Babywearing in Hogarth’s London

hogarth mach of the guards 1750
The original painting hung at the Foundling Museum in London.

In honor of William Hogarth’s birthday, November 10th, I would like to analyze the babywearing featured in his March of the Guards to Finchley, painted in 1750. During the summer of 2017, I was fortunate to visit the Foundling Museum in London and see it in person.

It is important to note that babywearing is a very recent term associated with concepts, like attachment parenting, that was unheard of in the 18th century– I use the term here as a verb to describe “use of an infant carrier”.

Hogarth is one of my favorite artists. The level of detail, the characterization, and subject matter of his paintings and etchings keep me coming back again and again to find something new. Hogarth revolutionized the public’s consumption of art with mass-produced etchings of his painting sold on subscription. He is well known for his moralistic series of The Rake’s Progress and The Harlot’s Progress (the latter of which was made into a miniseries). His style combines realism and the satirical, the serious with the bawdy. Continue reading

Transport Response

Anyone who has cared for a newborn as been there. That moment when you feel like you have tried everything to soothe your crying baby and you just want to sit down and cry yourself. But what if there was some magic trick that would calm your baby and brighten your own mood? According to science there just might be some magic in taking a walk with your baby– but you’ll need to carry them for the full benefit. Continue reading

The World of High End Babywearing

Online communities can bridge nationalities and culture. They have their own lexicons, taboos, and beliefs. There are many online communities focused on babywearing, High End Babywearing is one that values carriers for their utility, as objects (even art), and for their monetary value. Carriers as investment pieces. Carriers as status symbols within their closed community. This interview was originally posted in Iowa City Babywearer’s blog, August 20th, 2015. Republished with permission of Kelsey Sandeno. 

Today I interviewed Kelsey Sandeno about the world of High-End Babywearing. We discussed the distinctions between High End (HE), Highly Sought After (HSA), and Hard-To-Find (HTF) carriers, as well as some of the jargon found in High-End Babywearing communities. Continue reading

From Baby Toting to Babywearing

Dr. William Sears claims credit for coining the term babywearing when his children were small. Dr. Sears recounts how his wife would put on the carrier in the morning and not take it off until she undressed at night.

“I remember one day when Martha fabricated a sling out of material from an old bed sheet and said, ‘I really enjoy wearing Mathew. The sling is like a piece of clothing. I put it on in the morning and take it off in the evening.’ Hence the term ‘babywearing’ was born in the Sears household.”- Dr. William Sears (askdrsears.com)

Though Rayner Garner invented the ringsling in 1981, branding it as The Baby Sling, Dr. Sears developed his own versions (albeit with enough padding to resemble a duvet and prevent the user from adjusting the pouch effectively) and has sold it as the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder and The Original NoJo Babysling. 

The use of infant carriers wasn’t a novel concept in North America in the 1980’s but it had a stigma of poverty or transience attached to their use in the West since the European Middle Ages. The post-war (WWII) Baby Boom seems to be the impetus for changing attitudes about infant carriers over the following half-century. Patents for infant carrying devices were filed in quick succession after WWII ended. Even though traditional infant carriers were known of and in use, North American parents wanted innovated forms made of new materials for their modern lifestyles. Yet even then, many people were suspicious of use infant carriers and the implications for the relationship between parent and child. 

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Beng Babies of the Côte d’Ivoire

In 2004, Alma Gottlieb published a unique ethnography on the babies of the Beng people in Côte d’Ivoireivory coast. The majority of ethnographies focus on the culture of adults or verbal children. Babies, if considered at all, are described in the context of their relationships to adults and older children. Gottlieb’s work focus on infants as the subject in The Afterlife is Where We Come From: The Culture of Infancy in West AfricaI hope that her work inspires more ethnographic research into the cultures of infancy around the world. For me at least, the subject is endlessly fascinating.  I recommend the book to everyone interested in anthropology, parenting, or infants.

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