The Benefits of Baby Carriers and How to Wear a Ring Sling
For thousands of years, women have found ways to carry their babies so that they may care for them while going about their daily tasks. However, In today’s society this is no longer the norm. Rather than carrying our children with us, often we place them in cribs, playpens and walkers, separating them from us. Some children may prefer a certain amount of independence, but most babies thrive from baby wearing. Not only do babies fuss less, as being up against their parents offers instant comfort, but it also gives them the chance to observe and learn from their parent's daily activities.
Benefits For Baby:
Babies who are worn by their parents tend to cry less. This is often because the constant presence of the parent is soothing to the child. Also, parents become more in tuned to their child's needs from their close proximity to each other, and recognize sooner when baby needs a change or her next meal. Parents can then attend to baby before she starts to cry. Many anthropologists agree that babies cry less when worn or carried constantly, based on their own observations of baby wearing cultures. In America a baby's time spent crying is measured in hours, yet in baby wearing cultures, this is unheard of, and would instead be measured in minutes ("Benefits of Babywearing").
The less time that an infant spends crying, the more time it allows for the quiet alertness that is necessary for the infant to observe and learn ("Benefits of Babywearing").
Baby wearing provides newborn's with a simulated womb environment, surrounding them with the familiar. Mom's (or Dad's) heartbeat, the sway of movement, as well as the comforting swaddle of the sling work together to sooth them.
Studies indicate that baby wearing creates children with secure attachment patterns later in life (Dewar).
- Wearing babies in a variety of situations introduces them to daily life as well as keeps them up front and center in their parent's interactions, therefor enhancing their learning opportunities ("Benefits of Babywearing").
- Babies who are carried more have less chance of developing plagiocephaly which is the flattening of of the back of the skull, and is caused from baby laying on his back for long periods at a time (Dewar).
Which baby carrier would you choose?
Basic Types of Baby Carriers:
- Ring Sling- The focus of this article, ring slings are prized for their versatility and their ease of use. Parents can quickly change baby's position, and the length of the fabric allows parents of all sizes to use and share a sling. The long tail can also be thrown over the shoulder to shield baby from the elements or to provide a nursing cover for mom.
- Wrap Around Sling- Also a versatile option, the carrying possibilities are seemingly endless with a wrap around sling. More complex than the ring sling, these take some getting used to and may require help from another person until the wearer gets comfortable with taking the wrap on and off.
- Pouch Sling- Light, quick, and easy to put on, pouch slings are not as versatile as ring, or wrap around slings, though many claim what it lacks in versatility, it makes up for in it's travel friendly size. It can easily be folded up to fit into a purse or a pocket. However, parent's size does matter, as they must take measurements and order the proper size for a custom fit.
- Mei Tai- Similar to a the soft sided carrier mentioned below, mei tai's have been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years by Asian moms. Featuring tie straps, the mei tai can be worn in front or on the parent's back with the baby facing in or out, depending on his age. They also come in a wide variety of fun patterns and fabrics.
- Soft Sided Carrier- The traditional carrier of the western world, the soft sided carrier is very similar to the mei tai, excepting that rather than cloth ties, it features buckles and clips, and is often made of synthetic materials.
How to Wear Your Baby with a Ring Sling:
Useful Video for Wearing Your Ring Sling
Baby slings and pouches are perfectly safe when used correctly, however improper use of your baby sling can be dangerous.
Be sure to follow these guidelines when using your sling:
- Always be sure your child's chin is not pressing down against his chest as this can cause a restriction in his airways. A small blanket can be inserted beneath the infant's back and neck to raise his chin if this problem occurs.
- Always place a supporting hand on your child when bending down or moving quickly.
- Make sure the sling is kept tight, and your child is held close against you.
- Do not cook or drink hot liquid while wearing your baby.
Great from newborns to toddlers, the snuggle hold keeps babies snug and close up against mom or dad. To use this position, wear the sling with the rings high up on your shoulder (check out the above video for good tips on how to first wear your ring sling). Carefully insert baby between yourself and the sling and press her up against your chest. Keeping hold of her, take the bottom panel of the sling pouch and tuck it up under baby's legs until it reaches the bend of the knees, so that she is nestled into the pouch. Carefully tighten the bottom rail of the sling by pulling at the lower fabric directly under the ring. This should tighten the fabric beneath your baby's knees. Now, tighten the upper panel of fabric over your baby's back and shoulders by pulling at the fabric on the other side of the ring, this should tighten the upper rail of the sling. If there is slack left in the center of the pouch, pull at the fabric in the center of the ring to tighten. Baby's bottom should sit below the bend in her knees to keep her secure in the pouch.
*NOTE* for infants with no head control, pull the upper rail of the sling high enough to secure their neck and head against you.
AGES 0-9 months
Ideal for breastfeeding and nap time, the cradle position keeps small infants content for hours. To use this position wear sling with the rings high up on your shoulder. Pull the back rail of the sling high up on your chest so that it is even with the top rail and creates a pouch. Holding your baby with the same arm the rings are positioned, carefully insert your baby into the sling bottom first until she is surrounded by the pouch. Make sure that the back rail of the sling stays up against your chest while doing so.
*NOTE* Make sure baby's chin is NOT pressing against her chest. You should be able to fit one to two fingers between baby's chin and chest. If this is an issue try readjusting baby so that she sits higher up in the sling, or insert a small folded blanket beneath her chest and neck to raise her chin.
Reclined Cradle Hold
AGES 3+ months
An alternate option for cradle position, this hold becomes more ideal the bigger baby gets, as baby's legs are not confined within the sling. Prepare the sling as you would for the regular cradle position. Hold baby with the opposite arm from the rings, and carefully insert baby in the sling bottom first. Be sure the back rail of the sling stays in place while doing so. In this position baby's legs will stick out of the sling pocket, rather than being contained, so make sure the bottom rail covers baby's bottom completely and reaches the bend of the knees. Tighten both top and bottom rails until baby is secure. Baby's head should be supported by the top rail of the sling.
AGES 3+ months
This position is a good option for baby once she has gained some head control and allows her a good view of what's going on around her. Position the sling the same as you would for the cradle hold, with the back rail of the sling placed high up against the chest. Hold baby so that her back is against your chest and slowly ease her down into the sling, crossing her legs Indian style as as you do. Always make sure that the back rail stays in place when placing baby in the sling. Tighten the front and back rails of the sling to secure baby in place. Once positioned, baby should be sitting cross-legged, and the fabric should come up to her chest.
AGES 6+ months
Once baby has learned to sit, and has good head and neck control, this position will be valuable for many months to come. Position the sling with rings high up on the shoulder. Baby will sit in the sling similar to in the snuggle hold. Place baby between yourself and the sling and hold him on your hip as you normally would. Grab the bottom rail of the sling and bring it under baby's bottom until it reaches the bend of his knees; pull bottom rail to secure. Bring the upper rail of the sling up baby's back until it is level with his armpits and tighten the upper rail and center of the sling until baby sits snug against you. Baby's bottom should sit below his knees to keep him secure in the pouch.
AGES 15+ months
This position is ideal for parents and babies who are well accustomed with using their sling, and should only be used when baby is well behaved. Start with the rings of the sling higher up on the shoulder than usual and insert baby in the sling as you would when using hip carry. Tighten the sling around baby and make sure the top rail of the sling completely covers his back, and that he is well secured within the pouch. Take your arm from behind baby and place it in front of him. Carefully reach back and slide baby and sling until he sits on the back side of your hip.
Is baby wearing the right choice for you?
"Benefits of Babywearing." Ask Dr Sears. n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2013. <http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/fussy-baby/baby-wearing/benefits-babywearing>
Dewar, Gwen. "The Science of Attachment Parenting." Parenting Science. 2008. Web. 1 Feb. 2013. <http://www.parentingscience.com/attachment-parenting.html>