With the rising popularity of baby slings helped along by celebrity mums such as Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, Rachel Weisz, Gwen Stefani, and most recently Tamara Ecclestone, we take a look at the best safety tips for parents wearing baby slings.
Rosie Dodds, Senior Policy Adviser at NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, comments: “Slings can be a useful way of calming a crying baby. It’s important that parents know the recommendations for keeping babies as safe as possible when carried in a sling. “It’s more comfortable for parent and baby if the sling is tight enough to hug the baby close. Loose fabric will allow your baby to slump down which can hinder their breathing. You need to be able to see their face when glancing down. Your baby should be in a position where they are close enough to kiss by tipping your head forward, and a baby should never be curled so their chin is pressed on to their chest as this can restrict their breathing. Carrying your baby upright with their hips and legs in the ‘M’ position is likely to be safest and is most suitable for your baby’s developing hips and spine.
Baby sling safety
The British Association of Babywearing Instructors offers guidelines about safe baby sling wearing. It recommends the ‘TICKS’ checklist, which has been developed by The Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers:
Slings should be tight enough to hug your baby close – this is the most comfortable technique for you both. Any loose fabric will allow your baby to slump down in the carrier, hindering their breathing and pulling on your back.
In view at all times
You should always be able to see your baby’s face simply by looking down. The baby sling fabric should not close around them so much that you have to open it to check on them. In a cradle position, your baby should face upwards and not turned in towards your body.
Close enough to kiss
Your baby’s head should be as close to your chin as is comfortable. When you tip your head forward, you should be able to kiss your baby on the head or forehead.
Keep chin off the chest
A baby should never be curled so their chin is forced onto their chest – this can restrict their breathing. Ensure there is always a space of at least a finger’s width under your baby’s chin.
In an upright carrier, a baby should be held comfortably close to you 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. Test this by placing a hand on your baby’s back and pressing gently – they should not uncurl or move closer to you. Babywearing instructors usually recommend that the safest position for a baby to be carried is in an upright position. Lying down cradle-type positions are best avoided with newborns, as it is difficult to ensure the position is safe without their chin and chest touching. Upright positions, with the baby’s legs in a frog or ‘M’ position with their bottom lower than their knees, are also more suitable for your baby’s developing hips and spine.
Carrying a young baby facing out in a sling is not recommended, as it forces your baby’s back straight against your chest, and causes their legs to dangle in a harness like position. This can mean the baby’s weight rests on the crotch rather than being spread from the bottom and thighs. It also places your baby too low, with their head at mid-chest level making it uncomfortable for both baby and parent. Above everything else choose a baby sling whichsupports and protects your baby’s developing spine, hips and the back of their head.