Caring, and socialization of infants – an evolutionary model
Published in: IMPULS 2001(3), Journal of Psychology (UiO, N), 55, 46-54 and in Kognition & Pædagogik 2003 (49), Tidsskrift om tænkning og læring (DK), 13, 33-47
Translated from Norwegian by Trine Beate Frigstad.
Solveig Albrecht Wahl
In industrialized eastern and western countries infant’s early socialization is being dominated by the fear that the infant will obtain power if his signalized needs are being satisfied. The infants obtain power by learning which will later be used unrestrainedly to manipulate the parent’s devotion, and to tyrannize his environment. The necessity to structure young children at an early age according to a strict schedule, and to help them to get into the habit of getting used to general orderliness is considered important. This leads to a hostile attitude towards children’s early socialization which probably will have a disadvantageous effect on further ontogenetic development (Schiefenhövel & Schiefenhövel, 1996).
It is a paradox that tyrannization and manipulation of the environment should be an unfamiliar phenomenon among existing hunting civilizations, where an infant centered care is being practiced. On the contrary, young people and children are polite and helpful, they are actually well educated. Many researchers are of the opinion that people of these old civilizations seem to act of mankind’s common phylogenetic experience, which our own culture seems to have lost.
The answer of what our common phylogenetic experiences are, can be found among people living in current stone age civilization. Their way of life can be seen as a reflection of our own past. The question is which methods these people apply in their care and socialization of infants.
At the Max-Planck-Research Centre of humanistic ethnology one is interested in the question how Homo sapiens sapiens has responded to the infants’ needs and which evolutionary original forms of interaction with infants that are characteristic of our own species. Researchers have examined old civilizations, peaceful ones, like the Inuits in Alaska, the !Kung people in Botswana, the Trobriander people in Papua New Guinea, as well as warlike ones such as the Eipo people in the highlands of West New Guinea, the Yanomami people in Venezuela and the Himba people in the South-West African Kalahari. What these civilizations all have in common, is their approach to infant care.
In the book “The Continuum Concept” (Liedloff, 1986) there is a description of the peaceful Yequena people’s (Venezuela) care and socialization of their children. This book has to a great extent contributed to my understanding of an old civilization’s way of life. On the basis of Liedloff’s observations and research results, for instance within ethnology, ethnic medicine, neurology, behavioral biology and anthropology, an evolutionary model for care and socialization of infants will here be further illustrated. Such a model is already briefly outlined in the article “On mother’s tummy: social womb to infant” (Wahl, 1998).
To substantiate the model, we will take the devious way and start with a retrospective view, going back to the year 1200 B.C. Going back 3000 years may tell us something about the cultural heritage of our own civilization, which I consider as a deviation from the “continuum” in the evolutionary process. We shall further approach another aspect of the human evolutionary development than the one which is normally being depicted within our culture. This is important because the predominant description of the evolutionary process may be seen as a result of the 3000 year old cultural heritage, which has had a direct effect on the life conditions of women and children.
Our cultural heritage- Homo sapiens sapiens
I have for a long time had the question why infants in our civilization have such low
status. The same applies to women and consequently the concept of ‘child care’, which is closely related to the woman. One explanation is to be found in the new civilization which developed in the Middle-East three or four thousand years ago when women and children were looked upon as man’s property. The same civilization promoted new attitudes regarding the relationship between man and nature. Later these attitudes spread to other civilizations, for instance through the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is closely related to the long-gone history of the Jewish people, as Abba Eban describes in his book “My People” (1972). Eban’s description of the history of the Jewish people is concerned with one half of the people, namely the male part. Women and children are only referred to a couple of times as a collective term. One of his important points in the book is concerned with the question of the patriarchy. The first chapter is actually entitled “The age of the patriarchs”.
