Where Are All the Happy Babies?

By Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D. © 2011

photo shared by peaceful parenting mother, Danelle Day

I was so glad to meet a happy, confident, socially engaged baby this week. Baby Loren was a stark contrast to most babies (children under 2) that I encounter these days. Most tend to look distracted, unhappy, dazed, and pretty uninterested in others. And their eyes don't glow or communicate understanding like Loren's did. I even had a hard time finding a photo to put up with this post of a glowing, clued-in baby, whose eyes did not look wounded or clouded.

Why are so few babies "glowing" any more?

Although babies obviously represent the future of your family, my family, our society, and the human race, fewer and fewer people in the United States seem to understand what babies need. Charles Blow has been documenting the declining support and wellbeing of children, as in his August 26th New York Times article, when he documents how many children in each U.S. state have food insecurity.

Food is clearly a basic need for a thriving baby. But there are things beyond such staying-alive-needs that human babies require for thriving.

Here is some basic information about babies and some of their needs.

Human babies, unlike any other creature, have only 25% of the brain developed at birth (assuming 40-42 weeks gestation at birth - i.e., full term). Most of what is available at birth are basic survival mechanisms that kick into gear when the child feels imbalanced or life-threatened (i.e. panic at separation from the caregiver).

Unlike most other animals who are mobile at birth, humans emerge from the womb many months early because of head size. Social mammals like humans have lots of growing to do after birth too, and our ancestral parenting practices provide good early care that fosters optimal social and intellectual brain development. What's good care? Good care in the first year or more includes an 'external womb' kind of care (i.e., carried close to the body constantly, needs met immediately, nursing on demand).

A baby's development unfolds on a set maturational schedule (with individual timing varying somewhat). Later capacities build on earlier ones. So if there is inadequate food or attention during this rapid-growth period, the brain will build less-than-optimal systems (i.e., neurotransmitter systems receptor number and activity can be lowered by poor care, which affects how well your memory is set up to work later on -- not so well!). A poor foundation leads to poor mental and physical health later (which sometimes may not show up until adolescence or adulthood).

The brain typically grows to 60% adult size by 12 months and is co-constructed by experience. So you can see that the caregiver has a great effect on how well the brain grows.

In the first year of life, the neocortex begins to build up the area for reasoning, thinking, planning, and other executive functions -- systems that apparently finish themselves in the third decade of life. The emotion systems become established and connected by age two, affecting social capabilities later. So the first two years set up personality, intelligence and social success. (See Greenspan & Shanker, 2004; Schore, 2001.)

Thus, care in the first years of life is critical for optimal brain and body development, for intellectual, social and emotional intelligence.

photo shared by peaceful parenting mother, Jennifer Coias

What does baby want/need desperately in the first two years when the brain is growing so quickly? 
Think: external womb.

Caregiver constant touch (holding, carrying, wearing) keeps DNA synthesis and growth hormone going. Separation from a caregiver's body shuts both down (Schanberg, 1995). (Have you noticed how distressed a baby gets when isolated? Separation hurts - literally.) Intelligence later in childhood is related to head size growth in the first year of life (Gale et al., 2006).

Caregiver responsiveness to needs. Babies don't have any capabilities for self-care at birth. They need caregivers to teach their bodies and brains to stay calm so they can grow well. When young babies nonverbally gesture discomfort, it means they feel pain and should be attended to immediately. Babies should not have to cry to have their needs met because crying releases cortisol, killing brain cells.

Avoid distress. Until around age 5, children need protection from stressful situations. Their brains are not yet capable of dealing with loud noises or sudden visual transformations. They need a caregiver's compassionate physical presence to get calm from sudden distress. Later on a child will naturally grow to comfort self when the caregiver is unavailable, based on this early sense of security and systems that were coached to calm themselves.

Avoid discomfort. When a baby starts to gesture discomfort indicating some kind of imbalance, the caregiver can provide touch (carrying/wearing, rocking) or the breast for non-nutritive suckling or breastmilk. Meeting a baby's needs quickly when a baby communicates a need builds the child's confidence in the self's ability to get needs met. This confidence stays with the child thereafter, leading to confident, securely attached, independent children later in life.

Avoid crying. When babies are left to cry, they build a more stress-reactive brain (for the longterm) that will have a harder time calming itself. Later on, depression, anxiety and aggression are more likely. They learn not to trust the world or people, thereby becoming more focused on themselves. In contrast, caregiver responsiveness to the needs of baby fosters a pleasant personality. In cultures where babies do not cry (because they are not separated from their caregiver and never left unfed or untouched), there are no 'terrible twos' (see additional).

Breastmilk. Provided mother is not severely malnourished, breastmilk provides all the nutrition needed to build a well-functioning brain and body. Neurotransmitters like serotonin are fostered by the alpha-lactalbumin, rich in tryptophan, in breastmilk. All immunoglobulins are provided by mother's milk, plus antibodies for any viruses and bacteria in the vicinity. Exclusive breastfeeding (i.e. nothing but mother's milk to eat or drink) for at least the first 6-12 months of baby's life, ensure these benefits will be unimpeded by the pathogens and imbalances that formula encourages (see additional).

