Baby Carrying Safety
What do I need to know to safely carry my baby?
Firstly read your carrier's manufacturer's instructions. It may sound simple but as all carriers have their own unique features it's essential. Remember that your carrier will have a maximum and minimum weight, and will often have different settings depending on the age of your little one. These options can be found in the manual.
We will talk about ensuring clear airflow and airways when carrying, and this is because babies (newborns in particular) lack the necessary strength to hold their head upright themselves. If their chin dips onto their chest, this can reduce their airflow and carries the risk of asphyxiation. This is also the case with things like car seats and baby bouncers, and so with a carrier we want to mitigate this risk by ensuring that we carry in a safe and secure position that is maintained throughout the duration of each carry so we will look at how to do that too.
Dr Rosie Knowles, who is one of our friends as well as being a UK GP says: “A good sling should mimic the natural, in-arms upright position for carrying babies, ensuring the caregiver can see and sense the baby at all times, and thus able to be quickly aware of and rapidly responsive to any changes”
Carrying your baby has so many incredible benefits, so once you've read your carrier's instructions and are familiar with them - let's really focus in on some of the key safety points to always check on, both when you put the carrier on and to continuously monitor while carrying, so that when you carry you can feel confident and reassured that you know how to carry safely, what you're looking out for to keep you both safe and secure and enjoy the wonderful benefits of carrying together, feeling Close and Calm :)
Having clear and visible airways with clear airflow is so important and when using a carrier we are looking to use it in a way that ensures your little one is in an optimum upright position, that their chin is not resting on their chest, and that there is no fabric higher than their ear lobes. We want to always be able to see our baby's face, with their head resting just under your chin and their hands either side of it. Not only can we monitor them more easily that way, but we know that having their face free of fabric helps keep the air moving freely around their face. The correct tightness of the carrier helps to prevent slumping and maintain these clear airways so is also crucially important, as is ensuring your little one is a good temperature.
Let's break this down into sections, in the order we put a carrier on, so we can see how to achieve this safe carry that we're looking for, with step by step safety reminders.
One of the first things we do when fitting a carrier is ask the parent to hold their baby in their arms, with the baby's head sitting just under the adult's chin. Where is their bottom? Wherever that is - that is where you want the carrier waistband to go, or if wrapping, that's the lowest point of the wrap. Starting from the position allows your baby to be easily observed and monitored and really helps to 'fix' a lot of the common issues we see.
Next, let's consider their bottom! First we want to ensure that the carrier fits them. These are often adjustable so we're looking for the width at the bottom of the panel to go from knee to knee and no further. You've got your baby cuddled in, their head resting just under your chin, and now you're checking that their bottom is lower than their knees, sometimes known as the 'm' position.
A squat position with a pelvic tuck is not only wonderful for their comfort and hip development, but also ensures that they are seated in a stable position - bottom positioning is really key in ensuring their head is well supported by it naturally resting on you.
If you're using a carrier, the main part that runs over your baby's back is referred to as the panel. This can often be adjusted to fit your baby, and we adjust it so that it ends at the nape of their neck and no higher. This is to maintain that clear airflow around their face, to ensure that their face is not pressed into either your chest or the panel / wrap but that instead they are able to freely move their head. For carriers, make sure to adjust it down so it doesn't cover their face, and with a wrap ensure any excess fabric is under their bottom. For carriers without an adjustable panel you can check what their instructions say; some may say to fold the waistband, others to put it on much higher than we said above, so the panel goes down first, then back up, reducing its height.
If we've addressed their bottom basics first, then they should be sat in a lovely 'm' position, resting their head just under your chin with the carrier nice and snug around them so that they are well supported. If you find you still need help with this get in touch.
Snug for Safety
Carriers and wraps need to be tightened well, to provide the upper back and neck support that in turn helps maintain that upright posture we’re looking for. If there is spare space, or your carrier / wrap is too loose, that can lead to your little one being unsupported, meaning they may slump forward. We don't want them ever to be curled up into a ball shape - we're looking for that lovely upright position where their chin is not resting on their chest, and so cuddling them while they're in that position, bringing the carrier up around them and then tightening it to maintain that position is key.
You can easily do a quick little check to see if your carrier is nice and snug; Supporting your baby’s head with your hand, gently lean forward just slightly for a second. Your little one’s torso should not pull away from yours at all - if it does, then your carrier or wrap needs to be tightened a little more. Tighten it a little at a time, to prevent it being overtightened. We still want to maintain that natural 'in-arms' position with a gentle curve or 'J Shape' that pictures from Dr Rosie Knowles show so well.
We all like being the right temperature and know how unhappy we feel if we're too hot or too cold. Regular monitoring of your little one helps to prevent them both from getting too hot or too cold, as they can’t yet regulate their temperature in the same way that an adult can. We always suggest avoiding bulky clothing like snowsuits, as these can lead to overheating and are also really difficult to use with a carrier and get a safe and snug fit - go for thin light layers that can be easily added or removed instead. Message us to ask for more information specific to your current weather.
Whenever we fit a carrier we end by handing a card with the image of the TICKS babywearing guidance and go through them step by step, as all of these help to make the carry safe and serve as a great reminder of things to look our for:
In view at all times
Close enough to kiss
Chin off chest
A carrier should never cause any red marks or discomfort for either of you. As always, if you have safety concerns, aren’t comfortable or aren't sure how to use your carrier - do stop and read the instructions until you're sure, and get in touch if we can help at all.