In the chapter “The Hebrew Revolution” Eban describes a new reorientation: “As soon as man’s destiny is separated from nature’s circuit, it is at the same time also released from fatalism and the law of eternal repetition….Consequently man is given an exceptional unique and active ability, which distinguishes him from all nature.” (P. 17). This separation marks the history of the 13. Century B.C. Eban states that his reorientation developed from a primitive, naive, intimate past to a sublime future. He considers this as a progression and revolution regarding the view of man. Order entered chaos. Some researchers today are of the opinion that the people of our civilization have distanced themselves from the frame of reference. Bergljot Børresen (1996) states that Homo sapiens sapiens (the term used for modern man by our civilizations scientists) has become “the lonely ape”.
Could it be that prior to the age of the patriarchs and the separation between man and nature, there was a period of time when women were strongly engaged in and had influence on the religions and social life in Society? Some researchers are of the opinion that there was. We will however not examine this further. Regarding this article it is worth noticing that the results of this more than 3000 year old heritage- man’s misapprehension of nature’s circuit and the patriarchal structure- has clearly been depicted in research and history accounts.
Evolution- another history
Because of the patriarchal view on man, women and children have had a passive role, this also applies to the evolutionary history of man. In the book “On Becoming Human” (1981) the anthropologist Nancy Makepeace Tanner confronts science with the prevailing theory that it was the hunters, i.e. the male behavior which almost exclusively has driven the human evolution forward. Tanner goes back 5-6 million years, to the transitional population between Pan Troglodytes (chimpanzee) and Australo Pithecus.
Today’s bonobo, a delicate species of the chimpanzee, is genetically our closest relation. Only one percent of the genes have changed, and this divides the human being from the bonobo. In the bonobo flock the female is the leader of the group. Anatomy, physiology, genes, behavior and the social life of today’s chimpanzees is the basis of Tanners understanding of our own evolution. The woman’s reproductive role has been the focus of attention among researchers in evolution, whereas the behaviour of women and children, the early development of intelligence, the formation of crying, smiling and baby sounds which may have played an important role regarding the prospect of survival, was up till the last quarter of the last century almost completely ignored.When the primitive woman had responsibility for supporting her offspring, she must have made a substantial contribution to the evolution of our species, Tanner argues. It was our maternal ancestors with children who must have had the strongest need to move on two feet. In stead of grazing, it was an advantage to be able to carry the baby while gathering and carrying food to the gathering place, where it could be shared with others. Offspring with mothers who were intelligent enough to find, gather, pre-chew and share sufficient food with their babies had an advantage in the struggle for existence. The babies that survived and learnt the mother’s techniques, improved them and were willing to share like their mothers had done. They had the best opportunities to live long enough to be able to reproduce themselves.
The prehistoric woman had to be inventive, and tools made it easier to carry out her family responsibilities. Sharp tools made of stone also made it easier to cut the food into small parts for the child. Through the offspring’s observation of the mother’s techniques, her technology was passed on to the next generation. Tanner claims that the creativity of women had a strong influence on the evolution of man.
Man - a mammal of “the carrying kind”
Let us neither discuss whether 200 000 years ago, Homo sapiens sapiens thought or people in existing stone-age cultures think that they know they are thinking – as opposed to animals or hominids before our time, nor if the term Homo sapiens sapiens (the thinking human who knows that he is thinking), is only a result of our civilization’s superiority above “all nature”. No matter what, as human beings we belong to the mammals “of the carrying species”, i.e. carrying the offspring has presumably for million of years had evolutionary consequences. This is my main concern in this article.
As long as the hominids had fur, transporting the offspring was not a problem. A couple of weeks after birth the baby managed to hold on to the mother. However, man’s body became smooth, and the mother had to keep the baby and herself together. To get her hands free the woman tried out different ways of being able to carry her offspring. The sling was a technological step forward. With her baby in the sling on the hip, the woman was able to carry her tools and the food that she gathered (Tanner, 1981).
This oldest form of transport has probably become a genetically conditioned expectation, which can be observed when a child is being lifted, the infant will instantly draw up and spread his legs- the so called “Spreiz-Sitz-Reis” (Spread-sit-stimulus), and with increasing subtleness the infant is able to cling with his legs onto the carrier’s body. When a two- three months old baby is placed on the hip and the carrier makes swift movements, the baby takes an active part establishing his own balance (Kirklionis, 1999; Schiefenhövel, 1990).
