Baby slings have become a popular choice for parents who wish to keep their babies close, to help the development of a close and loving relationship.
Slings are often made of soft fabrics that wrap around the baby and wearer, keeping them in chest to chest proximity. They provide comfort and support for the baby and allow the parent to keep their hands free as they go about their everyday tasks, which means you can get things done, go where pushchairs can’t and give more attention to older siblings. Slings have also been promoted as a way to calm babies or as a way for mothers to breastfeed more comfortably.
Benefits of Close Contact
Research looking at new born babies has shown that close contact helps them to regulate their breathing, heart rate and maintain their temperature. By keeping babies close, parents can pick up on feeding cues and breast milk supply may be improved through increased production of oxytocin, which also helps with bonding. Using a sling or carrier may make it easier to keep baby close during the day but don’t worry too much if you find they don’t suit you or your baby, it really is a personal choice.
There has been little research looking specifically at the benefits of of carrying babies in a sling while they sleep. However, research in related areas suggests that keeping close contact may have benefits for both mother and baby. The advice for new parents is that your baby should sleep in a cot in the same room as you, day and night, until they are at least 6 months old.
I wasn’t able to breastfeed which broke my heart and babywearing gave me the opportunity to bond and be physically close which I felt I was missing out on.
New babies have a strong need to be close to their parents, as this helps them to feel secure and loved. When babies feel secure they release a hormone called oxytocin, which acts like a fertiliser for their growing brain, helping them to be happy babies and more confident children and adults. Holding, smiling and talking to your baby also releases oxytocin in you, which helps you to feel calm and happy – (Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative)
Keep your baby close and lookout for cues for what your baby is telling you. Be reassured it is a good thing to respond to your baby’s needs. It is not good for babies to be left to cry, it is not possible to spoil a baby but will help them feel safe and secure. Closeness is the key. Have a look at the wonderful leaflet by Unicef’s Baby Friendly Initiative, called ‘Building a Happy Baby’ and The Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative video, Breastfeeding and Relationship Building.
If you are bottle feeding, hold your baby close during feeds and look into his eyes. Learn to notice his cues that he wants to be fed and when he has had enough. If you and your partner try and give most of the feeds yourselves, this will help build up a close and loving bond with your baby. Continuing skin-to-skin contact can calm and comfort you both at any time.
Dads and Partners
Dads or partners may find that using slings helps them to spend time with their baby and to bond.
Dad and Grandad both carry, as does our childminder, so slings carry a wonderful continuity amongst the trusted caregivers in my kid’s life.
Babywearing for us as a family with two little ones is a lifesaver. It means hubby can take the baby and get her to sleep in the sling and I get to play with the toddler.
Without a car, babywearing has made public transport easy and my little one loves looking out the tram window from her sling.
Slings and baby carriers are useful for holding a baby hands free however they are not always used safely.
Unfortunately, some babies have been injured and even died in baby slings and carriers. Non-fatal injuries were mainly caused by dropping, while deaths were caused by positional asphyxiation. (Positional asphyxiation is where the baby’s body position blocks their breathing and they suffocate if this goes unnoticed.) These risks have led to tighter safety standards for slings and carriers. Safety guidelines can also help you keep your baby safe.
- Parents should always seek information about safe use of slings.
- Suffocation can also occur where the baby is cradled in a curved or ‘C’ shaped position in a sling, nestling below the parent’s chest or near their stomach
- The risk appears to be greatest when a baby’s airway is obstructed either by their chin resting on their chest or their mouth and nose being covered by a parent’s skin or clothing.
The safest way of using a baby sling or carrier
If you choose to use a sling or carrier then the safest method is to keep the infant in a firm, upright position against your body where you can always see your baby’s face. Always ensure that you keep your baby’s chin off their chest as this can restrict their breathing.
- As with any item of baby equipment, be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions, following their advice for whether the size, weight and age of your baby is right for the sling.
- Carefully check any sling or baby carrier that is owned, bought or borrowed for wear and tear.
- When your baby is in the sling or carrier, check them often, making sure nothing is blocking their nose and mouth.
- Only undertake safe activities while baby is in the sling or baby carrier, no jogging, cycling or extreme sports!
- Avoid babywearing in situations where it would not be safe to carry an infant in-arms, e.g. after taking drugs or drinking alcohol excessively
- Always make sure you read and follow the UK Sling Consortium’s TICKS checklist:
Further information on sling wearing
For more information on sling wearing, contact:
BASIS, the baby sleep information source, www.basisonline.org.uk/
The Lullaby Trust, www.lullabytrust.org.uk/
Ticks UK Sling Consortium, http://babyslingsafety.co.uk/
Slings For All, www.facebook.com/Slingsforall
Sheffield Sling Surgery and Library, www.sheffieldslingsurgery.co.uk/
Sling Spot, https://sling-spot.co.uk/