When I was nursing my babies, I noticed that both of them preferred to nurse, sleep or cuddle on the left side. I usually preferred holding them on the left too, but I figured that was because I could then use my right hand to do stuff, like surf the internet, grab cookies or get myself a drink of water.
Did you know there is actually a reason for this!? A real, this-is-how-your-brain-works kind of reason! There is!
Holding a baby on your left puts them in your left visual field and on the left side of your body, an area that is only attended to by the right hemisphere of your brain. Your right hemisphere experiences the world as a unique whole, understands people as unique individuals and is primed for connection and social experience, especially the exchange of emotions. It makes sense to put the baby where your “people” brain can see her.
In addition, putting the baby on your left gives them the best view of the left side of your face, which is also controlled by your right hemisphere, and is more emotionally expressive than the right side of your face (who knew?!). This way the baby can see that you are emotionally responsive and tuned in to her, which works to soothe and reassure her of her safety.
The left side of your brain specializes in focused attention, goal-oriented behaviour and manipulating things – so while the right brain is connecting emotionally the left brain is busy directing the right hand to nab those cookies! It all makes sense!
Want to find out more? This fascinating tidbit came from Iain McGilchrist’s book The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.