8 Tips for Safe Babywearing

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Babywearing has been in the news a lot this past year, after the Infantino Bag Slings were recalled. Much like with certain other things (co-sleeping, for example), the whole practice of babywearing in general was demonized.

Moms reported wearing their Moby wrap or Ergo carrier out in public and having strangers tell them things like, "Didn't you hear? Babywearing can kill your baby. They say it's not safe."

Obviously the message didn't get out correctly to everyone, so in honor of International Babywearing Week, I'm going to try to set the record straight:

Babywearing is not dangerous. There are rules to safe babywearing and products that are made poorly. Babywearing has health benefits when practiced safely -- here's how.

1. Baby should be positioned in a similar location to where you would hold them.

When you hold your baby in your arms, their head is generally near your breast or collarbone. When in a carrier, their head should be in approximately the same location. Every carrier, sling, or wrap holds the baby in a special way, but baby's head should never be down by your waist. Not only is it more comfortable for both of you to have baby in a natural position, but having the baby anywhere else offsets your balance and makes them hang looser, putting them at risk of injury.

2. Observe the different holds for different ages.

Babies develop neck control over the first 6 months or so, and most carriers specifically forbid leaving a baby's head unsupported until they are 3, 4, or 6 months old. Your individual baby's neck development is important as well: If your baby isn't ready to go without head support when the minimum age for your carrier comes up, keep their head supported, but never undercut their minimum.

3. Prevent the chin tuck.

In a car seat, the recline of the seat is incredibly important, as small babies who are more upright than 45 degrees are at risk of having their oxygen supply reduced or cut off. The same is true of a baby in a sling -- if they aren't held properly and their chin is down against their chest, they run the risk of not being able to get enough oxygen. This goes back to the point above -- make sure you follow the specific directions for different ages. It's really important.

4. Don't be a crotch-dangler.

When a baby is worn, it is very important that they are held in a sitting position. Smaller babies often are either lying down or have their legs folded like a frog or crossed. Bigger babies or those not in pouch-type carriers need their thighs to be supported so it's like they're sitting. When facing you, this is easily accomplished, like in my friend Samantha's picture here. They straddle you, much like they would if, say, you were carrying them, bringing up point #1 again.

Any carrier that holds the baby by their crotch only is indicated as bad for the baby's spine and hips, and generally less comfortable for the mom as well.

5. If it feels unsafe, it probably is.

When a baby is properly secured, you should not be worried about them falling out. It should feel snug and secure. If you place your arms around your baby as if you're holding them, and you feel like you have to lift them up or pull them tighter, then you need to adjust your carrier until they are held in that position. Like I said, the goal is to mimic how you hold the baby. If the carrier feels loose, baby is sitting awkwardly low or high, swings when you move, then it's wrong. Double-check your specific product's directions and have someone help you figure it out until you can do it right on your own. If you can never get it comfortable and secure, it may just be the wrong carrier for you.

6. Observe basic safety.

Don't cook with your baby strapped to your front, unless you're turning your body WAY away from your stove, and sticking your arm awkwardly out to the side (or you know, you could try a back carry). Bend at the knees so you stay upright and baby doesn't fall out on her soft noggin. Don't go four-wheeling, bicycling, skiing, or other activities where you majorly increase your and your baby's risk of falling. Yes, you can fall while walking, but use common sense and skip things where you're much more likely to fall, especially at increased speeds or with extra force. Don't put your baby near danger.

And please, if your baby's face is smashed against fabric, THAT'S BAD. Use common sense. Your baby's face should obviously be clear of any obstructions, and you should be able to see your baby's face the whole time.

If you are walking around and your carrier feels loose or different, stop immediately and find out why and fix it.

7. Watch for wear and tear.

Check your babywearing device frequently for any signs of loose stitches, broken or cracked buckles, tears, anything. It's wise to give it a good once-over every single time you're going to put it on, but make sure to really sit down with it and examine it on a regular basis as well. One comment a lot of people go by, though not all, is "The less there is to malfunction, the safer the carrier." This is honestly one of my reasons for loving my Moby wrap. It is one giant, long piece of fabric. There are no seams to tear, no buckles to break. I control the knots and can tie them as tight and as many times as I need to feel safe.

