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Carrying Your Baby Safely In A Sling

By Janelle Green, CNM, MSN

Carrying Your Baby Safely In A Sling

Are you eyeing up that attractive baby sling but concerned about recent news and recalls in the past year related to several popular bag-style, hands-free baby carriers? The infant deaths that occurred left parents and childcare experts deeply concerned about this centuries-old practice that, when done right, has bonding, developmental and practical benefits for mom and baby alike.

So, if you’re like most moms and moms-to-be, you’re probably wondering, is babywearing safe? Before 2007, it was largely unregulated in the US, but newly released standards for slings are designed to help experts and parents alike learn how to safely wear and carry your baby on your body.

Whether you use a ring sling, wrap, mai tai, rebozo or structured pack, babywearing can be a safe, loving and convenient practice. But it’s important to learn how to use your chosen carrier style correctly to prevent over-heating, falling and suffocation risks.

First, avoid the pouch or bag-style carriers that were involved in the recalls as they pose the greatest risk, says nursing expert and babywearing advocate M’Liss Stelzer, RN, because the design leads to respiratory distress and oxygen deprivation.

Second, as with any other product you might buy for your child, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and learn how to use your carrier properly. Don’t add any devices or additions, even those sold to supplement your sling, because they may not have been tested for safety with the sling. Learn how to do it right and you can safely wear your baby as you go about your daily life.

In slings, it may help to use a rolled blanket under baby’s back to ensure that his head and neck are properly aligned.

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In this wrap style carrier, baby sits high on mom’s chest and his face is visible, and his head is resting back away from his neck and chest, allowing optimal breathing.

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Baby is properly positioned in a soft-structured carrier, often called a mei tai.

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Baby is curled in a “C” or chin to chest position, which can cause breathing difficulties.

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Baby sits too deep in the sling and is curled into the “C” position.

Safe Baby Wearing:

  • Wrap your baby so that you can see his face at all times; routinely check that his breathing is not labored.
  • Wear your baby high on your body to best monitor him.
  • Never let your baby’s chin rest upon or be forced upon his chest, this is called the “C” or “chin to chest” position and is especially dangerous as it can lead to suffocation. Ensure your baby is never in this position in any carrier, car seat or stroller.
  • Never use a bag-style sling.
  • Practice using your carrier at home, with help, before venturing out.
  • When bending down, squat rather than lean over.
  • Use particular caution when wearing infants younger than 4 months old.
  • Take a class or join a babywearing group such as those at www.TheBabyWearer.com.
  • Check to see if the maker of your baby carrier has joined the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance at BabyCarrierIndustryAlliance.org.

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