This has been on my mind for quite a while now, and I have to admit – even with my extensive knowledge of in-arms carrying – I’m guilty of calling babywearing “carrying”. It’s a bit of a funny one, as yes, we’re technically carrying our children when we use slings and carriers, but the two are very different things, even if they look very similar on the surface. So, in a bid to address this bugbear of mine and to make a move to stop myself keep falling into that comfortable way of lumping the two together, I decided to blog about it.


OK, so babywearing is something we do for our babies and children. Essentially, it is the act of strapping them to our bodies to enable us to carry them hands-free.

Carrying – in the truest sense of the action – is a developmental process which is carried out in-arms and/or sling/carrier-free.

Yes, you heard me right (read me right?) – carrying is a developmental process. It’s not something we do for them; it’s something we aid them in as they develop their clinging behaviour. It may have been labelled from the wrong perspective (surely it should be “clinging” or a word to describe the participation of both parties), but for the sake of what it has been labelled as, we’ll stick with the term.

Of course, how they develop this movement depends on how we carry them, which is a whole other kettle of fish, but for this post I’m just going to address this difference, and get to why it needs highlighting. I feel strongly that we all need to be aware of the distinction between the two. Both are very important with each having their clear place, and in-arms carrying is the foundation for ergonomical babywearing, but they most certainly are not the same thing.

Babywearing is on the static end of the spectrum, and tends to be passive in nature. Carrying is dynamic, much more active, and is to babywearing as natural terrain is to a treadmill. I’m sure there is a much better analogy, but this is all I’ve got right now!

Babywearing is a very useful sort-of-copy, but more of an adaptation of carrying. As it stands at this point in time, in-arms carrying is seen by many as unimportant and inferior to babywearing. That it is just a means of transportation, and hey, babywearing frees up both arms so why not just do that?

My mission is to clearly define the two, and get more people aware of the absolute importance of in-arms carrying for normal human development. It’s the “missed” developmental stage and its rediscovery needs sharing far and wide. That’s why I wrote my book – a ton of valuable, easily accessible information.

So, although it can feel like a useful word to highlight the importance of holding our babies, to leave this as an umbrella term for two different things devalues the importance of in-arms carrying and keeps the (incorrect) belief that they’re essentially the same thing. To move forwards in our understanding and learning about both babywearing and carrying, I feel it’s very important to distinguish between the two. When we do this, we can take a step back to see the bigger picture, and learn and educate in a better and more accessible way.

I hope you’ll agree that this is an important distinction and one of those times where careful consideration of language and how we use it is needed. So, next time you find yourself using the word “carrying”, have a think and ask yourself “do I actually mean babywearing, in-arms carrying or holding?”?

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