Picture this: A Detroit mother with five children under the age of seven has no car and needs to go to the corner store for groceries. She must either choose to lug her infant in the hospital-provided car seat while she walks to the store and only purchase half of the groceries she needs so that she can manage carrying her load; or leave the infant at home with its older siblings. If she leaves her baby at home, she knows it could be unsafe, but she’d be doing it for her family’s survival.
“The first picture I get on my phone when I wake up the day after leaving her house is her [wearing] her baby and holding all the groceries,” Morse remembers.
Morse is an infant care and breastfeeding instructor at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Most recently, she started conducting postpartum discharge surveys as St. Joe’s works toward Baby-Friendly designation.
Through her private practice, Close at Hand Baby Service, Morse provides infant care education and home-visiting services with a focus on breastfeeding and baby carrier use and safety. The clients featured on her blog include many sets of multiples, and families on journeys with various, unique challenges.
She’s also founder of Baby Carriers Provided (BCP), an organization that seeks to create access to baby carriers for caregivers enrolled in the WIC program as well as other family service organizations, hospitals, and family/legal interfacing systems.
It was after completing the Lactation Counselor Training Course this February that Morse “kicked into high gear” writing and creating the website for BCP with help from her team.
“I…gained a massive amount of inspiration,” she says.”I thought to myself, My dreams of growing an organization with a large reach and impact could be real.”
Babywearing as a public health initiative
The function of baby carriers in public health are many, Morse says.
It keeps babies in their natural habitats (close to their caregivers) and simultaneously allows caregivers to integrate into and participate in modern society.
Morse addresses babywearing as a public health intervention through BCP, in that the practice increases breastfeeding success, decreases child abuse, increases general safety and health of the family unit and potentially lowers maternal/infant mortality.
In her private lactation practice, Morse says Kangaroo Care– carrying or holding baby while skin to skin– is her number one breastfeeding tool.
But Kangaroo Care and babywearing aren’t only for the breastfeeding dyad.
“When we breastfeed, we get natural oxytocin shots,” Morse explains. “We also get fairly good sized natural oxytocin shots during Kangaroo Care. Kangaroo Care does scientifically replace some of those hormones when the breastfeeding relationship is lost.”
Morse theorizes that the connection between Kangaroo Care and baby carrier use is strong pointing out that “babywearing is just kangaroo care while walking around.”
She says she hopes to show this through the work of BCP.
Baby carriers can play an integral role in child abuse prevention too. Morse reports that 89 to 94 percent (range based on variation of data state to state) of parents who abused their babies did so because the baby wouldn’t stop crying.
“Baby carriers reduce crying,” Morse points out., referring to research published in Pediatrics..
It’s why baby carriers could also be an important tool for incarcerated mothers and pregnant women or families going through the Child Protective Services system.
“The facilitation of attachment and the transfer of infant parenting skills by providing baby carriers in these systems could be effective in improving family preservation rates,” Morse explains.
Babywearing to prevent accidents
Upright, on-body infant carriers have one of the lowest incident profiles of all baby products on the market. Infant bucket-seat/car-seat carriers on the other hand are often used outside of automobiles, like on top of shopping carts, which can cause serious injury and death.
Helping refugees – Baby Carriers and Breastfeeding in Displaced Populations
In June and November of last year, Morse traveled to Greece on a pair of refugee relief trips with Carry the Future, a grassroots effort dedicated to delivering baby carriers, baby beds, and diapers and other needed supplies to refugee camps.
Carry the Future provides training and resources to volunteers without babywearing credentials to ensure families are properly and safely fitted.During her travels, Morse also encountered volunteers from Nurture Project International, an organization that sets up breastfeeding tents and supports refugee mothers and babies.
Morse says she believes it is a “perfect place” for CLCs to consider volunteering their time and expertise to the Syrian humanitarian crises.
“This is real good we can do with the knowledge we have,” she says.
You can read more about Morse’s experience with Carry the Future on her blog.
Additional reading about babywearing: