Yesterday, just before the news broke about the new Pope Benedict XVI, I posted about the conclave at the Vatican, regarding which ABC news commentator/”progressive” Catholic priest Richard McBrien had quipped that the cassock-clad cardinals meeting to elect the new pope were “wearing what looks like women’s garb.” (See Dresses Like Woman, April 19.)

That’s a favorite liberal diss-phrase directed at Roman Catholic clerics, even though it seems a bit at odds with the usual liberal position that there’s nothing wrong with people dressing like members of the opposite sex from their own. I quoted from a “baby-wearing” website that showered approval on little boys who wear their mothers’ negligees and their sisters’ frocks. And I explained to our readers what “baby-wearing” was: It’s carrying your infant in a sling next to your body for the entire day (and, possibly, night) while you do the chores (click on these photos to get the idea). Baby-wearing, I wrote, is “one of those new earth-first mothering fads” like “co-sleeping”–piling all the kids into the bed with you and your husband every night instead of giving them their own rooms.

Today we received an e-mail of protest from “Krista,” who tells us that baby-wearing isn’t just for left-wing hippies; conservative moms wear their infants, too: 

“I’m a big fan of the Independent Women’s Forum…. I was therefore a bit puzzled to see both baby wearing and co-sleeping described as a ‘new earth-first mothering fad’ in your column.

“Strictly speaking, the practices of isolating our young children into separate rooms, and locomoting them in objects where they are separated from the soothing and regulating heartbeat of the mother, which are the ‘fads’

“Humans have been sharing sleep as a family and carrying their children since time began.  Despite the ‘earth-mothers’ being an easy target for derision, these practices in and of themselves should hardly be suspect.

“Sincerely from a conservative Catholic who shares sleep with her young children and carries them in slings… much like my biblical foremothers.”

Krista, please don’t think we want you to burn your baby-sling! Here at the IWF we love “crunchy” cons, neo-cons, and even ex-cons if they are duly repentant.

I must point out, however, that although women of some traditional cultures, notably Maya Indians, do carry their babies strapped to their shoulders and waists, other equally time-honored cultures follow different practices that physically separate the infant from the mother’s heartbeat, such as the papoose and even, in some American Indian tribes, a basket carried atop the mother’s head. So baby-wearing may or may not date from when “time began.” Furthermore, as an undergrad classics major and grad-school medievalist, I can assure you that ancient Greek and Roman and medieval babies slept in cradles. Indeed, mothers of the Middle Ages were warned not to let their babies share their beds, lest mama roll over and smother the little one. I can’t speak authoritatively about biblical times, but remember that baby Moses lay in a basket while in the bullrushes, and Mary laid the infant Jesus in a manger.      

So if a sling’s your thing, Krista, be our guest. Just remember that you may be co-sleeping, as it were, with folks who think that when Junior outgrows the sling, it’s time for him to don an evening gown.