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Why Clinging is Important?

Have you ever wondered why clinging is an important human behaviour? There is a big focus on the attachment side of carrying (and babywearing), which is obviously a very important thing, but there are also many other important reasons which promote normal, healthy human development. Here are four of them:

 

Clinging facilitates normal physical development

Humans are clinging young – it is undeniable. Almost all of us are born with the ability to cling to our caregivers, and – if clinging behaviours are encouraged – babies go through an on-body clinging developmental process, from much assistance as newborns, right through to independent clinging as toddlers/pre-schoolers. Working through this developmental process supports the normal development of the muscles and spine, enabling them to achieve their full clinging potential.

Clinging builds a strong core and powerful legs, which in turn are very useful for other physical activities, such as walking long distances. Active carrying is for when they are alert, energetic and seeking movement and interaction. It’s whole-body movement, exercise, and complements independent exploration of their environment.

 

Clinging encourages human interaction

As mentioned previously, active carrying promotes interaction – both with the caregiver and the environment. When a baby/child is participating in the carrying process they are involved in an activity. They’re present, alert and thirsting for interaction. The freedom of movement, the shift from calm- and sleep-inducing movement to invigorating movement, it all contributes towards a thriving learning environment, exploring at the caregiver’s level with the comfort of their closeness and touch to navigate it together.

It’s no surprise that caregivers tend to find that their baby/child is less likely to get agitated or bored during an active clinging phase. Clinging requires the caregiver to be fully present too – it’s an activity which requires mutual participation and the communication is incredibly hard to miss.

 

Clinging makes caregivers more aware of their posture and alignment

A clinging baby/child shows caregivers that their subconscious body adjustments are rarely needed. We have been programmed from a very young age to carry our young in specific ways – ways in which their clinging capacity is compromised and so are our bodies. A reliance on passive carrying is harming our bodies. Focusing on active carrying where possible helps us to be more aware of our own bodies and protect them better.

A clinger is also gentler to the body than a passive load. Many of us will still hold our bodies in ways that aren’t normal, as many of us have postural and alignment issues. By having less of a weight impacting on existing issues we’re being kinder to our body than when we’re holding or bearing a static load. Their perceived weight is much less when they are doing much of the work. This also means the caregiver is able to carry for longer when they are using active carrying.

 

Clinging is communication

Active carrying is a cacophony of communication – from clinger to caregiver and vice-versa. Clinging requires the caregiver to respond to the clinger’s cues. These can range from subtle movements or changes in pressure to outright climbing or vocalisation/speech. Clinging cannot happen without communication, and the ease of this depends on the physical and verbal barriers to communication.

Clinging opens up a whole new level of connection to your baby/child. Learning the clinging “language” helps you to understand each other in different ways. Much of this communication is subconscious, bodies responding automatically to physical communication, but there is plenty of conscious communication going on too. If you have practiced elimination communication or baby sign language, for example, you will have an idea of how various forms of communication open up a new world and another level to your connection to each other!

Communication also brings about a new-found awareness of the subtle behaviours and promotes easier carrying.

 

All of these reasons show us that carrying is normal. It’s an integral part of baby and child development and is one of the many processes which contributes towards their normal development in many areas. Clinging is a normal human behaviour which is not yet universally recognised, which means so many families aren’t even aware of these inborn capabilities of their babies and children. When they aren’t encouraged to cling, they are much more likely to lose the ability (although it can be re-taught) and happily opt for the “easy option” which is letting their caregiver do all the work as they remain passive.

If we carry passively most or all the time, we’re encouraging sedentary behaviour in our children. This is one of the first things we do as parents which makes them move less! As almost all caregivers carry their baby/child on a daily basis, no matter their parenting philosophy, doesn’t it make sense for us to be sharing the tools to encourage normal development whilst making this a much easier and more enjoyable part of raising children?

Mel Cyrille
Mel is a babywearing and in-arms carrying trainer and educator. She's also the author of "In-arms Carrying", available in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon.
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