A Peace Corps Icon – The Baby Snugli

 

From a single tooth, an Anthropologist can reconstruct a whole culture, a whole epoch. Watching a single dedicated nun, one can deduct the rules of a whole Order, was the observation in the novel, “A Nun’s Story”. So it is with Peace Corps. The Snugli and the generations of baby carriers it inspired exemplify the Peace Corps mission. If every time, someone saw a baby being carried close to a parent, he or she thought, “Ah, that started with a Peace Corps Volunteer”. If every time, a Mom plunked a crying infant into a baby carrier, close to her heart, and the baby calmed immediately, the Mom said, as I did, “Thank you Peace Corps”, “Thank you Anne Moore” and “Thank you Mothers of Togo”,then, maybe we would not have to hear: “Why preserve the Peace Corps when no one cares or has even heard about it?”

I think the story of RPCV Ann Moore (Togo 62–64) and the Snugli she created illustrates the Three Goals of Peace Corps perfectly.

 

Here, in Ann Moore’s own words is that story: https://www.americannursetoday.com/blog/the-snugli-story/

The First Goal: To help the people of interested countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained workers

“I taught pediatric nursing at Babies Hospital, Columbia University. The chief resident of pediatrics organized the first Peace Corps medical team to go to Togo, French West Africa in 1962. I was recruited along with 30 other medical people — doctors, nurses, lab techs, a pharmacist, sanitation engineer and others.”

“Our Peace Corps mission was to teach preventive health, but to do that we had to gain the trust of the people. For the entire first year, we worked with them in an abandoned hospital where we treated — and nurtured — them back to health. The second year we were able to teach them various health promoting behaviors — nutrition, latrine building, hand washing, etc.”

 

The Second Goal: To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served

“We all noted and remarked on the outstanding emotional well being of the African infant, either sick or healthy. All of the babies and young toddlers are carried on the mother’s back and they are all breastfed. When the babies were not asleep on their mothers’ back, they were alert, curious, looking all around and appearing to be very content.

In the market place, there was very little crying. At the hospital, the mother brought the other siblings along with the sick child and they all camped out on mats on the floor. This ‘backward nation’ was doing “rooming in” long before hospitals in the United States started the practice! Keeping the mother with the sick child was soothing to the child and helpful for the caregivers. What we were observing was “bonding, but we didn’t use that word in the early 60’s.”

( My comment: People in Togo saw Americans helping. But they also saw Americans who were respectful of their nurturing traditions and were very observant of those healthy practices and the good consequence for the emotional health of babies and toddlers. — J. Roll)

 

The Third Goal: To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

moore-snugli“Four weeks after we returned to Colorado from our 2-year stint in Togo, our daughter Mandela was born. My mother flew out from Ohio to Denver that first week and we worked out a way for me to carry Mande with me with no thought of marketing this carrier. (I tried using the African method of one long piece of fabric, bending over, placing the baby on my back, wrapping the fabric around the baby and tying the loose ends in front of my chest and waist, but it didn’t work for me. The baby always slipped down my back.) However, with our newly developed carrier, I had my hands free and a very content newborn on my back.

In the early 1960s, no one carried their baby on them, they carried them in plastic infant seats that allowed no warm body connection between the baby and the wearer. The LaLeche League and natural child-birth parents were just becoming popular, and when they saw me wearing Mande they’d ask where they could purchase this carrier. I called my mother who went to the fabric store to buy 2 yards of corduroy and sew another. She sent them to our home in Evergreen, Colorado and I mailed them to our “customers.”

We were very excited about the growing interest in carrying babies this way; knowing that this would contribute to more emotional security for the infant and more peace for the parent. So many times when Mande would be fussy, I would put her in my baby carrier and immediately she would be content. Some people criticized me for “spoiling” the baby, but I strongly believed (and still believe) that satisfying the needs of an infant instills trust, which contributes to greater security.

Demand for this baby carrier grew by word of mouth, and mother had to turn to her friends for help. They were members of the Old Order German Baptist (known as Dunkard) Church who sewed all of their own clothes because they will not wear “worldly clothes.” Thus, they are excellent seamstresses. At one time, we had 150 farm women around the Dayton, Ohio area making our baby carriers! It was a really beautiful cottage industry. As demand continued to grow, we created a focus group which decided to call the baby carrier the “Snugli.” We applied for a patent and it was granted in 1969. The sales were mostly mail order the first few years. Then, later, stores became interested.

Later, a study was done at Columbia University on what was called the “Snugli effect.” The principal findings were that the attachment quotient was much higher and infant vocalization much earlier for babies who were carried in the Snugli than for the control group.

We then developed an “infant” carrier, which also received a patent. The Snugli was designed to carry a baby up to two years old. The infant carrier was designed for carrying infants in the first 6 months of life. We also designed various other products: a rain cape, a quiet book (usually made out of fabric and filled with quiet activities for children. It’s often used for special times, like church, when you need to keep children happy and quiet), a dolly Snugli, and a carry bed. We introduced lambskins from New Zealand after reviewing the value of the tactile stimulation and the weight gain of premature infants placed on lambskins. We created a Snugli for premature infants and a Snugli for twins.”

“By the time we sold the company in 1985, over 1.5 million babies had been carried in Snuglis. We were given an award for realizing the 3rd goal of the Peace Corps which is to bring something we learned in our 2-year experience and introducing that into our own culture. There are many baby carriers available now, a fact which gives us great joy for all of that possible “bonding” that is taking place. We hope that this bonding will result in happier, more secure adults.”

 

4 Comments

Leave a comment
    • Rowland,

      Absolutely. That was the second of the three goals I wanted to illustrate based on Ann Moore’s experience. Here are her words:

      “We all noted and remarked on the outstanding emotional well being of the African infant, either sick or healthy. All of the babies and young toddlers are carried on the mother’s back and they are all breastfed. When the babies were not asleep on their mothers’ back, they were alert, curious, looking all around and appearing to be very content.”

      In the introduction, I should amend it to read: “If every time, a Mom plunked a crying infant into a baby carrier, close to her heart, and the baby calmed immediately, the Mom said, as I did, “Thank you Peace Corps”, “Thank you Anne Moore” and Thank you, Mothers of Togo.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2019. Peace Corps Worldwide.