If you’re a parent, do something for us really quickly. Find your child and pick them up.
You’re holding them on your left side, aren’t you?
No, we’re not peering through your windows; we’re just relying on science.
Previous studies have shown that most mothers– roughly 70-85%, actually– favor carrying their offspring on the left side of their bodies. There is even evidence to show that the preference begins as young as preschool-age, with little girls statistically favoring the same side to hold their baby dolls!
The first assumption that most of us probably would make is that women do this because the majority of us are right-handed, and need our rights arms free, right? But that’s not necessarily true. Most left-handed mothers in the study held their babies with their left arms, as well (And, as a lefty myself, I carry my babies with my left arm!).
The reason? Researchers think it’s evolutionary.
When moms hoist their children onto their left hips, they are putting their own left eye closest to their offspring’s left eye. This, apparently, is the key. An article published in A New Scientist explains that the right hemisphere of mammals brains is where social cues and relationship-building processes occur. The right hemisphere also receives signals from the left eye. So, we are literally at eye-level to observe our children’s responses to the stimuli around them. Because of this, we are able to react appropriately and meet their needs.
The idea is that, when our babies face our left sides, us moms and our babies are both better equipped to read each other’s facial expressions and social cues. It’s also been demonstrated that children subconsciously run to their mother’s left sides when they approach them in need. Mothers, also, naturally lead their kids toward their left side when we sense fear or danger. It’s a protective instinct.
Not only that, but babies are closest to mother’s hearts when they are on the left side, helping to soothe and regulate little heart beats. Other studies show that this left-side bias isn’t limited to humans, but to ten other species of mammals as well. The conclusion is that the bias helps aid in mother-infant bonding.
After reading this, the next time I scooped up my infant and placed him sideways on my left hip, I smiled, knowing that I was created to comfort, teach, and connect with my kids down to such a basic, biological level. In a time where we are often led to doubt our own instincts and abilities as mothers, I find this encouraging and beautiful.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.