How to wear a baby
A word of advice about choosing a safe baby sling and using it safely.
17 October 2011
Carrying your baby in a baby sling is becoming a popular alternative to pushing around a pram or stroller. Most of these slings are safe when used correctly, so if you are thinking of using one, get some advice and good instructions.
At first glance it seems like the biggest danger is the baby slipping out, but the main danger is that the baby may suffocate. If the baby is in the wrong position, or has fabric covering their face, they may not be able to breathe.
Parents and carers should take extreme care if using slings and pouches to carry babies under 4 months old or under 4 kg.
Safe positions for a baby
A baby held in the arms is naturally in a safe position – the head is supported, the back is straight and the airways open. A sling should hold the baby in the same way.
Don’t let the baby lie in a curved position with their chin resting on their chest. Any pressure on the chin can push the tongue back and close the airway. Babies need to lie with a straight back so that the tummy muscles can pump old air out of the lungs and new air in, and their chin needs to be up to ensure a clear airway. Even the weight of the head falling forward can push the chin back and close the airway.
Don’t let anything block the baby’s face – like the sling or the wearer’s body. Small babies cannot turn their heads to get fresh air.
Regularly check that the baby’s back is straight and its face is clear because babies can suffocate quickly and quietly. Immediately reposition the baby or stop using the sling if the baby has slipped into a dangerous position or is showing signs that it is uncomfortable or having trouble breathing.
Buying a sling
There are many different designs of slings and some are safer than others. Before you buy, do some research, and try to contact a babywearing group for one to one advice.
Take your baby with you when you buy a sling to ensure that the product you buy is a safe fit for you and the baby. Ask the shop assistant for a demonstration of how to use the sling correctly. If they aren’t sure – buy elsewhere.
Ensure any sling you buy comes with detailed instructions for use. Make sure you follow them and get someone to help until you are familiar with how to use it.
Never use a bag sling, which is shaped like a bag with a narrow strap, because the baby cannot be placed in a safe position. Don’t use a product that allows the baby to lie with a curved spine – these are described as ‘womb-like’, or a ‘cocoon’, or placing the baby in a ‘foetal position’. A foetus doesn’t need a straight back to breathe – a baby does.