Women tend to carry babies on their left sides. This is overwhelmingly true. According to studies between 70 to 85 percent women will gravitate to the left side when holding a baby on their hip. This seems counter intuitive when taking a minute to consider that most of the population is right handed, or their right side is dominant. It might seem likely that when lifting the baby a woman would automatically place the baby on their dominate side. This is not the case. Even young girls carrying their dolls will move to them to their left hip to carry and soothe them. Are they emulating their moms or is their a natural reason for that?
Would it surprise anyone to find out that there may be scientific reasons for women to be subconsciously carrying their baby that way? Can it be purely coincidence that many tend to pick up and comfort babies on the same side? Does anyone believe that women might be hard wired to carry them for a matter of specific reasons that evolved? No, I suppose that isn't at all shocking. However it might be surprising to see what those reasons are and what the theories are surrounding this.
14 Baby Closer To Heart
One theory that has been floated in regards to holding the baby on the left side of your body is it positions the baby closer to the actual heart. Why would that matter? Well, aside from the fact that it's really sweet to think about putting those we love right by our heart, it could be soothing for the baby to hear it as it beats. In the womb, babies are able to hear our heart beats etc, all the time as they go about their business. It's the literal and figurative soundtrack of their lives while they are taking it easy waiting to go through the business of being born. It's a soothing noise that they are familiar with. Therefore if we are picking them up to coddle or comfort them, it makes place to have them near a sound that they would be familiar with.
13 Speaking To Baby's Right Ear
When you are holding the baby on your left side, it is likely that the baby has their right ear towards you. This is important because that right ear is going to take in the information and connect it with the left side of the baby's brain. The left side of the brain is used for developing language and those things. Thus, the baby is going to get a little bit more out of hearing you speak to them and filtering it to that side of the brain. There likely is no way to know whether our brains developed that way after we began holding the baby on the left side, or if holding the baby on the left side triggered the brain to do some rewiring. Probably like a which came first the chicken or the egg, yet it certainly is an amazing development in humans.
12 Helps Us Understand Baby's Needs
When we are feeling something on our left side of our body, it is being registered on the opposite side of our brain. Therefore, when you are holding the baby on the left side, your right side brain hemisphere is what is going to be lighting up all over the place. The right side of the brain is the side that helps to translate social cues. This is very important stuff when you have a baby. Being able to recognize if that facial expression is fear, or gas. Are they hungry or have they wet diapers. Are they feeling like they are overstimulated, or bored. All of these things can be observed a little bit better through the filter of the right side of the brain. Thus it is theorized that we hold on the left side to remain attentive to the baby's signals of what they want. We are better to understand what they are trying to tell us through that side.
11 Keep Dominant Hand Free
Prior to many of the published studies that have come up about the left side baby holding phenomenon, mom's confronted with the reality of carrying on the left side would often explain that it was a means to keep their strong hand free. The majority of the population is right handed and therefore they tend to do things on their dominant side. If you are holding the baby on the left side, this leaves your right hand to do the tasks of making dinner, answering the phone or tying shoes (I hope you never have to find out, but that is totally possible.) There is no way to know for sure if this has any affect. It seemed to be disproved by the fact that left handed people did not have the same propensity for carrying their baby's on the right side as right handed people did for the left. Thus disproving the thought that it was purely for keeping "strong hand" free.
10 Ward Off Stress And Depression
An interesting fact that they ran into is that women who carry their baby's on the right side tend to be a little more depressed or stressed out about parenting. They seemed to be more worried overall about making the decisions about parenting and the best things to do for their child. They were occasionally a little more disconnected with the proper way to do things and had anxiety which caused them to second guess their decisions. Just from what we have learned so far, this could be that they weren't connecting with the social cues of the baby or they weren't building the relationship from the beginning. Again this begs the question of which thing happened first. Does the mom feel slightly disconnected and therefore moves the baby to the right side, or does the right sided holding cause the small disconnect? I unfortunately don't have any baby's right now, so you out there may need to give us the 411 on this in the comments. Anyone brave enough to admit that they carry on the right side and feeling a little stressed lately? Or vice versa?
9 Monitoring Emotional Cues From Baby
The baby's emotional needs are a huge part of dealing with a newborn. Again we look to the right side of our brains to monitor their emotional outbursts and look for how to solve them. Once again we know that the left side of the body hooks up to the right hemisphere of the brain. The right side of the brain is in charge of reading and interpreting the emotional needs of those around us. Thus having the baby on the left side gives a leg up on the ability to see what might be going on a little more quickly. This could then allow the mother to move forward with finding the necessary emotional soother for the child to move forward. Fulfilling emotional needs is one of the most important parts of being a mom, and therefore this holding on the left side is most definitely a good head start to meeting that.
