Hold that Baby!

Every year I spend the month of July in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with my religious family. When it comes to birth related news, Brazil is often criticized because of the country’s frighteningly high cesarean birth rate. Unfortunately, there’s far less press around child rearing and the amazing jobs many women do when it comes to breastfeeding regardless of socio-economic status.

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No matter where I am, pregnant women and families with small children catch my attention. However, for the first time I noticed women in transit with their babies. One rainy evening my godsister and her husband arrive at the temple with their 20 month old sleeping son. My sister is not wearing a sling, or baby carrrier. She hasn’t pushed him along in a stroller during their nearly 2-hour commute to the temple. My sister is carrying her son wrapped in a blanket in her arms. It was a strange sight for me.

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Most women in the United States use a wrap or sling to hold their baby while they’re active. Many use a car seat when they’re out shopping for groceries. It’s impossible to go to a park and not see a myriad of strollers that stand out among the greenery. So what’s the deal? Are strollers, slings and wraps too expensive for the average Bazilian woman? Not any more than for the average North American woman. There’s something quite cultural about holding one’s baby and sitting them on the lap rather than letting them rest in a swing, bouncer, car seat or play pen.

Could it be that Brazilian mothers have more intimate relationships with their babies than we do? Far be from me to make that assertion! However, it’s worth noting that Brazilian mothers are afforded longer maternity leaves than their North American sisters. A few months definitely help mother and child bond and grow into each other. Not to mention the time with which mom can devote to breastfeeding if she chooses. In the wake of World Breasfeeding Week, there are advertisements everywhere reinforcing the powerful message that breast is best for both mother and child(ren).

In the U.S. we seem to be thrilled by the next new thing. Moby wraps are suddenly all the rage when indigenous women around the world have been using fabric to carry their babies from the beginning of time. Right in line with our drive-thru microwave culture, we’re interested in the quick fix. Wearing your baby is definitely better than not, but does wearing your baby mean you’re interacting with your baby? Is wearing your baby the same as holding your baby?

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