New parents should be advised to carry their babies upright rather than push them in prams to help improve their development, according to research by an award-winning scientist
Jared Diamond, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, said parents could learn from traditional child-rearing techniques used in societies including the rainforests of Africa to improve their children’s lives.
He said: “It would be impossible, illegal, or immoral to carry out rigorous controlled experiments on Western children, in order to test outcomes of different child-rearing methods.
“But a huge variety of different methods have in effect already been tested by natural experiments: different societies have been raising their children differently for a long time, and we can see the results.
“I’ve worked with traditional New Guinea peoples for 50 years. Many other Westerners have worked with other traditional societies, including the Pygmies of African rainforests, the !Kung of southern African deserts, and the Piraha Indians of Brazil.
“We are struck by how emotionally secure, self-confident, curious, and autonomous the members of those small-scale societies are, not only as adults but already as children.
“That’s surely the result of how they are raised as children. I think that we can foster those admirable qualities in our own children, by emulating some hunter-gatherer child-rearing practices.”
In his new book, The World Until Yesterday, he says comforting a crying baby within seconds, letting them sleep next to their parents, having lots of physical contact and carrying them upright and facing outwards can all aid their development.
He said: “Carrying your baby upright and facing forward may result in a more self-assured child.”
The father of two said: “Much anecdotal evidence indicates that such techniques can also benefit our own children. We humans lived as hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years. We moderns can learn from what worked well for such a long time.
“It is only relatively recently that some of these traditional child-rearing practices became unfashionable. I suggest that it’s time to consider some of them seriously again.”