I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Baby

The words we choose to express ourselves matter. Language evokes images and carries messages that leave an imprint on society. There are words most of us would never dream of using because they offend or demean others. Why doesn’t this sensitivity extend to babies?

I suppose it’s okay to diss babies because they can’t complain, picket or sue. They have no power. They’re not a major consumer group.

‘Babywearing’ has become an acceptable, widely used term. There are babywearing conventions, babywearing instructions, and we are marketed “the latest in babywearing fashions.”

Why don’t we think to question this term? We know that children are not socks or handbags (or even fur), they are human beings. And yet we use an expression that perpetuates the objectification of babies.  Carrying babies is one thing. Wearing them is quite another.  It’s time to find another word, and to wear the sling, not the baby.

Infant expert Magda Gerber inspired us to treat infants as unique human beings (human being the operative word). She believed that infants deserve our respect from day one. She taught us to communicate with an infant as we would another person, and to take this small person’s point of view into account.

Dr. William Sears coined the term “babywearing.”  I was absolutely shocked when I read Sears proudly explain on his website that babywearing “humanizes” infants. As if babies need humanizing? What does he believe an infant is, if not human? And he’s a doctor!  Suddenly his invention of the word ‘babywearing’ makes perfect sense.

Sears:  “Sling babies get “humanized” earlier.” 

Sorry, but I have both scientific and anecdotal evidence that babies are born human. References available upon request.

Sears: “Another reason that babywearing enhances learning is that baby is intimately involved in the caregiver’s world.”

Carrying a baby as a passenger while we go about our day is not “intimately involving” the baby, in my opinion. To intimately involve a baby is to give her our full attention. It is to hold her, not only with our bodies, but with our minds and our hearts.  It is to hold her close often, but to also give her freedom to move, and respect her individuality, her “otherness.” It is to create a peaceful life geared towards a baby, and to then be responsive to her communication. Not the other way around.

Sears: “Proximity increases interaction, and baby can constantly be learning how to be human.”

Dr Sears, for the last time, we do not “teach” infants to be human. Please, take a moment to truly behold an infant — to really look, listen, and be totally present. You will realize that an infant teaches you how to be human.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”  -Dr. Seuss


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. I’m with you on this…what bizarre terminology by Dr Sears…

    1. I have NEVER heard the term ‘babywearing’ until I saw this article. My son in NOT an accessory!! My rings are for that. I wrap my son on me when we are out and about. I think it is a very convenient way to run errands, yet, it is not a religion as many people make it out to be. When people were nomadic, thy would tie their babies on to their bodies, and keep on moving. Yet, I have learn if the baby is not comfortable, it does take some time to adjust. Yet, I think it is a personal choice. THE BABIES! If your little one is not up to it, do not force it. Also, the talk of the ‘babywearing = bonding’ , I think that is crazy. You will bond with this person/baby for life. The relationship changes with each stage of life. That is what my mom told me.

  2. Ok, it’s a bad term, but it’s been a great thing for Eva… hanging out in the sling and now in the Ergo – which she asks for, even at 2, on days when she’s missed a nap, or just feels ugh, and wants to go on a walk up close and personal with mommy. We talk, we stop to look at leaves, reflections, flowers, the moon and when she wants to get out and walk, I take her out.

    It’s true if you shove your baby in the sling and then ignore the baby – it’s not quality time or quality anything. Have you tried to drink a cappuccino w/ a baby strapped to you. Forget it!

    Sadly in that recent case of baby suffocation, the woman went to costco with a 7-day old infant tucked in the sling. She shopped for a while; she ate a hot dog; she put her groceries in her car and then she checked on her baby and he had passed away. She’s blaming the sling… which (i guess) gave her a false sense of security.

    I wouldn’t completely diss’ or dismiss the sling or baby carrier… Though I’ll diss and dismiss the baby bjorn which was just weird to me… like something you’d do with an alien baby… the baby faces out and the carrier can’t even see the baby’s face. There’s no quality time there.

    1. I’m not dissing the sling or baby carrier, or ‘piling on’ to attacking their safety at all. I think slings and carriers are certainly convenient ways to carry a baby and share time together. I do not believe they are necessary for ‘teaching’ babies anything, especially not for teaching babies to be human or more human. I find the term ‘babywearing’ thoughtless and offensive. When I did the tiniest bit of research on its origin, I was appalled by the statements of Dr. Sears. But I only set out to attack the use of the term, not the practice of carrying babies in a sling. I apologize if that was not clear.

      1. Dr. Sears was absolutely *not* arguing that babies must be made to be human or more human, and to argue so is entirely obtuse. He most definitely *is* arguing that, in a culture where we have systematically and systemically dehumanized infants and children, setting them apart and “othering” them, we can counter-act this objectionable trend by keeping our children not only close to us throughout the day, but at a height and in an orientation (that is, vertical) that allows the opportunity for interaction between the child and the adults he or she may encounter through the day. The humanizing effect is in the perception of the *adults*, not on the child.

      2. If you’re only attacking the term why use such a sensationalist and easily misinterpreted title??
        As others have said, those who use the term, don’t use it in the sense you’re referring to here. The baby’s not the accessory, though the carrier may be.
        As my friend put it, it’s hard to come up with another term that so succinctly sums up “carrying baby in a carrier” to diffrentiate from just carrying baby in your arms.

        1. Thank you MB for summing up the response that I would like to put but couldn’t quite put my words to.

  3. We “babywearers” don’t think of the baby as an accessory, like something worn. We use the word in the context of attachment parenting, which is a good fit with RIE & Gerber’s philosophy of respecting infants.

    The term babywearing is not disrespectful to infants, IMO. If I had coined the term I might have chosen better but I lack the inspiration at the moment 😉

    I have a LOT of respect for RIE & Magda Gerber and studied RIE in college as an Infant/ Toddler Educator.

  4. As fas as babywearing being “humanizing”, I agree that humanizing is not the best term. I believe Sears is trying to address that babies at/or close to eye level at more socialized than their peers.

    Now I’m sure you’ll respond with babies should be on the floor with us coming down to their level, which I agree with.

    My personal philosophy is that babywearing is ideal when out of the home or when the baby is fussy and needing comforting. Personally, when my babies were content they were on the floor so they could interact with their environment.

  5. I do think the term is a bit of a turn-off, just because it’s awkward, but I don’t think it was coined in the sense you seem to take the most umbrage at, i.e., “baby as fashion accessory.”

    Rather, I think Dr. Sears and Martha Sears coined the term to emphasize that baby is on the parent’s body all day, rather than being separated from the parent and put into a bucket of some sort — a carseat, swing, stroller, bouncy seat, crib, playpen, etc.

    And for that reason I can only applaud the coining of the term, because the flip side of the “humanizing” that also seems to offend you is the dehumanizing of babies who are toted around in a container of some sort like a gadget. A baby’s natural habitat is its mother’s body — throughout history mothers have worn their babies because they had no viable alternative. Our society has gotten so far away from that norm, though, that a term was needed to explain what doesn’t even need an explanation in other cultures that don’t dissociate themselves from their babies to such an extreme degree.

    I’d much rather see a proud babywearer — of whom there are still way too few in our culture — than see the far more common sight of a tiny baby in a bucket carseat, snapped into a stroller, completely draped with a blanket, being pushed around like an inanimate object in her little isolation pod.

    I do think that encouraging babywearing promotes the humanization of babies — to their parents, who are more likely to nurse them often, talk to them, and yes, involve them in their daily activities, when baby is right there. I think parents who babywear are more respectful of their baby’s needs because of that close and intimate bond.

    1. While being close to one’s baby is naturally bliss, I find it to be both misleading and misinformed to suggest that historically we, as humans, kept infants on their mothers for long periods of the day all day and everyday. In many cultures in the past infants were “worn” when they needed to be transferred from place to place. But in a multitude of cultures infants were allowed to move freely in areas provided under the watchful eyes of their mothers or allo-mothers.
      The subtle implication of harking back to a bygone era is that without baby wearing one cannot produce the kind of bonding or attachment that is ideal. Unfortunately, many in the attachment parenting movement seem ill informed of actual Attachment Theory. And may find it interesting as I did, that in Ainsworth’s original trip to Uganda the child who had the most insecure attachment to his mother was in fact the child who was worn on his mother all day. Quality of attention and response will always, above all else, inform the strength of attachment. Respectful care and response can come from being attentive while your baby is in a sling or in a stroller.

      1. Kelly, interesting, and I agree that a few minutes of a loved one’s undivided attention are more valuable than many hours of physical closeness. Focused attention is what we want from our spouses, children, and friends. Babies want that too.

        1. Thats a ridiculous argument.

          The SCIENCE shows an increase in brain function, more content babies, less fussing, etc. with babyWEARING (you know, because your baby is on your person not in a stroller, carseat, etc)

          The HOURS of touch communicate more than a few minutes of undivided attention…which funnily enough those babies get ALSO at various points in the day.

