By now, I’m sure most of you have heard about the Motrin ad about babywearing that was pulled due to some mommies’ noses being put out of joint (my personal hat tip goes to Nancy 🙂 ). In case you haven’t, here’s the ad:
Quite a few of the protesting mothers thought the ad was condescending, and portrayed “babywearing” and its “proven benefits” in a negative light, by virtue of mentioning that it may strain one’s shoulders and back in a way that might make Mom reach for some pharmacological help and by the use of the qualifier “supposedly” before talking about the bonding and paucity of crying babies experience as a result of being “worn”. In fact, some mothers claimed that if the practice hurts, it must be because you’re doing it wrong.
Just so you get where I’m coming from, let me just say that while not very fond of the phrase “babywearing” per se (babies are people, not articles of clothing), even my AP friends have told me that I held my babies a lot. I’ve also carried them in Snuglis and slings (I had two OTSBH’s) whenever it was convenient – though less and less as the babies became heavier. I have to admit that baby carriers are quite common here (the most popular, I think, being the locally-made tinokis) and their use doesn’t automatically brand one as a True Believer in AP. I also take ibuprofen (not the Motrin brand, though – it isn’t available here) for my migraines.
I’d like to relate to some of the more common complaints heard from the protesters of the ad:
The ad was ‘condescending’. I confess to not liking the ad very much, mostly from the aesthetic point of view. I can hear just fine, TYVM, so I really don’t need erratically-placed text accompanying the narrative. The narrator’s clip and tone of voice sounded neurotic, self-absorbed and overly familiar as well. I suppose some women interpreted that as condescending, but I just found it mildly annoying…and the narrator, someone to condescend to. Annoying enough to complain and boycott Motrin brand ibuprofen as a result? Nah.
The ad will discourage “babywearing” because it makes it sound like a painful chore. On the contrary, I think admitting that women can run into difficulties and offering them a solution to said difficulties would actually encourage those who tried it, but are about to give up. Lots of women “babywear”, not necessarily out of some (misguided, IMO) ideology but for convenience’s sake (it makes eminent sense to navigate public tramsportation while babywearing, for example), and acknowledging it’s not all butterflies and roses is very refreshing.
Interestingly, some breastfeeding advocates have attacked formula companies for putting out breastfeeding manuals which portray the practice in a too-rosy light, hence if Mom’s reality doesn’t match the idyll in the manual, she will throw up her hands and run for the formula. Wouldn’t the same logic work with regard to the lumps and bumps of babywearing?
Using the term “supposedly” does an injustice to the the proven benefits of babywearing. Actually, “supposedly” is probably pretty accurate to describe the purported benefits of the practice. I’m not referring to the practical benefits, such as being able to carry your baby hands-free, not have to deal with bulky carriages and such. I think we can all agree that YMMV on those. I’m talking about the scientifically-“proven” benefits to carrying your baby on your body for a large part of the day. Claimed benefits include better growth with “kangaroo care”, increased attachment security and decreased crying (as stated in the ad; baby sling manufacturers such as the OTSBH make even more far-reaching claims, but they’re in the business of selling the things and I haven’t been able to find much to support them).
Better growth with “kangaroo care”: There is a plethora of studies showing that premature babies, when placed in close, skin-to-skin contact with a parent (usually Mom), have stabler vital signs and grow better. This has not been shown with term infants, who are in any case “fully baked”, whose vital signs are relatively stable (barring extreme environmental conditions) and who are strong enough to feed adequately. It could be true, but it hasn’t, to my knowledge, been checked.
Increased attachment security: As far as I can tell, there has been only one study which examined this hypothesis in low socioeconomic level women and their babies. The women (23 in the test group, 26 in the control) were randomized to receive either a soft baby carrier, in which a pedometer was installed to determine how much the women used it (test group) vs. an infant seat (control group). The mothers in the carrier group were found to be more responsive to their babies at 3.5 months and when given a Strange Situation Test at 13 months, the babies in the test group were much more likely to be securely attached. However, the authors were also not sure these results would translate to other socioeconomic groups; the fact that the control group had a very low proportion of securely attached babies (38%) would suggest further studies of this type should be done before reaching a conclusion. The babies whose mothers used soft carriers were not actually “worn” constantly, either; those moms who used the carriers the most clocked all of 9 miles’ worth of walking with it (a sedentary person walks 0.5-1 mile a day on average).
Reduced crying: While there is one study which demonstrates this, the preponderance of evidence shows that increased carrying doesn’t decrease the amount a baby will cry, especially not when the crying is related to colic.
To make a long story short, I think “supposedly”, while this may not have been the advertiser’s intention, is actually a very apt term when describing the (supposed) benefits of babywearing for the average baby.
If something hurts while you’re babywearing, you must be doing it wrong. And you thought the ad was condescending?!
Seriously…carrying a baby in utero causes back pain for some women. Heck, carrying milk-laden breasts on one’s chest can cause back pain for some women as well. Perhaps they’re carrying those wrong, too?
The fact is, lugging a 20lb. baby on your chest, hip or back for very long can hurt even with an optimally-used sling. Even if the baby’s weight is distributed over a large area, it may hurt less, but at some point it’ll still get damned uncomfortable (cue Motrin).
Mothers who care enough to babywear are usually breastfeeding; Motrin is bad to take when nursing. Nope.