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Origins of Babywearing

Updated: Feb 1

From simple leather and cloth slings over to structured baby carriers, for millenia, babywearing has been meeting needs of parents and babies alike.

We do not have an evidence of when, where and how exactly the first babywearing happened: clothing materials, such as hides and furs do not preserve well in the archaeological record. Based on depictions found in prehistoric art, as well as observations of traditional baby carrying practices in modern hunter-gatherer societies, it is likely that the earliest baby carriers were simple slings or wraps made from readily available, natural materials. They have been tied or wrapped around the parent's body, with the baby positioned against the chest, back or hip, providing for babies' safety and warmth while on a move.

Babywearing prehistory illustrated

Keeping care takers’ hands free for hunting and foraging has been crucial for an adaptation for survival in the often harsh and unpredictable environments in which early humans lived. Baby carriers for the win already back then!

It is widely believed that ancient baby carriers were the most simple and utilitarian tools of a universal character, lacking distinct features that would clearly identify them as today’s structured baby carriers. The elongated pieces of material were likely used for various purposes beyond just carrying infants, such as carrying food, tools or other belongings.

An archeological discovery in Liguria, Italy, of about 70 small pierced shell beads and 4 large pierced shell pendants indicate the use of baby carriers 10,000 years ago, according to scientists. The ongoing research of the Arma Veirana site shows the beads were likely sewn onto a piece of leather or cloth used to wrap a 1-2 month old baby girl Neve for her burial. Has this been a specially dedicated, carefully decorated baby carrier? Maybe!

Over time, baby carriers evolved and became more sophisticated, with different cultures developing their own styles and techniques for carrying babies, including slings, structured carriers, seats, baskets, cradleboards, you name it.

Let's see some examples of babywearing captured by artists throughout the history:

In ancient Egypt, images depict women carrying babies on their backs, chests and hip, using a simple piece of cloth: transporting infants, in other artworks also breastfeeding.

This is our version of a detail of the lithograph from 1904 of the women depicting a 3500 years old painting on the wall of the Tomb of Ann’a located on the Theban necropolis (mount Shêkh ‘Abd-el-Qurna) in Egypt, built in the Middle Kingdom around 1500 BCE: four (Syrian) women in Egypt wearing high-class dresses and a linen bag carrying children on their back, which could have been a general depiction of how infants have been carried in Egypt back then (W. Max Müller’s series, Egyptological Research: Results of a Journey in 1904, published by the Carnegie Institute of Washington in 1906.)

In medieval Europe, women carried their infants in various ways, depending on their social status and cultural customs. Babies were often carried in slings, that made it possible for medieval mothers and wet nurses to breastfeed children on the go, as proved by many medieval manuscript images. This is our version of a detail of a 14th century Renaissance fresco by Giotto, the Flight into Egypt in Lower Church of Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi, Italy.

We get the idea from the detail of 17th century Dutch painting of a “War Scene” by Sebastiaen Vrancx (1573-1647) giving us an insight into the babywearing in early modern period of Europe and this is our version of the precious detail.

A very confusing chapter in parenting history occurred in the 19th century Victorian England, detaching babies from parents, introducing prams, labeling natural practices, including babywearing, as low.

While recovering from the impact of this era, carry on and stay tuned ❤️



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