Instinctive Parenting: A Style that Works
Babywearing in the Early Months and Years
William Sears. M.D.
Travel as a Unit
While traveling on a speaking tour of Australia I began to appreciate the " marsupial mothering" style of
kangaroos, whose babies are nearly always in touch with the mother because they live in a pouch on the
mother's abdomen. I advise couples not to succumb to the usual outside pressure to "get away from your
baby", but instead to become accustomed to "wearing" the baby in an infant sling or baby carrier, as you get
used to being a unit you will feel right when you are together and not right when you're apart. Functioning
together by day makes it easier to function together by night.
Beware of Detachment Parenting
This is a restrained style of parenting that warns parents against taking cues from their child. The advocates
of detachment parenting preach: "Let the baby cry it out. He has to learn to sleep through the night." "Don't
be so quick to pick your baby up. You're spoiling her. "Get your baby on a schedule. He's manipulating you."
"Don't let your baby in your bed. You're creating a terrible habit. " Besides being full of negatives, this style
of parenting also features quick and easy recipes for difficult problems. For example, when a baby repeatedly
awakens during the night, detachment parenting advises, "Let him cry one hour the first night, forty-five
minutes the second night and by the third night, he'll sleep through the night."
Parents, let me caution you. Difficult problems in child rearing do not have easy answers. Children are too
valuable and their needs too important to be made victims of cheap, shallow advice. In my experience,
parents who practice detachment parenting are at risk of losing their intuition and confidence and are less
likely to achieve those two important goals of parenting, knowing their child and helping their child feel right.
What's in it for Parents? -The Payoff
What difference does the attachment style of parenting make? Will it make you a better parent? I have been
sharing the above attachment tips with my patients over the last ten years, and we practice them in our
family. It does make a difference. Parents who practice the attachment style of parenting know their child
well. They are observant of their infant's cues, respond to them intuitively, and are confident their responses
are appropriate. They have realistic expectations of their child's behaviour at various stages of development,
and they know how to convey expected behaviour to their child. Their children are a source of joy.
The feeling that the instinctive attachment style of parenting gives you and your child can be summed up in
one word, harmony.
43 REASONS TO WEAR YOUR BABY ON YOUR BODY
from the work of Ashley Montagu Ph.D, Jean Liedloff, and various child development
1. Baby-wearing recreates the oneness of the baby and mother that existed in the womb which
is absolutely necessary for proper development of the infant and the mother's levels of
mothering hormone, prolactin.
2. Baby-wearing provides fathers a way to share the nurturing as well as enhances bonding in
3. Baby-carrying helps the baby maintain equilibrium and provides movement to the baby in all
three directions, essential to proprioception (body awareness).
4. Baby-carrying provides the natural rhythm of movement and tactile stimulation that small
babies need for proper neurological development. Constantly carried babies fall asleep quickly in
the comfort of their sling - some babies may always fall asleep while carried.
5. Baby-carrying stimulates optimal development of the cerebellum of the brain, the only part
of the brain that continually increases in cells as the baby gets older.
6. Baby-carrying enables the mother to be acutely responsive and aware of her baby's cues and
signals. Baby-carrying increases maternal sensitivity and heightens parent's perceptions of
their children's needs. Mothers become so sensitive to their baby that they can anticipate
hunger needs, waking, and the need for a clean diaper.
7. Baby-carrying holds baby securely leaving the parent's hands free for working at a desk, in
the kitchen or garden, or shopping at the market.
8. Baby-carrying allows the baby to be an active participant in the walking, talking, laughing,
movement, and working of the parent.
9. Baby-wearing in a sling or backpack is the most comfortable and easy way to hold baby on
the parent's shoulders, backs and hips. Baby-wearing distributes weight evenly from parent's
shoulders to hips and aligns baby's center of gravity as close to parent's body as possible. Plastic
carseat carriers create severe torsion and strain in the caregiver's back and arms, and an
10. Baby-carrying develops the back muscles necessary to carry the baby and corrects posture in
11. Babies are easy to wear and parents learn to relax and touch, even if they were not touched
often as children or are awkward with physical intimacy and closeness.
12. Carrying infants lowers the level of stress hormones and adrenalin circulating in the blood
stream of the infant, as well as the parent/caregiver.