8 Many Mammals Do This
We don't want to get through this article without mentioning that humans are not the only mammal that has the propensity to hold or prefer their young to be situation on their left side. There are many mammals that prefer this also. Things from whales in the ocean to chimpanzees. It is amazing that this seems to cross species as an inclusive way for the bonding to take place with the mother and baby's. Some mammals that might not initially prefer the left side, once presented with some sort of danger ahead would switch the side of the baby to the left side. This was interesting. Were they attempting to connect a little deeper with their baby to elate any fears etc? Was this just a coincidence? Did their right side just get tired of bearing the weight at the moment? Did they want to young on the left in order to be able to connect better and respond to possible fears before a predator could see them? Impossible to say at this time since we can't quite talk to the animals (yet), but it seems plausible.
7 Encourages Bonding
There is an argument to be made that any time you hold the baby you are going to be bonding with it. No doubt that is a truth. However, the left side of the body (and right side of the brain) is most definitely the place that establishes the bonding pattern for the mother. This is likely a no brainer since we already discussed that the right side picks up the emotional responses as well as the social responses. Those things together are the frame work for the bonding and the foundation to the trust that is being established between mother and baby. The left side is going to foster this growing relationship and growth. Something to keep in mind, this doesn't mean that if you hold on the right side you aren't bonded to your baby. I feel like when I had baby's most of my time was focused in juggling them between left and right when they got tired. Keeping those biceps evenly matched. I still believe that we are pretty bonded (as I kick them off my lap; the right side if you must know, in order to do my writing.)
6 Fathers Make This Adjustment After They Have Kids Of Their Own
In the introduction we reviewed how little girls will often times automatically hold their baby dolls on their left sides from about preschool forward. This is not the case with little boys. They don't seem to have that instinct. This changes though once they have their own offspring. When they are holding their own children and are father than there is an increase in the amount of time they spend holding the baby on the left side. This is interesting to note. I know were are reviewing this from a mother's perspective, but fathers also do seem to develop insight into how to get their brain to work on the right level to bond with their children. Finding ways to develop the bond and create a feeling of safety for the baby.
5 Kids Approach The Left Side Typically Too
Something kind of interesting is that once kids get a little older, they also tend to be drawn to their mom's left side when they are seeking them out. Is that because they are trained from an early age since their mom puts them on that side, or because they know they are able to understand things a little bit better from that side? It's hard to say, but it is something that is interesting. They go to that side when they are feeling shy or insecure about a situation. In their sweet heads, without even knowing it, they head to that side so Mommy can look at them and decide what they are trying to tell her. She looks them up and down and judges from their cues what they need to feel safe in that moment. Wow mamas, you really are super women.
4 When In Danger Left Side Preference
We addressed this a little bit earlier too, but when there is approaching danger the left side is the preferred side to place the baby/kid. This was studied with a pillow at one point. They asked women to pick up a pillow and hold it how it was comfortable. Than they told them to pick up the pillow, but pretend there was danger approaching. Many that had originally had the pillow on the right side, switched it to the left side in times of perceived (or pretended) danger. My theory is that in a situation of danger you need to be able to look at the young one that is near you and pick up on whatever their needs are without making a sounds. Since the right side of the brain (connected to left side of body) is better at recognizing the needs of the baby, you need to take every advantage possible. In caveman days, you had to keep baby quiet or the dinosaur would you get you. So if they needed something you better get it before they were able to make a sound.
3 Able To Better Process Melody
This is not all a one sided thing where mothers are getting all the perks. The infants are also processing things in a way that is beneficial to them when they are being held on the left side. When the baby is held on the left side, the right ear is typically going to be closest to the mother. That right ear is going to go to the left hemisphere of the brain. The left hemisphere is good for being able to process melody. Wait, you say you aren't a singer? That's ok, you and your speaking to them is like a sweet melody to them in the beginning. Many of the cultures out there have the same rhythm and soothing tones when speaking to their baby's to calm them down.
2 Hold In Stronger Arm (Lefties Theory)
Earlier we mentioned that there was a theory that if you were right handed and held the baby on the left side it was to keep your dominate hand free. We also discussed that this didn't hold much water because lefties didn't switch to holding their baby's with their right hands. When asked to explain this, some lefties said that they preferred to hold with their left or dominate hand because it was stronger and they were able to have better control and grip. They felt like they could keep their baby safer by holding with their strongest hand. This is a theory that they proposed, it doesn't seem to be as easy as that, yet it's still interesting. I found myself nodding along to the right handed, left holders reasoning to keep the dominant hand free... but I also found myself like "yeah, this makes a lot of sense too." Of course you want the stronger hand holding the baby.
1 Extended Ability To Pay Attention
The final reason for holding your baby on the left side is that the side of brain that it corresponds to is the side of the brain that is able to pay more attention for longer. Holding on the left side results in the right side connection to the brain. The right hemisphere of the brain is the side that is able to pay better attention for longer periods of time. This is of course an important thing when you are trying to do your darndest to pay attention to the needs of the baby. It's preferable if you don't yawn and shout "Booooo-rrring! Are you going to take all day or what?" to the baby mid bottle or anything like that. Don't ask me how I know, it's just best not to do that. I hope this shed some light on why scientifically we have evolved to carry on the left side.