Frequent, on cue breastmilk feeding. Breastmilk is mostly amino acids which are fundamental to building a good brain. Baby feeds frequently to flood the brain with these needed building blocks. If the baby is put on a parent-directed schedule, or an infant formula that makes babies sleep deeply (which is unnatural and unhealthy), opportunities to provide brain-building nutrients will be missed, not to mention the distress it will cause in the baby. This again leads to a stressed brain, increased cortisol, less optimal growth, less flexible self-comforting.

Babies become what they experience. The brain learns what is practiced, especially in early life. If early life is a distress-filled life, the brain learns to be a threat detector, using that as a filter for social life. The brain has difficulty relaxing to learn. If early life is an unstressed life, the brain is able to grow in all the ways it is designed to grow (smart, thoughtful, compassionate).

If we don't give babies what they need, should we be surprised that children's academic performance and social behavior is on the downswing?

photo shared by peaceful parenting father and Photography Monthly editor, Jeff Meyer


How does what babies need affect those who are not parents?

Babies need responsive caregivers, 24 hours, 7 days a week. Parents cannot do this alone. It means we need to restructure society, going back to ways that are supportive of babies.

How do we facilitate optimal child growth without putting it all on parents? 

We should be thinking about, planning for, and implementing cultural changes to facilitate structural changes.

Family Wellbeing. Parents need to be able to provide for their families without working day and night. They need decent jobs that pay enough so that one job is enough for a family to live on. It has been noted that our ancestors controlled their desires, desiring very little. Our culture does the opposite, increasing desires for things that don't really make us happy but keep us distracted. (See Bishop's book, More.) Maybe the economic downturn is a chance to shift our priorities from acquiring things to getting pleasure from relationships (the focus of our ancestors and many other cultures around the world today).

Family Health. We need to focus on prevention and fostering good health, instead of interventions after things have already gone wrong. This means healthcare that starts babies right, with as little interference at birth as possible. The time around childbirth is a sensitive period for establishing longterm patterns of interaction, including bonding and secure attachment. There should be no genital cutting ('circumcision') in early life as it affects bonding, attachment, pain reception, and breastfeeding success. [Editor's note: U.S. style genital cutting also removes the vital prepuce organ, impacting babies immediately and long term as adults.] Our medical system should be careful and cautious about interfering with natural processes (i.e., breastfeeding, delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin between baby and mother, etc.) during this period.

Family Time. Parents need time to be with their children in positive ways and both need time with supportive community members. Having community nurses who visit new mothers in their homes is a proven way to improve childrearing. Trust is fostered in early life through responsive care - to always have our needs met, even during times when mom needs a break. If most of us did not get the nearly constant support needed as babies and young children, with little distress, chances are we are not very trusting as adults. And indeed, trust levels in the United States have been decreasing over the last decades. We will have to figure out how to slow ourselves down enough to pay attention to our neighbors in positive ways and build the trust that comes from familiarity in supportive communities.

Caregiver Attention. Young children need responsive parents or else their brains, bodies, and sociality are undernourished. Parents who are well themselves, and calm, who are secretly attached with their child, and who have time for an emotional connection with their child are better able to be attentive -- which is just what children need. This does not mean intrusive, controlling, insensitive attention, but respectful, honoring attention that responds sensitively to a child's emotional cues.

Extended Families. We must facilitate keeping extended families together, allowing them to be in the same house if they so choose (zoning laws have made this illegal in some places). Then other family members can take on some of the household tasks for parents as well as assisting with childcare.

Workplaces. Babies can and should be at work with mom. (See Babies at Work Program,) This means that work schedules and work places must be flexible. This means that parents must be able to manage and make up for decreased night sleeping (i.e., afternoon siestas). Some jobs are just not appropriate for new moms and new dads (soldiering, for example) and so we must encourage workplaces to allow extended parental leaves in the first years of baby's life, as done in other advanced nations.

Politicians. In Switzerland, preschools are often built next to retirement communities so that the younger and older generations can easily intermingle. Such proposals are built on wisdom about what helps people of all ages thrive. Many U.S. politicians seem to have lost their intuitions and wisdom about these things. To remedy this lack of understanding, I propose that we make sure that politicians hold babies and play with young children regularly. High testosterone correlates with low empathy, and there's been quite a lot of both among politicians in the news. Holding babies lowers testosterone. The hope (to be tested) is that politicians will think of the babies and children when they write and pass laws and design budgets.

Public Spaces. Women's breasts were designed to nurse babies (with milk and comfort suckling) to optimal health. It would be helpful to let go of the extreme sexualization of breasts in the U.S., although it is suspected that many men who did not breastfeed, or receive enough support in early life, are those very same men obsessed with breasts today. In places where a normal duration of breastfeeding is common, men have very few obsessions with women's breasts. (See one discussion.)

Pleasure. We've had a couple of generations now that have learned to not take great pleasure in being with children, so it may take a few generations to get back to a healthy pleasure balance. But childrearing within community is very pleasurable (if parenting in a baby-friendly manner so that children grow to have pleasant personalities, as do the adults).

Happy babies make for happy communities. If we attend to what children need from before birth onward, they will be pleasant and happy. It is the denial of their needs that pushes them into being fussy and ornery and oppositional and unpleasant. However, we all have to pitch in.