      2. avatar Roseann Murphy says:

        I am grateful for this insightful, thoughtful and accurate comment. I find in my experience that as parents we can be so taken with the newest trends introduced by the “experts” in our quest to be the best parent. Your comments regarding Ainsworth and Uganda were exactly the information some of the baby wearers might find useful. Thank you again

      3. Re: Ainsworth and the Ugandan babies: there’s no way to distinguish causation and correlation here. Perhaps the baby was held more because he was inherently more needy and his mother was responding to his needs. Some babies are innately more independent than others, and some are innately more insecure. It is simply not possible to ascribe the baby’s neediness to his mother’s carrying him all day.

    2. avatar Natalie Lewis says:

      I totally agree. I think it’s sad that this article attacks Dr. Sears and Attachment Parenting, it seems a total waste when really never does anyone suggest that one would wear the baby in lieu of providing quality attention and response.

  6. I don’t think it demeans babies. Now, if I said I was a “carrier-wearing” parent, wouldn’t that make it sound like the focus was on the sling, not the baby? What term would you suggest instead?

    And while I totally agree that babies are human, they are born not understanding concepts like gravity, how to move around, etc. I think that accompanying a caregiver during daily tasks is a great way to teach babies. Of course, babies do need one on one too, but that isn’t realistically going to be a huge part of the day. Obviously, it is better for baby to be accompanying the caregiver than sitting alone in the crib.

    1. Natalie,
      Since our choice of words reflects our intention and point-of-view, how about: babyholding, babybundling, babysnuggling, babynuzzling, babyjoining, babykeeping, babyembracing, babycradling, babynestling. (Oh dear, now I’ll be waking up all night with ideas.)

      1. avatar Mary Slocum says:

        I’m with you, Janet. My husband and I “carried” our babies on our hip everywhere and I think that “babyholding” is a much better term for what they appear to be trying to get across. Sometimes I carried them in the classic football hold when I had to put groceries away and they were fussy; I’ve even cooked dinner while holding them. I would hold my 3 year old on one hip and my 1 yr. old on the other when I went up and down the stairs. As my children grew, they continued to enjoy being held by me; I “held” them on my lap, I “held” them close when we cuddled on the couch while watching TV and I held them in bed when they were sick. Even now, at 15, 17 and 20, not a day goes by that we don’t briefly “hold” (hug) and kiss each other good-bye or goodnight. I never “wore” my babies…but we were attached at the hip for many years!

        1. Hi Mary! Yes, ‘holding’ sounds much better to me, even if you’d used a baby carrier. Glad you’re still enjoying those cuddles!

  7. avatar Susan Leibowitz says:

    no you were clear.. I just took the opportunity to emphasize that i’m all for the closeness that the sling/carrier offers. I agree, the term is appalling!! dr. sears has taught us a lot of good things, but one must be skeptical about him too. he has a lot to sell on his website… he’s a proponent of the family bed, which doesn’t work for my family. and don’t you think “baby-wearing” came from his marketing and branding company who sell his slings? maybe i’m too skeptical

  8. avatar Roseann Murphy says:

    Janet, I had to go look up babywearing after you mentioned it. Oh My goodness!! Yet another unbelievable guilt producing object for parents to buy. THese baby slings have been around for ages. News just reported that some of these slings have caused death by suffocation due to the position of the baby’s head. Why can we not put our selves in the place of the baby. Why can’t we imagine be carried around incessanatly…being bumped and moved and bumped again…and having to listen to all those cell phone calls!! How can that be bonding? How can that be attachment when a child becomes yet another ornament?

    I am always amazed at the bouncing babies in the carriers that go from car to grocery store. Infant babies bouncing against the parents legs – boom boom boom- or what about the baby hangers that position the baby face out on the parents chest arms hanging…legs flailing. It is grotesque. We would not stand for that as an adult. Can you imagine our teens going through that? Why do we subject the most vulnerable of population to endure these indignities.

    Baby carrying is no different than a tattoo. You wear it to identify. babies belong on their backs..moving their muscles…quietly thinking..observing. If all people could remember what we need in growth we would not make them endure this.

    This is an outrage…an absolute outrage against infants. Once again thinking of them as property and not about what is best for the growing mind and body.

    Outrageous…good luck on your blog. Another huge hot topic.

    And about humanization and bonding..hard to understand how carrying a child in a sling or carrier initiates bonding. Carriers/slings limit freedom of movement. Infants being carried around in carriers all day are inundated by noise and stimulation. Infants grow while sleeping and resting. As parents we have the best intentions, but we can often be swayed by what is the trend at the time.

    1. Roseann, if infants hated being worn in carriers so much I sincerely doubt that so many would express such happiness, fall contentedly to sleep so easily and generally cry much less than infants not frequently carried (clinical studies have shown this. One published in the journal Pediatrics cited a 40% decrease in crying I believe?). Also, there is nothing scientific to suggest that babies “belong” on their backs. And how would that promote muscle development? When carried in carriers, especially in upright, ergonomically supported carriers (not facing out and dangling by the crotch) they are forced to engage abdominal muscles and they strengthen these earlier than peers who lay flat a lot (which also is linked to the increasingly common flat head syndrome). I’m also not sure why it’s hard to understand how having your child within kissing distance for hours a day does not encourage bonding, baby and mother (or father) look closely into each other’s eyes more, get more of said kisses and snuggles but still allow parents to help older children or take a walk.

      1. avatar Roseann Murphy says:

        This site provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss and share our views. Reading the comments only add to my interest and need to read and research more. My passionate response comes from years of experience as a parent, teacher and observer of infants. My opinion (and this is my opinion) comes from a deeper place. I cannot imagine myself being so confined with no way to say how I feel about being confined. The issue at hand is not the just the sling, but more about what the sling and “babywearing” signifies. Dr. Sears’ message implies this is the way of “humanizing” your infant. Whether he chose the incorrect verbage or not, his message is clear. We need to “humanize” our infants and that is what I am most opposed to. Whether a parent chooses to use a carrier is a personal choice.

        In an issue of Educaring, Magda Gerber was asked, “Is there such a thing as too much holding? How much is too much? I can hold him all day long.”
        Magda’s response was brilliant of course….
        Magda says, ” No, of course you should not hold him all day long. Dr. Emmi Pikler (who founded the Institute on which my work is based) called this “monkey love”. There are sound physiological reasons whay a newborn should not be held all the time. To begin with, he must adapt to his new capabilities outside the womb, by kicking, stretching, curling and uncurling his body. In a crib he can do this at will-and with ease. I see lots of infants in front-carriers. The babies are cramped and confined; any movement by the mother compresses them further into the carrier. Whenever the mother moves about or gesticulates, it is like a mini earthquake for the baby!

        There are also psychological reasons why round-the-clock holding is not developmentally sound. Parents often say to me, “I want to hold my baby all the time to show him how much I love him.”
        How often I see parents holding their babies, or carrying them in contraptions close to the body, without paying the slightest attention to them. Isn’t this like putting a pacifier in the mouth? It soothes or distracts the baby, who becomes “hooked” on a single, artificial solution to a myriad of real problems.

        Oh, yes, babies have problems. Hunger, discomfort, and the need for sleep are all pressing urges. One of the first tasks a baby confronts is organizing the way she recognizes a need, and expresses that need and gets the need met. Engaging the parent in this process is nothing less than a triumph of communication. A parent who overfeeds her baby interferes with the “I’m hungry- I cry – you feed me” process. Similarly, constant holding does nothing to help a baby recognize the difference between being alone and being with someone-I mean really “with” someone, Eye to eye, genuinely engaged.”

      2. avatar kalamitykristen says:

        @Roseann- If a baby is being bumped around, they are not being wrapped properly in the sling. There are instructional videos on how to do so & every responsible parent should watch one.

        Carrying a baby in a sling is an *excellent* way to stay close to them. I am a single mother who is in charge of an entire household, so instead of leaving my son in a crib (we never had one) or on the floor or some other gadget, I keep him near me in a sling or carrier. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

        Being educated about the benefits of babywearing is essential to discussing the topic.

        Yes, I “wear” my son. I DO NOT think of him as property, & my “wearing” him is NOT an outrage; it is a delightful, cozy way to keep him close & nurse him easily. He is 2 now & when he asks to get down, he gets down.

        Studies have shown that babies who are carried in slings have higher IQs than babies who are left at knee-level in strollers or carseats. For instance, at the grocery store an infant can either be stuck in a stroller, staring at people’s legs, or an infant can be worn in a sling, next to mom’s breast, while mom is illustrating everything around, sniffing fruit, saying hello to people. It IS much better for an infant & “humanizes” them rather than “dehumanizes” them by sticking them in a stroller.

        1. Higher IQs? I have read that physical activity and active exploration build brain synapses, not watching your mom sniff fruit.

          1. Janet, I appreciate your site and point of view. If you claim though, as you do above, that you “LOVE our questions and comments.” I am surprised at the apparent snarkiness of your above response. Perhaps I’m reading it wrong, but the tone seems to undermine the idea of human respect that you are emphasizing in this exact article.

      3. I totally agree Beth. I think this whole argument is silly, really…we are all arguing about what we call, nurturing our children? Seriously?

