This week Emily from South London Sling Library tells us how babywearing can help, and how to choose the best wrap or carrier for your family.
“If you’re a parent, then you’ll have experienced just how difficult it can be to get things done around a demanding small person. More and more parents are discovering the practical advantages of using a baby carrier and now scientific research is confirming many of the benefits of using a baby carrier or sling regularly.
Benefits for Your Baby
Safe, secure + included: Your baby is exactly where they want to be – with you! They’ll feel safe and secure that their needs are able to be met, and they can share your daily experiences with you. When they get tired, a sling can provide a safe, comfortable place for them to nap.
Good head, spine, pelvis and hip support to aid optimal physical development: When carried in a recommended carrier type and position, your baby is completely supported. But they’re not just sitting there! The small adjustments they make to the movements of carrying help to develop their muscle tone and sense of balance.
Comfortable and settled: Your baby will be comforted by the movements of your body and an upright carrying position helps to relieve symptoms of colic and reflux. Regularly carried babies tend to be more settled during the day, and sleep better at night.
Benefits for parents
Close to your baby: Being so close to your baby helps you to ‘tune in’ to how they communicate; you’ll learn to predict their needs and quickly notice if anything is wrong. Using a sling from birth helps to establish successful breastfeeding. Being close to your baby aids bonding and can ease symptoms of post-natal depression.
Convenient and Hands Free: You’ll have both hands free to be able to get on with your day too. With your baby calmer and more settled, you’ll have less stress and more time to meet your needs. When out and about, slings are often much more convenient and less bulky than other baby transport methods.
Good for you: Carrying your baby using a well-fitting carrier can support and protect your spine, abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. It’ll also give you a low-impact and gradually increasing core strength training. You’ll be carrying at least 3kg more in weight, which burns significant calories too!
Comfortable: As long as you have a sling or carrier that fits you and your baby well, it will be comfortable to use for significant lengths of time, even with bigger babies and toddlers.
Choosing a Carrier
With the right carrier you can carry your baby easily, safely and comfortably. But with a bewildering range of options available, how do you know which sling or carrier is right for you?
Before you start, remember that everyone is different! What’s perfect for one family may be completely impractical for another. Reviews and articles can’t tell you what a particular sling or carrier will feel like when you use it with your baby. So the best way to discover what feels right for you is to try things out for yourself. You may be very surprised by how something feels when you actually try it on, so be open minded.
Whatever sling, wrap or carrier you like the idea of, there are some basic essentials to check:
- Safe, comfortable support for your baby’s spine, head, and airways. Your baby should be held high and snug against your chest with their face visible. [Note: add a link to the T.I.C.K.S. Sling Safety Guidelines here]
- Good fit for comfortable weight distribution. Don’t assume that structure and padding make a carrier more supportive; a carrier will only be comfortable if it fits your Wraps or less structured options which contour to your body can offer excellent weight distribution!
- Easy to use. If you don’t find your carrier easy then you won’t use it. Everyone finds different things ‘easy’, so try things out and check you can get your carrier safe, comfortable and hands free by yourself.
Questions to ask:
- How long do you want to be able to use it for?
A newborn baby has very different needs to an active 1 year old so it’s worth considering different options for different stages. ‘Birth to toddler’ options can be great if you want to just buy one, but be aware that guideline age or weight ranges don’t always reflect a carrier’s true lifespan.
- Who will be doing the carrying?
If two adults will both be using your carrier then make sure you choose one which is easily adjustable. Tie-on options are more easily ‘sharable’ than buckled carriers as you won’t need to change settings between users.
- How are you going to use your carrier?
- Carrying for short trips: You won’t necessarily need the most supportive option. Choose something quick and easy to use. A lightweight buckled carrier or sling that can easily be popped on/off may be all you need.
- Carrying for longer periods: Choose something that’ll support you and your baby well. A carrier that distributes your baby’s weight evenly around your torso and over both shoulders will support good posture and reduce pressure points. Wraps, Mei Tais and Soft Structured Carriers are all good options.
- What does your baby think?
If you are confident and comfortable using your carrier, then your baby will usually be happy in it too. It’s very common for a baby to cry or seem unsettled when first trying a new carrier; getting moving is a great way to soothe your baby and help you both relax.
- Do you like how the carrier looks?
Don’t underestimate the importance of how you feel when you’re carrying your baby! Make sure that the carrier you choose is one that you’d be happy using and confident to walk down the street in!
What next? And what are Sling Libraries?!
There are many ways to try out different carrier options in person. Sling Libraries are independently run services that offer carrier advice, demonstrations and many lend and sell carriers too. You could also try a specialist shop, a social Sling Meet, or even book a professional Carrying Consultation for expert help. Have a look at our stockist and Sling Library maps for places to try carriers near you!
Emily is a mum of 2 and experienced Carrying Consultant. She is the founder of the South London Sling Library (www.southlondonslings.co.uk) and the designer of the Izmi Baby Carrier (www.izmibaby.co.uk).”