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It’s Babywearing Month Aotearoa!

October is Babywearing Month for Aotearoa – Our tūpuna definitely would’ve approved as they were keen babywearers too. Babywearing is the popular term for carrying a pepi (baby) in a carrier attached to a parent. Māori used the pīkau (carrier) to carry their pepi or toddlers for convenience, but also to involve them in their everyday activities.

What Our Tūpuna Did

No prams, so you had to babywear!

The most practical reason for the pikau was for the convenience of transporting pepi and tamariki with ease. There were no prams or pushchairs , of course! 

Another key reason for the pikau was to keep your child close and happy while you worked. Your hands are free when the baby is properly strapped on! The pikau kept the naked pepi close to the parent, warm, secure and kiri-ki-te-kiri (skin-to-skin). 

The earliest images of the pikau by the Europeans show a mama with pepi’s head sitting above a cloak, the structured support hidden. However, under the cloak usually, was a sling affair tying the pepi to the mama securely.

Babywearing – Not just for Mothers!

Fathers wore their pepi too, and especially their sons once they were weaned. But what is amazing is both mothers and fathers still carried their tamariki when they were able to walk too!

Maori Baptism Ceremony by Louis Auguste de Sainson

Devillier, active 1844. [Sainson, Louis Auguste de] b 1801 :Nouvelle Zelande; ceremonie de bapteme. Devillier sculp [Paris 1844]. Ref: A-211-013. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22728764

Why did they continue carrying tamariki as they grew?

By sticking with Mum and Dad, tamariki learned about the work their parents did and how they would contribute to their iwi and whānau in future. Of course, their parents got to do their daily jobs while still taking care of their kids too! But the tamariki were learning by being there.

Note the last rower is carrying a child!

Chazal, Antoine 1793-1854 :N[ouvel]le Zelande. Habitans et pirogue. N[umer]o 45. [Copied 1825 or 1826 from an 1824 drawing by Jules Louis LeJeune] Reference Number: C-082-098

What did the atua (gods) have to say?

Such close and intimate child care came from the traditional belief in the atua (gods), whose behaviour they tried to copy. The first parents, Ranginui and Papatuānuku, kept their children close, kiri-ki-te-kiri (skin to skin). Their children were between them – safe, secure and loved.

When the tamariki grew older, they wanted to leave their parents’ warm embrace and go out and explore the world. When they did, they transformed the world with the skills they were born with and those that they had learned. The close kiri-ki-te-kiri care that had bonded them to their parents, had given them confidence to grow individually.

Does anyone know who made this cartoon??

What You Can Do

Does the pikau (babywearing) help us today? Yes!

Babywearing is a great tool for parents today. Why should you babywear?

  • If pepi wants to be held, you can wear them while still getting chores done, like entertaining older children
  • It helps pepi sleep if needed, close and cuddled up to Mum or Dad
  • Pepi loves being close to you, kiri-ki-te-kiri and cuddling are good for their brain development
  • It’s a change from a pushchair while out and about
  • It’s easier if you’re going somewhere with steps or crowds
  • Great exercise for Mum and Dad!
  • If pepi is unwell, using the pikau prevents others from touching pepi

Want to get into babywearing?

This month is a great time to get into babywearing because there’s loads of specials on for Babywearing Month Aotearoa! Things to consider:

  • There are lots of different kinds of baby carriers to consider – here’s a helpful article to help you choose one!
  • You can buy them new from a store, or second hand from Trade Me.
  • Need help fitting your carrier, or want to meet other babywearing parents? Find a group through slingababy.co.nz!

Read the Research

Hope you enjoyed our post – visit our Research section for more information:

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