"No, I'm pretty sure she's the Antichrist, but we love her anyways."
This is Part 2 of my series "Is She A Good Baby?", inspired by the book "Our Babies, Our Selves". You can read Part 1 here.
|Baby! Why don't you want to be on the floor? Bad Baby!|
We rarely have other people, even family members, watch Ivy. Not because we don't want to get out, oh no, that's DEFINITELY not it. And not because we are leery about letting her be cared for by others. Mitch was having sleepovers at 1 month old and all of the older kids have made the rounds to drop-in childcares, church nurseries, babysitters, and the like. We tried to do the same with Ivy, but by about 3 months old it was pretty apparent that she wasn't like our other kids. The other kids happily bounced from one caregiver to another with ease. They entertained themselves well and were pretty "easy" to care for. Well, easy one at a time anyhow. Together as a mob they get a bit out of control.
So anyways, one day, at about three months old, we left Ivy with a grandma that she doesn't get to see very often and took the big kids to the water park. We came back to a sniffly sad baby and a frazzled grandma for the first time. Apparently stranger anxiety had hit early for our little smarty pants. That was the end of babysitters for us for the most part (more on this in Part 3: Strangers). But on the occassion where she just had to be cared for by someone who wasn't one of "her people", inevitably the frustrated caregiver would report to us at pick-up that she had wanted to be held the entire time and would cry when put down.
|Oh, but look out Baby. Don't get squished!|
But do you have to be willing to hang out on the floor or strapped in a seat all alone in order to be a "good" baby?
I say no.
Babies developed (in evolutionary terms) in a very hostile environment. Unlike many other mammals, human infants are virtually helpless at birth. They can't stand and run within hours of birth, they don't have any kind of camouflage, heck, they can't even nurse unassisted at first. So it makes sense that anything they can do to make sure they are in constant contact with an adult caregiver would be beneficial to them. A baby who is carried is much less likely to be eaten by a passing coyote or to roll into a puddle and drown.
Being held is also one of the best ways (along with breastfeeding, Ivy's other favorite past time) to develop positive attachment. And I can't even start to speak about how important good attachment in early childhood is. Our prisons are full of adults who missed this particular boat. So wanting to be held is actually not only smart from an evolutionary standpoint, but good attachment is also important to be able to be a healthy, functioning adult in our modern society.
But in Western society, we don't look at the desire to be close as a positive trait or even neutral and natural. We're back to the whole "valuing independence" thing. A baby who wants to be held a lot is "clingy" and "needy" and "spoiled". A "bad baby". Babies who will let you put them in a seat or on the ground for long periods of time are "good" and "easy".
|Dangit Baby! Put that down! No!|
I'm not the only one who feels this way. If you do a cross-cultural look at parenting practices and values, cultures that value the collective over the individual generally are also strong babywearing cultures. Cultures that value strong ties to extended family tend to keep their babies close.
It makes sense. But like I've said before, I'm a counter-culture kind of a girl.
So - that being said - holding a baby all the time is still tiring and can also be stressful. That's where this fabulous thing called babywearing comes in. You can hold the child without actually HOLDING the child. This makes all the difference. If you want to make your older child a sandwich, but you can't because the baby wants to be held (or you can but only while listening to the baby scream), that is really frustrating. Toss that baby in a carrier on your back though, and everyone is happy.
|Whoa! Dane alert!|
The choice is there for each caregiver to make.
She's not a bad baby, there are just good and bad ways to care for a baby who has a strong desire for closeness and attachment.
|Hey look out for that cliff Baby! Oh, there you are. Gooood Baby.|