Like everyone in the babywearing community, we are The Natural Nursery are deeply saddened to learn of the death of a baby last Christmas in a sling. The death of any baby, in any circumstances is a tragedy and we would like to extend our condolences to all affect by this loss.
If there is any message to take away from this sad event, it is that clear, concise and practical information on the safe use of slings, just like any other baby product, is vital for new parents.
So, how can you keep your baby safe in a sling?
Follow the TICKS Guidelines
Whichever sling you choose, it should allow you to position your baby in a secure, upright position that follows the natural in arms position – imagine the sling is taking the place of your arms.
The position should be:
Tight – slings and carriers should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you as this will be most comfortable for you both.
In View At All Times -you should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply glancing down.
Close Enough to Kiss – your baby’s head should be as close to your chin as is comfortable.
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. 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.
You can read the full TICKS guidance here.
Buy from a reputable vendor
Research your purchase both on and off line. Visit shops to try out different slings but don’t assume that because it is in a fancy packaging in a well-known store that it is the most appropriate sling for you.
Ask questions about your intended purchase – has the person advising you used this type of sling themselves? Have they received any training on the safe use of baby slings? Why would they recommend this sling over another?
Be very aware of bargain slings online and on auction sites. Just as in any other area of retail, there are sadly a number of unethical sellers who import untested or counterfeit slings and sell them on at reduced prices with no concern for the safety of the babies who will be placed in them.
If the price is less than 80% of the RRP of the sling, or it is being sent from outside the EU, be extra vigilant.
Read the instructions
A good sling or carrier will come with detailed, informative instructions and the vendor may also have created a video tutorial too.
Take the time to read these instructions carefully and practice, preferably with another adult present, using a doll or teddy BEFORE you wish to use the sling with your baby.
When you are ready to use the sling with your baby, choose a time when you are both relaxed, your baby is not too tired or hungry and you do not need to be anywhere in a hurry.
Again, if you can have another adult present, this is helpful but be assured that using your sling will soon be second nature.
Find local support
There is a growing network of trained Babywearing Consultants, peer supporters, sling libraries and sling meets covering the whole of the UK. The interactive map on Babywearing UK lists hundreds of these.
Sling libraries, meets and peer supporters will be able to offer you basic advice on the types of carriers available, how they may suit your needs and how to carry safely. This will be available either free or for a small fee to support this voluntary work.
For an additional small fee, you will be able to rent a carrier from a sling library: terms vary between libraries but £5-10 for 2-3 weeks rental is normal.
If you would like more in-depth, one to one advice, a paid consultation with a babywearing professional is ideal. Again fees vary but you can expect advice tailored to your specific needs, help with choosing the most appropriate sling for your family and training to help you use it correctly and safely in a range of circumstances.
Babywearing is a wonderful way of bonding with your baby, supporting them through the difficult transitions that infanthood bring and of getting out to see the world with them and, with care and thought, it can be done safely.