        Roseann, obviously there is an inbetween for everything…We all know that children who are left in orphanages and never touched or talked to or “loved” are all deeply troubled and traumatized and are quite “dehumanized”. Rarely if ever have I ever heard of someone holding their child “too much”. Or only “wearing” them as an ACCESSORY! Seriously? I think all parents know when their child needs to have their own time to reflect on/explore the world around them. You act as if moms who put their babies in “carrying devices” don’t know when to put them down…if anything these moms are WAY more in tune to their child’s needs than a mom who has left their child in a CARSEAT, stroller, playpen (let’s pick apart this word, talk about dehumanizing!), exersaucer (now that’s another pitiful word), for half the day, that child eventually learns that mom is not going to answer their call so why bother. Trust me I see it day in and day out. Trust me the moms who WEAR their babies are the ones with the most calm and well adjusted/happy babies, not the zombies with flat heads. Yes there is the exception to every rule but really, holding your baby often and being in-tune to their needs is hardly something we should be arguing about.


        While we are at it why not pick apart the word Breast”feedng” shouldn’t it be Breast”nourishing”. Did you BreastNourish your baby? 😉

    2. Its one particular style of sling that is not safe. And most “babywearers” would never use those anyway. I use a ring-sling (mayawrap) and my baby rides Up on my chest, close to my heart when they are newborns and slipped a little down for comfort and so they can see more when they get bigger.
      Not like the bag style sling at all.

      And slings initiate bonding because you are touching CONSTANTLY. Its a healing thing too.

      The Kangaroo carry (similar to how I hold a newborn but skin to skin instead) is responsible for saving many preemies.

      Touch is the best and easiest way to communicate with an infant. Its the first way they learn. There have been so many studies done on this I’m surprised someone has to tell you that.

  9. The womb is a noisy, bouncy place for babies too, but the noise and movement is soothing and quieting for them. This is why babies often sleep during the day in utero and are more active at night, when mom is quiet and still. Carrying a baby in a sling or wrap mimics the uterine environment and helps prevent colic. I agree that babies need to sleep in order to grow, but they don’t need to lie alone in a quiet, dark room in order to sleep during the first three months. After that, yes, a dark quiet place is helpful for sleep.

    As for baby carriers “humaninzing” babies, that is an unfortunate choice of words on Dr. Sears’ part. We don’t need to teach babies how to be human, but they do need to learn how to be social. The wonderful thing about babies is that they learn this all on their own through interaction with other people. We don’t need to actively teach it, but we do need to spend time being social with babies.

    Carrying a baby on your body must be done safely, but there are many benefits for mother and baby, including increased milk supply, reducing the likelihood of colic and being able to navigate busy streets without a bulky stroller. If I could be snuggled up against my favourite person and carried around comfortably (not facing out in a bjorn though!) I’d say, “yes please!” Many babies say the same, and their parents are happy to oblige.

    1. I agree that babies learn to be social, but I don’t believe they do this while in line at Starbucks, or out to lunch with mom and her friends, or strapped on mom’s body in the kitchen while she cooks. In these situations the baby is passive, unable to move freely, and ostensibly ignored, but the “babywearing” mother feels she is giving time and love, bonding with the baby by being physically close.

      Magda Gerber said in Dear Parent, Caring For Infants With Respect, “Most animals can show affection only through touch, but we humans have an extensive, varied and refined repertoire of ways to demonstrate love. To me, a mature, evolved person shows love by respecting the otherness of the beloved. You become a good parent not only by listening to your instinctive messages but by paying close attention to your baby, by observing the infant. Sensitive observation flows from respect.”

      Social behavior is learned best when the primary caregiver opens the door of communication with the newborn infant by talking to him, telling him what will happen next. “I am going to pick you up.” “Now we will walk into a very noisy place.” “I’m going to walk up steps. It will feel a little bumpy.” I doubt that this is part of the “babywearing” advice Dr. Sears gives, since he does not believe the infant is fully human yet. (And he never mentions the age when he sees a child as “humanized”) Talking to a baby about what will happen with his body, working to understand his true needs when he communicates by fussing or crying, form the relationship of mutual understanding that will be the model for all other relationships in the child’s life.

      Infants are not an extension of our bodies. From the very beginning they are unique human individuals. I have three children, and I recognize each of them as the person I met at their birth. One, I still recognize distinctly from the way he behaved in the womb. We must respect our children’s “otherness” right away. We need to sensitively observe babies to read their cues accurately, and see the person that they are. That takes a little bit of distance sometimes.

      1. I’m sorry I wholeheartedly disagree here, when I wear my baby when out or when at home I’m still interacting with him, and often when I’ve bought coffee other adults have interacted with him, others in line, the person taking my order, he’s at adult height people notice him and include him. Also the situations you are talking about the alternatives are being stuck in a stroller strapped in and out of human contact, ignored by adults around because they are lower down (not to mention strollers are awkward for places like cafe’s anyway). The mom would not be interacting with baby whilst cooking dinner if not in the carrier, if my baby is happy to be playing independently whilst I cook that is what he does, if however he’s unsettled he rides up on me, allowing me to get dinner on the table for everyone, including his 3 older siblings, and for him to be happy and content whilst I do so. I still interact with him whilst cooking, talking to him, looking at him, stroking his head, explaining to him the things he shows an interest in and taking him out the carrier if he indicates he’s happy to now go play independently.

        So many of your posts are anti attachment parenting and each one I’ve read does nothing but show your ignorance about what attachment parenting is, which is a shame cos I enjoy some of your other posts and incorporate a lot of what you talk about with my own kids. Attachment parents are not attached to their babies 24/7 against the babies will, they baby wear if that’s what baby wants, my now 5 year old didn’t like it so we didn’t do it, he enjoyed being on my hip but not being in the carrier so I held him that way instead, later he did enjoy riding on my back so we did that. I was attuned to him, what he wanted and what he didn’t want the same as with my 3 other children who have enjoyed being in the carrier. Attachment parents do the same with co-sleeping, if it works for the attachment family they do it, but I know lots of attachment parents whose babies don’t bedshare because it’s not the right choice for them.

        A neglectful parent might strap their baby on and wear it like a new sweater ignoring it all day long, but that parent would in no way be an attachment parent. If you read any of Dr sears books you will also find that he speaks of attachment as meaning connection, not actual physical attachment. Perhaps you should stop being ignorant and actually read his work

      2. This is what is most frustrating about RIE. It has a fantastic approach and philosophy (respect for babies from day 1 as individuals) and also really amazing and simple suggestions (like independent play and sportscasting) that have been such a huge benefit to our family. However, when it comes to certain topics, suddenly RIE becomes extremely rigid about what is “correct” and RIE-kosher and what is not, and often times, it forms these opinions out of ignorance about these other philosophies.

        Elimination Communication is one thing that I find fits perfectly into the scheme of RIE. As you said, Janet, “Talking to a baby about what will happen with his body, working to understand his true needs when he communicates…” — the more I read about EC, the more I understand this to be true. Infants aren’t forced or coerced into using the potty, they already have a distinct desire to keep themselves clean, and they are communicating with us as their caregivers to help them with this task. Just as we help them clothe themselves, wipe off their snot, etc, etc. Yet, RIE gets hung up on unscientific assumptions about how babies can’t hold their sphincter or how it leads to bedwetting down the road, or how we’re holding them in positions they cannot get into themselves (well, there are other ways to help them potty, not just forcing them to sit on a contraption).

        As for baby wearing — it’s funny you said babies don’t learn social interactions while ‘out to lunch with mom’ or standing in line at Starbucks because every time I wear my daughter, she’s *always* interacting with people around her, sitting next to her on the subway, etc. She can see so much from where she is, and I’m right there to explain to her what is going on whenever she looks to me with a question in her eyes. And when we’re home, she gets to roam around freely, and she expresses to me the moments she wants to be held. I don’t think it is helpful to anyone to say that any one way is absolutely the correct thing to do all the time.

        1. RIE is not rigid, Isabella. There are simply aspects of it that you don’t seem to understand or agree with… That’s okay. This isn’t the approach for everyone. It was never intended to be.

      3. So a couple things that need I feel need to be clarified first off:
        I believe Dr. Sears’ use of the word ‘humanizing’ was unfortunate due to how the public understands the word-working with psychologists they often make up word or assign new meaning to already words that already exist. So, I don’t think he was implying that babies aren’t human, but that we should treat them as the human’is they are by not leaving them alone for hours in a swing or bouncer. Meaning, human babies need to be WITH humans-not in front of a TV or staring at a mobile, etc.
        The term baby ‘wearing’ I think was coined in effort to make the act of carrying your baby a simple, natural, everyday thing. Since we wear clothes daily without thinking about it, I think his hope was that more people would ‘wear’ their babies instead of leaving them on their own.
        Part if respecting babies ‘otherness’ is understand what babies (in general) need. Babies need closeness. Human babies are born premature compared to other mammals. They need their caregivers to be in close physical contact. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense for babies to feel the most safe and secure when being held by an adult.
        I don’t think Dr. Sears ever wished or hoped that parents would wear their infants as a way to ignore them or disrespect their need for autonomy. I think the vision for many people who babywear is that is makes more opportunities for communication and an ongoining dialogue between caregiver and infant more natural. Whenever I see a mother with her baby in a carrier she is often describing things to him/her, singing, or simply going over her to do list out loud- this exposure to language is pretty valuable. And to be honest, I don’t always see it happening when a baby is in an infant seat or stroller (although I am sure it happens). There are many ways for babies to learn. Exploration, movement, joint attention, repitition, direct teaching, exposure, etc-all of these modes of leaning are necessary and actually can be accomplished both independently and while being ‘worn’.
        I agree with two points you made, time actively engaged with your baby is more important than just being in the same room (however, I still maintain that some un engaged ‘wearing’ time is valuable for infant learning). And that independent play and learning is needed for children. Babies need time in their own to learn and process, absolutely.
        Personally, when people imply that respecting babies means treating them like little adults, I think that is very unhelpful. Babies are not adults, they have vastly different needs. Babies need closeness, they need touch, when it is able to be provided constantly-even better.
        I don’t see babywearing as disrespectful, I see assuming that an infant would prefer time alone because adults like alone time as disrespectful.
        Babies are human, but they are not adult.

