It is now more common to see people carrying young babies in slings/carriers, with the rise in the number of libraries, consultants and with many online and retail outlets stocking many brands of slings/carriers.
So why carry your child using a sling/carrier?
1. Baby won’t be put down!
Before being born your baby experiences constant warmth, constant touch, restricted, cushioned movement, hears constant noise; the whooshing of blood and heartbeat, muffled noises and darkness. Then they are born! This disrupts the contact they have always had. The world seems loud and bright and cold, no longer cushioned, their reflexes startle them. Baby prefers to be in our arms, on our chest, held snug to us. Often waking as soon as we try to put them down!
The day to day demands of life can be quite difficult with a baby in your arms, even going to the toilet or making a cup of tea! Carrying in a sling extends their state before birth, bringing them warmth, touch, restricted movement, close to your heart. As well as being able to be hands free so you can meet some of your own needs too.
Slings/carriers enable you to go up or down steps easily, traverse uneven ground, walk in tight or narrow spaces, even cross the stepping stones at Boxhill! You can get pretty much anywhere with a sling/carrier. Travelling on public transport or whilst at an airport can be super helpful.
Slings/carriers are considerably cheaper than buggies or prams. Depending on the brand and type, the price can vary hugely, much like anything these days!
The more expensive ones are around £130-£150 but with many under £100. Does spending a lot mean it’s going to be comfortable and work for you? Not necessarily! It is important to try them on and think about how you are going to use the carrier/sling will help narrow it down. There are budget-friendly brands and those aimed at high end and the fashion aspect of the market too. Buying second hand is also a good option, ensuring they aren’t fake and are in good condition is key. Many hold their value well meaning you can sell it on once you are no longer using the sling/carrier.
4. It is what we are meant to do!
Mammals carry their young and we are mammals! Having evolved as a carrying species, many of the newborn reflexes are to help aid baby to cling onto us. The way they flex their feet and use their hands. We give birth to our young prematurely developed compared to other mammals, who give birth to babies with far more developed brains. In order to fit through our pelvis our baby’s brains are under-developed. The term fourth trimester refers to this period where baby is almost still in a pre-birth state, with very basic needs. Continuing to carry our young on our bodies enables their brains to develop and for them to grow strong.
For all of human history babies have been carried. It was only in Victorian times, which is relatively recent in terms of evolution, that prams were invented. Baby’s do not realise it is 2018, as far as their brains and reflexes are concerned it could be the Stone Age and being left alone could have dire consequences. It is a protective mechanism. Ask yourself what would Stone Age you do?! Newborn behaviours make sense when we take out 21st century expectations.
Because of these reasons baby’s that are carried cry less, sleep longer, have more quiet alert time, which aids brain development, and they develop a secure attachment to a caregiver. This is crucial; it has many positive long term benefits on every aspect of our lives including mental and physical health, as well as fostering independence; the opposite of what we might be told! By meeting our child’s basic needs by having them close, they feel secure and safe to then explore as they know they have a key person who is always there for them. It also helps to support the mental health of parents too, giving dads a tool to help settle baby.
People carry for lots of different reasons and many who carry also use prams or buggies, it doesn’t have to be just one way or the other, you can choose when it works for you and your child. Each time you use a sling/carrier you should assess the risks. We do this when crossing the road almost without realising! So ask yourself the following:
ARE WE SAFE?
Can baby breathe? You should be able to see baby’s mouth and nose i.e. fabric or clothing is not obstructing their face
Can you lean forward and baby stays snug to your body? You may need to offer some head support but their body shouldn’t come away from you, if it does the sling/carrier needs adjusting. This may lead to baby slumping which can impact their breathing
Can you be hands-free? Meaning you don’t need to offer additional support using your hands, the carrier should be supporting your child, if you feel the need to use hands the sling/carrier likely needs adjusting in some way.
ARE WE COMFORTABLE?
Can you stand up straight and not feel the need to adjust your posture due to carrying? It is important that we feel that the baby is almost part of us, carrying their weight with ours.
Can you feel the carrier/sling digging in anywhere? You may feel slight pressure but it should be comfortable if not make some adjustments. Too tight or too loose can both impact comfort.
Is the child comfortable? Are they well supported across their back, in a tilted pelvis position allowing their head to be protected by their spine.
If you are unsure if it is safe or if carrying your child is no longer comfortable, find a local carrying consultant or sling library at www.slingpages.co.uk
It might need a few adjustments or it may be time to try a different type or one that offers different support but there is always a sling/carrier out there for you! We often hear people say oh my baby got too heavy to carry and that likely means the sling/carrier wasn’t supportive. Changing the type or style can help as ergonomic wide based carriers spread the weight differently. Ultimately the best carrier/sling is one that fits you and your child well and this is not going to be the same for everyone as we are all different body shapes and strengths.
Who am I?
My name is Zoe and I am a carrying consultant, which essentially means I help support people to carry their child safely, confidently and comfortably. I meet families for one to one sessions as well as running workshops such as Bump to Baby; these explore specific topics in depth, in small groups. I set up the Dorking NCT sling library in 2012 to help others carry their children by being able to try on a variety of different slings/carriers. In 2016, I completed consultancy training with Slingababy as I wanted to extend my learning and be able to offer parents a different level of service alongside running the sling library.
If you would like to learn more about the Sling Consultancy and how I could help you then please get in touch.
Why Babywearing Matters by Rosie Knowles published by Pinter & Martin;