Experts are seriously worried about infants who cry a great deal, these children are perceived as difficult to comfort, and normally they are not very receptive to stimulus from the environment ( Smith & Ulvund, 1991). Research on infants in old civilizations has not been able to disclose such problems. Infants cry for a little period of time but not constantly. Our worrying “crying phenomenon” has presumably it’s origin in the kind of care we give our infants within our own civilization. A randomized controlled trial carried out in Montreal in 1986 showed that infants who received carrying at least three hours per day than cried and fussed 43 % less than children in the control group and who get the care which is normal within our own civilization (Hunziker & Barr, 1986). This should indicate that the expectation to be carried, is genetically conditioned.
This million of year old bodily contact which has been practiced between mother and offspring and consequently the offspring’s continual access to the mother’s breast, has had a strong influence on the composition of “the carrier’s” milk. We will elaborate on this later. Researchers claim that this oldest form of transport has been important for the optimal development of the human hip joint and central nervous system, for the breast-feeding, the prevention of colic and the psychological and social development of the child (Kirklionis, 1999; Schiefenhövel, 1990).
In the same way as women probably have done since the origin of man, the !Kung San-woman Nisa set out in the bush land on her own. The birth had started, but the day had just begun. Under a tree she went through the expulsion stage of labour, alone. In Nisa’s culture crying during birth is looked upon as a sign of weakness. She did however cry inside herself. Squatting she gave birth to her child who was lying on the ground. The young woman buried the afterbirth, before she carried her newborn back to the community. Later, when all the others went out to gather food, Nisa and her child remained in her hut. “The two of us were together,” she says. Shortly after she left her hut, and from then on Nisa was carrying her child around. (Shostak, 1981).
The carrier’s body- a mobile observation post
The investigation of newborns placed directly skin to skin on the mother’s abdomen, chest or in her arm show how important physical contact is from the start. These infants
very seldom cry during the first ninety minutes of life, whereas on the other hand, newborns who have been dressed and put in a cot nearby, cry approximately twenty to forty seconds every fifth minute during the first ninety minutes (Klaus and Klaus, 1998). The crying is considered as a cry for help to reestablish physical contact.
The physical contact which the carrying of the infant gives from birth and onwards, is a continuum from prehistoric times and shows how the people of the previously mentioned old civilizations cared for their children. Carrying infants is being practiced in many cultures, actually by two thirds of the world population. In traditional cultures the child experiences physical contact at least eighty per cent of the time, including the time with the mother at night. Children who are already able to move and explore the environment independently may at any time find their way back to the arm or hip of the carrier (Liedloff, 1986; Schiefenhövel, 1990).
The first time after birth it is the mother who takes the main responsibility for carrying the child. As soon as she finds it safe or she has no other choice, she will leave some of the carrying to others as well; older brothers and sisters, father or other close people. Although the mother gets benefits from this assistance, the child’s assessment is not the same. Seen from the child’s point of view the closeness to the mother has always been the child’s priority (Hardy, 2000).
No matter who is carrying the child: children are enormously curious and a carried child is in the midst of activities where there is social interaction. From his observation post the child will gradually be able to form a general impression of the social codes between people and his culture. We may say that as a first stage “a carried child” is socialized into his culture through his own observation. This is a strong contrast to infants of our own culture who for the most part are separated from adult social life and activities for later to be socialized by structure and rules.
A “child centered care” doesn’t mean that infants within old civilizations are focus of the
environment’s attention. On the contrary, apart from times when the child is being cuddled and played with, which always happens on the child’s terms, it doesn’t get any attention. The child doesn’t need it and doesn’t want it either. It only participates in what is going on. I have learned from my own experience not to speak to or in any way disturb an observing carried child in order to get his attention: The child will immediately attract eye-contact. This also applies to situations when the observer might be looking at the carrying person. The child doesn’t seek contact; presumably she will only study the facial expressions combined with various situations. This knowledge will be useful for the child’s orientation.
