Date of Award
Master of Science
Child and Family Studies
Hillary N. Fouts
Heather Wallace, Julia Jaekel
As American mothers’ responsibilities and lifestyles evolve, parents adapt by changing their parenting practices to meet the needs of their families. Many mothers in the U.S. have begun carrying their infants on their bodies, a practice referred to in the U.S. as “babywearing.” The present study is one of the first studies to explore the practice of babywearing in the US and how babywearing intersects with a mother’s relationship with her infant and her family. Although there has been research examining the connection between babywearing and technology (Russell, 2014; Lupton, 2012), the purpose of the present study is to examine what influences a mother’s choice to babywear, perceptions surrounding the practice of babywearing, and what resources support or help mothers learning to babywear.
Sixteen mothers of infants under 24 months were interviewed using a semi-structured interview. Additionally, a post interview survey was used to gather demographic data. The interview included open ended questions to identify how mothers perceived babywearing prior to pregnancy, why they decided to wear their infant, how they learned the practice of babywearing, perceived benefits to babywearing, barriers to the practice, and community support.
Since very little is known about babywearing, grounded theory was used to guide the research. NVivo 11 was used to analyze the data in order to identify themes that were central to babywearing, to identify the different sources of influence that motivated mothers’ babywearing decisions, and to explore connections between themes and influences. Themes that were found in the interviews were organized into the following areas: parenting (natural vs non-identifying parent), learning (initial impressions, the learning process, online support & Babywearing International), motivation (tool, status, health & development, benefits, and maternal identity & consumer culture), barriers & challenges of babywearing (cost, education, stigma, negative experiences), and coinciding parenting practices. Results indicate that for many mothers, babywearing was a tool that served many purposes including infant comfort, a mother’s ability to use both hands, a source of bonding, and to promote infant development. The internet, specifically Facebook, was a central theme around babywearing that included first exposure, learning the practice, and community support.
Moran, Hayley Brooke, "Keeping Them Close: A Qualitative Examination of Mothers’ Perceptions, Motivations, and Experiences with Babywearing. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2017.