Tipuna Māori used hue or gourds to carry water to their whare. The term waha describes how they would cradle it close to their body to ensure its safety. This term is also used to describe how pēpi were held close and carried. Kuia and mothers would waha pēpi to soothe them when they were upset and hard to settle. Holding baby close, rocking, talking and singing are all food for baby’s brain. Gentle touch is how babies first know they are loved.
This technique is still used today. Pēpi are wrapped and securely slung close to the body of their kaitiaki. For very young babies this familiar position replicates the foetal environment, warm and close to the sounds and rhythm of the manawa. It can be calming and soothing for an upset pēpi while still allowing dad or mum freedom to use their hands for other tasks.
Family support workers will find page 8 in Te Pihinga 1 very useful to use and talk with whānau about how the wisdom of our ancestors is as valid today as it was then. Indigenous parents all over the world have wrapped and slung babies close to their bodies to soothe, calm and keep them safe. In this modern age science has verified the positive benefits of carrying a baby in this way.
Keeping a baby physically close promotes a sense of security, ensures they’re safe and helps to develop the important attachment relationship. A strong sense of attachment is critical to healthy personal development as it teaches pēpi what they should expect from relationships with people they love throughout life.
Being held in a parent’s arms is the safest place for a baby to be. The parent can have peace of mind knowing the baby is happy, content, and relaxed. The fact that babies are neurobiologically wired to stop crying when carried is a part of our evolutionary biology that helps our species survive.
- Read more about the neuroscience of calming a baby in the International Association of Infant Massage.
- Attunement and why it matters – David E. Arredondo
- The benefits of baby wearing