From the early 1900s to the 1970s, prams were the baby transport method of choice for thoroughly modern mums, and then along came baby carriers. Did you “wear your baby” in the ’70s?
Baby carriers and slings became all the rage in the 1970s when baby experts of the day, such as Dr William Sears, began extolling the many benefits of maintaining close physical contact between mother and baby.
He called this approach “attachment parenting” and his wife began using the term “babywearing” after carrying their son around in a sling.
Just like an item of clothing, she’d put on her baby-filled sling in the morning, and then remove it again in the evening.
Baby Carrier Timeline
In the ’70s, the previous generation of mums would often comment that such things were not around in their day, but various forms of baby carriers and slings had been in use for countless centuries around the globe, long before Western world adaptation.
African mothers carry babies in a cloth Khanga, Mexican mothers use a Rebozo, Indonesian mothers use a Selendang, Inuit mothers have baby pockets inside their jackets known as Amauti, Indian mothers traditionally carried their babies in baskets strapped to their backs, and up until the 1950s when prams and pushchairs became the norm.
Welsh mothers (and fathers) carried their babies in woollen nursing shawls known as Siol Fagu.
After working in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, Ann Moore, an American, chose to carry her first-born child out of hospital strapped to her back in a shawl she’d brought back from Togo.
This was 1964 and it caused quite a stir among the hospital staff, but other mums soon wanted to try it, so Ann and her mum designed and created the Snugli baby carrier, originally made with cord and seersucker fabrics.
“I didn’t invent the idea. I took an age-old idea that’s been going on all over the world for thousands of years and just adapted it to our Western culture.” – Ann Moore
The hippie movement of the ’70s boosted the popularity of baby carriers and more companies sprang up, all offering their own unique style variation.
Didymos, the first German company to offer wraps was founded in 1972 after being inspired by a Mexican Rebozo cloth. In 1981, Rayner Garner, a Hawaiian, invented the ring sling for his wife and their baby, and it was this design that Dr William Sears bought and developed.
As images from Mothercare catalogues suggest, baby carrying was considered a shared experience for mums and dads, a stark contrast to the heyday of prams in the ’50s and ’60s when men were reluctant to be seen pushing.
Since the ’70s, an ever-increasing and often a bewildering selection of baby carriers has become available, each with ever-more sophisticated features and innovations to improve the comfort and safety of both parent and baby.
Of course, whether any of these innovations make any real difference to the baby being carried is up for debate as their only real need is to feel safe and secure snuggled next to their parent… high-tech fabrics or woollen shawl, it’s all the same to baby!
Were you a “babywearing” parent back in the day, or did you prefer to strut your stuff with your pride and joy pram?
Thanks to our friends at Mothercare, who allowed us to photograph their catalogue archive from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.