13. Infants who are not carried can be at risk for the brain pathways that modulate pleasure
being improperly or incompletely developed, and thus prone towards addiction later in life.
14. Babies that are carried develop a strong bond with their mothers and a solid emotional
security pattern in the foundations of their psyche.
15. Baby carrying greatly reduces crying and fussiness (one study reported in the 1986
Paediatrics Medical Journal found 43% less crying during the day and 51% less at night), mothers
feel more competent and nurturing toward their infant and are less likely to act in abusive ways
towards their children. This author found that baby-carrying resulted in crying less than 1% of
the time for the first year of the baby's life.
16. Continuously carried infants actually initiate separation faster and become more emotionally
17. Baby-carrying creates autonomy as well as a healthy development of physical intimacy and
touching between parents and children. Baby-carrying gives healthy messages of touching to
children and they learn to give and receive affection and touching in healthy ways. Carried
infants are less likely to have sexual problems later in life.
18. Babies who are touched and carried continuously develop larger brains than infants who are
denied this stimulation.
19. Babies who are carried have a lower mortality rate than infants who are denied this
20. Baby-carrying greatly benefits premature infants and lowers their mortality rate (called
Kangaroo care in Neonatal nursing).
21. Babies who are carried cry less, smile more, are less prone to vomiting and spitting up.
22. Infants who are carried experience reduced or little incidence of colic.
23. Carried babies experience an enhanced degree of bonding with their caregiver.
24. Baby-carrying allows parents to accomplish their day-to-day activities and still be in close
physical contact with their babies.
25. Baby-carrying develops bonding and attachment between parent and child, shows love and
affection, and parental-child love is expressed and actively demonstrated on a constant basis.
26. Baby-carrying tells children they are loved, safe, secured and cared for.
27. Baby-carrying creates children that are more involved in their parent's life and more likely to
be involved in their own lives and less isolated as adults.
28. Baby-carrying allows children to be AT the center of activity rather than being the center of
attention, which is a healthy atmosphere for development of empathy, affection and a healthy
sense of self.
29. Baby-carrying offers constant and easy access to the infant's food source, mother's
30. Babies sleep comfortably and for longer periods of time while carried.
31. Babies who are carried have a solid sense of self-esteem and independence.
32. Carrying of the infant is the most important factor responsible for the infant's normal and
33. Baby-carrying is a natural soothing baby tranquilizer which helps fussy or tired infants fall
34. Baby-carrying stimulates the tactile receptors in the skin, developing muscle tone, increases
cardiac output which increases circulation, promotes respiration and aids in digestion.
35. Baby-carrying on the body provides the elements of pressure, motion, pleasure, warmth,
security, sound that is essential to the development of the vestibular nervous system during
36. Baby-carrying provides the exact level and kind of stimulation an infant requires, energizing
their nervous system and providing quiet and calm alertness in the infant.
37. Older infants learn more as they are in a vertical position or semi-vertical position which
encourages an alert state of arousal. Baby-carrying develops the muscles needed for the infant
to sit, stand and walk. The baby must use his muscles to fight gravity and hold his head up,
building necessary muscle strength, control, and coordination.
38. Infants who are carried have less head lag, stronger neck and shoulder muscles, and walk on
their own by ten months old versus the average North American walking age of eleven and a half
(or more) months. Baby-carrying allows infants to retain the standing/stepping reflex present
from birth which they use to push themselves up and grab onto mother.
39. Carried infants experience less vertigo and increased physical agility in adulthood, a superior
sense of balance, precision of movement, and an awareness of their position in the space
40. Baby carrying shortens the period that an infant is dependent on his caregiver, and carried
infants initiate separation sooner and for longer periods due to their more secure attachment
to the parent.
41. Baby carrying constantly allows the baby to complete its extra-uterine gestation period
which is needed for the proper development and health of the infant.
42. Baby-carrying creates an intuitive sensitivity that allows mother to anticipate her baby's
every mood and need and fully experience the joy of mothering.
43. Babywearing can help reduce the severity of postpartum depression in mothers who have
had negative or endocrine-disrupting (epidurals and/or IV pitocin)) birth/delivery experiences,
and can help stabilize new mother emotions.