Wearing your baby

We are so used to seeing buggies on the streets that it’s hard to imagine a time when there was another way to transport your baby. Local Mum Catherine Crombie investigates the very modern benefits of baby-wearing.


Long before the invention of the wheel and the prams and buggies that followed babies were carried everywhere they went. Today baby wearing is still the norm in many cultures, and in the UK its popularity is increasing as parents become aware of the benefits of this age old custom.

Baby wearing is good for baby and good for the baby wearer. A sling provides a womb-like environment; in touch with the rhythm of your heart, baby receives constant security and comfort. Your body rhythms help to regulate the carried baby's temperature and breathing. 

Digestion is easier when vertical so babywearing is particularly helpful for the baby with reflux, colic or constipation. Being upright also helps to strengthen the muscles required for core strength - no need for “tummy time” when baby is in a sling. Furthermore, because baby is not lying down so much they are less likely to develop flat-head syndrome.

It is no wonder that given all these benefits, sling babies are reported to cry up to 50% less than non-carried babies, thus spending more time in a state of “quiet alertness”. Rather than being diverted into distress, baby's energy is channelled into growth and development.  Being able to see the world from an elevated position, baby will have more opportunity for social learning and communication. 

Using a sling is an effortless way to soothe a baby when unwell, teething or tired. Recently my daughter had a chest infection, I  popped her in a sling so I could comfort her and position her better to aid breathing but at the same time I was able to research and write this article. 

Writing, cooking, playing with a toddler, using the internet are all things you can do when baby is in a sling. Hands free! Getting out and about is much easier if baby is in a sling, no need to worry about getting a pram onto a crowded bus or lumbering a buggy up some stairs. Rambling in the countryside is still possible after a baby if you use a sling!

It is important that you choose the baby carrier that is right for your baby's age and weight , but it also has to be right for you. I started off using a stretchy wrap when my daughter was little but I now use a soft structured carrier. Other people prefer woven wraps or ring slings. Visit www.slingguide.co.uk for more information about slings and baby carriers.

For safe baby wearing, keep in mind  the TICKS Rule issued by the UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers Consortium

T = TIGHT Slings and carriers should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you as this will be the most comfortable for you both .Any slack  or loose fabric will allow your baby to slump down in the carrier which can hinder their breathing and pull on your back.

I =IN VIEW AT ALL TIMES - you should always be able to see your baby's face by simply glancing down. The fabric of a sling or carrier should not close around them so you have to open it to check on them. In a cradle position your baby should face upwards not be turned in towards your body.

C= CLOSE ENOUGH TO KISS - your baby's head should be as close to your chin as is comfortable. By tipping your head forward you should be able to kiss your baby on the head or forehead.

K=KEEP CHIN OFF THE CHEST - a baby should never be curled so their chin is forced onto their chest as this can restrict their breathing. Ensure there is always a space of at least finger width under your baby's chin.

S=SUPPORTED BACK - in an upright carry a baby should be held comfortably close to the wearer so their back is supported in its natural position and their tummy and chest are against you. If a sling is too loose they can slump which can partially close their airway. (This can be tested by placing a hand on your baby's back and pressing gently - they should not uncurl or move closer to you.) A baby in a cradle carry in a pouch or ring sling should be positioned carefully with their bottom in the deepest part so the sling does not fold them in half pressing their chin to their chest.

Baby wearing is natural, our babies want to be held especially when they are very little. Its like riding a bike or breastfeeding, with time and perseverance you and your baby will get the hang of it. For advice and support on baby-wearing websites such as www.naturalmamas.co.uk or www.thebabywearer.com are helpful. I would also recommend attending a sling meet where you can  meet other mums who baby wear , its a good  opportunity to get some expert advice and try out baby carriers –  visit www.slingmeet.co.uk for your nearest group.

A sling can help you to enjoy your baby and baby to enjoy you and the world you live in. Remember, a carried baby cries less -more upright, less uptight!

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