A report in today's Daily Mail on baby carriers confirms a long held opinion that the trend for carrying baby facing away from the parent is not good for the baby.
When my eldest daughter was a baby we bought a sling to carry her in. At that time they were very unusual and on a holiday to Germany, bemused strangers would take pictures of my husband with our baby strapped to his chest and concerned old ladies would reprimand us saying it was bad for her back. We were a bit rattled by all this but my husband was from South Africa and he knew that many generations of babies had been carried in this way, without coming to any harm.
We also knew the other great advantage of our sling. Rachel had colic night after night and one of the few things that helped was to put her in the sling and walk up and down crooning to her. She was soothed by the physical closeness, comforted by his heartbeat and warmth and his soft singing.
Baby carriers are great. They are convenient for parents and give babies what they want, - physical closeness and the security that comes from being curled up against a warm loving human being. Why then do mums hang their children from their slings looking out? Is it because they think that a baby will be stimulated by all that is going on around them? If so they are wrong. The baby can't make sense of the hustle and bustle of everyday street life. They need things to be close to them, to see and to focus on them for some time and most important they need a responsive adult to help them interpret the world around them, by pointing things out, by naming things, by sharing the baby's reaction to what is out there.
Today I saw a baby in a pram staring at its mother with such intensity and delight that it made me smile. I don't know if it feels scarey for a small baby in a carrier to face out into the world, unable to turn to mum or dad for comfort but when I see a baby dangling like this, I feel uncomfortable. It just feels wrong.