  10. My goodness, you really have it in for Dr. Sears, don’t you? It is quite a leap to assume that parents who carry their babies in slings or carriers are just blithely going about their yuppie lives without interacting with them. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. While carrying my babies in slings or carriers, I’ve kept up a running dialogue with them, involving them in every activity, whether mundane household chores, nature walks, errands, etc.

    I disagree with your assumption that we require distance from our children to observe and read their cues. To the contrary, parents who have their babies in arms at all times are much more likely to understand and respond to their babies as unique individuals and learn their cues more readily.

    I think you should re-read Dr. Sears again if you so distort his comment about “humanizing” babies to mean that he doesn’t promote understanding and connecting with our babies as individuals. I certainly have my disagreements with Dr. Sears (and tend not to trust any so-called “expert” who thinks she knows everything in some essentialist way about how babies are or about what parents should do). But to take poor one word choice so completely out of context to ascribe to him beliefs that are simply not present in his work (and by extension to criticize parents who carry their babies frequently)….it’s simply a straw man argument.

    1. I’m sorry if you thought I was criticizing parents for carrying babies, because I honestly am not. I adamantly disagree with Dr. Sears that the more a baby is carried in a sling, the more securely attached, or human he is. I believe slings are a fine way to carry an infant, but not the ideal way to show love for an infant. Word choices, especially when they describe a central tenet to one’s philosophy, do matter. Dr. Sears’ choices are indicative of his beliefs about infants, and I find his words quite offensive.

      1. The BEST way to show an infant love is through TOUCH. You have ZERO science behind you accusations. He had…oh…I don’t know…a lot more, I don’t have the book in front of me. Or any of the other research out there on the positive benefits of babyWEARING.

        If its not for you thats cool. But don’t make asinine statements with no factual proof other than its how you feeeellll.

        Humans have 5 senses. Babies can’t detect the difference between bad and good smells in the first year though they do learn to identify their mothers smell.

        Babies taste buds are still forming and developing.

        Their sense of hearing is still adjusting and learning to sort the variety of sounds that are in the world. Which is why a huge cacophony of sounds can put a newborn to sleep, they can’t handle the sensory overload.

        And their sense of sight also needs development.

        Their sense of TOUCH is the most developed of their senses and the one that works the best. The warmth of another body, the closeness mimicking the womb where they felt safe, and the constant touch of an arm caressing their back, head, arms, hands, etc (one reason the bag slings aren’t used by babyWEARERS you can’t touch baby) is not on a good way to show you love baby but an amazingly effective stimulant to baby brains.

        You don’t have to do so if you don’t want too. There are OTHER ways of showing you love baby, but babyWEARING is a fantastic way of doing so and pretending its not because its not what you do is all kinds of ridiculous.

        1. Interesting presentation of the science you believe supports babywearing.

          Yes, of course physical contact is a must for infants for a number of reasons and a wonderful way to show love, when it is emotionally intimate, conscious and mindful. Emotionally empty, unconscious, physical contact, has not been proven to stimulate brains in any way — it is convenience, not love. There is nothing ‘loving’ about being next to someone while she busies herself with various activities that have nothing to do with you. I am not saying it is a wrong choice for mothers, but a demonstration of love and care? Not in my opinion.

    2. avatar willameena says:

      I agree with you, I have read Dr.Sears and found his advice reassuring when i preferred to co-sleep with my first born and was met with much disapproval from almost everyone. Same goes for my decision to breastfeed beyond the first year.
      Mostly his philosophy supports my belief in the importance of closeness and security for babies. Never did it occur to me that my baby was an accessory!!!!
      I also used a baby carrier, which is a lifesaver if you have a very large dog to walk or if you often use public transportation! ( I do not own a car ). Unfortunately my sons are both very heavy for their age so I couldn’t “carry” as long as I would have liked but it certainly came in handy again when my second son was born and my first was still having trouble walking far distances….I also agree wholeheartedly that during the first six months of my babies lives they PREFERRED being carried to being in a stroller or swing and agree that babies learn and absorb more information when they are content and not flailing about seeking the comfort of their mother’s embrace.

      1. Thank you, but just wondering if you understood what this post was about.

  11. I’m not a super fan of Dr. Sear’s (I agree with him in some areas, not so much in others.)
    Yeah the “humanizing” phrasing is kind of odd, but I think you’re blowing this way out of proportion.
    Babies are not tormented by slings/carriers. Most enjoy their time in them.
    And yes, you need to interact with your baby, even if they are in a sling. But I don’t think that the sling is the problem. If the mother would neglect her child while in the sling, I would think she’d be just as likely to do so, were baby in a stroller.

    1. I don’t believe babies are tormented by slings and carriers! And I am certain that when babies are carried they are not being ‘neglected’ either.

      My wish is that we could rethink this word we are using. We are blindly accepting a term that blatantly objectifies infants. It sends an unhealthy message, and it is wrong. There are many who love babies, but view them as “cute little things, ” and the word ‘babywearing’ perpetuates that perception. I am not accusing ‘babywearers’ of treating babies as less than human. I know you adore your babies and are taking great care to be wonderful parents. But I do believe that, without meaning to, you have adopted a word that is demeaning to those you love.

  12. You must thrive on attention. Picking apart the term “babywearing” like this and interpreting it in a way that 99% of the population doesn’t is just silly. People who truly do see their babies as an “accessory” would be far more inclined to push them in $1000 strollers with $800 diaper bags attached to the back than crunchy moms in Birkenstocks wearing Ergos with a baby inside who they are talking quietly to as they shop/work/fold laundry/whatever.

    1. Please spare us your judgmental stereotypes. The meaning of the words ‘babywearing’ and ‘humanizing’ are clear, whether or not they connote the user’s true intention. They do not have to be “picked apart.” If it is true that I am the 1% that takes offense and believes we need a new word to describe baby carrying, so be it. For me, respect for infants is something worth calling to our attention.

    2. avatar kalamitykristen says:

      Uh, Janet? How is Sally stereotyping you?

      The term “babywearing” means to keep your baby close by “wearing” them, as women have done for hundreds of thousands of years, in some sort of sling or carrier. Nothing more.

      The term “humanizing” means “to make more humane.” Dr. Sears clearly uses this term in juxtaposition to the dehumanizing act of sticking a child in a stroller or carseat, where they are not engaged & can only stare at kneecaps instead of faces. To humanize a baby by keeping them at eye level is a positive thing.

      @Sally- AMEN!

      1. I don’t fit either of those stereotypes, so I can only guess how I would be stereotyped: strident believer in respect for babies?

        Do you think it is possible to wear another person?

        Check out the dictionary definition for “humanizing”. I’m sure Dr. Sears appreciates you sticking up for him, but maybe you should read his site to see his wording and “juxtaposition”. And I don’t believe in “sticking” a child anywhere, or having him stuck in a sling or a stroller all day.

        Maybe you could consider taking the time to bend down to your child’s level sometimes. Infants can be fascinating when you allow them to move and initiate activities.

        1. Why would I need to bend down and see my baby when he can be worn, and we can be face to face the entire time I am getting stuff done, chatting with him, smiling with him etc…. If baby is in a stroller/car seat you can’t just lean in and have a moment when you are grocery shopping.

          1. This isn’t about slings vs. strollers or car seats. It’s about the realization that babies are whole and capable people with ideas of their own…

  13. I wonder if Dr. Sears could’ve meant not that the baby was becoming “more human” (as if that was even possible-you are or you aren’t!) but rather that the baby was being perceived more as a human and not an object. In my experience, Baby seems like he is much more part of the group when he is in a carrier, and it seems like other people perceive him that way too. He can’t just be stuck out of the way somewhere like he could in a car seat ( I think the “isolation pod” reference an earlier commenter made was very apt). He’s front and center for whatever is going on.

  14. Wow guys that was some mental battle! My mind is in a twirl.
    I highly respect Janet for sticking with her views.. I actually laughed out loud at some comments.
    I try to look at this as the baby. I would rather be free… and at the same time picked up and held for the security part. So I think what I’m saying is “balance”.. The American Indian used the papoose. But most of the time it was used mainly for transporting.
    I saw the word babywearing and it threw me – wearing a baby? like a purse? At least the word “papoose” sounds “romantic”! Plus I also agree that the word “Humanizing” is ill used. Gee wizz a baby is only a little adult – not some creature from another planet(that happens when they are teens … ha ha)..
    It’s wonderful that you all care so much about how to raise a child… but always, the main thing is love.

