Parenting websites and guidebooks will often sing the praises of baby-wearing as a natural and comfortable way to promote your baby’s physical and emotional health. Slings and wraps help to provide your newborn a gentle transition from the womb to the outside world, and overall make for more natural bonding and a calmer baby. That’s easy enough said, but what are you supposed to do when you open your new, amazing, hi-tech baby wrap and all you have in your hands is a long band of fabric? How is this supposed to help you safely carry around your most precious cargo? The instructions might tell you how to wrap the thing, but can leave a lot to be desired about how to properly position your baby based on age and weight, which carrying positions are even acceptable, and what the most important points of support are for each position. Turns out there’s a lot more to baby-wearing than a product manual can teach, but don’t panic! Here’s a simple guide to what you should know about wearing your baby once you’ve figured out the ins and outs of the wrap itself.
The first thing to note is that the best position for carrying any age of baby – as recommended by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute -- is in an upright, inward facing position with the legs spread and supported to the knee joint
That said, there are a few different options for where on the caretaker’s body the baby can be worn, as well as a little wiggle room on baby’s position in the wrap dependent on their developmental stage.
For the first six months or so, the baby should be worn inward facing against the caretaker’s chest. Not only is this important for safety and emotional security, but also for baby’s social development. In this stage, while they are still developing basic human function, this carry will give them visual access to their caretaker’s face so that they can learn to interact on an individual level without getting overstimulated by too much visual input from the world around them.
After six months – or when the baby has developed strong head and neck support – they can, for short periods, be worn facing outward. Being able to freely observe their surroundings is healthy for mental development at this stage, and some babies may prefer the freedom of facing outward. Even so, it’s best to always return to an inward facing position after a while of this to avoid overstimulation while the baby is still learning to process new input.
From this point onward, especially as the baby starts getting heavy enough to start putting strain on the caretaker’s back (usually around 12 to 18 months), they can be safely carried on the caretaker’s hip or back to ease discomfort, though the child should still be facing inward most of the time that they are being worn. (Note: This method of carrying can also be useful if you are babywearing with twins.)
It should be noted that during any of these stages, the child can easily be breastfed while being worn on the front. All it takes is a simple adjustment of the child to either side of the wrap to put them in position to get a secure latch.
All of this information might do well to help you feel a little more well informed, but how do you know for certain that your baby is safely and securely positioned in the wrap? Thankfully, the UK Sling Consortium has provided an easy checklist.
If you follow the T.I.C.K.S Rules every time you situate your baby in the wrap, you can rest assured that they are properly supported and able to breathe so you can go about your babywearing day without stress.
In the end, being completely at ease with babywearing will be a matter of practice and experience, but when you’re starting out, following these rules will help you feel a little more secure in what you’re doing until it becomes second nature to you.
If you're looking for a wrap to try out for yourself, our favorite is the Jeroray baby wrap. You can try it out here:
Jeroray Baby Wrap