Carrying your baby in a sling can be an amazing part of being a parent, and a really useful tool. However it can take practice and guidance to help you feel confident using a sling or baby carrier safely.
We follow 2 simple safety checks every time we carry and teach : Can my baby breathe? Can I be hands free?
Can my baby breathe?
It may sound really obvious but take a few seconds to properly check your child’s airways.
Can I see their mouth and nose? Check there is no fabric covering their face and their face is slightly upturned so you can see their mouth and nose. If you can’t see clearly, tilt their chin upwards, away from their chest and move any fabric from their face, using a shoulder flip if necessary. The crown of their head should not be visible to you as you look down as that suggests their chin is close to their chest.
Can I hear their breathing? Get familiar with their normal breathing sounds, you will quickly identify the shallower awake breaths and the deeper sleep sounds. If your baby starts snoring or making different sounds to usual, check and change your positioning until they do their normal breathing pattern. Sometimes a babies head will drop towards their chest when they fall asleep and their neck muscles relax – be mindful of this and tuck the back of their head in a shoulder pass or deepen their pelvic tuck when they begin to fall asleep. Your baby should be high enough on your chest that you could kiss their head without overstretching your neck. This closeness should mean that breathing sounds are clearly audible and their breathing is not restricted by being in your soft breast tissue.
Can I feel them breathing? If your carrier is tight enough you should feel the rising and falling of their chest on you, and can feel their breath on your chest if you have bare skin. If you are back carrying a younger baby, this can be particularly important as you don’t have the visibility as you do on the front. A very high back carry where you can feel their breath on the back of your neck is advised.
Can I be hands free?
If your baby is not fully supported in the carrier, not only is the carrier rather pointless (especially when you have the needs of other children to meet!), it can be a real safety concern.
When you are fitting a carrier and tightening it with your child in it, always keep one hand supporting them until you are done.
The carrier must support babies who cannot sit up to the back of the neck, and those that can sit, at least up to the armpits. It should be tightly fitted and snug to the wearer, with baby as close the the wearer as possible. A carrier that is too loose is a safety concern; one that is too tight is just a bit less comfortable for you both. Once the baby is secured into the sling or carrier, and you remove your supporting hands, your child shouldn’t move downwards or side to side.
You are holding your most treasured possession – your child. Your parenting instinct is strong and you are not going to do anything to endanger your baby. Trust your instincts. If you feel you have secured your baby in a sling or carrier and you don’t feel happy being hands free, don’t let go! Tighten up the carrier, retie your stretchy wrap, or tighten your woven passes. Chances are it isn’t tight enough and you risk your baby falling or slumping down and compromising their airways. Of course, if it is your first time using a sling, it can be very daunting to let go and trust the sling to carry your child. Practising over a soft surface, having another adult to help and getting some guidance from a carrying consultant or peer supporter can really help you gain in confidence.
Slings and baby carrier are a safe way to transport, soothe and comfort your child when used properly. Taking a few moments each time you use your carrier to check it over, and check the position of your baby can really help you get the safest and most comfortable experience whatever the age of your child.
If you have questions or feel you need extra help, please get in touch and we can offer you tailored support to help you carry safely.
Charlotte and Sally have both trained with several babywearing and carrying schools and are insured Carrying Consultants. We follow the 2 stage safety checks developed by Lorette Michallon of Slingababy on which this piece is based and discusses more fully. We also recommend following further sling safety guidance which can be found under our Safety page.