Baby wearing basics: why all slings are not equal

4 Feb

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From the first day I left home where I gave birth up until he reached 6 months of age, the sling pictured above constituted my baby’s sole method of transport.

The stretchy, material wrap slings are, in my opinion the most comfortable, practical and suitable sling for a newborn/young baby. This sling design perfectly supports both baby wearer and baby’s anatomy and posture. Positioned upright is the most natural progression for the baby from it’s  position in the womb. Baby’s who are carried in this way have been shown to have a reduced incidence of Colic, as well as increased sleep throughout the day. Baby can also feed on the move, making breastfeeding not only the healthiest but also most convenient type of fast food.

Another major benefit of baby wearing, aside from leaving the baby wearer hands-free and travelling light, is the ability to foster a deep and calming connection. Baby uses your body heat to keep warm which helps to regulate their body temperature. This is called ‘skin-to-skin contact’ and is not gained solely by carrying a baby in a sling. Both the baby wearer and the baby must have their actual skin touching. This can be achieved by wearing a low-cut top such as a vest under the sling and dressing baby in a lightweight baby grow which exposes at least the baby’s entire head, hands and/or lower arms and neck. Once baby is placed in the sling the baby wearer can easily  put on a zip up top and/or coat over the top to keep both themselves and baby warm.

Post 6 months, many babies can become too active and wriggly as well as too heavy for a stretchy sling. At this point you may choose to move on another type of carrier or if your baby is happy, a push chair. We found a side sling, similar to a ring sling but with a clip instead of ring buckle and we also used a toddler sized Mei-tai in addition to occasional push chair rides post six months.

IMG_0604MT-Salsa

(right photo taken from http://www.tribalbabies.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/MT-Salsa.jpg)

There are many different types available from companies such as Lenny Lamb online shop but you are unlikely to find a good selection of different sling varieties from big chain companies such as Mothercare. The most popular brands of carriers are padded and have a convenient set of clips for ease of use. Such carriers as the brand leader, mentioning no names and rhymes with ‘baby fawn’ are far inferior to other forms of carriers which need to be learnt how to tie and use.

The main reason for this has to do with the way in which the child is positioned and held in place. Any chiropractor or osteopath will confirm that a baby’s hip joints and spine are highly vulnerable and unstable. In order for the carrier to safely protect the child’s hips and spine the knees must always be supported by placing the material directly underneath the knees, raising them above the height of the bottom, much like in a fetal position.

For more detailed information on a baby’s anatomy and development in relation to baby carrying, view http://en.lennylamb.com/articles/8_anatomia_noszenia

newbornslingBaby-Bjorn-image

(top photo taken from http://jeportemonbebe.com/en/faq)  

(bottom photo taken from http://www.kiddicare.com/wcsstore/SafeStorefrontAssetStore/Attachment/brand-landing-pages/Baby-Bjorn-image.jpg)

Padded, carriers often hammock the child from the middle, leaving limbs hanging mid-air. This position neither supports the hips nor the spine and can leave the baby feeling unsupported.

(above photo taken from http://en.lennylamb.com/articles/4_nie_noś_dziecka_przodem_do_świata)

Furthermore, any carrier or sling which encourages the baby to be worn in an outward facing position can leave both the baby and the baby wearer feeling an uncomfortable weight distribution, pulling outwards. This type of carrying has been linked to increased hyperactivity in the child, something no parent wishes to encourage!

Baby wearing is truly a magical experience for both you and the child. Some love it so much, they continue to wear carriers into toddlerhood and never use a push chair.

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