The Weird Reason Most People Carry Babies On Their Left Arm

Written by Georgina Berbari

Image by Mihajlo Ckovric / Stocksy

I can't say I have a preference as to which arm I typically carry a baby on—is that even a thing? Well, a recent study published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews revealed that the majority of babies are cradled on the left side of the body, and it is only now that I realize I have scarcely ever held an infant with my right arm. 

Research on "side bias" or laterality in maternal cradling dates all the way back to 1960, so in order to conduct the current study, the Germany-based researchers included 40 past studies in their analysis. What they discovered was that between 66 and 72% of people hold an infant on their left arm and that this is especially prevalent if you're naturally a right-handed person. By having the baby in your left hand, your right hand is free for any other miscellaneous tasks like holding bottles or whatnot.

Women in particular prefer their babies on the left: 73% of women hold babies on their left side, compared to 64% of men who do the same. The researchers theorize this could be because men are statistically more left-handed. 

The researchers also found emotions are crucial in the cradling side bias. "Since emotions are primarily processed in the right hemisphere of the brain, people may also tend to move their baby into their left visual field, which is linked to the right hemisphere of the brain," the researchers wrote. "This could be especially true for mothers who have already established a strong emotional bond with their child during pregnancy."

A separate 1996 study is on par with this assertion, proposing that left-cradling not only facilitates important feedback to the mother's right, emotional brain but also directs maternal communication to the baby's right hemisphere as well, potentially even contributing to early language development.

As far as men go, though, the German researchers compared their present context to a prior study they had done on hugs and found a potential interconnection in male emotion and the left side of the body. Seemingly, men who are uncomfortable hugging other men typically hug each other from the left due to strong negative emotions. Does that mean men hold babies with their left arms because they're uncomfortable? It's possible.

Other explanations behind cradling bias could be the desire to keep the baby closer to your heartbeat, which might also be more calming for a baby. 

Next time you're holding a baby, pay attention to which side you naturally tend to hold it—and don't be surprised if it's almost always to the left.

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