Recently, I was lucky enough to Katy Bowman’s workshop about child development and baby carrying that she presented at the Ancestral Health Symposium. Here is my son demonstrating how he can’t and is not interested in hanging from a bar:
Clearly he is not interested in being a poster child for natural movement.
I tried so hard to restrain myself from asking a million questions because Katy was not there to answer the questions of a bubbly new pupil. Thankfully, she covered a lot of things I was curious about in her talk and afterward.
Today I want to talk about baby carrying but I’ve included the other things I found really helpful in a list at the end of this post.
What is the best way to get our babies from point A to point B?
Katy described in detail why they are ideally are carried in-arms, upright with one of our forearms under their pelvis. Once they can walk, they can work up to walking longer and longer distances and need less carrying.
- The earlier babies are carried upright, the faster they can 1) get head control faster and 2) learn how to hold on. Those babies have strong grips, too.
The more they learn to hold their own weight, the less you hold their weight. This blew my mind because I hadn’t thought of my pudgy giant baby’s ability to hold himself to me but apparently this happens in other cultures all the time.
- Car seats and strollers encourage kids’ rapidly adapting bodies to make sitting in a “bowl” the least taxing body position. Babies and kids will default to whatever is least taxing day-to-day.
- While carriers may help the child stay upright, they don’t let the baby change positions. Restrained babies can’t react to stimuli around them or shift when they are uncomfortable.
How do we recovering moms cope with this information when our bodies are so messed up right now?
- Especially if we have diastasis recti, ditch the carriers if they are causing problems (this is my emphasis – Katy didn’t say this directly). She did say that carriers create a constant load on the parent, so we can’t respond to cues our body is sending that our muscles are over-taxed, e.g. “hey! this hurts!” I noticed early on that my front carrier was creating a bulge in my midsection and numbness in my upper back, so my husband did all the baby wearing.
- When carrying babies in-arms, try to not do these things:
- Thrust ribs forward or up. This happens when we fatigue and want to use our rib cages to carry the weight. I constantly catch myself doing this.
- Thrust hip out and put baby on our hips to relieve aching arms.
- Latch the carrying wrist in our other hand to create a “sling” out of our arms. I also find myself doing this often. It gives the muscles a break at the expense of the joints.
Katy also didn’t cover this, but Debbie Beane mentioned that walking while pushing a stroller makes it very difficult to maintain alignment. It’s natural to start thrusting your chest while strolling. It also could change your gait and definitely prevents arm swing (which helps open up the shoulders, which are SO TIGHT, am I right? Of course, carrying a baby prevent arm swing, too.).
Seriously? That seems impossible.
So, despite this sounding extreme (to me, at least), I took all of the above to heart and really tried carrying my baby everywhere within reason. As you may know, we’re carless, so this included grocery trips. It took about a week for me to realize that, while my baby loved it, my healing progress was reversing. Carrying groceries and the baby back made me feel very intense (yes, strangers commented on how fit I must be. Haven’t heard that in awhile!) but then oh did I pay for it.
The problem is that I would walk a half mile to run an errand and then hold him during the errand and then realize about halfway back home that I was fatigued and bulging and contorting. My body was doing whatever it could to get out of the pain. Since then, I’ve realized that it’s better to take the stroller somewhere if I can’t carry him the whole way without fatiguing to the point of injury (I realize this sounds obvious. I need things s-p-e-l-l-e-d out.). Like a workout, I need to work up to more carrying.
When I manage not to overdo it, carrying is a fun way of getting around. My little guy really is engaged with his surroundings and can help point me in the direction of things he wants to explore and I’m more tuned in to his needs, e.g. I see that grocery store hysterical breakdown coming before it’s too late.
As I write this, my back is in spasm. I have a hard time with moderation. I’m working on it.
If you are interested, here are some of my notes from the session. The whole three hour event will be available for purchase at some point, so I didn’t mention every last detail.
My notes from Katy’s “Paleo Parenting” workshop
- Adaptation to physical load is the most extreme in the first five years, so variability is key to optimize their development.
- Kids adapt most to the mechanical environment they spend the most time in. A natural position at an unnatural frequency is still no bueno for a rapidly growing body (or for adults). She pointed out that kids’ contraptions tend to be sitting-oriented and are getting more bowl-shaped over time: car seats, high chairs, carriers, bumbos, strollers, etc.
- Hunter-gatherer cultures have daily infant movement routines and carry their children vertically most often. For example, they can lift their kid up by one arm and swing them to their back because their kids are strong enough for this. Katy carried her kids vertically in-arms from birth and her daughter had head control at three days. I thought that was awesome!
- It doesn’t take many attempts for a restrained baby (stroller, carrier, car seat) to learn not to try to move. Sad face.
And for the adults:
- Sitting will be the least taxing way to orient our bodies if that is how we train our tissues to adapt.
- We give the role of our muscular skeletal systems and metabolisms to the couch when we sit on it.
- Using a carrier of any sort creates a constant muscular load and prevent both you and baby from shifting (certain carriers are more limiting than others)