Practice and perseverance are the keys to successful, long-term baby wearing. Don’t let the initial difficulties, or a fussy baby, put you off. In some ways, baby wearing is similar to breastfeeding – it is both a natural thing and a learned skill. It does take some practice and perseverance, but once you get the knack of it, it just feels right. So stick with it! As time goes by, you will develop your own style, that both you and your baby enjoy. You will find out what type of sling and what carrying method works best for you, according to your needs and your baby’s weight.
First of all, choose a baby carrier that is right for your baby’s age. Some sling types are not suitable for small babies, or come with an age/weight limit. The same goes for carrying positions. As a rough guideline, avoid hip carries until your baby can sit up unaided. Familiarise yourself with front carries before you learn back carries. Newborn babies seem to love snuggling up in a soft wrap.
The first time you try on your baby carrier, allow yourself plenty of time and start over as many times as necessary. Try and pick a moment when your baby is neither overtired nor hungry.
Enrol another adult (ideally an experienced babywearer), to help you and check your work. Alternatively, all slings come with an instructions guide that can turn out invaluable for a total newbie. If you are on your own, make sure you stand or kneel on a soft surface, and use a wall mirror to check the sling and the knot once it is on. Most importantly, follow the instructions to the letter.
When tying on a sling, put it on fairly tight – baby won’t mind, and it will be more comfortable for you. That’s because the closer baby is to your centre of gravity, the lighter s/he will feel. As long as you can take a deep breath, the sling is not too tight.
Make sure that you carry your baby high enough – wear him/her too low and you will hurt your back. Ideally, baby’s bottom should be just above your belly button, and his/her head within “kissing distance”.
Spread the fabric. When the fabric is twisted or bunched up, it creates painfull pressure points. The straps should be on your shoulders, not too close to the neck. See the red sling picture on the right.
Once the baby carrier is on, make sure the cloth does not block baby’s airways and that s/he can breath properly – this applies mostly to newborn babies. Be aware of your baby’s position in the sling at all times and trust your instinct – if it feels like baby’s not securely tied in, take him/her out and start again. As a rule of thumb, if it ain’t comfortable, it ain’t on right.
Finally, when buying a baby sling, choose a colour and pattern that you like, as you are going to wear it a lot. And take your partner’s taste into consideration if you want them to become a practicing babywearer.
When you’re learning to use your sling as a backpack baby carrier, choose a catch-phrase. Something you will repeat every time you wrap to remind your child to lie still on your back. You will be surprised by the result. When you’re at home, practicing in front of a mirror gives the child something to look at while you wrap. And you can always keep her busy by giving her a biscuit.