I was recently asked by publishing house Pinter and Martin to review a copy of a new babywearing book: A Baby Wants to be Carried. I love learning more about babywearing and was excited to receive a review copy. The book has been written by Dr Evelin Kirilionis, who has carried out extensive research into baby carrying and child development over the last two decades. I was really interested to read her book, knowing that the content would be based on evidence found through her research.
When I received the book, my first impression was that it is a lovely object – it is glossy, a nice size, and flicking through, I could see that the content was presented in quite an accessible way. I would describe it as a coffee table book – something you could dip in and out of, rather than feeling you need to read it all in one go. It seemed like a good reference guide, and (being a bit of a printing geek) I liked the typeface, line spacing, and inclusion of lots of glossy images and diagrams.
What I liked
The book covers a lot of content, but it is presented in an easy-to-digest format. Each chapter/section is relatively short and text is broken up with images and diagrams. At the end of each section is a ‘bubble’ summary, which I found really useful as it meant I could flick through the book and still pick up the important points.
The first part is about the background to baby carrying and why a baby wants to be carried. This was my favourite part and I read it avidly, and found it really interesting. It covers various academic theories including the ‘clinging young’, drawing parallels with other mammals, and looking at anthropological reasons for carrying and carrying in non-Western cultures. I think my husband got a bit fed up with my exclamations and reading aloud the parts I found most interesting! I definitely learned a lot from this part and I know it will help me in my role as a sling librarian and babywearing educator.
This part also discusses the ‘fourth trimester’ and why a newborn baby needs to be close to its carers. I thought this made a lot of sense and I think a lot of new parents will relate to this. The book talks about when your baby ‘won’t be put down’, which is what drives a lot of new parents to use a sling in my experience. I think this information will be useful and accessible to new parents, and help them to realise it is normal for their baby to want to be close to them.
Throughout the book there are glossy photos showing different types of carriers. I loved how happy the babies and adults looked in these photos, and that there were male and female carers. I thought this was indicative of the approach of the book – normalising carrying and dispelling the idea that it’s something ‘hippy’ or ‘weird’.
The second part of the book provides a good overview of various types of carriers, and some wrapping instructions with clear written and photographic instructions. I’ve not seen another book that covers reasons for carrying as well as an overview of carriers and instructions for wrapping. I liked that the book included pros and cons of the various types of carriers, and that it included less well-known slings such as onbuhimos and podaegis.
What I didn’t like
Quite a few of the photos in the book illustrate carries that are, in my opinion, not optimal. Some look uncomfortable or even unsafe, e.g. ring sling photos. In the wrapping section, some of the models look a bit unsure of what they are doing, and some key points are skimmed over, for example how to create a good ‘seat’ for the baby. It is always difficult to cover all the salient points but in an instructional section I would expect to see more detail (perhaps covering fewer wrapping methods).
Throughout the book, quite a lot of the text is on coloured backgrounds, which makes it very hard to read in parts. One particular example is what looks like dark blue text on a light green background, which I found impossible to read although I do not have any issues with vision or colour blindness. I think this could be made more accessible.
In the first part of the book, there is an emphasis on hip carrying for newborns (although in the instructions part, it is suggested from around four months). In my opinion, carrying a newborn on the hip is not optimal as it could overstretch the hip and leg joints, although interesting anthropological evidence is given for this approach.
Although there is a ‘references’ and ‘glossary’ section, I think more information on where to go for more support would be useful – for example, web links, sling libraries, how to find local resources, instructional videos.
Just being really picky, there were quite a few grammatical and spelling errors, which always irks me! I could also tell that the text had been translated into English, and some of it read a bit awkwardly. I’m not sure this would be obvious to all readers but I studied translation during my degree so it’s something I look out for!
Overall, I thought it was a really interesting book. Personally I preferred the first section to the info on carriers and wrapping, which seemed like a bit of an afterthought, but it is good to have it all in one book.
I think that the glossy pictures and digestible format will make it appeal to a wide audience as it doesn’t seem too academic. However, it also has enough evidence-based info to appeal to seasoned babywearers wanting to learn more about carrying.
Well done to Dr Kirkilionis and Pinter and Martin for bringing a book about babywearing to a mainstream audience!