Research has shown that infants within old civilizations sleep considerably less than what is common within our civilization where they are separated from the carrier most of the time when they are lying in their own bed, pram, rocking seat or similar things. The child placed on the carrier’s body may have his naps and manages perfectly all right with this much sleep during the day (Heinzinger, 2000; Schiefenhövel, 1990). Results from this research may indicate that children when they are separated from physical contact and social life sleep more, because they lack exciting observation opportunities. The children fall asleep a lot because they are bored, probably also because they are lonely.
Verbal-cognitive communication is disproportionally over-emphasized within our culture, so over-emphasized that experts recommend parents to influence the infant in this direction from the start. This kind of care is unfamiliar within old cultures, where verbal communication between the carrier and the infant is rare (Liedloff, 1986; Schiefenhövel, 1990). Our verbal-cognitive influence is often combined with in intense eye-contact between mother/father and the offspring. In order to recover, the child has to turn his head away occasionally. At the same time one has to expect an adequate response from the child.
Our kind of care might be tiring. It might even be experienced as invading. The children within our culture are not allowed to just “be”, because they do not get enough opportunities to be able to quietly observe, from a safe “post”. It might be that our infants for this reason need more sleep, when they on the one hand are left to themselves, and on the other hand, for a short while are exposed to intruding contact.
Carrying the infant - optimal development of the brain capacity
In old civilizations teaching and socializing of infants is achieved mostly without other direct contributions from the carrying person than carrying the offspring on the body. This kind of care does have a great influence on the brain’s optimal and overall development, as the child’s organism is confronted with an enormous number and variations of events through his senses: neural activities of the eye and ear (including the organ of balance), and countless sensory nerves in the skin, tongue buds and mucous membranes (Damasio, 1994). Structuring, organizing and relating perceived sense impressions are needed when the child is trying to orientate itself. This achievement plays an important role in the integrating process. Processing all sense impressions in the central nervous system makes the person able to react in a controlled and coordinated way on all signals from the environment (Kirkilionis, 1999; Klein, 1995).
According to the way modern science sees the basic principle for development and growth, the facilities of the senses can only work- or work better- when they are being used. If they are not activated, the faculties will gradually deteriorate (Kirkilionis, 1999). As the brain develops, so will the infant gradually be able to comprehend incidents in a more detailed and differentiated way. This means that the child first sees the world in broad outlines and later more differentiated and detailed. This little anecdote might illustrate this:
Usually I did the washing-up with my grandchild sitting in a baby sling on my hip. One
day she stepped out of the observer’s role, bent forward and grabbed the dish brush. With the brush in her hand she made a rapid stirring movement in the kitchen sink. The cutlery which lay at the bottom, made a ratting sound. There was smell of washing-up liquid and the foaming water was splashing. She became wet. Her hand and brush made a swift movement to the right towards the drying rack. A couple of knocks with the brush and back to the sink. This was then repeated. After the fourth time I finally understood the actual purpose; clean (an object) with the brush in the sink- swing hand (with the object) to the right- place (the object) on the drying rack. This was what the hardly seven months old child had been able to understand of my activity from her flexible observation post.
The infant needs these differentiated stimuli through the sense of touch, smell, hearing, taste and sight for his development, says the researcher and physician Wulf Schiefenhövel. He stresses the importance of the emotional, social and mental input which children who are carried get: “Since the beginning of time the central nervous system has had a need for this in order to develop it’s overall capacity (1996, p.279).
A carried child gets a lot of input: Willing and easily he allows to be pushed here and there in his sling, depending on whether the carrying person is walking, running, gathering food or cooking, cleaning, paddling the canoe or doing personal hygiene, dancing, bathing or eating. The infant is in constant movement on different places on the body of a person who is busy with her/his tasks. (Liedloff,1986).
When the child is pushed here and there on the carrying person’s body, this implies that the angle of observation is changing; the child has to quickly turn his head in a new direction to be able to keep up with what is happening. If the carrier is bending down and is wearing clothes which the infant can hold onto, he will take a firm grip. The experience of having the head hanging down when the world appears to be upside-down, activates the vestibular fluid. Such experiences are important for developing the sense of balance.
The sense of physical and psychological well-being is important for the mental and social development! Attention is then directed towards the environment rather than inwardly, towards the child’s discomfort or pain. Being placed on a body which is in movement, releases a sense of well-being. This is aroused in the cerebellum through physical movement, and the optimal development of the cerebellum is stimulated by motion. The cerebellum is a unique part of the brain. It is the only part in which the number of cells continues to increase long after birth – a process that goes on until at least age two. Hence, being rocked or carried is not just soothing; it is essential for complete brain growth:e Physical holding and carrying turns out to be the most important factor responsible for the infant’s normal mental and social development (Restak, 1979).
The discovery of baby massage, which arouses a sense of well-being for a limited period time, might possibly become a substitute for the bodily contact and movement that a carried child gets quite naturally, and which lasts for many hours. But why try to make compensations for our infants, which also involves extra costs for the parents?
With the discovery of the widespread Victorian “pram”, most of the infants within our civilization were deprived of bodily contact and it’s different accompanying sense impressions. Especially in our part of the world, infants in prams are for long periods of time being surrounded by heavy and warm bags, collapsible hoods with blankets on top or rain covers. The child may possibly hear and smell, but she does not see much and the skin does not perceive what goes on in the outside world. The movement which takes place when a pram is being pushed can not compensate for the rhythmic movement and closeness of the carrier’s body. Today we should look at the discovery of the pram as an evolutionary testing of a tool which went wrong and should be replaced by a flexible baby sling.
When the child is being breastfed
In “the good old days” the child was not put to the breast until the day after birth. The child should not be given the first milk (colostrum) because of the so-called colostrum taboo. (Heinzinger,1999). Today this taboo is incomprehensible: we know that the colostrum contains antibodies that is important to the child. Nature knows best! The milk production started too late because of the restriction against colostrum, and the mother became anxious. Breast-feeding according to the time-schedule of every third or fourth hour meant that many quite normal and healthy women were not able to produce enough milk. Supplementary milk mixtures or expensive breast milk substitutes with bottle and nipple became the solution recommended by many doctors and health visitors. Health personal and producers of formula are still a rather unfortunate medical-industrial complex!! (Berufsverband Deutcher Laktationsberaterinnen; Børresen,1995, 2003). Recent research suggests that mothers with smaller breasts need to breastfeed more often due to less milk capacity than large breasted women (personal information by Gudrun von der Ohe)
Today we also know that frequent breast-feeding from birth and onwards, is decisive to a sufficient milk production, i.e. every time the child gives signals like searching, smacking of the lips, sucking on it’s own hand and the feeling of uneasiness. Only when these signals are acknowledged, the child will give stronger warning signals like crying and screaming! As some infants in our culture do not necessarily wake to feed on their own, it may be prudent to wake the child to ensure a minimum of eight feeds per 24hrs (ILCA, 2005).
There are clear physiological reasons to assert that man is a mammal of the “carrying kind”: Our milk is rich on carbohydrates which are consumed in large quantities by a fairly large brain, craving for sugar. The brain of a newborn infant constitutes 10% of the body weight. 50% of the energy production at rest takes place in the brain. At the same time the liver is relatively small. It can only store enough glycogen for short periods of hunger (the liver stores carbohydrate through the glycogen). This is why an infant more easily gets low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) than an adult when he is hungry. This is an important reason why infants need to be frequently breastfed, also at night (personal information, Hans Christofer Børresen). A “stone age” toddler sleeping together with his mother, often finds the breast on his own, even if the mother has not woken up.
With the primates the protein and fat content in the mother’s milk is relatively low. This has to do with the fact that it is the growth and development of the brain which has first priority, whereas the increase of muscle mass and body weight should be slow enough for the child to be carried for a long period time (Børresen, 1985, 1995). Mammals of “the nesting kind” have smaller brain, and consequently they need less sugar but more fat and protein for the rest of the body to grow properly. Their newborns are quickly able to stand on their four legs and need their muscles in order to run. Moreover, the content of fat in the human milk is probably more concentrated when the breast is only half filled. Overfilled breasts deliver milk which is low on fat and rich on water (personal information, Hans Christofer Børresen).
