“If someone told you they knew a secret to help your baby sleep better, cry less and learn better, you would certainly be interested…. “ Dr Maria Blois – ‘BabyWearing’.
Did you know research says carrying your baby in a sling can reduce their crying by 43%? And that you can buy a great sling that will last until toddlerdom for only around £50? No wonder Babywearing is becoming more and more popular, with many new parents seeing the benefits of using a traditional style baby sling to carry their baby and keep them calm.
The general rule when searching for a good carrier is to find one that is both supportive for you and your baby by carrying your baby as they would be held ‘in arms’. The sling should not place any strain on your back, neck or shoulders and similarly should support your baby’s back in its natural curved “C” shape
Image courtesy of Moby Wrap sling available HERE
Your baby’s legs should be supported in an “M” shape (or froggy) position:
Image courtesy of Moby Wrap sling available HERE
In order to carry your baby in a comfortable and anatomically correct ‘in arms’ position the sling should support the baby out to their knees (knee pit to knee pit) with their knees higher than their hips. As a general rule of thumb commercial baby carriers from high street shops generally do not support a baby out to their knees, with their knees above their hips, or their back in a natural “C” shape and so have earned the unsavoury nickname “crotch danglers” in the baby wearing industry who liken this type of carrier to being dangled from a parachute harness rather than cradled comfortably in a hammock. How would you rather be carried?
This image from the International Institute for Hip Dysplasia highlights hip healthy ways to carry babies, the pictures on the left being undesirable, with the pictures on the right being a better way to carry your baby.
If you are a newbie to babywearing by far the most versatile of all the slings available is the Wrap Sling, a 5m (on average) long piece of fabric that you use to wrap around your baby. Wrap slings can be used to carry your baby in many positions including a newborn cradle hold, on your front, hip or back.
Wrap slings are divided into 3 categories:
Stretchy Wrap Slings
Stretchy wraps are great beginner slings as the stretch in the fabric is very forgiving on the inexperienced babywearer. They can be tied in a variety of positions which, although on first glance is very daunting, is actually pretty easy once you have a bit of practice. Stretchy wrap slings are lovely for newborns and support well until the baby is around 9-12mths. Stretchy brands include the Moby Wrap, Kari-Me and Boba and the lovely new Hana baby bamboo stretchy wrap (my favourite!).
Here’s Michael Underwood learning how to tie his (and Angellica Bell’s!) new Moby Wrap Sling at our stand at The Earl’s Court Baby Show last year:
Woven Wrap Slings
Woven wraps have all the advantages of stretchy wraps, plus they are more supportive as the weave of the fabric means they do not stretch with the baby’s weight, this does however mean they take more practice to tie well. Woven wraps can be used for a multitude of carrying positions including back carries and can be used into toddlerdom and beyond, for this reason they are the most versatile baby carrier you can buy, however they are more expensive than stretchies. Brands include Lenny Lamb, Calin Bleu, Storchenwiege, Ocha, Didymos and Girasol.
Hybrid Wrap Slings
Je Porte Mon Bebe is an exciting new addition to wrap slings; these slings incorporate the ease of use of a stretchy wrap with the versatility, support, and importantly, back carrying capabilities of a woven. The best of both worlds for under £70!
As well as wrap slings you can also buy many other types of sling, the most common being:
Ring slings are very easy to put on and do not require any tying, simply pop over your head and tighten by pulling the fabric through the rings. Ring slings are generally made out of woven fabric so can support well, they can be used for little babies right into toddlerdom and beyond (when used in a hip carry), although they do have limited positions when compared to wrap slings. Brands include Lenny Lamb, Didymos and Maya Wrap.
Pouch slings are very similar to ring slings however they are either fitted to size with no fastenings or they have an adjusting mechanism (such as a clip/fastener). They are very quick to put on, however I believe what they gain in speed of use they lose in support. My personal view is that they are only useful for short wearing times like a quick pop into the supermarket and I do not believe that they are supportive enough to wear for long carries, nor are they as versatile as other sling types. Pouch slings tend to be the cheapest sling to buy and very commonly the most popular as from my experience parents are drawn by their ease of use without fully understanding their limitations, which is a shame as I commonly come across parents who have only tried a pouch sling and comment “babywearing just didn’t work out for us”, when actually what they really mean is that the sling didn’t – a great shame. Brands include the Peanut Shell, Babasling and Hotsling.
Mei Tais are Asian inspired carriers, they are similar in style to a wrap sling with a supportive central panel and then 4 lengths of fabric off of each corner to wraparound and tie, they are usually quicker to put on than a wrap sling and the central panel provides good support, often they come with extra details such as pockets. Mei Tais are good for slightly older babies and toddlers, particularly in back carries, but most are not supportive enough for newborns. Brands include the Didytai, BabyHawk, Lenny Lamb and Maya.
Soft Structured Carriers
Soft structured carriers are most similar to the popular baby carrier we see in most high street shops, however with the important addition of providing proper back support for both baby and wearer and providing support out to the baby’s knees – thus keeping their legs in a froggy position, rather than “crotch dangling” as is so common in commercial carriers. They are the most “manly” usually due to buckles and straps required to fit them and are therefore popular with dads! Whilst the can be used with smaller babies (usually with extra inserts) they are most suited to use with older babies and toddlers (particularly for back carries).Brands include Connecta, Beco, Boba , Manduca, Tula and Ergo.
Babywearing Guidelines and Cautions
Babywearing International advises parents to follow these guidelines when babywearing:
- Ensure the baby’s back and torso is well supported: Make sure the baby is not curled up such that his chin is pressed to his chest or his airway is otherwise compressed. Ensuring that you can put two fingers vertically between the baby’s chin and chest is a good guide.
- Carry babies how they would be held in-arms: Well-designed front baby carriers hold babies snugly against the chest and near caregiver’s face.
- Monitor the baby at all times. Make sure nothing obstructs the face or impedes breathing.
- Be aware of movements and surroundings. In general, don’t do something while wearing a child that shouldn’t be done while simply holding them. Avoid heat sources, bumping and jarring motions, and other hazardous situations
An easy way to remember the safety guideline is by using the acronym TICKS:
I’ll leave you with a great video showing you how to tie a stretchy wrap sling; it’s so much easier to watch in action than learn from instructions or diagrams! This particular example uses a Moby Wrap and demonstrates a front cross carry tie, the easiest carry to start with!
You can learn much more about babywearing in my book ‘BabyCalm: A Guide for Calmer Babies and Happier Parents”.