Babywearing has been around for centuries, and it's saved many a mom's sanity (as well as her hands for doing other things ... like holding onto a toddler in a busy parking lot, making dinner, need I go on?). But like most things about being a new mom, it can take some time to figure out how to do it ... and how to do it safely!
The scary news: sometimes babywearing can go wrong, and when it does, kids have been known to die. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), at least 14 babies have died in the past 20 years because of issues with their mom's baby carrier. Three of those kids died as recently as 2009!
The good news? You CAN babywear safely, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it as a good way to promote bonding with your baby.
Here are some good tips to make sure you're doing it right -- for you and for baby.
1. Be wary of sling-type baby carriers. These are the type that have been linked to infant deaths by the CPSC because they present suffocation hazards to babies. If you are using a sling, the CPSC advises you make sure the infant’s face is not covered and is visible at all times to the sling’s wearer. If nursing the baby in a sling, change the baby’s position after feeding so the baby’s head is facing up and is clear of the sling and the mother’s body.
2. Don't exercise with baby in the carrier. Jogging, jumping on a trampoline, and similar activities put baby at severe risk of "shaken baby syndrome."
3. Read height and weight requirements on carrier. A soft structured carrier, for example, shouldn't be used until a baby is at least 4 or 5 months and able to hold his or her head up. Front packs should only be used until a baby is about 20 pounds -- for their health and the caregiver's!
4. Don't force a baby's legs together. To prevent hip displaysia, doctors recommend carriers support the thigh and allow the legs to spread to keep the hip in a stable position.
5. Don't forward face a newborn. Because of neck instability issues, newborns should be worn on the front of your body, facing YOU, rather than the outside world.
6. Be aware of what baby can reach. This is especially important if your baby is old enough to be worn on your back -- where you can't watch them. Babies are curious, and they will grab at things, and you won't be able to see if they snag a choking hazard and stuff it in their mouth.
7. Inspect your carrier regular. Fabric can break down, especially if it's washed frequently (which, let's face it, you are going to do when you've got a drooly baby in there). The last thing you want is for your baby to tumble out because the fabric gave way.
8. If it hurts, get help. Babywearing safety isn't just about the baby; if you're having severe back pain from wearing your baby, then it's a good idea to reach out to moms who are experienced babywearers for tips on re-positioning (there are babywearing moms groups out there -- check online to see if there is one near you!). If that doesn't help, talk to your doctor. Babies need healthy moms!
What are your best tips for babywearing success?
Images via KAT_bike/Flickr; Jeanne Sager