When the breast-feeding is too rare, especially during periods of warm weather or when the mother has problems with producing enough milk, searching for the breast may also be a result of thirst. The infant’s need for water is strong, up to 15%-20% of the body weight during 24 hours. This is why the mother’s milk is very rich on water, and infant-regulated breast-feeding gives good protection against dehydration in warm climates and when the child has fever. In periods when there is little milk, the child may still cover his needs by sucking more often. The milk production will increase as a result of this. It is very rare that a frequently breast-fed child has to be hospitalised during heat waves. In societies where infant-regulated breast-feeding is a natural thing, it is very unlikely that infants should suffer from thirst. Infants in these societies have diluted urine which is an indication of adequate water intake.
Infant-regulated breast-feeding assumes that the carrier is able to quickly apprehend the child’s signals (see above). In traditional civilizations it normally takes about six seconds from the child’s first signals until the carrier responds. (Liedloff, 1986; Schiefenhövel, 1996). On the other hand does a too high intake of water give a distended stomach if it is being distributed on too few breast-feeding sessions. Spitting up is a sign of it. Naturally, frequent breast-feeding means small amounts of milk at a time (personal information, Hans Christofer Børresen).
It is also worrying that a third of all infants within our civilization suffer from colic. According to researchers this disease is an unknown phenomenon within traditional civilizations. That a mother or another caregiver holds the baby to the shoulder, pats him on the back and waits for a burp, has not been observed, nor has spitting up (Liedloff, 1986; Schiefenhövel & Schiefenhövel, 1996). An infant who is not allowed to breast-feed according to the infant-regulated principle (feeding on demand), even four times an hour if so wished, does not have to swallow a large amount because of hunger, consequently he does not get a distended stomach. This is why infants who are being fed on demand do not have problems in keeping and digesting the relatively small doses they consume at a time. Any possible air is released on it’s own accord, as “carried children” sit upright on a body in movement.
An important element in breast-feeding, is that within traditional civilizations the infant itself may choose which side of the breast he wants to suck and for how long. It seems that the infant regulates the liquid intake, nutrients and immune bodies himself. Today researchers do not have enough knowledge about the circumstances around these conditions. This control is nevertheless dependent on infant-regulated breast-feeding. The length, the way of feeding (short with many breaks contrary to long feeds), the pressure of the sucking and the stimulus of the free breast, have an affect on the composition of the fluid and solid parts of the milk (Schiefenhövel, 1990). Through my own observation of my grandchild I have found it difficult to be able to discover why the child sometimes would cry, not wanting to suck from the breast, and the next moment when the mother changed side it would calm down. There was milk on both sides. May be this phenomenon will be explained scientifically some day.
The child’s manipulation of the mother’s free breast is a universal phenomenon, as far as researchers are able to see. During the breast-feeding the baby is able to place his hand on the breast when it is not covered, and play in a specific way. An exact analysis of this play discloses a new physiological dimension: With the rather intense manipulation of the nipple, the lactation reflexes and the milk production is stimulated (Schiefenhövel, 1990).
Another important factor concerning breast-feeding and the accompanying skin to skincontact, is that it seems to relieve the pain response, for instance when blood tests of anewborn is being taken (Carbajal, Veerapen, Coudere, Jugie & Ville 2003).
Hip disease -an unknown phenomenon within old civilizations
In the case of Homo sapiens sapiens, the evolution could afford to complete the constitution of the developing mobility reflexes: At birth the remarkably undeveloped hip joint consists of much less bone structure than other parts of the skeleton and consequently more embryonial cartilage (Schiefenhövel, 1990).
When a newborn or an infant is sitting on a person’s hip, the spreading angle of the legs is 45 degrees, on average. Consequently the angle of the thighs is between 90 and 120 degrees. This position corresponds precisely to the anatomic requirements. The interaction between sitting on the hip and the child’s fairly strong contraction of hips, thighs and back muscles, develops the child’s hip joint. (Kirkilionis, 1999; Schiefenhövel, 1990).
