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Is there anything better than hugging your baby close to you?
Parents have been using slings and wraps to carry babies for thousands of years. Although it has dipped in and out of fashion (looking at you, Victorians), there is no doubt that babywearing is here to stay. The benefits speak for themselves. Not only is this a smooth and gentle way to transition your newborn baby from the womb into the outside world, but in the sling, your baby can hear your heartbeat and sense your breathing, which in turn helps them to regulate their own. Babywearing is also amazing for bonding for both parents, if you are at home it is a great opportunity for some skin-on-skin, which babies LOVE, and it's an oxytocin booster for you too.
If you want to give slings and wraps a try before you commit, or try a few different styles- there are lots of sling libraries in the UK, if you don't have one locally there are even some online. Practise makes perfect, there are some important safety standards to stick when it comes to baby-wearing, and we have gathered some key information and top tips, so that you can be using your baby carrier safely in no time.
When Can You Start Using A Baby Sling?
The wonderful thing about baby-wearing is that it allows you to keep close contact for long periods of time, not to mention many other amazing benefits, and the fact that it's hands free. Once you are confident with keeping your baby safe in the sling there is no going back, it really is a game changer!
You can use a sling for newborn babies right up until toddler-hood. As long as you are totally confident that you know how to wear a baby wrap, there is no reason why you can't pop your newborn in for a gentle walk or even just carrying them around the house.
Babies love being held, and the more we learn about how keeping them close actually improves their confidence and sense of independence later on, the more sense it makes to get the hang of baby slings as soon as possible. As your little one gets bigger you may decide to move on from the wraps, or ring sling style baby carriers to use something more rigid. Once your child has more muscle control and can hold their own head up unassisted, these kind of carriers are great for making a switch to front facing, or carrying your baby on your back.
How Do You Put Your Baby In The Sling?
Most slings will come with detailed instructions for how to use them, and there are some helpful videos online, Carrying Matters by Dr Rosie Knowles is an invaluable resource when learning how to tie a baby wrap, and make sure your baby is perfectly positioned.
When babies are is born their spine is actually 'c-shaped', it takes around a year for this straighten out and this is why it's really important that they are totally supported in this natural position, with no excess pressure anywhere. You may have heard of the 'spread squat', or 'frog legged position', this is when the baby's bottom is lower than their knees and their knees are raised, much like a frog! Your baby's knees should be at least at a 90 degree angle, this will reduce the weight placed on their developing hips. The stretchy fabric that slings and wraps are made of is perfect for supporting this position, as you can stretch the fabric tightly under baby's bottom and ensure their legs are tucked up, and that they are comfortably high up on your chest.
One of the absolute easiest ways to check your baby is safe before you set off, is to follow these guidelines from the UK Sling Consortium- T.I.C.K.S. You will find yourself automatically checking off the points as you secure your baby in the sling.
(T)ight: Slings and carriers need to be tight enough to hug your baby close to you. If there is any loose fabric this will allow your baby to slip down in the carrier, this can greatly reduce their ability to breathe. Wearing a loose sling is also uncomfortable for you too, we want a nice snug fit.
(I)n view at all times: Your baby’s face should be easily visible, even with just a quick glance down. If you have to open the sling out or move fabric to see their face, then it is not being worn correctly.
(C)lose enough to kiss: This means that your baby is being worn high up enough in the sling and on your chest that you can simply bob your head down and plant a little kiss on baby’s head! It is a super easy way to check they are in the right place.
(K)eep chin off the chest: There should always be at least a finger width of space between your baby’s chin and their chest- if their head is slumping down onto their chest then they aren't positioned correctly. Remember a tiny baby can't support their own head so you need to make sure it is visible, and facing up not down.
(S)upported back: Your baby needs to be well supported, their tummy and chest should be up against you- if you press gently on your their back while they are upright in the carrier, they should not be able to get any closer- or have room to 'uncurl'. They need to be snug and close with their back supported in its natural position.
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