Baby What? A Short History of Babywearing

Where have you seen Baby Carriers Today? Have you noticed photos of celebrities carrying their babies in baby slings and carriers? Maybe you've seen parents wearing their babies at the park or at public events. Where did this trend of babywearing come from?

Babywearing is not new. Carrying a baby to give the mother freedom is a very old, very practical art. Babywearing in North America is somewhat less recognized, although this is changing every year. Here's a fun look at babywearing from a Canadian mother in 1963 - CBC video of Baby Toting in 1963.

Mothers strap their babies on their backs so they can have their hands free to work and play. It's simple! Baby is safe and happy, and mother has freedom of movement.

The Rebozo from Mexico and Guatemala is made from a length of colorful, woven cotton tied around baby and mother. The baby can be worn in a front, back, or side carry. The traditional Mei Tai (pronounced "may tie") has a history that stretches back hundreds of years. The carrier has its roots in Asia, where mothers often carried their babies with a square- or rectangle-shaped piece of fabric with straps on all four corners. The Kanga from Kenya is a large, printed cotton scarf that is tied in the front with the baby on the back. Many Native Americans carried babies on their backs, either on a leather-covered wooden cradleboard or in a carrier more closely resembling today's baby slings or rebozos.

Sacagawea, Lewis and Clark's early 19th-century Shoshone guide to their exploration of North America, was six months pregnant when she set off. She gave birth along the way and carried her baby for the rest of the journey. When the U.S. Mint researched Sacagawea for their Golden Dollar coin, in production since 2000, they determined that "she could reasonably have learned to carry Jean Baptiste slung from her shoulder, as was the Hidatsa custom." The final design of the coin shows the infant nuzzled into the back of her neck as she looks back over her shoulder at the viewer, the baby sling a prominent part of the design.

Baby carriers in history

Doesn't Baby Jean look content, sleeping away on her mother's back?

The idea of baby carrying is very old, but thinking of this as "wearing" a baby is more recent. The term "babywearing" was coined by Martha Sears and popularized by her husband Dr. William Sears, a well-known pediatrician who also popularized "attachment parenting" in the 1980's. Today, there is extensive medical support for the ancient practice as it benefits modern parents and modern babies.

The Recent Baby Carrier Fashion

Where has the recent trend come from? The stories of many manufacturers of baby slings and baby carriers are similar. Many of them saw a mother wearing a baby carrier as they traveled the world, realized how practical the idea was, and began making their own baby carriers, which they eventually brought back to their home countries. Global baby carrier styles have become models for commercially available baby slings and carriers today.


The recent trend means baby slings and carriers are becoming a familiar sight. But, the ability to wear a baby in a position best for baby's health + development is not automatic. Babywearing is a learned skill. Babywearers need to learn the process of making a sling secure for the baby and comfortable for the adult.

Some misunderstand babywearing, assuming it must hurt or people must be wearing their babies because it is fashionable. When done correctly with a properly fitted baby carrier, babywearing should be completely comfortable. Though in their beautiful variety baby slings and carriers are quite fashionable, most parents are looking for the freedom of movement or the closeness to baby that they get from babywearing.

Mom with Baby at Park - her hands are free for her toddler!

Mom with Baby at Park - her hands are free for her toddler!

As this new experience becomes more instinctive and as the skills of babywearing themselves become more familiar, parents will dispel misinformation and pass on the tips and tricks that make babywearing easy and fun.

Same Reasons for Babywearing Then and Now

A mother's work does not stop because she has a baby to care for. Wearing your baby can give you freedom to get on with life, while it keeps your baby happy and secure. Check out the Baby Slings and Baby Carriers department at Parenting By Nature for one of the largest selections of quality, comfortable + supportive baby carriers today.

Continue with our Babywearing Tutorial:

After reading through our articles, if you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. At Parenting By Nature we provide on-going customer support throughout the entire time you use our baby carriers.

Happy Babywearing!