In old Asian and African civilizations hip disease is an unknown phenomenon. If we look at Indian tribes in North Canada where newborns are bound to a cradleboard according to old tradition, one will find that 12,3 per cent of the infants suffer from this disease. The percentage within civilizations where such traditions are not being practiced is 1,2 per cent (Kirkilions, 1999).
These numbers clearly show that when the phylogenetic conditioned carrying of the child is not complied with, the child’s thighs do not assume the physiologically structured form of the angle often enough or for long enough periods. A part of the evolutionary biological interaction between form and function, morphology and ethnology is lacking.
In Germany and other countries, carrying children has become very popular. Even in Norway we see parents on the streets, in supermarkets, airports or going for walks offering their children this intimacy. One may however also observe mothers and fathers carrying their offspring in “in-out baby carriers” where the child is facing away from the carries body. I presume that the intention is to satisfy the child’s curiosity. With a closer look, one sees that the child’s legs are hanging straight down (this also applies to carrying in back frames and other child carriers) and the hip joint is being stretched. The correct anatomic spreading angle of 90-120 degrees which is so important is not being considered. This may be harmful to the proper development of the hip, and at the same sitting in this position is tiring for the child’s back.
Another objection against this “in-out carrying positions” is that even if the child is able to see a lot, he may not be able to digest the impressions- the child is not able to turn towards the carrying person’s body. It is all too much. In frightening situations the baby is not able to quickly orientate itself through the carrying person’s expressions. This is why experts warn people against this kind of carrying, and it is advisable to be very careful in one’s choice of child carriers.
“You Norwegians are strange. You have to explain everything. We just do it”, a woman said. In her culture children always have been and still are being carried on the body. The woman is right, and this article confirms it. The development of our civilization has become far removed from the intimacy which every infant is dependent on and is expecting from birth. We have forgotten the history of our development. Step by step we have to rediscover and justify it’s existence, until we possibly dare to take the consequences of it.
Here in this evolutionary model for infant care, two main elements have been emphasized: bodily contact mostly by carrying during the day and by sleeping beside mother by night, and breast-feeding according to the “feeding on demand” principle, at night as well. This article does not include all aspects of these two main elements. The model may however seem unattainable within our own civilization. Questions concerning “full breast-feeding” have caused discussions and conflicts in the media. The title “Best in the world on breast-feeding hysteria” (Ulvund, 2001) is aimed at the head physician Gro Nylander, who for a long time has argued in favour of the beast-feeding issue.
In a society like ours, a breast-feeding mother with her maternity leave is often being isolated. Many women don’t have any social intellectual stimuli from other adults during the day. In old civilizations the newly fledged mothers did not take care of their children in an isolated house or flat separated from the rest of the world. The woman was an integrated part of the group, and she would continue to do her duties within the community as before.
Within our civilization a child may be preventing a woman to attain an influential job if she at the same time wants to take care of her child in a satisfactory way. A woman who wishes to take a long maternity leave many also be in danger of loosing the influential job she has worked hard to get. The woman does not any longer have the natural position which is required in order to play a decisive role in society. Her influence is marginal on a quota basis, 40 per cent at the most. Women still have to work hard to be able to take part in important areas concerning the ethical, political and religious development. The way our society looks today, the woman has almost no chance to reverse the trend in the direction of a more friendly woman/child orientated society.
The evolutionary model regarding infant care may consequently seem like a naive Utopia which might even pulverize into some untrue and child hostile theories related to infants psyche and behaviour. There are however parents who try to approach the model. More and more single mothers also breast-feed according to the “feeding on demand” principle and they carry their offspring on their body. In order to do this they need the cooperation and all the help they can get from close relatives or friends.
Whereas breast-feeding is a woman’s concern, carrying is not a “one-person’s concern.” To carry an infant on the body gives a real opportunity to give and receive intimacy. When this happens on the child’s terms, which means that the child is quickly given back to the mother by signal, the child will be able to build a fundamental trust to the carrying person.
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