Infant carrying: the role of increased locomotory costs in early tool development

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2007 Jun;133(2):841-6. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20603.


Among the costs of reproduction, carrying one's infant incurs one of the greatest drains on maternal energy, simply because of the added mass alone. Because of the dearth of archaeological evidence, however, how early bipeds dealt with the additional cost of having to carry infants who were less able to support their body weight against gravity is not particularly well understood. This article presents evidence on the caloric drain of carrying an infant in one's arms versus having a tool with which to sling the infant and carry her passively. The burden of carrying an infant in one's arms is on average 16% greater than having a tool to support the baby's mass and seems to have the potential to be a greater energetic burden even than lactation. In addition, carrying a baby in one's arms shortens and quickens the stride. An anthropometric trait that seems to offset some of the increased cost of carrying a baby in the arms is a wider bi-trochanteric width.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Care / methods*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Primates / physiology
  • Tool Use Behavior / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology*