How to choose a baby sling or carrier

There are many positive effects of using a sling; both for physiological regulation and meeting emotional needs. Your baby will feel more secure in his developing relationship with you, due to the time you spend in close contact. This is known as “attachment” – secure attachment is the bedrock of future positive mental health for children.

Carried babies tend to cry less, as their parents are more in tune with their needs due to the close proximity, it helps with reflux and sleep and prevents “flat head syndrome”.

Many carriers hold babies too low and too loose and pose a risk to breathing as well as putting a strain on the parent’s back.

You and your family will enjoy positive effects too. You may feel more able to bond with your baby due to the increased release of oxytocin, and post-natal depression may be reduced.

Author-photo-Rosie-Knowles-high-res

Being able to be “hands-free” can really make a difference to your ability to do things and to get around, keeping your body gently active and engaging with normal life while your baby cuddles in. Older children may need to be carried when little legs get tired or on a busy school run, and siblings can be more easily nurtured and played with while baby rests in a sling.

Choosing a carrier from the myriad possibilities out there can be daunting, especially when you are handed lots of advice from friends or websites that market their own carrier as “the best.”

Internet forums can be confusing when everyone has their own opinion.

My best advice to anyone thinking of using a baby carrier is to find their local sling library. Most are listed on www.slingpages.co.uk. They are usually run by committed parents who have a lot of experience and can help you try several out.

They can give you the chance to try a carrier at home before you buy (and it is often worth spending a little more for better quality and longevity). Sling consultants will provide a more in-depth personal service if you have particular needs, or twins, or if your child has a disability, or you want to learn more complex techniques, for example.

They will also help you to check that your carrier is being used safely, to ensure your baby’s airway is protected, and supportive for their spine and hips as well as comfy for you both. Babies should be carried snugly and “close enough to kiss”.

Many carriers hold babies too low and too loose and pose a risk to breathing as well as putting a strain on the parent’s back.

A simple guide to baby carriers

Why Babywearing Matters jacket

Stretchy wraps and their variants are made of simple stretchy fabric that are tied onto the parents’ body in a snug comfy bandage. Baby is then gently lowered into the fabric passes which spring into place around him and hold him snugly. They can be left on all day for baby to be popped in and out as needed. They are popular from birth for the first four to six months.

Woven wraps are similar, in that they are tied around the parent’s body, and are very comfortable and supportive. They are very versatile, and as they do not stretch they last well into the toddler years and can be used for back carrying. They come in many many beautiful designs and patterns and can be used from birth.

Mei tais are semi-structured carriers with a central panel for baby to sit in, and long straps that are tied around the parent’s body to hold baby close. They are often very comfortable and some people find them less tricky to tie than wraps. They come in varying sizes and some can be used from birth to toddlerhood.

Buckle carriers are popular with those who favour convenience, however many are very comfortable and they come in a wide array of patterns. They consist of a panel with shoulder straps that either cross over on the back or are worn rucksack style, and a waistband that clips together. Some will allow facing out positions, which is best from 4-5months upwards for brief periods (the neck muscles of young babies fatigue very easily). Some can be used from birth, others will need a separate insert for baby to sit on. Most baby size buckles will last into toddlerhood.

Ring slings and other hip carriers carry baby on your side, which can be great for children who want to see a little more of the world. They can take a little practice to master, but are often well loved as they will carry babies and toddlers alike.

Carrying your child can be great fun for you both, as well as very useful indeed. Enjoy it!

Rosie Knowles is a GP and runs the Sheffield Sling surgery, a consultancy and sling library. Her new book Why Babywearing Matters, Pinter & Martin £7.99, is out now.

To download the TICKS safety guidelines visit www.babyslingsafety.co.uk

For more general information visit www.sheffieldslingsurgery.co.uk/education 

More from Rosie Knowles

How to choose a baby sling or carrier

There are many positive effects of using a sling; both for physiological...
Read More