In her doctoral thesis Evelin Kirkilionis gives evidence that human babies are adapted to be carried because of various behavioural patterns, physiological and anatomical characteristics. Moreover, she demonstrated that babies are adapted to be always in close contact to the parents and to be carried in upright posture. Her research defeated the common opinion in the nineties in Germany, that babies shouldn’t be carried upright before an age they could sit by themselves. She proved that babies are adapted to be carried in an upright posture with a straddled and squatted leg position. And she verified that carried children do not fall sick more often with any spinal diseases or show an increase of bad postures than children who weren’t carried as babies. New medical data confirmed her research. In fact some doctors made the best of it; parents or nurses often wrapped the little ones up with the joyous result that the survival chances of these premature infants were increased. (Anderson 1995, Ludington-Hoe,Golant 1994). Metabolic and physiological factors were found for the lower susceptibility to stress.
Carrying takes precaution against hip dysplasia but promotes also the attachment and bonding between baby and parents
Due to medical reservations in the nineties parents felt bound to carry their babies in the first weeks of their life in a horizontal position. Today in Germany this isn’t common any more. It is common to carry babies in an upright position even when parents start wearing newborns directly after birth. The beginning of this change of heart was the research results presented in the thesis of Mrs. Kirkilionis and her untiring work in cooperation with involved midwives and other committed babywearers. By her publications, lectures and further educations she was also able step by step to convince orthopaedists, paediatricians, and physiotherapists. She presented solid and convincing arguments. To carry babies upright means also that they are sitting in the wrap in a spread squatting leg position. Her measurements demonstrated clearly that the babies’ legs in this position are ideally oriented to their hip joints. Stretched legs on the other hand create a non central pressure on the femur head on the acetabulum, which can flatten out more and more. Proper babywearing supports the healthy development of the hip joint and prevents hip dysplasia. The position of the baby’s legs meets exactly the data given in the respective medical literature in case of hip dysplasia.
However, this does not hold true for all carriers. Mrs. Kirkilionis tests various product brands available in Germany. Some didn’t meet the requirements of baby’s anatomy. Of course, an improper use of a wrap prompts a bad posture of a baby as well. Parents must become familiar with the proper baby carrying positioning. Ignorance means on the one hand a risk for accidents but also on the other hand to miss the physical advantages.
E. Kirkilionis summarized her findings in the book “A Baby Wants to be Carried . She describes in which different ways babies could be carried, and in which way they shouldn’t. Furthermore she lists the aspects to be considered by buying a wrap or a soft carrier.
The book describes all positive aspects of babywearing and considers in detail the advantages of the babies and parents as well. Babies perceive their parents with all their senses, this encourages especially their sensory motor development and perception. Caused by the close contact, parents understand the baby’s signals more easily and can react more responsively and sensitively which in turn promotes the child’s attachment.
There are different ways to carry a baby and there are different qualities of carrier
The beginning of this “babywearing movement was determined by the positive feeling of intensive body contact that prompted parents to mediate this experience to others. In the beginning they had to fight a lot of prejudices. Oxygen starvation, damages of the brain and of the spine for example were implied and made a lot of parents carry their babies in a horizontal position. All these points were refuted and it became more and more common to carry a baby upright. This kind of baby carrying is more convenient for the parents, since the hands are free, and the parents’ back is less strained because the baby is sitting close to the parent’s body.
With increasing acceptance of babywearing, more various wraps, soft carriers, etc. were put on the market. But a lot of them weren’t suitable and did not support good front facing posture for the baby. An important milestone for a well thought-out design and a sufficient quality was the first test report about wraps and baby carriers, published in the German journal “Öko-test in 1998. This monthly independent journal judges various products on the German market regarding chemical compounds, functional factors, quality of material, etc. Mrs. Kirkilionis took on the scientific advice, created the test design and supervised these tests. Since 1998 a number of tests followed this first one and offer all interested persons a qualified overview of the most common wraps and carriers on the German-speaking market.
Of course, intense discussions followed the first report in the “Öko-test journal and Mrs. Kirkilionis offered advices for the improvement of the products. Some products disappeared from the market and some new products were created. But altogether this induced a quality increase of the baby carriers and wraps offered year by year. Nowadays in the German-speaking countries parents have a variety of information sources at their disposal. In addition, today there are various “babywearing schools that offer lessons for parents and professionals. Meanwhile there are a lot of professional teachers and experienced midwives in Germany who give lessons and answer all questions around babywearing.
Evelin is now in close contact with the Babywearing school in Smithfield , Utah. Their method and curriculum are based on the scientific evidence she has described. (Children’s Needs, PO Box 154, Smithfield, Utah 84335 http://www.babywearingschool.com/ )
Evelin stresses the importance of instructing parents correctly.
About Dr. Kirkilionis:
Dr. Evelin Kirkilionis studied Biology and Human Ethology and works on the topic of carrying babies and basic needs of children for more than 20 years.
She achieved her university qualifications by passing the Ketteler-College, Mainz, followed by the study of biology at the Universities of Kaiserslautern and Freiburg. She did her master thesis at the Albert-Ludwigs-University (Freiburg) and the Academy of Scientific of Geo-Medicine (Heidelberg). After that she collaborated in different research projects. 1989 she finished her doctoral thesis at the Albert-Ludwigs-University, granted by ‘Boehringer Ingelheim fonds’ (Heidesheim), with the subject ‘The human suckling as a parent-clinger – under special consideration of the prophylaxis against hip dysplasia’.
Since 1990 regularly stays of several moths in North Africa and Central Asia (Niger, Mauritania, Agypt, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan), and now in Thailand. Together with PD Dr. rer. nat. G. Haug-Schnabel and Dipl.-Biol. J. Bensel she founded 1993 the independent research group ‘Forschungsgruppe Verhaltensbiologie des Menschen’ (FVM / research group human ethology). The group works closely together with the University of Freiburg, particularly with the institute of developmental psychology. The members hold lectures and seminars and are responsible for diploma and master thesis.
Main objectives of this research group are related to the actual problems arising during children’s development. Apart of theoretical researches and investigations of children’s behaviour patterns a very important aspects of the work is the transfer of scientific findings into practical advises for various professional groups, institutions or interested audiences. Vocational trainings or lectures are held for different professional groups like teachers, trainers, psychotherapists, nursery school teachers, consultants for child development, paediatricians, midwifes, etc. Investigations for different associations are an important aspect of the work as well as individual consultations of parents or professional institutions.