    I have a cartoon on my refige which has a woman sitting in a chair petting a happy dog. Her balloon caption says: “Why are dogs always so loving and content and well-adjusted”. And the dogs balloon caption says:”Because we are taken away from our parents at such an early age”.

    Whoops, nuff said.

  15. avatar kalamitykristen says:

    This is absurd.

    The term “babywearing” is an outrage? Hardly. There are many atrocities in the world; violence, pain, suffering, death.

    The term “babywearing,” a way to carry a child that has been proven to be beneficial, is NOT an outrage.

    What Dr. Sears meant when he said that babywearing humanizes an infant is that infants are too often left in carseats or strollers while their parent converses, sight-sees, & delights in taking part in the world. The child is stuck at knee-level, nowhere near the smell of his or her parent which has become so comforting. So while one child is stuck in a plastic stroller staring at kneecaps, one child is conversing as infants do, at the “human” eye level. This has been proven to be better for an infant.

    There is NO need to fabricate controversial notions to attribute to a doctor & author who has been NOTHING but GOOD for babies.

    When I strap a belt on, I am wearing it.
    When I strap our sling on & put my son it & he snuggles up, content to be so near, I am essentially “wearing” him. Does that mean I equate my son to a belt? Uh, no.

    Some people need to find bigger things to worry about.

  16. You have something to think about when it comes to the term. I hope people actually don’t think of baby carriers first as a fashion accessory then a way to hold your baby so that you have free hands.

    Personally (just a story), I ‘babywear’ but I came into it. I did not see a girl have one then thought it was the new fad and put money into it. Our daughter screamed, I have carpel tunnel, and holding her… Well, there was twice I almost dropped her on the floor, if I did not get to the bed in time…

    I used the Moby Wrap as a parenting tool, to keep my sanity while holding our daughter. When she grew up, she actually started bringing me the wrap to put her in. Then when she grew more she had the choice of which she wanted ‘stroller walk’ or ‘wrap’. She would always pick the wrap.

    Yes I would have loved to have more colours, and styles, I even window shopped for more. Yes it was about fashion in the sense I wanted to look half way decent while wearing a child carrier, since I don’t have time for me anymore.

    To me, ask yourself how do you describe ‘babywearing’ to another. If you believe it’s a way to be with your child, having your child next to you and knowing how good human connect is. Of do you say it’s a great way to breastfeed in public then I do not see the term babywearing as an issue. It was a name that was given. However, if one uses the term mainly for fashion accessory, then I think one has issues.

  17. I’m going to go out on a limb and defend the term “humanizing” as Sears uses it. Babies are absolutely HUMAN infants, and do not need to taught to be human. But when I look at newborns specifically, I see strangers in a strange land who were so used to the comfort, noise, cuddles, and motion of mommy’s belly and do not understand this world outside where there is gravity, stillness, wet diapers, and loneliness. I found the sling to be immensely helpful at holding my son at adult level where he could observe life, I could see where he was gazing, and I could offer him explanations. In the sling or wrap (which was the accessory, he was certainly not) he made more eye contact and had more “conversations” than he ever could have in a stroller or infant seat carted on my arm.
    Now, at almost two, pregnancy back pain is preventing me from wearing him, but I know the fact that is is such a social and friendly boy is from being worn. I think it has helped him understand what it means to be human and part of human society. So it has not made him human, but it has helped him to get it. Maybe socializing is a better term, but let’s not get so outraged over something so little.

    I also don’t think it’s offensive to say I wear him in the sling–it’s a fact! “I wear him on my back in the Ergo” is not the same as saying “I’m wearing a fabulous shirt I got at Nordies.”

    Let’s all stop getting so outraged at people not making the same choices we are. Mommies are individuals, so are babies. If you disagree, just shrug and go about your day. Give your blood pressure a rest.

    1. I am in no way outraged at people not making the same choices I make. I believe in supporting parents to make their own choices, period. The job of parenting is hard enough as it is! But I do find it unbelievable and outrageous that a term that diserespects babies is widely acceptable, and never questioned. I don’t think the words we choose to represent our beliefs are “something so little”. And I don’t believe ‘babywearing’ represents the parents who use the term they way they would like to be represented — as people who sincerely value and respect babies. In fact, as someone who had not heard the word until I started my website, I think it does Attachment Parents a huge disservice.

  18. avatar kalamitykristen says:

    I am deeply offended by the term “baby.” My child is so much more than just a baby. Please refrain from using the outrageous term “baby” & in the future call him a “bright, rambunctious, loving, playful, exhilerating, smaller person.”

    I’m also deeply offended by the term “stroller.” It’s not like we just stroll around in it all day. It should more appropriatly be called a “large, plastic, small-person independent carrier on wheels used primarily for walks outdoors & trips to the grocery store on foot.” Please stop using the term; it is an insult & degrading.

    Or, maybe some people just have way too much time on their hands. That is what is truly offensive. Children are mentally, physically, & sexually abused every minute of every day & you find the term “babywearing” to be offensive?? Unbelievable.

    Babywearing is most often employed by people choosing to practice attachment or natural parenting. This parenting choice is made by people who research parenting, refusing to take the arbitrary route. Parents who choose to use slings or carriers are often knowledgable about the benefits & it has nothing to do with trendiness.

    The term “humanizing” is used as the antithesis of the dehumanizing act of storing a child in a stroller at knee-level as though they don’t matter. This is what Dr. Sears meant & you are purely contriving reasons to be offended.

    Your assertion that my son is “ostensibly ignored” while being worn in his sling is absurd & insulting. Would you prefer he be stuck in a stroller or carseat?

    You are fabricating the idea that babywearing is used as a substitute for real intimate bonding. Ridiculous. For your information, as a single mother, the only way I could get housework done was to wear my son in his sling. He also preferred the sling to being stuck in a carseat at the grocery store & most certainly preferred it while out to lunch with friends. I talked to him, pointed out our surroundings, he was engaged in everything, & could sleep when he needed.

    Your generalizations & need to nitpick such a simple, loving term is what is truly outrageous. Perhaps you could have spent the time you took writing this lame article on something that actually benefitted children & their parents?

    1. Definitions: “baby” – An infant or young child. “wear” – to carry or have on the body or about the person as a covering, equipment, ornament, or the like: to wear a coat; to wear a saber; to wear a disguise.

      I do not have nearly enough time on my hands.

      Yes, of course, there are far, far worse levels of outrage. But, it is still outrageous to me that a term that clearly objectifies babies is so widely and thoughtlessly accepted. And it represents such a central tenet to the Attachment Parenting philosophy. Why wouldn’t Dr. Sears think this one through a bit better? Why doesn’t anyone question it? I don’t believe you mean it the way it sounds, or that it reflects your geniune intention towards your children, at all. But it is certainly the wrong banner to fly in early childhood education communities, or in the world, if you want to be known as parents who respect their infants.

      1. avatar kalamitykristen says:


        Your logic is flawed in the statement that the term “babywearing” objectifies babies.

        If a man objectifies a woman, there are a variety of ways others could witness this, testify to this, the woman could feel objectified & the man could admit to objectification.

        If I use the term “babywearing”. . . crickets. There is no association with objectification, I guarentee you my son does not feel objectified when I use this term & no one around me would tell you that I objectify my son.

        Anyone who understands the term knows that it means to carry a baby in a sling or carrier. Anyone who doesn’t know the term is most likely not going to shout “how objectifying!” but rather ask what it means, at which point they will be told & given statistics.

        Why didn’t Dr. Sears think it through? Because he didn’t have to, because there is no issue except the one you’ve insisted on creating. Your pettiness has lost you a number of potential fans.

  19. I’m so blown away by the outrage expressed by so many commenters.

    While I don’t necessarily have a problem with the term “babywearing”, I am offended by the idea that the only way to interact with a child is by carrying them in a sling.

    I really didn’t think that Janet was saying using baby carriers was wrong or even that every parent who uses one is doing so mindlessly. If I thought she was saying that, I’d be offended, too.

    I won’t try to put words in Janet’s mouth, so I will say what I think about babywearing. It can be a great, convenient way to carry your child and certainly a bonding experience. I did it a little bit with my daughter, and I plan on doing more of it with my next child.

    But, I’m offended by this picture some of you are painting of the loving, mindful parents whispering sweet nothings into their child’s ear while they snuggle up to them in a sling vs. the neglectful parents whose kids are “stuck” in strollers.

    My daughter loves to be carried, but she also likes to sit in her stroller and take in her surroundings on her own. I make sure to talk to her while we go and stop to point out things she’s expressed interest in, like dogs and other babies. Charlotte sits in her stroller, she sits in the shopping carts, and she walks. And if she wants to be held, I hold her. So, please don’t pity my child because she doesn’t live in an Ergo. I think she’s pretty happy and secure.

    I whole-heartedly agree that being in a baby carrier has benefits, but I also feel that it does not automatically equal engaging with your children, and that it can be overdone, leaving babies no time to explore on their own terms.

    Sorry for the epic rant.:)

    1. Megan,

      I completely agree with you! Thanks for clarifying what I was saying and “ranting”:) your sensible, balanced views about slings and strollers.

