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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Left or Right?

When you pick up an infant, is it more likely for you to hold the child in your left arm or your right?  It has been found that 70-80% of women, regardless of which hand is dominant, hold babies with their left arm. 

Dr. Karl on a Triple J podcast pointed this out.  He said that with the help of physicians, mothers were studied quietly.  After examining an infant, the doctor would return the infant to the mother to the midline of her body.  Not toward the left nor the right.  The majority would take the baby and hold the child in her left arm. 

There are many different studies that I have read.  There seems to be two ideas about why this side preference might occur.  Some state that intuitively and subconsciously moms have figured out that the baby is more calm on the left side.  Before birth the baby can hear the mother's heart beating and it is a familiar, comforting sound. After birth, the baby can hear the mother's heart beat better when being held on the left side. This conclusion has many critics and is not well supported.

Many more studies believe that the left-side preference has to do with holding the baby on the side of the body that connects to the part of the brain which is dominant for processing emotions.  A mother is then better able to read the emotions of the child and react better. 

One of these studies found that mothers who cradle the baby on the right side speak higher and louder to their child than those who hold on the left.  Some mothers go back and forth between holding right and left.  Their pitch and volume went up when holding on the right.

There have also been studies about which side people prefer when hugging or kissing.  The majority of people tilt their heads to the right when kissing, and approach another person's left side when hugging.  Some of these reports think that the left-side baby cradling preference and the left-side approach to hugging are related.

There are many, many sites with this information.  Here are a few links. 

General overview
Do you kiss to the right or left?
Hugging preference
Pitch and volume differences
Left-sided baby cradling preference studies done on great apes.

Being right-handed, I always thought that I held my children on my left hip so that I could use my right hand to do things.  According to these studies, right-handers in general feel the same as I do.  And left-handers say they cradle on the left because that is the stronger arm.  It turns out it all might come down to our subconscious knowing the best way and our conscious mind coming up with a reason.

Now you have heard something interesting.

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