I’m left-handed! I'm one of the lucky ones who eats and writes left-handed, and uses right-handed scissors with much disdain. I smear ink everywhere and proudly (annoyingly?) tell you all about it.
I boast about my innate brilliance because that’s what a left-handed person does, but for the life of me, I could not figure out why I hold my baby on my left hip when it means I have to do everything right-handed. It made no sense. Even when I tried switching my daughter to my right side, I’d still unconsciously shift her to my left and be back to doing things with my right hand.
I figured there was a biological reason for doing this, and after a quick google search, I came across a study that found 85% of parents hold their baby on their left hip even if they are left-handed! The Journal of Biology Letters found that “handedness bore no difference in cradling bias.”
The left side of our body transfers information to the right side of our brain, which is responsible for bonding, reading social cues, and allows for visual information to be processed bilaterally giving an evolutionary advantage to left-sided carrying. Additionally, carrying your baby on your left side keeps your infant closer to your heart which helps regulate your their heartbeat.
If you’re inclined to hold your baby on your right hip, it’s nothing to change or worry about if you feel bonded to your baby and are happy with your transition into parenthood. The exception to this rule is if you’re experiencing stress or depression. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that when mothers were asked to pick up their babies and cradle them in their arms those who exhibited no signs of stress or depression preferred to hold their babies to the left. However, 32 percent of mothers who showed signs of elevated stress held their babies to the right.
It’s possible that right-sided carrying is a sign you are stressed or experiencing normal baby behavior as negative and frustrating.
It's common to experiences stress, anxiety, sadness, and frustration in the early weeks of adjusting to a newborn, but if these symptoms are left untreated they can harm your mental health.
Carrying bias might be an excellent opportunity for you to have a mental health check-in: is the way you carry your baby simply just a preference? Or is it as a sign you need more support as you transition into parenthood?