We LOVE baby wearing! And we want you to love it too.So wearing a sling safely and correctly is paramount.
As baby grows, they go through different stages of hip and spinal development. It’s important to know how to provide the optimal support through these differing stages to keep baby as safe as possible in the sling or carrier.
Newborn (approx. 0-3 months): very little neck strength or head support. Spine is naturally, fully curved. Hip joints developing from cartilage to bone.
As you hold baby on your chest by supporting under their bottom, they naturally curl into a knees-up, squat position. This is the position we want to recreate when carrying in a sling.
Baby needs to be well supported in their carrier to minimise the risk of positional asphyxia (suffocation). Baby needs to be observed regularly to ensure there is no slumping and to make sure airway is clear. Neck/head support is vital.
Spine should be kept in the natural, curved position.
Baby (approx. 3-6 months): babe now has strength to hold up head most of the time. Rest of spine still curved. Hip joints developing from cartilage to bone.
As babe develops head and neck control risk of slumping reduces but head and neck support are still important, especially when baby is tired.
Spine should ideally still be kept in the natural, curved position. The use of an ergonomic carrier giving knee-to-knee support helps to keep hips in their natural ‘M’ position.
Infant (approx. 6-12 months): babe can hold their head up all the time and begins to sit up unaided. Hip joints developing from cartilage to bone.
Now babe could be ready for back carrying, hip carrying or can even forward face for short periods when alert if you wish.
Head/neck support only needed when babe is asleep. Spine is much straighter and stronger. The use of an ergonomic carrier giving knee-to-knee support helps to keep hips in their natural ‘M’ position.
Toddler (approx. 12 months+): Final stage of spinal development occurs. Babe is pulling up to stand and/or walking.
Babe has good muscle strength in neck, back and legs. Knee-to-knee support not so important, however helps spread weight for better comfort for you and baby, whilst hips are still developing.
The final stage of spinal development can change babe’s centre of gravity, this may mean you need to adjust your carrier or sling as it may cause it to become uncomfortable all of a sudden!
The most basic advice for safe baby wearing are the TICKS rules, designed to keep babies safe while being worn. The following T.I.C.K.S. Rules for Safe Babywearing have been put together by the UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers Consortium, and apply to all carriers, though are particularly important when carrying young babies.
TIGHT – slings and carriers should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you as this will be most comfortable for you both. Any slack/loose fabric will allow your baby to slump down in the carrier which can hinder their breathing and pull on your back.
IN VIEW AT ALL TIMES – you should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply glancing down. The fabric of a sling or carrier should not close around them so you have to open it to check on them. In a cradle position your baby should face upwards and not be turned in towards your body.
CLOSE ENOUGH TO KISS – your baby’s head should be as close to your chin as is comfortable. By tipping your head forward you should be able to kiss your baby on the head or forehead.
KEEP THEIR CHIN OFF THEIR CHEST – a baby should never be curled so their chin is forced onto their chest as this can restrict their breathing. Ensure there is always a space of at least a finger width under your baby’s chin.
SUPPORTED BACK – in an upright carry a baby should be held comfortably close to the wearer so their back is supported in its natural position and their tummy and chest are against you. If a sling is too loose they can slump which can partially close their airway. (This can be tested by placing a hand on your baby’s back and pressing gently – they should not uncurl or move closer to you.) A baby in a cradle carry in a pouch or ring sling should be positioned carefully with their bottom in the deepest part so the sling does not fold them in half pressing their chin to their chest.
DOWNLOAD THE TICKS GUIDE
Using slings is one of the safest ways to carry your baby and toddler. But, as with all aspects of child care and carriers, parents and carers need to be aware of how to use the sling to make sure that both their child and they are as comfortable and secure as possible.
The check list T.I.C.K.S covers the five key aspects of using slings in an easy to remember acronym.
You can download the TICKS guide here as well as a pdf document.
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