Humans have always been a “carrying” species from an evolutionary perspective. That means we have always kept our babies close; taking them along to forage for food. This is opposed to a “parking” species, such as wolves, who hide their young in their dens while going out in search of food. Primate newborns are able to cling to their mothers, but as humans evolved, so did fetal brain size. This increase in fetal brain size led to bigger heads that take up more room in the womb. As the fetal brain and head size increased, babies were born earlier, so human infants are not developed enough to cling to their mothers. The result: humans began creating baby carries at least half a million years ago, maybe even earlier!
Constructed from plants, animal skins, and leather cords to strap infants to the chests and backs of their caregivers. “These carrying devices were some of the first tools ever created” says Dr. James McKenna, an anthropology professor at the University of Notre Dame who studies mother-infant relationships. Later on in history, after weaving was used to create cloth, pieces of cloth were used to tie the child close to the caregiver. In cultures around the globe, people have been carrying their babies for centuries, each has its own history, style and terminology. Styles of original baby carrier vary from climate to climate – in hotter climates, babies have a greater need to feed frequently and carriers that keep the baby close to mother (or to another woman who will feed it) tend to be more practical as they allow the baby to have very frequent, short feeds, avoiding dehydration. In colder climates, babies tend to feed less by day and can be left for longer periods so carriers that can be left hanging on tree branches or strapped to sleds may be more practical. While baby wearing is common practice around the globe and has been for centuries, in much of the Western world, it is a reviving art.
With the invention of strollers and “Prams” in the Victorian Era, baby-wearing fell out of fashion, Strollers were seen as status symbols in society. However in Africa and other many parts of the world baby-wearing is a way of life, strollers are seen as “a cold cage filled with useless rattles, cup holders and mirrored headlights” as quoted by a modern African woman, who sees strollers as more of a hazard and stressor than a parenting tool. It wasn’t until around the late 1960’s when Soft structured carriers and woven wraps made their way onto the scene and in the early 80’s Ring Slings came onto the scene and became popular through the method of “attachment parenting”.
Since the 1980s, the number of types of slings and carriers has grown immensely (soft structured carriers are Western adaptations of traditional carriers), as have the number of new companies, from very large manufacturers to smaller work at home parents making custom handwoven wraps. Recently these relatively ordinary baby-wearing devices have re-emerged—largely through the help of the internet—as items of value, expressions of identity, and a way for parents to connect with one another. A strong emotional attachment to the wraps and carriers gives way “large collections” of many Babywearing items… and therefore bolsters a flourishing secondary market which can be found on Facebook and some secondary market places online. There Caregivers have found a sense of community and support. It’s grown into much more than a place to buy and sell woven wraps and baby carriers, it’s A sanctuary for an every changing and demanding world of parenting. Finding like minded people to share the ups and down and their love of baby-wearing has created a place of lasting bonds and friendships.