But, you might say, doesn't the glowing baby, Loren, count as a happy baby? Doesn't his existence counter my hypothesis of decreasing happy babies in the United States? Nope. Loren is not from the U.S. -- he is from Switzerland, a place with many policies in place to support wellbeing in both families and babies.

I'm sure you have more ideas about how to make our societies friendlier to the needs of babies. Let's imagine together how we can improve the current situation.

photo shared by peaceful parenting mother, Sharon Frisby

Related Articles:

The Decline of Children and the Moral Sense

Are you or your child on a (touch) starvation diet?

Are you treating your baby like a prisoner?

Breastmilk Wipes Out Formula

Peaceful Parenting: Following Your Instincts

What is Peaceful Parenting?

Best Related Books:

Why Love Matters

The Continuum Concept

Primal Health

Baby Matters

The Science of Parenting

The Vital Touch

The Scientification of Love

Born For Love

The Biology of Love

Our Babies, Ourselves

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering


Catharine R. Gale, PhD, Finbar J. O'Callaghan, PhD, Maria Bredow, MBChB, Christopher N. Martyn, DPhil and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Study Team (October 4, 2006). "The Influence of Head Growth in Fetal Life, Infancy, and Childhood on Intelligence at the Ages of 4 and 8 Years". Pediatrics Vol. 118 No. 4 October 2006, pp. 1486-1492. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/short/118/4/1486.

Greenspan, S.I., & Shanker, S.I. (2004). The first idea. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Hewlett, B., & Lamb, M. (2005). Hunter-gatherer childhoods. New York: Aldine.

Schanberg, S. (1995). "The genetic basis for touch effects." In T. Field (Ed.), Touch and Early Experience (pp. 67-80). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Schore, A. N. (2001). "Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health." Infant Mental Health Journal, 22(1-2), 7-66. doi:10.1002/1097-0355(200101/04)22:1<7::AID-IMHJ2>3.0.CO;2-N

Sunderland, M. (2006). The Science of Parenting. DK Adult.

Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame and Director of the Collaborative for Ethical Education. Her current research examines the effects of parenting on child and adult outcomes. Narvaez has developed several integrative theories: Adaptive Ethical Expertise, Integrative Ethical Education, Triune Ethics Theory. She spoke at the Whitehouse's conference on Character and Community, and is author/editor of three award winning books: Postconventional Moral Thinking; Moral Development, Self and Identity; and the Handbook of Moral and Character Education. Her (ed.) upcoming text, Human Nature, Early Experience, and the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness is set for 2012 publication. Visit Dr. Narvaez' website for additional books, papers, classes, websites and contact information.


Children of the Tao: Ten Tips for Peaceful Parenting

By Sarah Long © 2011

More than 2,000 years ago, there lived a Chinese philosopher named Lao Tzu ("The Old Sage") who was renowned for his wisdom. When asked to summarize his teachings, he wrote a short book of poetry. These 81 poems were called Tao Te Ching, or “The Book of the Way,” and are the basis of Taoism. This peaceful philosophy has provided guidance for more than two millennium, and can be used both as a guide for governing a country, and for parenting our children.

1) Value peace.

Peace is [the Master’s] highest value.
 If the peace has been shattered,
 how can he be content? (#31)

It is not possible to teach our children about the importance of peace if we are raising them in a chaotic atmosphere, or if they see us cheering at every new war and picking arguments with family members and neighbors. Let's evaluate our home: Is it a soothing environment that is conducive to happy children and peaceful parenting? Or is there loud music, continuous television and other noises competing for attention, raised voices, and frequent arguments?

2) Lead by example.

The Master is content 
to serve as an example
 and not to impose her will. (#58)

Remember, children model behavior that they see, and they always seem to pick the negative behavior to model first. Have you ever gone on a cursing rampage while stuck in rush hour traffic with your children sitting in the backseat? They will repeat the words that they hear us saying, whether we want them to or not. They may not do it in front of us, but we can't be surprised if a parent knocks on our front door to notify us that "your child taught my child the F-word..."  Of course, it is likely that their child has already heard the word elsewhere, but why not be the parent on the block whose children model positive words and behavior?

3) Do everything in moderation.

For governing a country well,
there is nothing better than moderation. (#59)

Parenting is all about finding our personal balance. Frequently, parents have one or more jobs, in addition to extracurricular activities for the kids, running errands, housecleaning, and meal preparation. In all of the shuffle, it is easy to overburden oneself, which results in frazzled nerves and easy irritation. This, in turn, can be taken out on our children. It is important to teach moderation to our kids. Part of this can be done by modeling balanced behavior, but there is also value in verbally communicating the importance of not overdoing things.

4) Live simply.

If you look to others for fulfillment,
 you will never truly be fulfilled.
 If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself. (#44)

It is easy to have a complicated life, but in most cases, complicated means stressful. A perfect example of this is walking through the house after everyone has gone to bed, and stubbing a toe on furniture, stepping on toys, and tripping over shoes left in front of the couch. While it is necessary for our children to have clothing and toys, is it necessary for them to have so much that they cannot keep up with everything? It may be a good idea to limit our children's toys to what can fit into one toy box, and to donate everything else to a homeless shelter or second-hand store. If there is time, children can help to choose what needs to go, which will teach them a little about sharing and helping those less fortunate.

