Learning the skills to look after your baby takes time. One of those skills is learning how to transport or carry your baby safely using a baby carrier or sling. The main advantage of these ‘baby-wearing’ devices are that they are (mostly) a hands-free method of holding your baby and therefore allow you to keep them comforted while you do other things.
But they are not without risk.
By learning about common risks associated with ‘wearing’ your baby you will be able to make informed choices and keep your baby out of hospital by preventing injuries.
What is the difference between a baby sling, carrier, pouch or wrap?
Baby slings is a generic term for wraps, pouches or carriers but can also be a hammock style soft bag construction where the baby is worn across the parent’s body. Note: This hammock/ bag style is NOT recommended as it puts the baby in a C shape and puts them at risk of suffocation.
Baby carriers tend to be a backpack style construction with a frame and with straps that go over the parent’s shoulder and a belt around the hip. These carriers can convert to being worn on the back for older children and similarly be worn on your front and adapted for newborns.
Baby wraps are quite simply a piece of fabric often with a C ring to be able to tighten it around the parent. There is some skill involved in learning how to tie the wrap and there are even baby-wearing consultants that can train you in different tying and wearing techniques.
What are the risks of using a baby sling or carrier?
There are 5 main hazards associated with baby slings:
- The wearer trips and falls while the baby is in the sling.
- The baby sling isn’t fitted properly and the baby falls through a gap
- The sling breaks and the baby falls.
- The baby suffocates because their face is pressed into the wearer’s body
- The baby is sitting too low in a C shape and suffocates because their chin is tucked into their chest.
Can I use a baby sling with my newborn?
Babies who are premature, have low birth weight, breathing difficulties or are sick, are not recommended to be transported in any style of sling, wrap or carrier because of the increased risk of suffocation. Because of this you should consult your GP for further guidance.
Otherwise, you can use baby wraps or carriers from birth, provided you are aware of the risks and you follow the below safety guide.
Safety guide for using baby slings, wraps and carriers
The best way to remember these 5 safety tips is to use the anagram T.I.C.K.S
T = Tight
Your baby should be positioned high and upright with head support with the fabric tight around both your bodies. This ensures that your baby doesn’t suffocate due to restricted breathing.
I = In view at all times
Ensure that your baby’s face, nose and mouth are always uncovered by the sling or your body. The easiest way to test this is if you look down you should always be able to see your baby’s face.
C = Close enough to kiss
One way to be able to judge if your baby is positioned high enough is that you should be able to give them a kiss on top of their head by simply tilting your head forward.
K = Keep chin off chest
Unlike when they are in the womb, it is not safe for your baby to be tucked up in a C shape or foetal position as this increases the risk of suffocation due to restricted breathing. Always have your baby’s chin up and away from its body and regularly check-in on your baby because they can be in distress without making any noise or movement.
S = Supported back
Backs are important – the baby’s and yours. Ensure your baby’s back is in a natural position with its tummy and chest against you. Additionally, when you are bending over protect your back by always bend at the knees not at the waist. Furthermore, place your hand on the baby’s back when you are bending over.
Other things to remember
- Baby slings can take some getting used to so ask for help putting it on and getting baby out.
- To avoid the risk of burns, don’t wear baby when you are cooking or have hot drinks.
- Never use a baby sling that carries baby in a tucked up foetal position
- Check your sling for tears or rips.
Need some advice?
Kidsafe Qld’s mission is to provide evidence-based practical advice to empower parents and caregivers to make informed choices to prevent childhood injuries. We are at your service and welcome any questions you might have around injury prevention and keeping kids safe at home, on the road and at play.
Call Kidsafe Qld: 3854 1829