WHY CARRY YOUR BABY IN A CARRIER OR SLING?
Carrying your baby in a carrier or sling is a lovely way to meet needs for warmth and closeness, and is not just for mothers. All parents can nurture their babies in this way; your baby’s carer may also find it an invaluable tool while you are working or studying.
- Babies carried in slings are calmer and cry less. In most cultures, where babies are held almost constantly, they are typically in a quiet alert state and rarely cry for more than brief periods.
- Slings provide a gentle way of transitioning babies from the calm environment of the womb to that of the outside world. Babies in carriers continue to be rocked by their mothers’ movements and to hear their mothers’ heartbeats or learn a new caring adult’s rhythms. This helps babies to regulate their own systems.
- Babies in slings are more receptive to learning and display enhanced visual and auditory alertness.
- It facilitates bonding. When babies are held closely, the adult and the baby can see each other’s faces, leading to frequent verbal and non-verbal interaction, enhancing speech and social development.
- Babies who are carried in a sling facing away from the adult get a bird’s eye view of the world and its wonders. This kind of gentle stimulation enables babies to learn about their environment at their own pace. This option can be used once a baby has good neck control (5-6 months) for 20 minutes maximum at the start and a child should not sleep facing out. This position can be uncomfortable for the carrying adult so use this position only if both are comfortable. 1
- Experiencing a wide variety of stimuli helps babies’ brains to develop to their full potential. Try different positions with your baby such as hip carries (appropriate from newborn) or back carries (best achieved with stable trunk control).
- Carrying adults are more easily able to calm their babies if they are frightened, providing a safe haven, when they are held close in a carrier.
- It is easy to nurse discreetly when the baby is in a sling as the fabric shields both the baby and the mother from the public view. Nursing in a sling is most successful when both feeding and carrying skills are mastered separately.
- Even without nursing in a sling, a 2012 study found that the act of carrying babies in carriers increases breastfeeding rates in older babies.
- Parents and carers find it easier to carry on their normal daily activities when they wear their babies. Both their hands are free and their babies are quickly soothed. Housework, shopping, walking for exercise, and even getting ready for the day become more manageable tasks. Some parents even take their babies to work in carriers.
- Older children appreciate that their carers’ free hands can attend to their own needs, like tying shoelaces or making snacks.
- Travelling is easier when babies are tucked securely into slings.
- Twins can be worn in slings too – one on each hip or front and back.
- Current advice is to carry baby in an upright position, ensuring the airway is free and clear, the back is supported in a natural shape, and feet are free to move. Importantly, baby should be close enough to kiss whilst in the carrier. Please refer to TICKS for further details 2
- Do not carry your baby in a sling in potentially unsafe situations, like by a cooking stove, when drinking (or carrying) hot beverages, or when using sharp knives.
- Bend at the knees if you have to pick up an object, keeping one hand on the baby.
- Monitor baby’s temperature and remember the carrying adult will help keep the baby’s body warm. Pay attention to legs and head especially.
Remember that toddlers have long reaches, so keep well away from dangerous objects when carrying them in slings.
- When travelling, babies should only ride in approved infant seats made for cars or bicycles, never in slings.
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These websites may be useful depending where in the world you are:
1 http://www.sheffieldslingsurgery.co.uk/2016/07/21/the-fuss-about-facing-out/2 In some countries safety tips are listed under the acronym T.I.C.K.S – you can read them here: http://babyslingsafety.co.uk/
The BabyCarrier Industry Alliance website has safety tips here: https://babycarrierindustryalliance.org/babywearing-safety/consumers/
Published January 2018.