5) Be proactive whenever possible.

Prevent trouble before it arises.
 Put things in order before they exist. (#64)

In order to have a smoothly-run home, it is essential that we learn to stay on top of things that happen inside and outside the four walls of our abode. By paying attention to details and making a habit of proactively and preemptively solving any problems, we add to the overall peaceful environment in our homes and make our lives and those of our children easier, which will in turn lead to a more peaceful tone in our family life.

6) Teach your children the importance of good sportsmanship.

The best athlete 
wants his opponent at his best. (#68)

If we raise children who value fairness and good sportsmanship, it is likely that they will grow up to value egalitarianism in all of its forms. However, if we raise children to be overly competitive, and they witness us trashing others in order to make ourselves look and feel better, than they will have a skewed view of what it takes to get along in polite company. This can potentially lead to problems once they become adults - including boorish behavior and ignorance of social mores.

7) Act without expectations.

[The Master] lets all things come and go 
effortlessly, without desire. 
He never expects results;
 thus he is never disappointed. (#55)

Have you ever given someone a gift that you thought they would rave over, only to receive a disappointingly tepid response? Imagine if you had given it to them without any expectations: what may have seemed like a indifferent smile would now just be a smile, and you may be more satisfied with their response. The same can be said for any other aspect of life. If we go into a situation with high expectations, we may well be disappointed. This has the potential to lead to irritation, hurt feelings, etc. Instead, we may try to focus on realistic expectations with our children, and find we are able to avoid the intense negative feelings and reactions that come with unmet expectations.

8) Know when and how to yield.

The hard and stiff will be broken.
 The soft and supple will prevail. (#76)

There will be many times when our children are unable or unwilling to follow the rules we have laid out for them. When this happens, it is up to us, as their parents, to decide what our reaction will be. Will we punish them for every little infraction? Or have we created some breathing room in our rules, so that children have small opportunities to think for themselves and make personal decisions about their behavior? Being a parent is not about setting things in stone, but rather about knowing when situations call for flexibility in favor of our child’s overall growth.

9) React appropriately to outbursts and misbehavior.

The soft overcomes the hard;
 the gentle overcomes the rigid. (#78)

Anyone who has dealt with a three-year-old’s temper tantrum can attest to the fact that yelling at a child or punishing them for their outburst rarely has the desired effect. It is this author’s experience that most outbursts are the result of the child being overly tired or overcome with emotions (such as frustration, fear, sadness, etc.), not of a child intentionally trying to misbehave. If such behavior is handled with love and understanding, rather than more negative reactions, then said behavior is much more likely to clear itself up quickly, rather than snowballing into something more severe. This not only saves time and energy, but reinforces your overall attitude of peaceful parenting and creates a closer bond between us and our child.

10) Trust the process, especially when it doesn’t seem to be working.

Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
 Let it be present in your family
 and your family will flourish. (#54)

There will be days when nothing that we are doing seems to have the desired effect, and we are tempted to revert to more aggressive measures in order to assert our authority over our children or a trying situation. However, this will only serve to undermine all of the hard work we have put into everything to that point, in order to create a peaceful environment for our family. Children need consistency, and this includes consistency in our parenting philosophies. If they see six days of peaceful parenting followed by one day of aggressive measures, this can cause them to lose trust in our authority, and to question their role in the sudden change of atmosphere. Even when it is difficult, it is crucial that we remain a reliable, steadfast person in their life, so they in turn can depend on us as they grow to be reliable, strong-rooted adults themselves.

Sarah Long is a single mom who runs her own business, homeschools her children, and is an advocate of raising children the way she wished she had been raised. She has two delightful children to show for her efforts, and she enjoys writing about them at Instructions Optional.


Benefits of Babywearing Beyond Babyhood

By Danelle Day © 2018

When we think 'babywearing' the picture that often comes to mind is the snuggly, squishy goodness of a band new baby cuddled gently near the heart of a parent. Babywearing makes a world of difference in the lives of new parents, and has monumental benefits for infants beginning at birth (everything from increasing calm alertness, improving sleep and digestion, enhancing neurological and physical development, to regulating body temperature, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and more). Humans belong to the classification of 'carry mammals.' Part of being a carry mammal means that babies are born with several reflexes (the grasp reflex, spread-squat reflex, and the Moro reflex) to hold tight to a parent and be carried in baby's natural habitat - the adult chest. This close, physical contact for much of the day supports a baby's brain development that occurs most rapidly in the first 36 months of life, and keeps undeveloped systems (breathing, heart rate, temperature, etc.) regulated close to a parent's chest. Babies truly are born to be worn. Babywearing in these initial years is ubiquitous across the globe. But one babywearing topic we don't discuss as frequently includes the benefits and joys of wearing beyond the early baby days.

