In part one of Babywearing for the Newbie, I provided you with a history of babywearing, in part two I discussed the advantages and benefits of babywearing, and in part three I looked at the different babywearing options/carriers available. Now that you are well versed in the basics, let’s look at some basic babywearing safety tips. And again, if you would like to view some gorgeous photos of babywearing around the world, check out this post I recently published.
When done properly, carrying a baby in a soft baby carrier can be safer than carrying a baby in your arms. Your carrier doesn’t have muscles that get tired, and your carrier doesn’t have arms that reflexively reach out to balance you or catch you when you fall. But, as with anything concerning babies, good safety practices are of paramount importance. Whatever carrier you choose, learn to use it properly, and always keep safety in mind.
The Top 5 Most Important Rules:
- Make sure your baby can breathe and check on her frequently. To keep her safe, baby should be close enough to kiss; baby should never have his chin resting on his chest; baby’s head should be above the rest of her body; baby’s knees should be higher than his butt; baby’s face shouldn’t be covered by fabric; and baby’s head should be supported. Bag slings (which have been recalled in 2010 and 2011) are the most dangerous for infants. If you own one, you may wish to reconsider and switch to a safer carrier.
- While baby is in the carrier, keep your motions smooth and steady. This means, no bouncing, jumping, running, climbing, and the like. “This motion can do damage to the baby’s neck, spine and/or brain,” explains the American Chiropractic Association.
- Never use a baby carrier when riding in a car. These are not a substitute for a quality car seat that is properly installed. Baby has NO protection in the event of an auto accident.
- Make sure that you are using a carrier that is designed for your baby’s weight and age. Not all carriers can accommodate small infants just as not all carriers are supportive enough for toddlers.
- Frequently inspect your carrier to check for soundness. Look at every inch of fabric and make sure that there are no frays or tears. Look at the seams, straps, buckles, and fasteners and ensure that they are working properly and are not showing signs of wear. I suggest inspecting your carrier on the same day every week so that it becomes habit. Never use a damaged or degrading carrier.
Additional Safety Tips
- Carriers are not a substitution for protection from the elements. In cold weather, warm clothes, hats, mittens, and socks are important to keep baby warm. Sun protection is important too. Be sure that baby is dressed coolly during warmer months so as to not overheat in a carrier. Also keep in mind that a wet carrier means a wet baby. Protect baby from rain with a poncho or umbrella.
- Do not engage in behaviors that present the risk of a fall while wearing your baby. Riding a bicycle, climbing ladders or stools, skating, skiing, riding
a horse, or engaging in activities on a slippery surface (bowling for example) should be avoided. If you fall while wearing your baby, baby has no protection.
- When you are out and about, frequently check that your baby is secure by looking in mirrors, store windows, and the like. Also double check baby’s position with your hands. Listen to your body. If baby does not feel snug and secure, take the time needed to reposition her.
- Keep a close eye on what objects are within grabbing range for baby. Just because he is in a carrier does not mean he will resist the urge to grab what is in reach. In particular, become attuned with your child when using a back carry. Your child might be able to grab things you cannot see.
- Never allow your baby to play with toys, eat (other than breastfeeding), or hold items while in the carrier. These can present a choking hazard or suffocation hazard.
- Watch your step! Since baby “sticks out” he is susceptible to pokes and bumps from surrounding objects. Keep on eye open for potential hazards.
- Baby carriers do not provide hearing protection, eye protection, protection from projectiles such as rocks flung from a lawn mower, protection from fumes or dust such as occur during lawn mowing and some household cleaning tasks, or protection from falls. Choose your activities wisely while babywearing.
- Cooking safety: carrying a baby while cooking subjects the baby to an enhanced risk of burns. A baby in arms or in a carrier is at stovetop height, and burns can occur. Reaching into a hot oven while carrying a baby similarly puts the baby at risk for burns. Extra or loose material can also pose a risk of catching fire should it touch a gas flame or hot element. A back carry is safer than a front carry while cooking.
- Boating safety: the safer practice is to have the baby wear a personal flotation device and not ride in a carrier. If baby falls into the water from a carrier, there is a greater potential of drowning. If she has on a personal flotation device, her risk is greatly reduced. Moreover, if you fell into the water, having your baby securely held to your body by a baby carrier would be a grave danger.
- Animal safety: if caring for or interacting with an animal while wearing your baby, be very aware of the animal’s comfort level with the baby and carrier. Some animals are bothered by carriers while others are not. Also watch for animals who might try to bite or chew on the carrier or exposed baby body parts.
Some tips when learning new carry positions
The easiest carry to learn is the front carry, followed by the hip carry, with the back carry being the most challenging to learn. Use the carrying position that is the most confortable for you and your baby but do not be afraid to try a new position. You might find that you both like it!
These guidelines apply to all carries but are particularly important when learning back carries:
- Read ALL of the instructions or watch demonstration videos online before using your carrier.
- Practice with a doll or stuffed animal first. Reading instructions and getting a visual in your head is completely different than actually wearing your baby. A few practice runs with a doll will get your body used to the feeling of the carrier itself and give you confidence in getting the baby in and out safety.
- It is best to try a new carry with your baby when you are both well rested and generally content.
- Until you feel comfortable getting baby in and out unassisted, use a spotter. The spotter must be able to catch the baby at any instant if he or she should start to fall. Therefore, a responsible adult is suggested.
- Use a mirror.
- If possible, stand in front of a bed or couch. If baby slips there will be some cushioning to protect her.
I hope that this information has helped you on your journey towards babywearing. Babywearing is such a beautiful option that so many families enjoy. Best wishes on your journey!