Babies are designed to be carried. Even newborn babies lift up their knees and stretch out their arms when they’re picked up, automatically adopting the right position to sit on their parent’s hip. Being carried correctly in a sling supports the spine, keeping it in the C shape that babies’ spines need to be in while they are growing. As babies’ hip joints are not fully formed at birth, it’s also important that babies’ legs are flexed when they’re in a sling so that the hip joint sits securely in the socket. The baby’s knees should be higher than their bottom and their legs should be supported up to the knee so that an M shape is seen when looking at the baby:
Benefits of Baby wearing for Parents
Parents who carry their babies enjoy a close relationship with their baby and learn to pick up on their cues. They have a lower incidence of post-natal depression.
Breastfeeding may be easier. Mum can read baby’s cues and react quickly to his needs and having her baby close will help her milk supply.
Using a sling means that parents will have their hands free. This makes tasks such as washing up or cooking much easier.
If you have another child, using a sling can reduce sibling rivalry and frustration as you’ll have your hands free to play.
Benefits for the Baby
Babies who are worn in slings tend to be more settled and sleep for longer. They have improved digestion from being held upright and they cry for about half the length of time of babies who are not worn. They spend most of their time in a state of ‘quiet alertness’, able to take in what is going on around them. Premature babies gain weight faster when worn and have better temperature regulation.
Babywearing in Special Situations
Parents of babies with special needs, premature or low birth weight babies and twins can still wear their babies. It’s worth talking to a babywearing consultant about the best type of sling for your child(ren).
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Choosing a Sling or Baby Carrier
When choosing a sling or baby carrier, it may be useful to ask yourself the following questions:
How old is your baby/child?
Different slings are more suitable for different ages of babies although babies’ and parents’ preferences also are very important. Stretchy wraps, for example, are ideal for newborns but can only be worn on the front so may be less suitable for an older baby or toddler.
Who will be using it?
If more than one person will use a sling, you’ll need to buy an adjustable sling or carrier unless you’re both exactly the same height & size. If choosing a wrap, make sure it’s long enough for both of you and make sure you’re both confident using whichever sling you choose.
How often will you use it and for how long?
Think about how the sling distributes weight and try to choose one that spreads the weight through both shoulders and your back if you’ll be using it for hours.
How easy do you want your sling to be?
Wraps are very versatile but take some practice to learn how to tie them. But some people prefer tying slings to using ones with buckles or rings.
There are some simple safety tips which can be used to make sure that your baby is always carried safely.
A good sling should have these features (remember the TICKS acronym):
In view at all times
Close enough to kiss
Keep chin off the chest
For more information, visit www.babyslingsafe.com or chat to a Peer Supporter or Babywearing Consultant in your local area. The site includes information about bag slings, most of which have been withdrawn from sale in the UK because of safety concerns although similar styles may still be available. Counterfeit slings are also commonly sold through online auction sites.
When using a wrap, for a baby younger than 3-4 months, the knees should be bent and always be lined up with the width of his pelvis when he’s froglegged in the wrap. These wonderful images are from je porte mon bebe www.jeportemonbebe.com
There are many different kinds of slings available although not many of these are sold by High Street stores.
Here are the main types:
Pouches are simple pouches of fabric, worn over one shoulder. They can be put on and off very quickly. Some are adjustable so can be worn by people of different sizes.
Ring Slings are also worn over one shoulder but can be adjusted by pulling the fabric through the rings. Babies can be held upright or in the cradle hold and later on the hip. Toddlers can also be carried.
Mei Tai’s are Asian style carriers which consist of a structured body panel with straps. They can be used on the front, back or hip. The weight is distributed through the wearer’s shoulders and the waist.
Soft Structured Carriers also have a panel of fabric with straps but usually fasten with buckles and are quick to put on and adjust. They can be used on the front, back or hip. They have a wide base to fully support the baby from knee to knee.
Stretchy Wraps are made from stretchy fabric and are one long piece of material. They can be pre-tied before the baby is put in and can only be used for front carries.
Woven Wraps are a long piece of woven fabric. They offer a high level of support for the wearer and are extremely versatile. They can’t usually be pre-tied but can be used for front, hip and back carries.