As parents of small babies and bigger ones, one of our greatest priorities is to keep our children safe. A good, correctly fitting sling can be a very helpful tool for this, and here are a few simple suggestions to ensure your child’s security.
Know your sling and know your baby
- Always familiarise yourself with your carrier before you use it for the first time. Ensure you have a good idea how to use it. Some people like to practice with a teddy bear near a bed and with a mirror to see what is happening.
- Always check your carrier before use for any wear and tear, that all component parts are present and fit for purpose (eg is the chest belt in place? Are any buckles in the right places and not broken, are the seams are intact?)
- Check your baby is willing to be carried. The only “unsafe” carry is one with an unwilling baby. If baby seems unkeen, can you establish why? For example, is he hungry? Is she wet or dirty? Does he have reflux or does he find certain positions uncomfortable? Does she want to do something else? Is he too hot or cold? Is she in pain? If he or she cries in a sling, consider the many other reasons a baby may express distress.
- Your child must be able to breathe safely in the sling. Their chin should not be touching their chest (a good guide is a space two finger-widths or more) or lolling back too far. (Try it yourself! Can you swallow your saliva with your chin too close to your chest or lolling all the way back?) Some carriers (such as handbag slings that encourage over-flexion of the neck) are unsafe. Most other slings can be used in a very safe and secure way.
- A child whose bottom and legs are well supported from knee to knee in a “spread squat” or “M position” is likely to be more comfortable for your baby, better for their growing hips, and such carriers are often much more supportive for parents to use. Your baby’s head and spine should be well aligned to each other, with a comfortable natural curve to the back, rather than over-straightened or slumped forwards.
- Ensure appropriate clothing – the sling may add additional warmth, so layering is a good idea. Many people find baby leggings, gloves on strings, well fitting hats and tie-on warm booties to be especially helpful in cold weather.
- Don’t forget to protect your baby from sunburn and to keep well hydrated in warm weather.
- An useful tip, if you dress your baby in a bodysuits with feet, is to choose a larger size than for ordinary wear, as the fabric will ride up a little with the sling and may squash tiny toes.
Be alert at all times
- It is important to be aware of your child at all times; if you feel something is different, check! Some people like to carry a small pocket mirror so they can see children riding on their backs in a sling.
- It is wise to consider what physical activity you wish to do while babywearing; will it hinder your awareness of your child in the sling or hamper your ability to deal with any problems? Your baby will be at a height in the sling and may be able to reach for unexpected items – awareness and attention is vital.
- Your sling is NOT a substitute for a car seat, and you should not sleep while carrying your baby.
- Do get in touch if you’d like to try some slings out. One size does not fit all and what works well for one parent and child may not work so well for another.
Remember the TICKS rules of babywearing safety, and the ABC guide!