Over a decade ago, my first son was rapidly outgrowing carriers available, at the same time that Kinderpacks were just starting to take shape one state over. He was an extremely sensitive child who loved to explore the world around us, but always needed to be close to a parent to feel secure. We enjoyed having him up at eye level where we could easily talk quietly with him, and where he was engaged with conversations around us as an active participant, rather than a passive babe stuck in a stroller at our knees. He was able to see, hear, touch, experience all that we were, and safely. Wearing him met his needs perfectly. However, as he soared "off the charts" in height and weight for his age, babywearing became increasingly impossible. The Preschool Kinderpack had yet to be born, and we regretfully had to give up babywearing entirely too early, with no affordable option for a child his size.

Several years later I befriended a family planning to adopt a special needs child. They were avid hikers, and through their treks back and forth to be with this child, I saw their love for her grow, and knew they would need a way to fully include her in their outdoor adventures. I went on a search to see if things had changed in the babywearing world, and fell immediately in love with the Toddler and Preschool Kinderpacks. Because Kinderpacks were difficult to "score" at the time, I set out to raise funds to purchase one second hand from another individual, and it ended up being worth every penny. This sweet child, somewhat timid and fearful, came to live in her new home and find peace in the closeness and bonding that occurs being cozy in a pack next a protective, loving adult. Her mom told me that she would ask for "up" each morning while they did farm chores, and she was able to venture out to see her new world, safe and secure on her dad's back. If ONE simple Kinderpack could have this much positive impact on the life of a child, how much more good could I do sharing them further? It was a question that begged an active, involved response.

Since that time I've had another baby who rapidly grew "off the charts" like his brother, and we have been blessed to try out Kinderpacks here and there that we fundraise to purchase before passing them onto new families in need. We've used them for everything from long day trips to the zoo, hikes in the mountains and along the beach, singing together with this sweet little voice in my ear, taking an older sibling to the dentist, scurrying through airport terminals when I must travel alone with two kids, and having him ride along for work projects when there's otherwise no good spot for a preschooler year old to hang out. As a homeschooling, active duty military family of 17 years, I'm frequently in a situation of balancing solo-parenting with striving to maintain "normal" life at home. Childwearing calms tired little ones, allows for bigger adventures and longer days with older kids, keeps everyone safe, decreases anxieties when Dad is deployed once again, increases the reconnection when he is home, and makes the errands, appointments, and work requirements of life in general more kid-friendly on a day to day basis. I cannot count the ways that our lives are better now because of easy access to preschool carriers.

At this age, little ones are just beginning to move away from their babyhood years (the first ~36 months) into early childhood. Babywearing during this time offers mental, emotional, and physical support for a child to progress through this transition in his/her own perfect timing. Developmental research has shown time and again that when stress is decreased for a child, when a little one feels safe, secure, and close to a loving adult, they are able to observe more, learn more readily, and develop optimally, growing in their individual self-confidence and self-sureness in the world around them at their own perfect pace.

A research nerd myself, I am enamored with data on secure attachment, neurological development, and how babywearing throughout baby, toddler, and the preschool years fits in with this. However, I've found it equally compelling to listen to families who have walked these paths before, and share their qualitative experiences. I've had the honor of meeting with with countless families from all demographics through the non-profit educational work of Peaceful Parenting, and know for certain that preschool babywearing makes a BIG difference in the lives of so many, regardless of their family background. Below are some of the experiences parents have shared with me that are worth considering for the happiness and health of our children.

For Sibling Relationships

"Babywearing has been such a blessing in my life. My older son has anxiety, and when he was preschool aged, he had a difficult time in stores or other crowded places. Babywearing truly saved us all a lot of stress during those times. He was able to be close to me or his father while also participating calmly in our family shopping trips. I'm positive that babywearing helped him develop into the confident little boy he is today. All the times I have tandem wore my kiddos has also had a big impact on them as siblings. It really seems to help with bonding, and avoid jealousy between them." -Michelle

Eszter and her little one

For Travel

"My husband and I are so grateful to have been able to wear our son for all of his 3.5 years. If he's being worn, he's safe, he's close, and he can see what we see and participate! We recently adopted a large 'puppy' who needs and adores walks. Babywearing makes these walks (especially while parenting solo) a breeze! Not to mention the many times scooting through the airport - everywhere I've been, you don't need to remove your child through security, you can go as fast as you need, and your hands are free (once again, especially during solo parenting). Babywearing is just so much more convenient than a stroller!" -Krista

Krista's little one

For Close Connection

"Babywearing an older child has helped to not only strengthen the bond that I have with my little one, but has also strengthened his trust that I will always be there for him when he is independently exploring the world. It is amazing to see how this experience has helped to develop my child's adventurous spirit -- always ready to take on what wonders the world has to offer, but knowing there is a safe spot back on my back when it's needed." -Anu

"Wearing beyond babyhood has helped me because even preschoolers get tired and need a boost sometimes. But I think more importantly, young children still have a need to be close to parents to help them feel secure and help them deal with sometimes overwhelming emotions." -Megan

"I wore all 3 of my big kids into childhood. I think it only increased our bond and their security. Even now, if my youngest is sad, he'll get our carrier and either just snuggle it or put it on himself. It makes him feel connection, even if I'm not wearing him in it, it seems to represent security to him." -Jami

For Military Families

"I was at sea the majority of our son's early years, and preschool babywearing has allowed for this father-son bond now when we go to the aquarium, the zoo, on hikes, or even visit base, that I cannot see happening otherwise." -Adam

Post-Surgical Healing Time

"Preschool babywearing was very helpful for my second son after surgery when he was 5. We also utilize the carrier often because our current 5 year old has anxiety outside and in groups." -Natalie

John and his little one

To Explore More!

