Babywearing Tips and Techniques for Beginners
At Global Baby, we're big fans of babywearing for plenty of reasons. It's great to have your hands free while you care for your baby, particularly when trying to get things done around the house or even shopping for groceries. Babywearing is also practical for navigating terrains that aren't suitable for strollers, such as busy cities or mountain trails, and it's a wonderful way to keep your baby close to you. Most babies love being close to their carer; some studies have even shown that babies who are worn tend to cry less. With your baby snug and secure in a carrier, they can cuddle into your body (like a portable hug!). They'll be able to hear your voice and feel your every movement, just like in the womb.
The world of babywearing is vast, and with hundreds of wraps, soft-structured carriers and slings on the market, it can be overwhelming for someone new to babywearing, and particularly for parents whose baby hasn't been born yet, to choose a carrier. Some carriers are quite expensive, too; some of the more beautifully woven wraps can cost upwards of $500. With so many things to cover, it's a little overwhelming to try to write a blog post about babywearing, so I've decided to narrow it down and focus this post on the benefits of babywearing, safe babywearing practices, and a brief overview of the different types of carriers.
Benefits of Babywearing
Babies love movement. In the womb, they hear their mother's heartbeat and her voice and they feel movement as their mum walks around the world. Being 'worn' can mimic the sounds and movements that babies are accustomed to from their time in the womb. The experience in the womb also means that babies are used to confined spaces, which is why they love being swaddled. Many medical professionals and baby experts recommend swaddling as a way to help your baby sleep. A sling, wrap or carrier will mimic the confined feeling of the womb and help your little one recall the calm and relaxed peace they felt there. You must have heard parents say that their baby falls asleep in their arms, but as soon as they put them into their bassinet, they begin to cry. It's safe to say that those parents would really benefit from babywearing!
You can start babywearing when your baby is a few days or even hours old, and many hospitals and birthing centres in New Zealand support babywearing. Also, it's never too late to start! We sell carriers that will support a 20kg child (that's about your average four year old).
It's very important that you follow the TICKS guidelines for safe babywearing, to ensure that your baby's airway is not obstructed, and that they are in a comfortable seated position.
- In view at all times
- Close enough to kiss
- Keep chin off the chest
- Supported back
TIGHT – slings and carriers should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you, as this will be the most comfortable position for both of you. 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 such that you have to open it to check on them. In a cradled position, your baby should face upwards and not 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 that their chin is forced onto their chest, as this can restrict their breathing. Ensure that there is always at least a finger's width of space under your baby's chin.
SUPPORTED BACK – in an upright carrying position, a baby should be held comfortably, close to the wearer, so that 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 carrying position 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.
Your baby will be much more comfortable if they're in a carrier that supports their bottom and thighs. Look for carriers that form a seat for the baby, rather than carriers that allow the baby's legs to hang.
You'll find babywearing more comfortable if you find a carrier that is the right size for your body, which should distribute the baby's weight across your body in a way that feels right for you. Depending on the carrier, the weight could be on your shoulders, back, and/or hips. We recommend that you try a few carriers before you make a final decision and buy one.
Types of Baby Carriers
Ring slings are rectangular pieces of fabric with two metal rings sewn at one end. The loose end is looped through the rings to form a loop of fabric, which is worn over one shoulder. Ring slings are surprisingly easy to use, even for beginners. From our experience, we recommend the Je Porte Mon Bebe ring sling.
JPMB Ring Sling Pouch Slings are a continuous loop of fabric that is sewn according to the measurements of the wearer, and are also worn over one shoulder. If two parents were different sizes, they would need differently sized pouch slings.
Soft-structured carriers (SSCs)
This option is somewhat like a backpack, with padded straps, a structured waist, and typically a few buckles as well. They can be easy and comfortable to use, although some will need special inserts for infants. The bonus is that many SSCs will carry a child up to 20kg (4+ years). We recommend the Manduca carrier, which has an integrated newborn insert.
These are Asian-style carriers with a rectangle of fabric and four long straps. Two straps go over the shoulders and the other two go around the waist before being tied, and the rectangle of fabric forms a comfortable, secure pocket for the baby. We recommend the Kozy carrier, as it's an easy to use mei tai with a great price-point.
This option comes in stretchy and woven varieties. The stretchy versions are long rectangular pieces of fabric that can be wrapped and tied in a variety of ways. Stretchy varieties are suitable from birth, but many will not support a child weighing more than 10-15kg. Babies are usually worn in "stretchies" on the front or side. In our opinion, stretchies aren't as difficult to use as they look, and we love the Je Porte Mon Bebe basic wrap.
Woven wraps consist of a rectangular piece of fabric that has been woven on a diagonal angle, making the wrap both stretchy and strong. Babies can be worn in a woven wrap on the front, back or side, from birth to pre-school age, making this option extremely versatile. However, the wrapping can take a bit of practice, so a woven wrap probably isn't ideal for a beginner, and all those layers can be hot in the summer.
For more information on babywearing, feel free to come along to one of our workshops! They're free and you'll get a chance to try a number of different carriers and chat to other babywearing mums and dads. As always, the coffee and bliss balls are on us!
Next Workshop: Thursday 29th October, 11am
Global Baby, 161 Manukau Road, Epsom
Come along for a fun walk to celebrate babywearing week, we'll start at Global Baby and walk up to Newmarket, then gather back at the store for coffee and snacks, and lots of prizes!
Babywearing Walk: Thursday 8th October, 11am
Global Baby, 161 Manukau Road, Epsom
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