Parents have been experiencing the benefits of babywearing for centuries. Today there are a large range of different baby carrier options available, and it can feel overwhelming trying to choose the best option for your family.
Babywearing is safe once you are aware of a few simple rules. There are currently no safety regulations for baby carriers being manufactured or sold within or into Australia. This is no reason to be alarmed, but it is important that we arm ourselves with information so we can ensure we choose a safe baby carrier and remain aware of safety considerations when using them.
1. Your baby’s face should be visible at all times
The most important rule when carrying a baby is to ensure that they can breathe adequately. Young babies have tiny airways which are the size of a drinking straw, and if they are under 4 months old they may not have enough neck strength to move their head into a better position if they end up with their airways restricted. A baby should never be curled up so that their chin is forced into their chest as this can restrict their breathing.
Always ensure the baby’s face is visible – when you look down the baby’s face should be in view and uncovered without having to move any fabric. Most babywearing professionals recommend parents carry their babies in an upright position, and this position can be achieved with ring slings, mdi tai’s, woven wraps, stretchy wraps, and buckle carriers. Not only is it easier to get the baby safely positioned when they are upright, but it also carries the baby closer to the parent’s core, making it a much more comfortable carry for the parent and child. Be cautious of baby carriers that advertise ‘no adjusting required’, as you want it to be adjustable to you so you can get a nice close fit.
2. Your baby should be close enough to kiss
You should be able to kiss the top of your baby’s head without having to lean too far forward (trust me – you’ll want to do this often, too!). Wearing your baby really low on your body can lead to inadequate positioning and obstruction of your baby’s airways. By carrying your baby high and close to your body you are keeping them close to your centre of gravity and can ensure their airways are clear.
3. Your baby should be close to your body
Any sling or carrier should be tight enough to hold the baby close to the your body. If you lean forward, the baby should still be positioned close and not move further away from you. If the carrier is too loose it could cause the baby to slump and hinder the their breathing, and will move them further away from your centre of gravity which will also make the carrying less comfortable.
4. Pay close attention to your baby when breastfeeding
Many people enjoy breastfeeding their babies in their carriers due to the convenience. Both breast-feeding and babywearing are a learned skill, and it’s important to master both of these skills before trying to put them together and do both at the same time. Babywearing has the advantage of leaving us handsfree, but it’s incredibly important to ensure we are not distracted when breastfeeding so we can continue to monitor the positioning of the baby to ensure their airways are clear. Most baby carrier professionals recommend not attempting to breastfeed a baby in a baby carrier until the baby has adequate neck control and even then it is still very important to continuously monitor the baby and check their positioning.
5. Ensure your baby doesn’t overheat
Depending on the thickness of your baby carrier, it will act as at least one extra layer of clothing so please dress your baby accordingly to ensure they don’t overheat, and stay out of direct sun.
6. Not all baby carriers are created equal
Baby carrier specialty stores often ensure baby carriers meet US or European standards, and most will take care to ensure they only stock baby carriers that carry the baby in the safe positions described above.
Structured carriers should have weight tested plastic clips which are designed to withstand weight and are sturdy and durable. Rings on ring slings should ideally be a seamless metal ring – many of which are tested to withstand over 100kg of weight. Plastic rings, wooden rings, or rings which have a visible seam should be avoided.
It’s also important to keep in mind that many well-known baby carriers have counterfeit versions available on ebay which haven’t been properly safety tested or had their materials tested for lead or other dangerous materials and there have been issues with the baby carriers coming undone which has resulted in falls. It is strongly suggest that parents purchase their baby carriers from a reputable baby carrier store where you can also receive ongoing support before, during and after your purchase if needed.
Your baby is safest with you, and a baby carrier is an excellent tool for keeping your baby close.
If the above considerations are kept in mind, babywearing is a tool that can very well be our best parenting asset. A safe, comfortable carrier will give you time to do more of what you love with the people you love most.