Kangaroo Care African Style

One of the key aspects of attachment parenting is heart sounds. Because babies hear their mother’s heartbeat inside womb, it is important that this is continued when they’re born.

  • Parents in different cultures carry infants on the Left side/hip about 80% of the time – closer to the sound of the heart.
  • A survey of over 400 art works from 4 cultures, which show mother and infant have about 80% with mother carrying child on Left side.
  • Recordings of heart beats at normal speed (72 bpm) soothed babies, but at 125 bpm babies became upset and agitated.
  • Newborns who are rocked at the rate of normal heart rhythm are soothed more than those rocked faster or slower.
  • Observations of over 2,000 babies in Dakar, Senegal wrapped to mothers’ backs in pagnes leaned their heads to the mothers’ left.
    • (all in Lockard, Daley & Gunderson (1979) Maternal and Paternal Differences in Infant Carry: U.S. and African Data. The American Naturalist. Vol 113, No.2)

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    • photos of babies in slings, looking left are from The World Bank photo collection on Flickr, CC,  link here.      


I find this report very interesting for two reasons: it helps explain why hugging soothes babies and why I rarely see crying babies in Nigeria when they are attached to their mothers who are busy walking or working. It also explains why in many instances, the baby’s head rests on the mother’s left side, where the heart is. Nigerians use colorful fabrics called iro and oja. The iro is a wrap usually worn by women around their waist, while the smaller oja is used as a sling to support the baby’s bottom. Some women use only one or the either, and some combine the two.

nairalandMen can also bond with their children this way, as this photo shows (source Nairaland.com). Our son bonded with my husband first because it took me a while to recover from my C-section and post-natal depression. We use the Snugli baby carrier, but besides that my husband often laid our son on top of his chest when he’s watching TV or putting the baby to sleep. J always cried whenever his father left the room to prepare his milk or go to the bathroom.

I learned about kangaroo care because he was born premature and with low birth weight. We avoided antibiotics and strong drugs whenever possible, and used skin-to-skin care when our baby had a cough or cold, or fever after immunization. He’s 5 now and still never required antibiotics since he got out of NICU, knock on wood.

Check out “Babywearing Around the World” (with photos)

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