"I love being able to go explore and experience things but have a comfortable and easy way for my daughter to be carried when her legs are tired. It also keeps her safe in the fact that she has severe food allergies that she is very contact reactive to. So when we are in a tricky scenario it's nice to have a safe option for her." -Kindra

"Wearing our 3.5 year old let's us go on bigger adventures!" -Janna

Janna and her little one

For Parents and Children with Unique Needs

"Childwearing has massively helped us. I'm deaf, and I can see my child talking to me from my carrier with mirrors. It helps to calm us both down if there has been any kind of stressful or sad situation and it keeps our connections going!" -Rosie (who writes more on this topic at Carrying Matters UK)

"My 5 year old cannot walk due to CP. We love backpacking! With preschool babywearing, we can make quick trips without hauling out her wheelchair, and we can still enjoy family hikes and outdoor adventures. We also bring the pack along for long walks when our 3 year old gets tired." -Lillie

Rosie and her little one

For Father/Child Bonding

"I'm a dad. I love my boys. I carried my now 14 year old. He carries my now 2 year old. My 2 year old mimics and carries a doll. I would say that it has bonded all of us and helped my boys be empathic and nurturing to their siblings. I feel like we must be doing something right with how much they care for each other." -Ryan

For Sensitive Children 

"My son is sensitive and often uncomfortable in new or social situations. Our Kinderpack is his home away from home. When he is in the carrier we are one and he is at ease. With preschool wearing we are able to experience the world together." -Christina

"My huge 3 year old has PANS and 'uppies' help so much with sensory issues and just getting out on tough days." -Sydney

"Our child is high needs, especially in public, and babywearing helps to prevent meltdowns since he is still learning executive skills and emotional stability." -Faith

To Decrease Over-Stimulation

"Our son was so anxious around people that being worn gave him the safety he needed to be social on his terms. It also kept him safe and close once he became sure of himself..." -Brandi

"I have a five year old who is almost turning six. He only weighs 36 pounds and I wear him in a preschool carrier. It has helped in times where we are in crowds and he’s overstimulated, or places where I’d like to walk further and longer than he can. Mostly it’s a space for him to retreat to when tired or overwhelmed. Nothing like those hugs from my back while I walk around!" -Sarah

To Get Errands Done (Safely/Quickly)

"I can do my shopping while my 3 year old naps. I've also done construction, farm animal care, hiking, and fixed my car without having to keep an eye on him thanks to babywearing." -Moira

"I love wearing my preschooler! My kid-wearing has become less and less frequent over the last two years, but when I do wear her it feels so cuddly and special. I still love it so much even though she is getting bigger. I'm so thankful for my Preschool Kinderpack that allows us to continue wearing whenever she wants a ride or needs to be close to me." -Jennifer

"My 3.5 yr old likes being worn when he first wakes up. It’s also saved us many times in stores!" -Bekah

Involving Littles in Conversation

"I wore my oldest until age 4 (had to stop due to a car accident/neck injury). I think it made us super close. She was always content, and her language skills developed super early, I believe from always being at face level and in the conversation with me and other adults." -Jada

For the Solo Parenting Mom or Dad

"As a single mom - you do what you gotta do!" -Kelly, while simultaneously preschool babywearing and carrying her youngest

For a Better View of the World Around Us

"Sometimes people give me a funny look for preschool wearing, but I see those same people carrying their preschoolers around in their arms, on their backs and on their shoulders. I’d rather save my arms. Also love that babywearing lifts him up higher, so he’s not stuck in a crowd at hip level. People are made to see and respond to faces. That’s not exactly where a preschooler’s line of sight is in a crowd, and it’s overwhelming for them. I was in Disney last week with him and got down at his level in a crowd and really noticed it—it’s a sea of back pockets and zippers, not people. A good carrier lifts them and lets them see and recognize faces and be part of the crowd, or hide their face against their grown up to reduce stimulus. I know our last days of wearing is coming soon. It’s very infrequent now, and he’s almost six—though still very small for his age. Leaving child wearing behind will be bittersweet." -Sarah

"Our almost 3 year old could never see the exhibits at the zoo from her stroller because of all the adults, so I put her on my back. We also wore her to a local Celtic Fest because of the crowd size." -Kim

To Keep Kids Safe

"My son loves to be independent and is a runner. Babywearing is a way for me to keep track of him and snuggle him at the same time. He often fights sleep in a stroller, but easily falls asleep on me. It’s great for helping him calm down when he’s frustrated or emotional. It helps when he’s tired of walking but still wants to see everything." -Nelisha

Preschool babywearing keeps little hands safe! "So they aren't touching/picking up everything they see. When my littles can see it all from a high view, and they're attached to me, they can't touch unless I move over to help them. It helps to deter tantrums from me having to remove them [from an unsafe situation] or hold them back." -Rosie

"Little legs get tired, but their sense of adventure doesn't! We love to take our daughters hiking or to explore places off the beaten map or places where strollers just are a hassle. They wanna see it all, but their legs get tuckered. Also it is easier for us to keep them safe near cliffs, ledges, or events with large crowds, and they don't feel restrained, but engaged and included." -Molly

"Preschool babywearing because this way I don’t lose my 4 year old in a public place!" -Blair

During Loss and Sadness 

"My kids lost their mom to cancer when our youngest was 4. I cannot imagine the added turmoil we would have faced without the Kinderpack you gave us. She had an incredibly tough time with everything, and this was the one thing I could keep the same for her, and to know I wouldn't leave her too, which was another fear. Thank you." -C.J.

