Wear­ing baby out

Car­ry­ing your new­born in a sling or fab­ric car­rier can be a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for you both, as long as you fol­low im­por­tant safety guide­lines

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

Top tips for car­ry­ing your bub safely

Be­ing car­ried close to you helps ba­bies reg­u­late their tem­per­a­ture, heart rate and breath­ing, as well as build close bonds

When bub moves from the womb to the out­side world, she’s faced with many changes. It’s noisy, bright, the sounds are dif­fer­ent and the tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­ates. She’s prob­a­bly also miss­ing that com­fort­ing, re­as­sur­ing and reg­u­lar rhythm of your heart­beat.

Many mums be­lieve one of the kind­est ways to ease ba­bies into their new en­vi­ron­ment is ‘baby­wear­ing’, a term to de­scribe the prac­tice of spend­ing time with your bub strapped close to your body in a fab­ric sling or car­rier. Stud­ies have shown be­ing car­ried close to you helps ba­bies reg­u­late their tem­per­a­ture, heart rate and breath­ing, as well as build close bonds.

Baby­wear­ing is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity and has many sup­port­ers in­clud­ing the Aus­tralian Breast­feed­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, but safety warn­ings have been is­sued by dif­fer­ent au­thor­i­ties over the use of slings, which are the soft, un­struc­tured fab­ric car­ri­ers tied or at­tached to the carer’s body.

Be­tween 2010 and March 2013, three Aus­tralian ba­bies died from suf­fo­ca­tion in fab­ric slings. Fol­low­ing the last of these – the death of a three-week-old baby girl in Bris­bane – the Queens­land coroner re­quested the state’s Office of Fair Trad­ing de­vise a safety aware­ness cam­paign.

Queens­land Office of Fair Trad­ing man­ager of prod­uct safety, Dave Stra­chan, says the key points are that your baby is as up­right as pos­si­ble, her face (par­tic­u­larly the nose and mouth) is un­cov­ered at all times and that she’s close enough to you to kiss. He says baby­wear­ing is pop­u­lar, as well as prac­ti­cal and safe, as long as par­ents and car­ers fol­low safety mes­sages. “Peo­ple feel strongly about baby­wear­ing, and be­lieve it’s a good thing to do,” Dave says. “We don’t have a prob­lem with this pro­vided the prod­uct is safe and peo­ple use it prop­erly.”

TAKE CARE

The big­gest risk with us­ing slings is suf­fo­ca­tion, as ba­bies do not have the co­or­di­na­tion or strength to move out of dan­ger­ous po­si­tions. There are two ways suf­fo­ca­tion can oc­cur. If a baby is car­ried in a po­si­tion so her chin is against her chest, her air­ways be­come blocked. If her mouth and nose are pushed against the fab­ric of the sling, breath­ing will be dif­fi­cult.

“This is par­tic­u­larly true if the child is low birth weight or has a cold or res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness – and par­ents need to be a bit mind­ful of this,” says Dave. “We found lots of peo­ple wanted to be con­fi­dent about us­ing slings, but were a bit hes­i­tant about the in­for­ma­tion given in a shop.”

There are many makes and va­ri­eties of slings which, un­like other baby car­ri­ers, do not have a solid back or frame or leg open­ings. Dave says car­ers need to be ex­tra cau­tious us­ing pouch-type fab­ric slings, as in­fants may slip down into the pouch and be com­pletely cov­ered by the sling.

“The key mes­sage is to keep your baby in view and close enough to kiss at all times, but be­ing in a pouch may not meet these cri­te­ria,” says Dave.

There are also a few other risks when us­ing baby slings, which in­clude falls and in­jury to the baby while the carer is car­ry­ing out other tasks. In Aus­tralia there is no manda­tory safety stan­dard gov­ern­ing slings.

BABY BEN­E­FITS

Pro­vided they are used safely, slings are strongly sup­ported by many in the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing the Aus­tralian Breast­feed­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, which has en­dorsed the Hug-a-Bub wrap-style slings.

Pres­i­dent Rachel Fuller says the ABA has sup­ported baby­wear­ing for more than 50 years as a help­ful tool in breast­feed­ing. “Hav­ing mother and baby close to­gether helps with breast­feed­ing as a mother can more eas­ily learn her baby’s cues and re­spond to their needs,” says Rachel. She says Hug-a-Bub prod­ucts have an op­ti­mal deep seat po­si­tion for good hip, back and spine de­vel­op­ment, with the baby’s legs and bot­tom form­ing a froggy or ‘M’ shape.

Babes in Arms direc­tor and mum of four, Anita Lin­colne-Lo­max, says stud­ies have iden­ti­fied many ben­e­fits for mums, dads and ba­bies with baby­wear­ing. Par­ents bond bet­ter with their ba­bies and have more con­fi­dence in read­ing their cues. Ba­bies feel safe and com­forted by their par­ents’ body rhythms – their heart­beat, body tem­per­a­ture and smell – which de­creases stress hor­mones. And ba­bies in slings have also been shown to cry less, fall asleep quicker and pos­si­bly have fewer colic and re­flux symp­toms, Anita says.

So if you’re toy­ing with the idea of baby­wear­ing, it’s worth a shot – as long as you fol­low the TICKS safety check­list.

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