A mother’s instinct is one of the most powerful things in the world. Maternal instincts are primal relics of our distant past that have not changed in millions and millions of years. Although our civilization has changed more in the last half century than in all its existence before, the fundamental meaning of motherhood — birthing and raising healthy babies — is still exactly the same.
In fact, there are some things about motherhood that are so instinctive, women do not even realize they are doing them.
Holding a baby is one such thing. When picking up a baby, most women will immediately hoist him or her onto their left hip. Actually, for 70-85% of all women, it just feels “off” to carry a baby on the right side.
How come, though? Why do so many women feel more comfortable using the left side? There is actually a fascinating scientific explanation behind it.
Of course, having your baby on your left side leaves your dominant arm free for completing different tasks. According to a study from the Journal of Nature Ecology and Evolution, the real reason for holding babies on the left, however, has more to do with keeping them safe!
The right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, but the right side is also responsible for your emotional intelligence – interacting with other people and processing their emotions.
If you are holding your baby on the left side, that keeps the right side of your brain in tune with the baby’s emotional cues.
Thus, if your baby is crying or fussing, or if it seems hungry or scared, your brain is going to figure it out quicker, since the right side of your brain is the one on babysitting duty.
It also means that the bond between the mother and the baby is on a whole different level because the mother is using her emotional side to understand a human being that still cannot communicate in anything other than emotional cues.
In other words, holding a baby on the left side makes the mother more likely to notice if her baby is sick or scared quicker, and it also means that their emotional bond is stronger. Both points ultimately add up to the same theory: millions of years of experience have taught women that babies who were held on the left were probably more likely to survive, which is why the habit is engraved in female collective memory to this day.
There is also a more prosaic, but a charming reason, nonetheless.
Holding the baby on the left not only makes mothers feel closer and more connected to their young ones, it also helps babies feel more secure.
That’s because our hearts beat on the left side, so a baby cradled on that side will be able to hear and feel its mother’s heart beating.
As babies get older and start learning words and language, as well as grow physically, they may themselves pick the mother’s left side when they snuggle.
This is because their right ear will be closer to their mom’s mouth, which may help them start understanding words more easily because the left side of their brain is the one that controls the processing of language.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with holding your baby on the right sometimes — your back will most certainly thank you for it.