    2. I agree with you… I don’t take issue with the term babywearing, but my daughter loved to be carried in a sling and was only happy in my arms until she was about 6 months old, no matter what I tried. Now, at almost 2 years old, she likes the Ergo, sling, and wrap, as well as the trusty umbrella stroller. Once she gained some sense of herself separate from me, she really enjoyed the stroller. My son is almost 5 months now and he’s liked both the stroller and the babywearing items I’ve collected. He’s very different in personality and enjoys being on the floor to roll around and play with his sister, as well as being snuggled to me while I get things done and tell him all about what I’m doing. Last night I walked around Target with him wailing out of exhaustion and narrated everything to both kids while he was in the carrier and my daughter was in the cart. Some nights that’s all that calms him down, walking and holding him like that.
      On babywearing as a fashion trend, I do like to accessorize with my carrier. Not the baby though. Baby goes in the carrier, but I have to wear the carrier, so it’s nice if it’s something that looks presentable.

  20. One of my favorite posts on this site is “Infant Play – Great Minds at Work” (http://bit.ly/cRLW0J). It shows a 4-month old playing in his own space (un-attached), learning about the world in his own time, making his own choices about what to do and see. Mom is totally present, undistracted by shopping, talking on the phone, typing. The video then cuts to the same child at 2-years old doing a 30-piece puzzle. Again, mom is totally present, and to me the two seem absolutely ‘attached’. It’s not science, but it’s pretty convincing. And very cool to watch.

  21. avatar Alexandra says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful discussion; as an early-childhood educator and parent it is one that I have been working on with like-minded friends and colleagues.
    My thoughts thus far: It is so clear to me that there are many places where the RIE and Attachment Parenting philosophies correspond: absolute respect for the individuality of each young child; consistency; a peaceful, loving connection between caregiver and child, just for starters.
    I also see some places of disconnect. I don’t understand how Dr. Gerber could call Dr. Sears an “expert” as if he lacks expertise. I also don’t understand how she can say that co-sleeping or baby-carrying are fads – as if either idea are new or lack scientific, concrete, measurable evidence showing lots of positive outcomes. On the flip side, I don’t understand why Dr. Sears suggests that infants should be propped in a seated position or in a high-chair. In addition, I agree that Dr. Sears’ sales-y quality is off-putting. Also I think that Janet’s suggestion that we consider carefully our language is an interesting idea, and need not be taken as an attack, merely an interesting conversation to consider.
    My personal approach is to offer my daughter opportunities to have time and space independently to explore, move and contemplate during the day, and then at night she sleeps next to me. I talk to her often, let her know what is happening and talk to her with respect, and use sign language to help facilitate communication. Also, when we are out and about, as much as possible I carry her in her carrier. I do find that when I “wear” her, I talk to her much more, even when cooking or doing errands. I enjoy this balanced approach – I feel that she has opportunities for physical and motor exploration, lots of stimulation, as well as lots of touch and connection.
    One final piece: I feel that because Dr. Gerber’s work was originally connected to children living in a group-home environment, there is less value placed on social and community interactions. I feel that my daughter benefits from such experiences – being with friends and at social events and gatherings. It seems that not bringing infants into these kinds of experiences is defended because the source of the philosophy is an orphanage, where lots of baby-carrying would be impractical and inappropriate. So – my bottom line is that the philosophies come together nicely, both are beautiful, and neither is perfect.

    1. Hi Alexandra,

      Thanks for weighing in here and sharing your thoughts!

      Just for the record, I want to add that I never heard Magda Gerber mention Dr. Sears in the several years I studied with her. I am not sure what you might be quoting from…

      You seem to have found what most moms seek…confidence in your choices and balance! Sounds good!

  22. I would like to see a link to those studies proving higher IQs for babies who are “worn”. I agree that the term “babywearing” is, at best, an unfortunate choice on the part of Dr. Sears.

    My son absolutely hated to be carried in an Ergo, Moby, or pouch. My normally mellow guy would scream bloody murder almost every time I tried to ease him into any of those. I did get him to nap in the Moby about three times, in a position that seemed safe enough not to risk his suffocation, but he emerged every time unhappy, bright pink and sweaty. And I wasn’t wearing anything else under it.

    My Ergo-loving sister in law could not even get my son to ride in her Ergo for more than 8 minutes before melting down. So I know it wasn’t just improper use on my part.

    I had read that babywearing was a good way for us to bond, and my perfectionistic mind read that as “my son won’t bond with me if I don’t wear him”. So I tried, but he protested, and ultimately I decided to respect his preference by not forcing him.

    Also, both the Moby and the pouch came with warnings that baby could die if placed improperly in the device. That was all I needed as a sleep-deprived and freaked out new mommy.

    I even had a babywearing expert come to my house to try to teach me how to wrap my baby into a long, stiff piece of fabric from Germany– apparently one of the wraps of choice for babywearers. I could do it with the baby doll she brought, but not with my newborn. After a week of trying and tears (both his and mine) I gave up for good.

    Once he had good head control, he liked the Bjorn for about an hour, and only if he could face outward, and we were on the move, e.g. grocery shopping or walking.

    He was a big baby. I am a small person with fairly poor upper body strength. I had to stop wearing him in the Bjorn at around six months because he was too big, and my back was hurting in ways it has never hurt before. I am still recovering, thanks to a good chiropractor. I see moms carrying toddlers all over the mall in their Ergos and I just marvel at the strength of their spines. I could not do that to myself out of any healthy motivation.

    I wholeheartedly reject babywearing as a new parent “must”. Ultimately I chose to respect my son’s preference *not* to be worn, and give myself permission to use the stroller. I sold my Ergo on Craigslist, and my son rides happily in his stroller now on walks– my 25lb 9 month old. I do not believe for a minute that his IQ has in any way been harmed.

    Carriers may have their benefits for babies who love to be in them. What makes me sad is that some people for whom “babywearing” comes easily and feels right– as with natural birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc.– feel the need to insist that their way of doing things is superior, while the other ways are harmful to babies.

    Sorry this is so long!

  23. The action of caregiver walking that “babywearing” furnishes stimulates brain cell growth due to increased touch and stimulation. When carrying (wearing if you will) a baby, s/he is in tune with the rhythm of mother breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes—walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses More info including studies at http://www.thebabywearer.com/lists/BWInfo.htm Also, at mother’s level, baby watches mom go about her day and is a passive LEARNER. That is a good thing – baby does not want to be center of attention all day, s/he want to learn how to be a part of his/her community. I wore my daughter a LOT in the first months, and I sensed when she needed to be down on the floor exploring. She was very independent when I put her down and didn’t need my constant attention. She was an early crawler, in fact and head control came quite early (by early I mean compared to the average American baby). All those hours of baby wearing did not impede her physical ability and I believe it helps cognitive and physical ability. She is relaxed when carried, not frustrated or feeling confined. Check out this book: http://www.continuum-concept.org/home.html
    I like this link for the references http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/laura_simeon.html

  24. avatar Leigh-Anne says:

    I believe this entire argument is completely unnecessary. The term ‘babywearing’ may be offensive to some but the act of doing so is far from offensive. Most parents who practice babywearing or attachment parenting are very in tune to their little ones needs. All it takes is to try this yourself and you will discover the bonding that is promoted in doing so. These babies are not left to cry it out, they are more often than not breastfed, and they are not placed in a stroller to face away from Mom. This act of ‘babywearing’ trend or not is helping to bring parents back to the natural care of little ones and away from the use of unnecessary tools such as bouncy seats and play pens. There is no question that being near Moms chest listening to her heart beat and directly next to their natural food source is where baby should be. Those who like to mention the death of little ones in slings are simply uninformed of the true cause and the particular carrier in question.
    I personally have a bad back and carrying my little one in a carrier relieves the pressure and enables me to hold my little one for longer periods than I would have been able to had I been simply using my hands to hold him on my hip.
    If it is the term ‘babywearing’ that you dislike that is fine but the act of doing so is wonderful.

    1. Yes, this post is about my strong objection to the term “babywearing”.

  25. In spanish is easier lol..
    Is called ”crianza en brazos”
    (parenting in the arms)

  26. All right people. Let’s all take a deep, deep breath here. One. Two. Three. Good. Now let’s discuss. As a new parent I’m wary of what I’ll call the judgemental soliloqy. In the end, it’s not going to attract anyone to your thesis. There is a whole grey area out there, and it’s important to keep in mind that what works for you might not work for the mom down the street. I’m learning to strike that balance as a new mom (I ff, dd but I also co-sleep and love my sling).

    Granted, some of the things that have been in vogue over the years (footbinding anyone?) have had horribly deleterious effects. That said, having traveled quite a bit myself and having a wide-reaching network of moms I’m finding that those who (I’m going to use the term and sidestep any semantic discussion here) “babywear” tend to be educated, financially comfortable and involved parents. For the most part they are informed about the proper ways to use a carrier (the Costco sling tradgedy is the exception, not the rule–it sounds like a woefully uninformed mother who took her infant out way too early and did not know that she should have made sure she could see his face at all times).

    In the end, the most important thing is conscious, attentive, mindful parenting. Personally, I find that “wearing” my baby allows me to do that. I interact with my baby while she’s in her sling. I can do a lot of things and talk to her while I’m doing them. I arrived at my decision to baby-wear through active research and discussion with many healthcare pros and other moms. I am happy with my decision, and though I check the leading reasearch and parenting blogs from time to time, I refuse to be neurotic about my parenting. There is way too much to do, and as soon as you get the hang of one thing a new challenge pops up. Call it what you want, carry your baby however you want–just make your decision and go with it. Pointing fingers takes way too much energy–and hey, that’s time that you could be spending with your baby.

