How to use your baby sling safely
Using a sling with your baby has lots of benefits but it can be tricky to know how to position your baby safely. Most carriers come with instructions but the quality of these and their ability to be understood can vary substantially. There are lots of videos on YouTube but be wary because some show less than ideal or non age appropriate techniques.
What are the most important things to think about?
In young babies it’s essential that they can breathe safely when in a carrier. Keep their airway clear and visible, and check that their chin is not slumping onto their chest. It’s also important that their back is well supported in an upright position, if your baby slumps in the sling this can affect their airway.
The key safety points –
Breathing: ensure baby’s face is visible, with no fabric covering their face or impeding airflow. Check you can fit 2 fingers between their chin and chest. Bring the top of your carrier to the nape of their neck for newborns, or top of their shoulders for older babies. Make sure it doesn’t come above their neck and they get ‘lost’ in the sling – this could affect their airway and cause slumping.
Height: you’ll often hear the phrase “close enough to kiss”. This means that your baby should sit nice and high on your chest with their head resting on the hard part of your chest.
Security: you feel secure enough to be ” hands free” and that your baby won’t fall. Your sling should be snug enough that baby is supported firmly and does not slump down.
How do I position my baby in a sling?
If you’re fairly new to slings, but have done a little bit of research, you might have heard of the mystical M position for baby’s legs, and C or a J position for their body.
But what does this actually mean? When I first started out carrying my baby I forgot which letter I was aiming for and thought it was a W, which confused me no end!
The ‘M’ position
To help support their growing hips and spine the ideal position in a sling is for baby’s knees to sit higher than their bottom. Have the carrier supporting their legs from one knee pit to the other, and tilt their pelvis towards you. This creates an M shape, or squat position. Often newborns will naturally curl up in this position. If you hold your baby on your chest without a sling, look at how they naturally sit and then try to recreate this. Often newborns are quite tucked up, with their hip don’t open very wide yet. Don’t be tempted to achieve a wider position than is natural, they will gradually do this in time. Often between 2-4 months your baby will be less curled up and will sit in a spread squat position.
Older babies may not naturally adopt the M shape when you first put them in the sling, especially if they’re feeling a bit squirmy or fractious. Pop them in the carrier, tighten it and gently scoop their knees upwards. This will help create a pelvic tilt toward you and deepen their seat.
The ‘J’ shape
This describes the shape of their spine. The other shape you may hear mentioned is a C, however lots of us prefer the term J shape. Although very young babies may be curled up, their upper body should not slump but be held in an upright position. Their torso will supported by your upper body, with their chin clear of their chest. Tucking their pelvis under them helps support the length of the spine.
Make sure your sling is snug and supports this position. Gently scooping up their knees and tilting their pelvis helps to keep them in a natural position. This aids physiological development and should be comfortable for both of you.
Your checks every time you use your sling –
- Can I see my baby’s airway?
- Can I fit 2 fingers between their chin and chest?
- Is their head resting on the hard part of my chest?
- Are they supported to the top of their shoulders/nape of neck?
- Is their face free of any fabric and clear of the top of the sling?
- Is the sling snug enough to prevent slumping?
If you’re struggling or would like more information about using your sling safely with your baby, why not book an online fit check. It can often help to have someone talk you through the fitting and give you tips and pointers.
For help specifically with the stretchy wrap in the Scottish Baby Box, visit Baby On Borders for more information.