A Sneak Peek into the Cultural Evolution of This Lifesaver
Looking at the different types of modern baby carriers, wraps, slings and Mei Tai, the sentiment of every parent would concur with me – I wish I had those when my child was born. Surprisingly, many of you are unaware of the fact that baby carrying is not something new.
Mothers used to carry their babies all over the world for centuries. The most basic form of the carrier was a sling and could be spotted in Asian and African cultures.
The evolutionary archaeologist Timothy Taylor argued in his piece titled Slings & Arrows that baby carriers were an early man’s most basic tool. So, while it is not new, it is not a common practice either.
We were not baby worn by our parents when we were kids nor we saw any other mother wearing their babies while at work in our childhood. But, the times are changing, shaping the attitudes of a common man.
It is said that the cloth infant carrier was invented when Ann Moore, a pediatric nurse in Togo, Africa spotted African women carrying their babies in the slings in the 1960’s.
Post her return to the United States, she along with her mother designed the slings and that’s how it popularized in American and European communities.
Here we look at some of the modern as well as traditional baby carriers around the world –
Guatemala & Mexico Rebozo:
These are short wraparound slings that are used by the pregnant ladies as well as post-pregnancy. The shawls can be used to keep items or protect the child from the sun. Learn all about the traditional Mexican Rebozos here.
Bolivia & Peru:
The baby wrap in these two South American countries are known as Awayo or Manta since time immemorial. It is a large rectangular fabric that is half-folded and tied into a knot at the chest.
Tahiti: Pareo, a rectangular printed cloth that can be worn as a wraparound skirt or as a baby wrap.
Kenyah and Kayan, the indigenous tribes used to carry their babies in rattan plaited carrier. The carrier used to be decorated with beaded patterns of leopards, dragons, hornbills. The amulets of leopard’s fangs and bear claws were added to spiritually protect the baby within.
The Indonesian women used to call their baby carriers as selendang slings and these can be worn as a dress or skirt.
Both men and women used to carry their baby on the back in a rectangular piece of cloth popularly referred to as kanga. In coastal regions of Kenya, it is known as kikoy. Since the 20th century, Swahili sayings were printed on kanga/kikoy.
Papua New Guinea:
The Ipili tribesmen used a bag made of net known as bilum to carry their babies. The baby is can be placed in the front or back and strapped around the carrier’s forehead.
The Egyptian women used to work in the cotton fields used to make slings out of the dress fabric. Their patterns used to be very colorful and vibrant and their slings are narrower at the base and wide in the middle.
The Asian Carriers:
In China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, this beautiful hand-embroidered Mei-Tais are worn with a single or double strap. It was originated first in China when the women used to work in the fields. The popularity of Mei-Tai has only increased with the passage of time and is popular even today across the world.
Their baby carrier structure is similar to a conventional Mei Tai but with the narrower body style. The Onbuhimos is a wrap-style carrier that is made from wool, cotton or gauze.
When the baby is very small, the mother used to put the baby in a curved wooden dish (a baby cot) and keep it in the shade to protect the child from the scorching sun.
The information on the history of baby carrying in Europe is not available. But, it can be construed that since the 19th century, only the uneducated and poor people used to carry their children because the upper and educated strata of the society believed it to be a baby spoiling tool. Consequently, they stayed away from it.
So, which baby carrier you would like to try for your little one? Well I have put together a list of top 5 tula baby carriers for you here. – the indigenous or the one that is just half a century old in origin? If you have already baby worn your child, let us know in the comments section below which ones worked for you and which didn’t. We are eager to hearing from you.
And if you are still not convinced and surrounded by so many misconceptions about babywearing, well, we’ll have your myths busted. Read here.