musings of the domesticated godess

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My love of baby wearing

Babywearing is something i came across quiet by accident , living in an area that served as a daily catwalk of the latest styles , i remember being pregnant with my first son and seeing quiet a few new mothers and fathers carting their children around in slings , i thought to myself " those look awesome , really hippy chic , ive gotta have one " i never knew my purchase of that sling based purely on its fashion credibility would bring me so much more than i anticipated .

The day came and i was finally able to go home with my new son , itching to go or a walk and dreading dragging a pram down three flights of stairs i grabbed the sling and placed my so inside , he instantly fell asleep to the gentle rock all curled up in the sling like a little marsupial in it's pouch , it was one of many " awwwww" moments i treasure , i felt so ..........motherly .

The sling became a daily staple , hang out the washing ? wear the baby , sweep the floor ? wear the baby you get the drift , i could have him close to my body and be hands free , awesome !

I could never have imagined such a simple product could have so much benefit from getting day to day jobs done , resistance training great for new mothers to the amazing bonding experience it provided .

So where did this amazing , wonderful invention come from ? i soon discovered it to be a worldwide phenomenon , practiced all over the world for centuries , dating as far back as 50,000 years ago suggests Blaffr-Hrdy (2000).

Baby carrying and carriers around the world.

Mexico and Guatemala
Short wraparound slings have been used in many cultures. The Mexican or Guatemalan Rebozo is well-known thanks to the work of Barbara Wishingrad and her Rebozo way project. These shawls are used for carrying all sorts of items as well as for clothing and protection from the sun. Rebozos are also used during pregnancy to reposition the baby and during birthing to help support the mother in various positions.

Peru and Bolivia
A Manta or Awayo has been traditionally worn. This is a large rectangle of woven fabric folded in half and tied in a knot at the mother's chest. The baby is carried on the mother's back.

A Pareo is a rectangular piece of printed cloth that is also used as a wraparound skirt.

Woven or sheet cloths are used on the back. Either a rectangular or triangular piece of fabric is used.

The Tribes from Borneo such as Kayan and Kenyah traditionally carry their babies in a rattan plaited carrier. These are decorated with multicolored beaded patterns of dragons, leopards and hornbills. Ancient glass beads and amulets of bear-claws or leopard's fangs add to the spiritual protection of the baby carried within.

Pieces of fabric are also tied over one shoulder and are used as baby carriers. These are called selendang slings. They are also worn as a skirt or dress or used to carry things.

A rectangular piece of material with a border around it is also used by women and men to carry a baby on the back, as well as to sit on, to carry items on the head, and to protect clothing whilst cooking. In some parts it is called a kanga, in other parts a pagne, and in coastal region a woven style is called a kikoy. Last century, important Swahili sayings started to be printed on each kanga. Two identical pieces of fabric (called a doti) are usually bought together. An identical pair is sometimes split between best friends. A baby can be tied on using one or two kangas.

A Capulana is used, which is a printed piece of cloth used for baby carrying as well as carrying other things or as a piece of clothing. For carrying babies it is tied over a shoulder and knotted between the breasts (like a sling). The baby sits on the back.

South Africa
A piece of cloth is again used. Babies are tied onto the back with the cloth tied on top of the breasts, but straight around the back rather than over the shoulder.

Papua New Guinea
Ipili people use a net bag called a bilum to carry their babies. They are carried with the strap around the forehead of the mother and the baby in the bag carried on the front or back. A bilum is a bag available in many sizes and used for carrying many different things. The bag is lined with soft leaves or pieces of cloth to make it more comfortable for the baby.

Bainese babies do not touch the ground for the first three months, but are passed from person to person. After this time a special ceremony is held and babies are then welcome to play on the ground.

Egyptian women who picked cotton in the fields would make slings out of dress fabric. The patterns were colourful and bright, and the slings were wide in the middle and narrower at the ends. The women carried their babies on their backs in this way.

Asian carriers
In South West China, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, Mei Tais are worn, with either a double or single strap, as are Hmong style carriers which are usually beautifully hand- embroidered. The mei tai originated from China and has probably been around for centuries. They were used by peasant women whilst working in the fields.

Laos, Myanmar, and parts of China, Vietnam and Tibet
A "Hmong"-style carrier is used, a squre of fabric similar to a podaegi but narrower. The baby is worn in front or on the back. In these cultures there have generally been plenty of extended family so babies are often passed from one set of arms to another. As people move to cities and move away from more traditional ways, carriers are used far less and more Western ways such as strollers are adopted.

Onbuhimos were used, which are a wrap style carrier made from gauze, cotton, or wool, similar to a Mei Tai but with a narrower body style.

The Podaegi is used which is a kind of blanket tied around the wearer’s chest rather than over the shoulders.

In areas where the caste system still applies, some of the lower caste peoples carry their children by tying them into the shawl part of their saris. Apparently, higher caste peoples believe that it is only the lower caste carry babies.

Tibet, Nepal, Indian Himalayas
Wraparound carriers are often used, generally of a single colour; fuschia coloured ones seem popular in Lhasa. The fabrics used range in thickness from very thin to very thick.

A short piece of cloth like a rebozo would traditionally be used.

In Europe, recorded history has often focussed on the upper classes, where the art of baby carrying was lost earlier than in the rural areas and lower classes. Thus, information is not readily available on the history of baby carrying. At the Didymos website, pictures showing baby carrying give us some idea of what happened, for example a Rembrandt picture illustrates a woman a child tied to her back. These pictures indicate that in the Middle Ages in Europe, it may have been common for babies to be worn on their mothers’ backs.

During the 19th Century in Europe poor and uneducated people carried their children and were physically close with them, whereas the upper classes created a distance between adult and child, with the widespread view of not spoiling them.

In Wales, long pieces of fabric and shawls were used to carry babies, which continued until around the 1950’s.

Highland Scotland
Scottish women are also rumoured to have used their plaid to carry their babies.

Dalarna, a northern province in Sweden held onto traditions longer than any other part of Sweden. Interestingly, women in this culture had voting rights, ownership rights and kept their last names in marriage. They also carried their children in a "bog" or “boeg” – which has been carried on into the English word, "bag". It was made of leather and shaped into a rounded bag with edges and straps that were cut into traditional patterns. The baby would be wrapped in something warm, then placed in the bog.

In some Scandinavian cultures, cradleboards were also used.

In Germany, a traditional cloak or coat was worn, in which there was a piece of cloth to wrap the baby on the hip.

In Victorian England, upper class households would employ a rocking nurse, who would carry the baby in her arms on walks and rock them when crying. Rocking cradles were used by women working in houses.


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