How to Rock Baby-Wearing
Do you like to keep your baby next to you but have to actually DO things throughout the day? Baby-wearing is the answer to this dilemma (for most babies). There are many valid reasons to support baby-wearing, such as exposing your child to various new stimuli that helps brain development reach its full potential. However, there are a few things to consider before throwing your baby into a sling or carrier. I’ll go over some of the most important ones here.
SLING, WRAP, OR SOFT-STRUCTURED CARRIER?
First of all, you have to choose whether a sling/wrap or a soft-structured carrier type best fits your needs. What is your lifestyle like? How will you want to incorporate your baby in your activities? Will you be using the carrier at home mostly, or are you envisioning a 10-mile mountain hike complete with baby on your back? Are you going to be the only one babywearing, or are there going to be others that use the device?
1) A baby sling is typically a pouch made out of fabric that is either tied or secured with a ring. https://amzn.to/382CJF1
2) A baby wrap is a long piece of fabric that can be tied or secured around your body in various ways. https://amzn.to/2FOte0g
3) A baby carrier has a soft structure with padding and shoulder straps (kind of like a backpack). This type of carrier has more structure than the sling or the wrap. Most of them have buckles to ensure safety. Carriers are typically easier and faster to secure than a wrap. This Ergobaby 360 is the carrier that we have used for both boys. https://amzn.to/36Y3Px2
Soft, structured carriers are very versatile and can be used in many positions (front, hip, back). Most offer either 3-4 positions to carry the child as well. They support a wide range of weight, through newborn stage (normally requires an additional insert) to toddler stage. Carriers are more ergonomic for the adult wearing the child, as the design helps spread the baby’s weight uniformly over the adult’s shoulders and back.
Ring sling, wrap, soft-structured pictured below; click for more info!
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WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A BABY CARRIER?
1) Holds baby in a safe position that is comfortable for the baby and the wearer
2) Easily adjustable for the babywearers and to accommodate baby growth
3) Wide, padded straps to avoid digging in and twisting, leading to lots of body aches
4) Easily fastened and secured
5) Light and breathable
6) Machine washable
7) Option that allows easy access for breastfeeding (if desired)
HOW DO I AVOID SUFFOCATION RISKS AND SAFELY USE A CARRIER?
1) USE COMMON SENSE. Don’t go rock climbing or white-water rafting, etc. with your baby. Also don’t wear your baby when you’re cooking at a hot stove, with sharp objects, etc.
2) Baby-wearing CAN put babies at risk of suffocation if they’re not correctly positioned. Their airways can be blocked if put in a dangerous position, and young babies don’t yet have the neck strength to move to a better breathing position. The acronym TICKS can help you remember the steps for safe baby-wearing.
Tight: the carrier should be tight, with baby positioned high and upright with head support. Loose fabric might cause your baby to slump down, which could restrict his/her breathing.
In view at all times: always be able to see your baby’s face by simply looking down. Ensure your baby’s face, nose and mouth remain uncovered by the carrier and/or your body.
Close enough to kiss: baby should be close enough to your chin that by tipping his/her head forward you can easily kiss top of his/her head.
Keep chin off the chest: ensure baby’s chin is up and away from his body. Your baby should NEVER be tucked so that his/her chin is on his/her chest. THIS CAN IMPAIR BREATHING. Continually monitor airway and breathing.
Supported back: baby’s back should be supported in a natural position with tummy and chest against you. When bending over, support baby with one hand behind his/her back. Bend at the knees to lift, not at the waist. Search TICKS for more in-depth info.
3) Monitor baby’s temperature; ensure that arms/legs don’t get too cold and core body doesn’t overheat.
4) Be aware of your balance changes with the carrier. Step carefully.
HOW DO I POSITION MY CHILD CORRECTLY?
1) Make sure hips are in a healthy position to reduce the risk of developmental dysplasia of the hip. Baby’s hips should be spread and legs should be straddling your body. Baby’s knees should be spread apart, thighs supported, and hips bent.
If you’re a visual person like me, these images from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute should help.
OTHER GENERAL TIPS:
1) Babies who were premature, had low birth weight, have medical conditions, or do not yet have head control are at greater risk of suffocation in baby carriers. Check with your primary healthcare provider before using.
2) Read and follow the owner’s manual for the baby carrier, especially for height/weight restrictions and positioning.
3) Consistently check the straps and fabric to ensure they are still secure and show no signs of damage before putting your baby in.
4) Practice with a doll or teddy before putting baby in. Get someone to help you put baby in until you are familiar with the procedure.