  27. I realize I’m coming to this post quite belated, but I had to put in my 2 cents. I think many people (even APers) do not realize that babywearing is a TOOL, it’s not a method. Carrying your child in a sling is, for some parents, the only way they can get anything done. I know some would say they’re creating a carrying habit, but in parenting (and life in general) things are often a lot easier said than done.

    I’m a pretty hardcore APer sometimes, and do “wear” my baby a lot in various types of carriers, but believe me, when she wants to be on the floor she is on the floor, engaging in wonderful, independent play! “Babywearing” has been reduced greatly, from an almost continuous thing as a newborn to just something we do for a few hours every day. Mostly I find that using a sling helps support my daughter’s weight and spare my poor back and arms for times that I would be otherwise just holding her in arms. I also find it a lot easier to nurse my extremely distractable infant. Sometimes every noise throws us off, but if I put her in my Tula I can nurse her and look at her and be completely in the moment with her, without having her jerking her head left and right at each noise and my milk spraying all over. And of course there is our daily walk in the sunshine!

    I would also like to point out that the “dangers of babywearing” are quite overblown and are based off of ONE sling style that was actually recalled. As anyone who uses carriers can tell you, there are good carriers and bad carriers, there is a right way and wrong way to put the baby in them. Carriers were never intended by Sears as a means of passively entertaining babies while we continue with our lives, but rather a way of calming them when they need it, nursing easily, and being able to cope with some of the stressors of parenting. I recommend them often to women in my breastfeeding group as a means of coping with the chaotic first months of parenthood, and find that where women would otherwise have given up breastfeeding in favor of plastic babysitters and bottles, they continue. And compared to those women who put their infants in carseats, walkers/jumpers, bouncers, swings, etc all day I think babywearing is much better. All of Sears’ arguments and evidence about the benefits of babywearing are meant to be taken in the context of “baby gadgets” being the alternative.

    And I have to defend the guy for a minute, since he IS my daughter’s pediatrician after all. I think a lot of this post flies in the face of what he actually recommends and says and means. The term “babywearing” is in no way meant to refer to women using their babies as accessories, but rather is just a toungue-in-cheek way of describing the practice of using a sling. It does become part of your wardrobe almost, for the first few months.

    And as far as him saying it humanizes infants, I also feel that is a misrepresentation. I do not believe he means humanizes as in infants are not already human, but rather that it allows the infant to be close to mom and with her, absorbing her surroundings and her warmth and her love. And when you think about that in comparison to the babies that spend all day laying in a carseat being carried around and around all day and pushed in a stroller with a blanket over their face all day, babywearing really does “humanize” infants. It allows them to be treated as actual humans and not props.

    So overall I feel this blog post is off the mark. I do believe that RIE is very compatible with AP, and even “babywearing/babycarrying/sling using/whatever”, and I personally think I strike a nice balance between the 2. Sometimes my daughter wants to be carried, sometimes she absolutely does not. It’s her choice!

  28. WOW, after reading this and making sure to read each and every comment (because I know how passionate people are about that stuff and I just get a kick out of a good discussion), I learned that some people apparently can’t read.

    This post, to me, is not attacking AP people or the wearing of a sling, carrier, wrap, or whatever. It’s questioning the use of the term ‘babywearing’ and the idea that all babies should be carried all the time regardless of what the baby wants or needs (although I do have a feeling that’s not what AP preaches, but I might be wrong).

    I found this article because every time I heard or read the term babywearing I cringed and I wanted to see if I was the only one that found this term (and THE TERM only not the practice) outrageous. It sounded appalling to me that people would say that. And that was way before I learned about AP or the RIE method. The first thing that comes to mind when I hear it is that you are putting a baby on like a thing (even if you are not, I’m sorry that is what it sounds like. I know, parents, your intentions are good, but that is what it sounds like).

    The main thing I think people should try and take away from this post is the objectification of the infant. I know, I know, when you ‘wear’ your baby you are not putting on an accessory or completely ignoring him/her. I, for one, do like carrying my baby in a sling and wrap. It’s convenient, it’s soothing to her and it’s easy on my back and arms. But I only do it when she needs to be held, not the whole time because somebody tells me I should. She tells me when she wants to be held and I hold her, sometimes with the help of a sling because like someone said it’s a tool that helps me hold her.

    And for those of you who think that we are being oversensitive about the term, stop for a second and think. You see your baby as a human being with needs, rights and most of all feelings, right? You see your baby as an individual separated from you, right? An individual much like you, your husband/wife, you mother, you neighbor, right? S/He might not express her/himself like an adult because their communication abilities are limited but s/he is still an individual, right? Now you, as an individual, want to be respected, right? Now, how would you feel if somebody said they ‘wear’ you? Really ask yourself that. And no, don’t come to me with the BS that ‘oh s/he is just a baby s/he doesn’t know’. I don’t know how you would feel, but I would feel offended, objectified among other things.

    Like Janet said, just because our babies can’t say anything about it still it doesn’t mean it’s ok to talk about them like that. You wear THE GODDAMN SLING not the baby for Christ’s sake. You carry the baby, you hold the baby. You guys have to come up with a new term because the ‘babywearing’ sounds bad for the AP community. I particularly love Janet’s terms, “babysnuggling” is my favorite.

    Now onto another and more controversial tangent. It’s sad to hear some people go on and on about doing attachment parenting or any other parenting philosophy and that experts says this and studies say that and I’m sitting here wondering what does YOUR BABY tell you? ‘Cause, people, it’s amazing how much babies can communicate to us. If only we’re present and take the time to learn from them and with them how to take care of them instead of listening to said experts who really only study children instead of really taking care of them and don’t really know YOUR particular child (’cause yeah we are all different). I really hope those parents are paying attention to the little individuals they put in the world and learning from them what they like and need instead of worrying so much about following a philosophy or even worse what other parents are doing or studies are saying.

  29. I have to address the fact that several times it’s stated that babies do not need to learn to be human…yet in fact, they do. If babies were raised by animals instead of humans, they would take on animal traits and would not “ACT” like humans.

  30. I understand what ur saying, but I think you are ” reading into what dr sears says way to much, he may have worded his answer in correctly but I think by wearing our babies we are teaching them how to be “humans” in action not physical form! There is more to being a “human being” than being a singular blood bone skin body! If u prefer! ” carry them” however you choose! If usin a sling or wrap makes it easier than I’d use it no matter the term used! I think this ^ post is really just to argue for the sake of arguing!

  31. I agree that the term doesn’t accurately convey what Babywearing really is. But, I think (from being very involved with many, many babywearers), that most of us come to Babywearing from a place of respecting and cherishing our babies/children. I will also agree that term “humanizing” is perhaps not the best word, but I totally agree with the premise of what Dr. Sears is saying.

    By carrying my children in carriers, I have been able to share more of the world with them, respond to their needs, wants, and interests more easily, and increase our healthy attachment to each other.

    So, when I hear, read, say, or write “Babywearing”, for me, there is no objectification at all. For me, it’s a word that means loving closeness and attentiveness.

  32. this is DUMB!!! the world and their ridiculous PC nonsense!!! GET OEVR YOURSELF! ITS CALLED BABYWEARING!!!!

  33. Another thing, I don’t tell my kids that I’m “wearing” them. I actually don’t think I use the term verbally except when telling someone the name of my group. I ask my 3-year-old if he wants to “go up” or “go on my back” or “go in a carrier”. Although most times, he’s the one who asks! I will ask my 7-year-old when he gets home what he thinks of the word. I’m sure he has fond memories of being in carriers up to the age of 3.

  34. I Babywear and we love it 🙂 kid is happy and content and we talk because he’s close to me. I don’t wear him for hours in the day. That’s not ideal. He loves running around but smiles and gets excited when mommy puts him in his wrap. His legs don’t bounce all around because I’m not jogging. He’s not an accessory but if he was, he’s a damn cute one!

  35. I had to stop wearing my toddler when his eyes changed from blue to brown. I couldn’t handle the fact that we didn’t match anymore and it totally threw my babywearing wardrobe planning into disarray.

    My baby still had blue eyes but his hair looks like it may end up curly. I’m not sure if I can continue wearing a baby that has better hair than I do.

    I might need to get one of those realistic looking newborn dolls & specify straight brown hair & blue eyes so it doesn’t clash or upstage with me.

    So far, neither of my sons have expressed outrage at my use of the term “babywearing,” but I’ll be sure to save this article for their future therapy sessions just in case.

  36. Wow, reading the comments I can’t help but be amazed at the cattiness that is sugar coated with proper spelling and grammar.

    Dana K you hit the nail on the head!!

  37. It´s indeed interesting to reconsider the term. Thank you for sharing this post. I wasn´t so aware. I carry and me and other moms use the word carry as well as babywearing. In our own language there´s only one word for wearing and carrying.

    QUOTE JANET: ¨Carrying a baby as a passenger while we go about our day is not “intimately involving” the baby, in my opinion. To intimately involve a baby is to give her our full attention. It is to hold her, not only with our bodies, but with our minds and our hearts. It is to hold her close often, but to also give her freedom to move, and respect her individuality, her “otherness.” It is to create a peaceful life geared towards a baby, and to then be responsive to her communication. Not the other way around.¨ END QUOTE.

    The thing with carrying your baby in a sling is, that there are mothers who do it as un-attentively as anything else. It has nothing to do with carrying baby in a sling, but with the person. Actually, the carrying is meant to strengthen the unspoken bond between mother and child. Not to just carry, but carry with contact. Experienced mothers can feel through the slightest movement on their back what the baby is telling them. Though I´ve seen also lots of carrying without contact and the baby is just dangling, especially in bad carriers like baby bjorn, but also in more ergonomic carriers like ergo baby or manduca or a wrap.

    QUOTE JANET: ¨Sears: “Proximity increases interaction, and baby can constantly be learning how to be human.”¨END QUOTE.

    But the thing with the quotes of Sears, above, is that they´re also taken out of context. I looked it up. He puts humanized between ¨ ¨.

    QUOTE SEARS: ¨4. Sling babies get “humanized” earlier. Another reason that babywearing enhances learning is that baby is intimately involved in the caregiver’s world. Baby sees what mother or father sees, hears what they hear, and in some ways feels what they feel. Carried babies become more aware of their parents’ faces, walking rhythms, and scents. Baby becomes aware of, and learns from, all the subtle facial expressions, body language, voice inflections and tones, breathing patterns, and emotions of the caregiver. A parent will relate to the baby a lot more often, because baby is sitting right under her nose. Proximity increases interaction, and baby can constantly be learning how to be human. Carried babies are intimately involved in their parents’ world because they participate in what mother and father are doing. A baby worn while a parent washes dishes, for example, hears, smells, sees, and experiences in depth the adult world. He is more exposed to and involved in what is going on around him. Baby learns much in the arms of a busy person.¨ END QUOTE.


    So in my opinion Dr. Sears means by ¨how to be human¨ more something like ¨how to live a human life here on earth¨, that we do dishes and how to do it. That we greet before we talk. Modeling behavior that is. The baby can observe it. And what I understand, RIE is also not only about self-discovery but also about learning through modeling: saying thank you as a parent, models gratitude for example, instead of forcing a kid to say ¨thank you¨. Speaking gentle, models calmth, instead of yelling.

    So what Sears means by his writing is the inclusion of baby in life, instead of excluding. Including, so babies have access to what´s going on. Putting baby somewhere seperately, always watching from behind bars (being entertained) or from below in a pram, what is going on out there, makes them not able to see things well, to be lower, not on equal height. Which is as in RIE also an important thing: the equality between parent and child.

    But I do love your words and wholeheartedly agree that his word choice is a bit unlucky and I agree fully with what you write: ¨Dr Sears, for the last time, we do not “teach” infants to be human. Please, take a moment to truly behold an infant — to really look, listen, and be totally present. You will realize that an infant teaches you how to be human.¨

    I also think the emphasis of AP, by Dr. Sears is more on the practical side and for me too little on the more aware aspect of AP.

    Scott Noelle writes lovely about this same topic in the following article:

    ¨What our children most need — after the basics of food, air, water, shelter and such — is parents who are present, centered, and attuned. Unfortunately, our culture teaches us to believe that such inner peace is dependent on outer conditions. But every day, more and more people are learning that they can choose peace even when it is not “justified” by circumstances.¨


    Kind regards

  38. avatar Sydney D. says:

    I thought this was a satirical piece and I was about to applaud you for your clever and compelling writing. As soon as I read your comments, I realized you are being serious! To each his own, I guess.

  39. The term “humanizing” is exactly what the author of this blog describes. There are people, researchers, who believe that infants and babies are not humanized until after age 2. There are conventions world wide that discuss this, most recently in Europe. Instead of presuming that Dr Sears words were not what he meant why not ask him? When you “wear” your baby for long amounts of time you are depriving your baby of their full physical development. Crying is not a bad thing it is a way for your child to communicate with you. I never wore my twins I held them and I spent a lot of time playing and cuddling them. I sacrificed not leaving our house much because I didn’t want them in carriers or strollers. I took care of chores or other tasks when they slept. My babies slept through the night early on and napped without any artificial sleep aids. I believe the research is that neurological development occurs through the skin to skin bonding not layers of clothes and slings.

  40. Why are people wearing their children that can walk and run?
    If this was so great and improved neurological development why are these places in Africa so underdeveloped, war torn, and basically in the same place they were hundreds of years ago. If that’s the end game I want nothing to do with it.

  41. So what’s the point of this article? Is it an objection to Dr Sears’ term ” humanising”? Or is it an objection to the term babywearing? Or is it an objection to the practice of babywearing? There seems to be an assumption that all three are intertwined.
    I’ve read some of the comments and I’m still not sure what the point is.
    I am a proud and passionate babywearer. I don’t see a problem with the term. Carrying a baby in-arms is completely different. Let’s not forget that babywearing has benefits for parent as well as child. If keeping my baby close helps me to be less anxious and calmer that means that I can care for all my children in a more loving and attentive way. I have three children who have all been worn from birth. They didn’t sleep on their own in a quiet bed until they were several months old. I suppose they could have convinced them to do so earlier if I had left them in bed to cry. Because those are really the options as I see them: wear my baby in a wrap where I can kiss him, talk to him, dance with him and rock him to sleep, or put him in a bed where he feels alone when he shows signs of tiredness. I dread to think what would have happened to us after my first was born if I had not had any baby carriers. Try telling a baby who screams in pain from reflux that she needs time to play on the floor when all she wants is to be held to her mother’s chest.
    My youngest is three months old. From the start he has communicated clearly when he wants to be put down to play on the floor and when he wants to be picked up. And he wants to be held most of the time. I think that it is perfectly acceptable to then wrap him so I can continue with life. Much as it would be lovely to spend hours every day sitting in a chair holding him there is still dinner to cook, washing to do, a house to clean and other children to parent. Much better to do that with my baby in a carrier than restrained in a bouncer, hammock or stroller. It’s important to remember the reality of life when nit-picking about terms.

  42. It is incredibly ignorant of history to suggest that the practice of carrying an infant in pieces of cloth has caused anywhere in Africa to be war torn or underdeveloped.

  43. I’m not sure why you’re getting so caught up on the term. By your article it’s as if you expect mothers to be interacting face-to-face with their children every second of every day. That is just not possible. By baby wearing when I am not able to be down on the floor playing with my child (cooking, cleaning, running errands) I am able to have him close to me. I can continue to talk to him and show him things as im passing them/doing them, hand him a toy to occupy himself or he can take a nap right next to my heart as we all know babies like to do. That’s not to say I don’t allow him to explore things on his own either. He’s ahead with milestones (rolling over, sitting up). And those of you saying its unsafe, certain carriers are unsafe. If you have the correct equipment and knowledge it’s absolutely safe. I understand its not for everyone but I’m not understanding the unwarranted judgment that is leaking from this “article”. Take issue with the term if you must but the act itself?

    1. I am not “so caught up on the term”. I find the term offensive, because it objectifies babies. We don’t “wear” other people. If babies were considered whole people by our society, terms like this one might not matter as much to me. ‘Babywearing’ (as a term) perpetuates the commonly held notion of babies as cute “things”. Why the great resistance to using a more humanizing term?

  44. This is the most ignorant blog post I have ever read in my life. i baby wore 7 kids over the past 17 years. Everyone one of my children were walking and speaking by the age of 9 months. Everyone of my children in school are honor roll students, well socialized. they all participate in activities such as Varsity Football, Cheerleading, track and fine arts.

    Attachment parenting and baby wearing is about creating a self-confident and well loved child. Please do some research for the sake of your child.

    1. The message of this post has escaped you entirely.

  45. avatar Wayne Johnson says:

    Oh Janet – really !?

  46. avatar Naturo-Mommy says:

    Your article is so nit-picky on a non-issue that it’s confusing people as to why you think “baby wearing” is bad. Even though you don’t think the action is bad, you think the term is. I get it. But really? What else is there? “baby in a carrier”? “Baby close to me in a sling”? Oh hey, how about baby wearing! Because it’s a universal term that one article isn’t going to change anyone’s minds.

    1. It isn’t nit-picky if you are sensitive to the way children, especially babies, are objectified by society.

  47. Babies need to move and stretch some of the time. Sounds terrible to me to be in a confined space all the time. I think it’s funny that everyone is citing the whole “that’s how it use to be done” thing. People used to live in caves, treat women like less than men, enslave black people, treat children like they weren’t humans, etc etc. Should we do those things still? Everything in moderation. Carry them if you need to or if it soothes them, but good lord, let them stretch out and move a little and explore the world without being connected to their mother! They’ll be ok! It’s crazy to me the things people focus on in regards to being a parent. If you’re a good parent, your child will turn out just fine regardless of if they were “worn” or not…

  48. avatar Dave Meehan says:

    Really? I can’t belive you would choose to actually be offended by the term ‘babywearing’. C’mon,…as if those who coined the phrase did so in order to dehuaminize infants, as you have inferred here. Its a convenient term! Stop turning this into more than what it is. Ridiculous.

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