Babywearing 102 has generously shared this article with us.
The most important aspect of babywearing is safety. Any carrier can be used incorrectly, rendering it unsafe.
Babywearing an Infant
Here are some safety tips from Babywearing International:
- Check to ensure that your baby is not curled up tightly in a chin-to-chest position; this compresses your baby’s airway. Making sure there is a fingers’ width or two between their chin and chest is a good guide.
- Make sure your baby’s back is straight and supported.
- Monitor your child at all times. Make sure nothing is obstructing their face.
- Be aware of how your movements affect the baby; avoid any bumping or jarring motions.
Ring Sling Safety
Cradle Hold Caution
When wearing a sling, it is important to exercise caution if using the cradle hold.Your baby should never be horizontal in the sling. From Sleeping Baby Productions:
“The ideal position in a cradle hold is actually more of a partial recline. The baby’s body should be diagonally inclined in the sling, with her head clear of the fabric so that her chin isn’t forced onto her chest, and you should always be able to clearly visualize her mouth and nose for safety. Grunting and snoring noises that occur only in this position are a sign that she is having trouble breathing and should be repositioned at once.”
It is best to do the tummy to tummy hold, which doesn’t carry the same risks.
Here is a great video demonstrating how to safely use the cradle hold:
While back carries can be done in a long enough ring sling, it is a very advanced carry. It should not be your first attempt at a back carry. Rucking with rings under bum (RUB) is particularly advanced compared to rucking with rings at shoulder. You should know how to do both types of rucks very well in a woven before attempting with a ring sling and always make sure you have a safe amount of tail left over through the rings (Sleeping Baby Productions says you should always have at least 12″ of tail left over). When you do a ruck or any back carry, it is common (and not unsafe) for some amount of “sinking” or sagging to occur, especially in less supportive wraps. With ring sling back carries, you have to be able to differentiate between a normal amount of sagging and the fabric slipping through the rings. With rings under bum, you cannot easily catch the fabric should it slip or easily see if your tail amount is shrinking.
- Always have at least 12″ of tail in a ring sling in any carry
- Never use sling rings that are meant for crafting (found at craft stores). They are not meant to carry heavier weights. Slingrings.com is a great place to purchase safe sling rings (they are sold in pairs, FYI).
- Always make sure you are wearing your baby high enough that they are visible and kissable.
- Check your sling frequently for signs of wear.
- Never use a bag sling. Most are recalled due to fatalities. Find out more info on bag slings and sling safety at Sleeping Baby Productions.
Never, ever back wrap in a Moby or other stretchy wrap. Originally it was included as an option in the older Moby manuals, but it is no longer included because it is NOT safe. The only exception is a Wrapsody stretch wrap, which are a bit more supportive than a standard stretchy wrap (although you should still exercise caution and wrap tightly, carefully, and only in multi-layer carries). Here is a video demonstrating why back carrying in a stretchy wrap is not safe:
It is best to master front and hip carries before trying back carries. Here are some tips for learning new carries safely from Babywearing International:
1. Practice with a doll or teddy first. Understanding the instructions with your mind is just the first step; your body needs to understand them as well. Doing a few “dry runs” will help you build the muscle memory for doing a particular carry.
2. It is best to try a new carry with your baby when you are both well rested and generally content.
3. Use a spotter … but only another adult who accepts the responsibility of keeping your baby from falling. The spotter must be able to catch the baby at any instant if he or she should start to fall.
4. Use a mirror.
5. Start low. Most carries can be accomplished while sitting on the floor. As you build muscle memory and confidence, you can move up, next lifting your baby onto your body from a bed or chair.
- Always make sure you have a nice deep seat and a tight top rail.
- Double knots are more secure, especially for slippery wraps. It is best, especially as a beginner, to make sure you have plenty of tail left and aren’t tying in the tips.
- Check your wrap frequently for signs of heavy wear.
- Make sure your wrap is pulled up high enough on your baby’s back. Arms out is perfectly fine for older babies and toddlers, but the fabric should still be at least at arm pit level.
Soft Structured Carrier and Mei Tai Safety
- Always check buckles, fabric, and where the straps meet the body for signs of fraying or wear.
- The body of the carrier should be at least at arm pit level. Arm’s out is safe for older babies and toddlers, but the body itself should still be that high.
- Always make sure your carrier is authentic. While we all appreciate a bargain, there are many counterfeit carriers, particularly Ergos, circulating. Sometimes they are not easy to spot. The best way to ensure you are not buying a counterfeit is to purchase from an authorized retailer listed on the brand’s website (also make sure you are on the official site of the brand— there are fake websites circulating as well). When buying used, it is best to ask where it was purchased and if they have any proof of authenticity. Likewise, it is best to keep all paperwork your carrier comes with if you plan to resell. The problem with counterfeits, besides the ethical issues, is that many of the buckles break. They have not passed the same rigorous testing. There is also the issue of possible high lead levels found in counterfeits.
- As with wrapping, always master front carries first. It is best to practice getting your baby on and off your back over a bed or other soft surface at first.
Please check these sites to find out if your carrier has been recalled. Many manufacturers allow you to trade in the recalled carrier for a safer, more current model.
Safety is the most important aspect of babywearing. Here are some links regarding recalled baby carriers. Please note the date and specific models— many carriers such as Beco and the Maya Ringsling are perfectly safe assuming they are not part of a certain batch.
- List of recalled carriers
- The Babywearer index of recalls
- The Babywearer explains bag slings and their dangers
- Is My Sling Safe?
- CPSC article on Infantio SlingRider deaths
- CPSC article on sling warnings and safety
- Strap carries, while perhaps jarring the first time you come across one, are perfectly safe. The baby is securely supported and it would be quite difficult for them to get out of the carry.
- Narrow-based carriers (sometimes referred to as “crotch danglers”) such as the Bjorn and Snugli do not cause hip dysplasia. There are very limited studies on the matter, and although it is suggested that they may contribute to triggering hip dysplasia, particularly if your child is at high risk for developing it, they do not cause it. While it is more ideal (and comfortable) to wear your child in a more ergonomically friendly carrier, we do not consider narrow-based carriers to be dangerous.
- On a similar note, forward facing out is another controversial topic. While it is not the most ergonomically friendly or comfortable carry, it can be safe and is not inherently dangerous. It should be avoided with young babies without head control to avoid the head falling forward and the chin touching the chest and blocking tiny airways. You also want to be aware of possible over-stimulation. The beauty of facing towards the wearer is that babies can snuggle in and hide if the environment is too stimulating. As always with parenting, be mindful of your babies cues. It is best to only forward face out for short periods of time, as it can put stress on the hips (and on the wearer’s back). Make sure no part of the carrier is around the baby’s neck. Sometimes people forward face out in a wrap incorrectly and end up with the wrap around the baby’s neck, which is unsafe.
- Traditional carriers such as cradle boards have been used for centuries. Writing them off as unsafe is quite a bold thing to do. While some suggest that studies show that hip dysplasia is more prevalent in cultures that use carries such as cradle boards, there could be many other attributes at fault, particularly genetics. We prefer to celebrate traditional carriers in all their forms and not label them as unsafe.
- Exercise caution when babywearing while cooking.
- Always be mindful of dangerous objects within your baby’s reach
- Jogging and strenuous exercise are not recommended due to the amount of shaking your baby can experience.
- A great rule to follow: Never do anything babywearing that you would not do while holding your baby
- Never babywear in a car.
- Babywearing on a bike, boat, scooter, or while around any potentially hazardous chemicals is not recommended.