By Sam Hornby
As I stood next to my stall at the car boot sale last Sunday morning, I noticed a lot of people walking passed, staring. Not because I had left the house at 5am and looked like Morticia Addams’ ugly sister, but because I was wearing my baby girl.
I first started wearing my baby when my little boy was a baby, three and a half years ago. But it is only recently, since starting to wear my daughter, that I have discovered a whole new society of baby wearing mummies and daddies, and how utterly addictive it can be too!
Although I am new to all this, and still learning, I find baby wearing such a pleasure and, some days, a sanity saver! You are close to your baby. They feel safe. It is a convenient alternative to pushing the pram, especially if you go anywhere that is not pram friendly. You get to snuggle your baby and most of the time the magical sleepy dust that baby wearing brings is a very welcome thing. Contrary to some people’s belief, baby wearing doesn’t hurt your back (if done properly), it is a very comfortable, rewarding, easy way to carry your baby…and it’s handsfree!
So where do you start with baby wearing?
Like I said, I am in no way an expert and can only share what I have learnt so far, but I want others to realise the benefits of wearing your baby.
There are some important rules to follow, and should be particularly adhered to when wearing a newborn as they have no head control so their head could slump down and compromise their airways. In order to ensure your baby is safe while wearing, use T.I.C.K.S, which is the universal safety acronym for baby wearing -Tight, In view at all times, Close enough to kiss, Keep the chin off chest and Supported back.
The T.I.C.K.S were originally formed by The Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers, after concerns were raised over the safety of bag slings. In the most part, bag slings (not to be confused with Pocket Slings or Ring Slings) have been recalled. If you search for baby sling on eBay you will find a huge number of bag slings for sale and they are posted from China. AVOID THESE AT ALL COSTS. These slings allow a baby to be carried in the cradle position and they could easily slump down. It is always important to maintain these rules whatever age of the child. It’s also important to realise that the risk to the airway is NOT just for slings or carriers, car seats, baby chairs and even in arms carrying can be dangerous if the child is not positioned properly or carefully monitored.
T.I.C.K.S in more detail
TIGHT – slings and carriers should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you as this will be most comfortable for you both. Any slack/loose fabric will allow your baby to slump down in the carrier which can hinder their breathing and pull on your back.
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.
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.
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 a finger width under your baby’s chin.
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.
There are many more aspects to safety when wearing your child, however these are the most basic and most crucial. I have found quite a few groups on Facebook with lots of other babywearing mummies (and some daddies), who are more than happy to help with tips and I’ve even posted photos to see if I am doing it right. There are also local sling libraries or babywearing consultants, I’ve not made my first meeting yet, but I intend to soon.
When you delve into the world of baby wearing, you will discover there are many types of baby wearing “apparatus”. So far I’ve only used a stretchy, woven and ring.
Wraps are continuous long pieces of fabric designed for baby wearing. It can be tied in various positions to allow you to wear your baby. I started out with a stretchy wrap. There are many different brands and colours to choose from and they are fairly cheap for starting out wearing your baby and can be used from your baby being a newborn. A stretchy wrap is so called because it is, you guessed it, stretchy! I found this wrap easy to use after a small amount of practice (YouTube is a bank of excellent videos on how to do this). Unfortunately, stretchies can only be used for a limited amount of time. Due to their stretchy nature, as your little one gets bigger, the stretchy wrap doesn’t support their weight as well as it did when they were tiny. They are also rather hot. For this reason, I have progressed onto a woven wrap.
I am finding woven wraps have a bit of a learning curve and take more than a few tries to get the hang of (again Facebook groups especially WrapJedi https://www.facebook.com/groups/wrapjedi and YouTube have been helpful). Woven wraps are extremely strong (because of the way they are woven) and much cooler (cooler temperature not cooler trendy). Like stretchy wraps, they can be worn from the day baby is born until they are well into toddlerhood. They come in many different sizes, lengths, designs and fabric blends.
Unlike stretchy wraps, woven wraps, come in many different sizes which usually work out like this:
size 2 – 2.7 meters
size 3 – 3.1 meters
size 4 – 3.6 meters
size 5 – 4.1 meters
size 6 – 4.6 meters
size 7 – 5.1 Meters
When choosing the size of woven wrap you want/need, your size is a factor, but it has more to do with what carries you are looking to do. If you are a beginner, you want a wrap size that will allow you to do a lot of different carries so that you can test them out and find your favorites. For this reason, I bought a size 7. If you are plus sized, then you would likely want a size 7, and if you are petite, a size 5 would most likely be enough. I was advised that the shorter wraps can’t be used for quite as many types of carries, and aren’t great for beginners since the carries are more complex and easier to mess up.
There are so many different types of “carries”. The Double Hammock Back Carry, the Front Cross Carry, the Rucksack Carry, Kangaroo Carry, hip carry…the list is endless! I am yet to perfect any back carries and have been told that they are easier when baby’s bigger.
Back carries can be a little intimidating at first, so I practice over my bed (or with a spotter) until I feel confident I won’t drop my baby or my baby won’t slide down my back (so far so good! ). The best back carry to start with is a Rucksack Carry. It’s the easiest and quickest to learn when you are just starting (so I’m told, I’m still to perfect this). It can be used with babies who have good head and neck control (usually around the three month mark and older).
The Front Cross Carry is probably the easiest one to start with for a beginner, mostly because it’s the one carry that you can tie first before you put the baby in and then adjust to make sure your baby is secure. This “carry” is similar if not the same as the carry used with a stretchy wrap.
I have recently bought a ring sling. NOT to be confused with the previously mentioned bag slings found from eBay sellers in China. A ring sling is a piece of fabric with a gather or pleated end attached to two rings. This was a kind of impulse buy and kind of a “I need something quick and easy”. I had been looking into getting a ring sling as I have found using my woven a bit tricky as my little girl is only 5 months old but I’m persevering as I’ve been told it gets easier when your little one gets bigger. I have found the ring sling useful for two reasons; 1) it’s small and can be carried in the change bag, 2) it’s really quick to wear baby.
There are many other types of ways to wear your baby, I’ve only scratched the surface myself with my stretchy, woven and ring. If you are thinking of wearing your baby, the best thing you can do is research the different options available and try some different methods out. Prices vary, with some woven wraps selling at over £200 as they are mostly limited addition. They are really gorgeous but a £35/£40 Little Frog was my budget limit and it’s still gorgeous. Other makes include Lenny Lamb, Didymos, Natibaby and Oscha. If you’re looking for a stretchy wraps makes include Moby, Boba, Calin Bleu and Lollipop to name a few.