In her first week, Mike took Moon in to a hospital lab for some blood tests (jaundice). The lab is located in a suite of medical offices, with a clear view of its parking lot and the street. On Mike’s second trip to lab, the receptionist asked in an emphatic manner, “Did you walk here?” Mike responded in the negative and so she continued, “Oh, because you are holding your baby and you were last time too.”
This is not the first time that Mike and I have been met by concern, confusion, and even at times wonder for holding our children rather than toting them around in their car seats. Prior to having our first child, Mike and I discussed the pros and cons of using a car seat throughout the day as a means of transporting our baby. The main “pro” for using a seat was for convenience, and that’s really the only thing we could come up with.
An Awkward Convenience
Time and time again, parents have told me that carrying their infant from place to place is only manageable when their child is in her or his car seat. I have just as often heard how heavy and bulky car seats can be to carry around. For me, the solution was simple: I hold the girls instead of relying on a car seat. I used an Ergo baby carrier when I went out to the grocery store or restaurants. Now, I also use the Moby Wrap when I’m at home and need my arms to be free. Mike feels confined with the carriers, and so if he is heading to the store with one of the babies, he will carry her.
You will have no argument from me that carrying a two-month old while shopping for groceries is challenging at times, but when compared to the list of cons for relying on a car seat it was a challenge we were up to. These are the reasons we avoid car seat carrying:
Top 3 Reasons to Avoid the Car Seat:
1. Decreased human contact
For the first year of Moon’s life, I have to regularly explain and even had to defend the practice of holding my daughter when I bring her into a restaurant.
Prior to becoming a parent, I had noticed the increasingly common use of car seats when carrying babies. Infants were conveniently carried from home to car to school without the parent ever holding their child. The reasons behind such decisions were logical. On occasion, children would be sleeping and parents didn’t want to disrupt that precious time. As is the case with many of the best intentions, sometimes such practices become habits. Many parents have never even questioned this common practice.
After seeing baby after baby taken from one place to the next in a carrier, I began to watch more closely. How often are these children missing the opportunity to be in their parents’ arms, and all for the sake of convenience? I have to wonder if its all worth it in the end.
Sleep is important and I’d like to argue that held by your parents is as well. In the late ’50’s and early ’60’s, psychologist Harry Harlow conducted attachment research using rhesus monkeys, raising them in isolation. This research indicated that infant monkeys preferred to be held by a surrogate soft “parent” stand-in than a functional “parent” that dispensed food. Infant monkeys would climb down from the soft “parent,” drink from the other “parent,” but then return to the soft parent as soon as they ate. What does this tell us about the need to be held?
2. Less frequent interactions
In restaurants, I hold my newborn in my arms while I eat, and as she gets older she joins us in the conversations. From the vantage point of my lap, she can see the faces of those who are with us. She watches us eat, laugh, and chat. When she begins to babble, she easily joins in the conversation by laughing along with us. Another child in our party, about my daughter’s age, is kept in her car seat throughout most of the meal. We speak to her directly far fewer times simply because we can’t see her very well. And finally, to reason number three . . .
3. Misshapen head
Pediatricians recommend tummy time and alternate side-position sleeping to avoid misshaping the head, which can develop flat sides. Well, the same may occur should a child be in a car seat for prolonged periods of time. In essence, any time spent in the car seat while not actually in a car may be directly responsible for a flat head.
The Best of Intentions
As much as I try to avoid the use of a car seat outside of the car, the one place where I am consistently challenged to find an alternative is our garden. When pulling overgrown weeds, it’s safest for the baby to be a good distance from the weeds, dust, and pollen. Before she rolled over I would lay her in our wagon, but now that she rolls the car seat is the safest place for her to be.
Keeping your child in a safe place is definitely a concern for all of us, but what safer, comfier place could there be than a parent’s arms?