The practice of holding pēpi close and wrapping pēpi is something Māori have done for generations. It is also positive for the baby's development.

Tīpuna Māori used hue or gourds to carry water to their whare. The term waha describes how they would cradle it to ensure its safety. This term is also used to describe how pēpi were held close and carried. Kuia and mothers would waha pēpi to soothe them when they were upset and hard to settle. Holding baby close, rocking, talking and singing are all food for baby’s brain. Gentle touch is how babies first know they are loved.

Holding baby close

This technique is still used today. Pēpi are wrapped and securely slung close to the body of their kaitiaki. For very young babies, this familiar position replicates the foetal environment –being warm and close to the sounds and rhythm of the manawa. It can be calming and soothing for an upset pēpi while still allowing parents freedom to use their hands for other tasks.

Whānau supporters will find page 8 in Te Pihinga 1 very useful for talking with whānau about how the wisdom of our ancestors is as valid today as it was then. Indigenous parents all over the world have wrapped and slung babies close to their bodies to soothe, calm and keep them safe. In this modern age, science has verified the positive benefits of carrying a baby in this way.

Safety and relationships

Keeping a baby physically close promotes a sense of security, ensures they’re safe and helps to develop the important attachment relationship. A strong sense of attachment is critical to healthy personal development as it teaches pēpi what they should expect from relationships with people they love throughout life.

Being held in a parent’s arms is the safest place for a baby to be. The parent can have peace of mind knowing the baby is happy, content and relaxed. The fact that babies are neuro-biologically wired to stop crying when carried is a part of our evolutionary biology that helps our species survive.


The Neuroscience of Calming a baby | International Association of Baby Massage

Attunement and why it matters – David E. Arredondo | YouTube(external link)

The benefits of baby wearing | YouTube