8. Read the manual.

Yet again, the final tip for practically everything. The one thing that would prevent so many injuries and deaths. The thing that if people did for everything, would prevent 90 percent of calls to customer service ....

READ THE DIRECTIONS AND FOLLOW THEM. I really can't stress that enough.

If you can read this post, you're on the Internet. If you're on the Internet, you can go to the manufacturer's website to look up their specific directions, ask for help from other moms on different babywearing forums, and find step-by-step walkthroughs of lots of different carriers. Wear Your Baby has an extremely comprehensive guide to almost any type of babywearing, including instructions on how to make your own. They are sorted by type, by position, baby's age, front carries, back carries, hip carries ... you can even get a DVD on babywearing. More info on safe babywearing is here.

 

Do you wear your baby?

 

Images via JMum/CafeMom; Samantha Van Vleet

 

baby gear, babywearing, safety

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ChEMOM ChEMOM

yea but I think your wrong about it being demonized. The only comments I have ever gotten with my baby in a moby wrap were


Old man at target "That's how babies are meant to be carried"


Older woman at craft show "wish those were around when I had kids"


Strange young man at craft show "look a woman with two heads!" 


Many many people all over the place "that baby looks really ___ (fill in blank with content, snug, happy, cozy etc ) next to mommy!"


I get comments all the time whether I am at Target or the natural health food store or the bank or the play ground but they are ALWAYS in the vein of approval. Never once has anyone ever said anything negative. O once a woman said "Doesn't that hurt your back?" "Nope" end of conversation......

Xakana Xakana

I have been lucky enough not to have any of the "didn't you hear about the recall..." comments. The most negative I get are usually "Oh, your poor back!" Which is funny because yes, I have a really bad back and that's partly why i wear the mei tai--it causes me significantly less strain than lugging the baby around in my arms or even on my hip. I can't do it all day, by any means, but it's helpful when I need it. And the wrap I had was perfect for my newborn.


The "not feeling secure" is why I can't use ring slings. I NEVER feel baby is secure, no matter how it's adjusted, and it kills my shoulder. I'm a mei tai lover and a wrap fan :D

ocmom... ocmommy2two

I LOVE babywearing!

Jmum Jmum

I've never heard anything but nice things while wearing my baby. I had a woman at the county fair run over and tell me how great she thought it was that I was using a wrap instead of using a stroller. I felt like mom of the year after she got done talking to me.


I have a homemade Moby and a secondhand Peanut Shell sling that I think is too big for me. :(

Jeann... JeannieMS

I have worn both my babies, and have had nothing but positive comments as well -- mostly people commenting on how cozy the baby looked, but also some saying how good it is to keep the baby close, one guy about how babies imprint these early experience and are healthier (mentally) later in life. I don't know how true that is, but I like to think it could be so! 

amile... amileegirl

I often get comments concerning if my baby might fall (back carry)...I jump up and down and wiggle to demonstrate.  One young woman asked how i managed not to hit her on the tight clothes racks...I explained that you have body awareness and you can feel where the baby is so you don't need to think about it...its automatic.  

LaurenS LaurenS

Good article! And mel looks so cute wearing her little guy! I love babywearing. I wish Dominic would let me do it more. 15 months old and he thinks he's all grown up! Lol.

Phils... PhilsBabyMama

I certainly did and will wear any future babies!  I remember going on a walk with my friend and his two sons and my son.  A busy body neighbor (well meaning, I'm sure) proceeded to tell him that he shouldn't wear his baby in a SLING because the baby could die!  By the way, he was using a Sleepy Wrap, not a sling.... Der.  Needless to say, she was (politely) corrected. People have been babywearing FOREVER.  It's NORMAL!

jalaz77 jalaz77

I LOVE LOVE my moby!! So many people say oh there's a baby in there...from a distance it looks like a preggo belly til they see little feet hanging out! That has been one of the best baby purchases I have made. So many new moms ask where I got it. So happy carrying my baby like that hands free, also it helps when I chase after my 2 other kiddies.

Autumn Hoibakk

I only ever got positive comments about carrying my daughter around in my Moby. Most people wanted to know what my wrap was called and where they could get one. And I have to say, that I dont think I could have made it through those first few months without it and still have my sanity intact!
All that being said, thanks for the article. I think it was well written!

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