For Easier Vacations with Kids

"Childwearing is especially helpful on vacations when walking a lot with tired little ones who want to be carried, or are overtired and need to sleep." -Brittany

"Preschool babywearing enables us to go on hikes all the time. It really allows us to go on actual hikes without it being a death march for her." -Arielle

Jennifer and her little one

For Multiple Options 

"Today I wore my 4.5 year old, while his 1 year old sister and 5 year old brother were pushed in the double stroller during homeschool days at the zoo -- switching it up keeps everyone happy (he was also SUPER MUDDY and shoeless!!)" -Megan

Jennifer said that having a carrier for an older child was her 'best toddler purchase ever.' "She is 4.5 years old (still nursing) and rode in the carrier while we were in New York on a trip. I was 4 months pregnant at the same time." -Jennifer

Megan and her little one

For Health Concerns

"Our 3.5 year old had juvenile interval fevers, so carrying was a great way of still continuing with school runs, etc., when she was feeling ill." -Emma

"I love being able to go explore and experience things, but have a comfortable and easy way for her to be carried when her legs are tired. It also keeps her safe in the fact that she has severe food allergies that she is very contact reactive to. So when we are in a tricky scenario it's nice to have a safe option for her." -Kindra

"My wife had an injury when our first was little and being in a wheelchair allowed her to see things from a different vantage point. We both realized through that experience that we wanted our kids up at our eye level, to be really included in the conversations and to see the world up at a height with everyone else -- not sitting in a stroller staring at knees and street posts and rarely being fully engaged with talking adults. Childwearing changes the world experience for a little kid in big ways!" -John

For Emergencies 

"Our area was demolished with Hurricane Harvey but the flooding in our neighborhood, specifically, was not expected. What does this have to do with babywearing? My husband, myself, and my neighbor all left the area with rescue crews while we were wearing our preschoolers and toddler. It is something you never think about unless it happens to you, but being able to wear a child instead of trying to carry them in an emergency situation is monumentally beneficial. Since that time I think often about refugee families and I wish each one could have a carrier for their children when fleeing dangerous situations as well." -Heather

Katy and her little one

For Gentle Transition into Childhood

"Just today I was wearing my almost 4 year old because he wanted to snuggle me like his little brother does..." -Katy

"My 8-yr-old would still babywear if he could! At church when we're in song service, he'll ask me to carry him (it helps that he's a petite kid), press his cheek against mine, and we will sing together." -Melissa

No matter where your babywearing adventures take you, a sincere thank you for wearing your baby, your toddler, or your preschooler, and changing the world in positive ways - one little life at a time. ♥

Related Groups:

How to Care for Your Intact Son

The number one reason for problems of the penis is unnecessary infant circumcision (and the consequences of this surgical removal of the prepuce organ). The second reason for penile problems and complications is well-meaning adults who retract, over-clean, and 'mess with' intact boys' foreskins before they retract naturally and completely on their own. Sometimes this natural, gentle retraction does not occur until the pre-teen years. This is 100% normal. In fact, a recent Dutch study shows that the average age for retraction among boys is 10.6 years of age. Some retract (on their own) before this time, some later.

Among both boys and girls, before natural retraction, the prepuce (foreskin/hood) is tightly adhered to the glans (head) of the penis/clitoris, in the same way your fingernail is tightly adhered to your finger. If you stick things under your fingernail, try to pull it back, or otherwise 'mess' with it, you are bound to not only be in pain, but also fester irritation and/or infection. The same is true with the prepuce organ (the clitoral hood in girls and the foreskin in boys).

In addition, the prepuce serves the function of protection over the glans in much the same way your eye lids protect your eye balls. The temperature, moisture, pH balance, enzyme level, antivirals, and more are all regulated because the glans is meant to be an internal organ - just as our eyeballs are also internal organs. We'd never scrub under our eyelids and not expect some severe and painful (possibly infectious) consequences.


One friend, a pediatrician, tells parents, "The ONLY thing you need to care for your intact son's penis is a ruler -- to slap the hand of anyone who attempts to touch his foreskin."

Below are additional resources for parents of intact boys. Know the myths, and be informed enough to protect your son and his genital integrity.

If you're a pro-intact physician, PA or midwife willing to field an occasional question,
write to SavingSons@gmail.com to join the MedPro advisory board. 


