one in which the baby stayed in the uterus.
- Protection against cold
The baby is warmed up by the mother in colder weather, and at the same time breathes in the warmed up air, in this case in scarf or sling pouch. Therefore it is not a problem, if you would want to get out with the baby even in a freezing weather.
- Faster emotional and motor skills development
Infants who are carried in a scarf, either on the side, belly or back, are according to Dr. Ernst Kiphard from university in Frankfurt developing better than children who spend most of the day in the cot. That applies as well to the development as well as cognitive and emotional development.
- Perfect outlook
Eyes of the child that is carried is seeing more from the surrounding environment. Intensive physical and visual contact with the mother adds to the development of the emotional connections and nervous balance. The mother is always in the visual field of the baby, nothing is restricting the baby’s vision. It is therefore possible to think about carrying as an addition to the development of the child’s intelligence.
HOW DOES CARRYING CHILDREN HELP THEIR DEVELOPMENT?
Carrying children in a tight carrier helps with a correct development:
- Sucking reflex
- Motor skills
That originates on the principle of stimulation of cutaneous receptors (receptors in the skin), proprioceptors (receptors in the tendons, ligaments, joints) and vestibular system, which leads informations into the core centers of the brain responsible for controlling the motor skills (mobility). Each change of the center of the gravity leads to response through a reflexive activity of the muscles (postural reaction). Carried children show much better motor skill development and it is unnecessary when some parents start to worry that their children won’t learn how to crawl or walk correctly.
CARRIED CHILDREN CRY LESS
Observation in the studying works of the team of Dr. Urs A. Hunziker from a Montreal Children’s hospital from years 1986 and 1988 show, that infants who were at least 4 hours a day carried in a straight position, from a third week of life cried less than children from a controlled group. At the same time they showed longer phase of awareness in a satisfied mood. All that is an advantage for the baby and its development. It is also known from cultures where carrying babies is normal that infants are more peaceful and they cry less.
WHAT EVOKES DISORDERS OF BEHAVIOR IN INFANTS?
The infant has a congenital need to adapt to the new environment. If we leave this adaption just on the child, without constant presence of the mother, it can form incorrect behavioral patterns:
- Chronic irritation
- Nervousness and protesting cry
- Abrupt movements
- Monotonous swinging
- Hitting the head against the wall
- Fearfully sucking the thumb
- Irregular breathing
- Irregular sleep etc.
Such infant is forced to search for relaxation and involvement alone, the baby loses a lot of energy, which could have been used for growth and development. Children should never stay alone, even though this model is still supported by some „parental advisors”. The researches dealing with the behavior of children repeatedly confirm deeper and more frequent fear connected to behavioral disorders of this style of „separated” parenting.
WHICH CHILDREN CAN BE CARRIED?
- Children with neurological defects (cerebral palsy with hypertonic or hypotonic form, Down syndrome, autismus etc.)
- Children with orthopedic defects (luxation, displacement of the bones from the hip joints due to the uneven development of the hip joints)
- Children with disorders of the intestinal tract etc.
- Prematurely born children
Only recently mothers start to carry around children that have been born prematurely. Instead of incubator, they are enabled to spend 24 hours directly on the body of the mother (so called Kangaroo care). Carried children gain weight faster than children in incubators, and the risk of sudden breathing failure are decreased to minimum. Unfortunately this practice is practiced more in other countries and our doctors are leaning towards the old and proved methods.
- Handicapped children
Constant stimulation of carried children is benefiting also handicapped children. Children that are carried are going through a non-violent form of rehabilitating exercise. Sometimes are mothers with the newborn children released into the home care and they are sent to the department of the neonatology which they visit daily for controls.
LUXATION OF THE HIP JOINTS
It is known that by aboriginal tribes is luxation of the hip joints nearly non-existent. By already existing luxation, we usually use therapy with braces and harnesses, or wide spectrum of diapers, which can along with carrying the child, optimally support its development.
CAN CARRYING CHILDREN IN A CARRIER PREVENT POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
Mother (partly also the father) has a congenital instinct of behavior towards the baby - the desire to lift up the baby, caress it, breastfeed it, simply to be constantly with the baby. To that belongs also mother’s intuition, which some mothers have very strong, other mothers are completely unsure. It depends on the amount of „motherly” hormones - especially prolactin and oxytocin. The higher the levels of these hormones are, the more are the women able to behave as mothers, which also keeps the ideal levels of the relevant hormones. These hormones are effective in the blood only for twenty minutes. If these levels need to stay the same, they need to be stimulated every 20 minutes. If the woman carries the child, she is perfectly fulfilling the requirement.
Constant contact between the mother and baby, frequent physical contact keeps this biological system active. It is very likely that it is one of the reasons why the postpartum depression doesn’t nearly occur by this style of parenting. Even in cases, when the relation between mother and baby begins to shape later (postpartum separation), or when the production of the maternal hormones is not functioning fast enough, carrying becomes very helpful.
NEGATIVE MYTHS ABOUT CARRYING CHILDREN
1. Damaged spine
The most common argument against carrying children is the fear, that it damages the spine of the child. According to Regina Hilsberg, the author of the book „Körpergefühl” this argument is witnessing also some experience, with which we meet with daily. Large amount of people who have today damaged back and have to visit the orthodontist, were as babies very likely lying in a cot most of the day. All the african women carry their children with straight head, because they spent their childhood on the backs of their mothers too.
2. Permanent bending of the bones
Many people are afraid by the sight on the round back of the baby, which is carried in the scarf. If an adult would sit that way, he would have serious problems with the spine. But the same way as it is not necessary to straighten the crooked legs of the baby so that they would grow straight, you don’t need to straighten the baby’s back, which were bent the whole time when the baby was still in the womb, before they would straighten up by themselves. The opinion, that thanks to carrying the bones could start to bend or deform is today proved wrong.
But it is important to prevent the pressure involved on the vertebrae - this exactly can a correctly and firmly tied scarf for carrying children prevent, because it supports the child. At the same time, the legs of the baby who sits in the scarf on the side or chest facing the adult, are anatomically in a correct position, which is optimal for a correct and healthy development of the hips.
SCARF OR STROLLER
This article definitely doesn’t serve as an order for all mothers to carry their children. Carriers are just another option, which you can use, if it is more comfortable for you and the baby. Meanwhile one baby will enjoy being carried in the carrier, and it will fall asleep in it without any problems, other baby will more enjoy a stroller, where it will have its own free space. Therefore if you have a friend who already used a scarf or other type of carrier for her baby, try to borrow it first and try it out to see if you and the baby would enjoy it. Don’t mind the opinions of others. If your baby won’t enjoy the carrier for various reasons, don’t force it and don’t blame yourself that you didn’t accomplish something. Even adults have for a comfortable sleep varying needs. Meanwhile some like to fall asleep in the arms of the partner, others like to have their own space, where they can breathe better and freely.
Are you thinking about what kind of carrier would you like to choose for yourself and your baby? In the following article we talk more about that:
- W. Sears, M. D., M. Sears, R. N.: The Baby Book. Little Brown and Company 1993, ISBN: 0-376-77905-9
- More literature can be found by the author
Source: DIDYMOS GmbH
Author: Mgr. Iva Bílková, FYZIOklinika fyzioterapie Ltd, Prague, Czech Republic