Are baby carriers safe?
It’s Family Safety Week 2018 and so we’re looking at what’s really important to know about keeping your baby safe while using a sling, wrap or carrier. Babywearing is generally very safe (hooray!), but as a parent you may wonder which slings are the most safe for your baby.
So what are the real risks of babywearing? To keep our babies safe in any wrap or carrier we need to make sure that they are protected from falling and from suffocation.
The industry standard T.I.C.K.S. guidelines give you a clear checklist to follow to ensure that your baby is held safely in any sling, wrap or carrier. Click here to view the full T.I.C.K.S. PDF checklist.
What makes a sling safe?
A safe sling or carrier is one which secures a baby so that they cannot fall, and supports their body to ensure that their airways are protected.
A good quality wrap or carrier will be made from materials and techniques that have been tested to hold the weight of a baby. Used correctly, your baby will not fall.
But to support your baby’s body safely, preventing any flopping or slumping which could compromise a baby’s airways, a carrier needs to fit snugly around both you and your baby. Your baby’s spine and head should be fully stabilised against the movements of your body, and their face and nose should always be uncovered.
For safety, the brand or model of sling you use matters less than how well it is fitted and adjusted around you and your baby.
Whatever sling, wrap or carrier you use, here’s what you need to check to keep your baby safe and secure:
Ensure there is no risk of your baby falling
- Make sure that the carrier and carrying position you are using is appropriate for your child’s age or stage.
- Ensure that all buckles are fully clicked closed and fastened in the correct places.
- In a wrap, ensure that the fabric is fully supporting your babies back and bum.
- Your wrap or carrier is adjusted to tightly hold your baby high and snug against your chest.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions or seek advice from a professional carrying consultant.
Support your baby’s head and airways
- Your baby’s head is supported in line with their spine, and will stay stable as you move around.
You can use your carrier head-rest, or wrap fabric to stabilise your baby’s head and neck. You could also support behind their neck using a rolled up muslin square, or other padding if your baby needs additional support. Never cover your baby’s face, nose or mouth with fabric.
- You can always see that your baby’s face and nose are clear from any fabric or obstruction.
- Your baby is held high and snug on your body, with their head close enough for you to kiss the top of it.
- Fasten or tie your carrier tightly to support your baby close against your body and prevent them from dropping or slumping.
- When breastfeeding: make sure that the baby’s spine is supported and no fabric covers their head. Always monitor your baby while feeding, and return them to a higher, tighter position with their head above your breasts as soon as they finish.
- Low Birthweight and Premature Babies: Babies born prematurely and/or with a low birth weight are at greater risk of suffocation. Take extra care, and seek advice from a health and/or carrying professional before using your carrier.
Are any slings unsafe?
Yes, there are products available that are cheaply made and not tested to safety standards. The risks of using these include: buckles or straps breaking, exposure of your baby to heavy metals in dyed fabrics, poor design making it very difficult to support your baby safely.
Some sling styles are now considered unsafe because it’s very hard to get the snug support your baby needs. ‘Bag style’ slings were designed to fit over one shoulder and have a wide, often padded pouch to hold a baby. The risk of using these slings is that the baby is more likely to end up in a slumped position with their chin pressing into their chest or face covered, making it harder for them to breathe. Many brands of these have now been recalled.
Need help or reassurance?
The key to sling safety is to hold your baby high and snug on your body, with their spine and head fully stabilised and face visible.
If you are not able to adjust your carrier or sling to do this, then either that carrier is not the right fit for you, or you may need extra help to learn how to use it correctly. There are many professional Carrying Consultants who can offer support and advice to ensure that you are able to carry your baby safely. See our Sling Library Finder to discover safe babywearing support near you!
Safe Carrying Everyone!