Should My Baby's Foreskin Be Retracted? Dr. Antier Responds

Hands Off My Foreskin! Dr. Martin Winckler on the Care of Baby Boys

Forced Retraction: Don't Let it Happen to Your Son

Forced Retraction: Now What?

Don't Retract Clinician Pack (for physicians and medical staff; includes links to the AAP, RCH and CPS organization care statements):

Using a Catheter Without Retraction: My Nurse Did It and So Can Yours!

Only Clean What is Seen: Reversing the Epidemic of Forced Retraction:

Medical Testing: Do Not Retract:

Doctors Opposing Circumcision Statement for Physicians and Nurses on
Forced Retraction:

Forced Retraction: Ask the Experts

The Forced Retraction of My Son [One Parent's Story]

Medical Organization Statements on Intact Care (and Physician 'Do Not Retract' Packs):

Hospital Intact Care Packs ($3):

Baby Bands (soft and stretchy for the hospital or care providers):

Intact care stickers and cards available at Etsy.


How to Care for Your Intact Son [Homepage]

Intact: Healthy, Happy, Whole [Facebook Group]

Basic Care of the Intact Child:

Protect Your Intact Son: Medical Advice for Parents When Your Doctor Says to Circumcise:

The Functions of the Foreskin:

Natural Foreskin Retraction in Intact Children and Teens

Adult Intact Penis Care:

Phony Phimosis Diagnosis:

Urine Sampling and Catheter Insertion for the Intact Boy

Using a Catheter without Retraction: My Nurse Did It, Yours Can Too:

Deep, dark, red, purple or blue: the normal glans in the intact child:

UTI (Urinary Tract Infections) Resource Page: SavingSons.org/2014/11/uti-resource-page.html

Yeast, Rash and Redness: Breastmilk Spurs Yeast Overgrowth, Neosporin Alters Microflora; What to Do Instead:

Swimming, Suits and Mesh: Cut the Lining of Your Child's Suit to Decrease Irritation Potential: DrMomma.org/2014/06/swimming-suits-mesh-cut-lining-of-your.html

Intact Care (and No Retraction) Agreement (Parents to Clinicians): DrMomma.org/2014/10/intact-care-and-no-retraction-agreement.html

Raising Intact Sons:

Foreskin: It's Not 'Icky':

How the Foreskin Protects Against UTI:

Painful Urination During Prepuce Separation

Ballooning in the Intact Child:

Questions Regarding Normal Separation of the Prepuce:

Hypospadias: Surgery and Circumcision:

National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers - care of the intact penis:

Penile Hygiene for Intact Males (Circumcision Information Resource Pages):

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Care of the Intact Child

Medical Organization Statements on Intact Care (and Physician Packs):

Hospital Intact Care Packs ($3):

Baby Bands (soft and stretchy for the hospital or care providers):

Expecting a Boy? Stickers and Postcards to share at Etsy.


Cloth Diapering Your Baby After Circumcision: DrMomma.org/2016/04/cloth-diapering-your-baby-after.html

Circumcision Care (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers): http://www.nocirc.org/publish/pamphlet5.html

Note regarding the recommendation of 6 months jelly for post-circumcision care:

In summary, this RCT demonstrated that an easy, safe, cheap, widely available intervention (petroleum jelly) reduces some of early and late complications of circumcision. It is prudent to apply the petroleum jelly on glans and meatal area of circumcised boys after each diaper change for 6 months post-circumcision.

Bazmamoun, H., Ghorbanpour, M., and Mousavi-Bahar, S. H. (2008). Lubrication of circumcision site for prevention of meatal stenosis in children younger than 2 years old. Urology journal, 5(4), 233-236.

Full Text: http://urologyjournal.org/index.php/uj/article/viewFile/30/29

Similar articles:


Intact Info Cards in English or Spanish available at Etsy.

Bands available at Etsy

Foreskin Facts

Stickers arrive with baby bands or hospital packs.

Diaper Rash or Red Foreskin Care
The perfect bath for healing and soothing

Hospital packs come with a variety of intact care materials, as well as a pediatric organization statement on care sheet to share with your doctor.

For discussions with fellow parents raising intact sons, you are welcome to join any or all of these groups: 

The INTACT Network: Facebook.com/groups/TINFamily

Saving Our Sons: Facebook.com/groups/SavingOurSons
Peaceful Parenting: Facebook.com/groups/ExplorePeacefulParenting
It's A Boy! Facebook.com/groups/OhJoyItsABoy

What if your son is retracting his own foreskin? Boys will tug and play - and it's okay! The foreskin will begin its natural separation process during this early exploration time for most boys. This is normal. Make hand washing fun! If irritation occurs, apply Calmoseptine to the outside of the penis to soothe. No retraction, unless by a boy himself. Further information also at: IntactHealth.orgSavingSons.org
Intact men in America have historically been cared for improperly. It is not the fact that they have foreskin that is sending them into urology offices. It is the fact that their foreskin had been torn away from the glans as infants, causing scar tissue that led to an injury, preventing the foreskin from functioning normally. As long as we are not damaging babies by retracting and tearing the foreskin, this will not be an issue. -Jennifer D'Jamoos, CCCE, Founder, IntactNetwork.orgMedical Professionals for Genital Autonomy



Related Posts with Thumbnails