We're often quite startled to learn that not as many mothers use baby slings and carriers as we would like, or even expect. Providing bountiful ease and benefits and available in such variety in size, colour and style, it's definitely something you'll regret missing out on when they become too old. But when is that exactly? What size should they be to be carried?
Having scanned the web's various baby wearing hubs, we've compiled a list of the more commonly asked questions, all of which we aim to answer. For those curious about the actual tying of baby slings, we've done many blog guides previously.
What do the different names for Slings refer to?
At Daisy Baby, we principally sell three types of baby sling: Mei Tai (with and without hood & pocket), Ring and Wrap. Each feature various different carrying positions, making them more handy in certain situations. Here's a brief-as-can-be breakdown of the three and the various positions we send with them:
Mei Tai - 3 carrying positions, reversible. Uses a a set of waist and shoulder straps to attach a cotton fabric shape around your baby, letting them sit right up close to your chest, back or waist.
Ring - 2 carrying positions. One of the best slings for breastfeeding, these slings are typically worn over one shoulder, tethering a long piece cotton material together using two nylon 'ring's on one end.
Wrap - 1 carrying position. Similar to the Mei Tai sling but without the straps, wrap slings are extremely comfortable and idea for a Heart-To-Heart carry. Designed around a 5m length of cotton fabric.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Sling?
Baby wearing is a much preferred option by many parents in lieu of a stroller or car seat, and while all the above slings let your child cuddle against your body while letting you use both hands, the sling you choose and how you use it may very well depend on the baby's age and schedule.
Those at 5 to 6 months will have better head control, so you can start to use a sling that lets them look at the world around them. That said, front carriers don't lend themselves easily to breastfeeding, which hip and side ones do quite well. Some might be too big and bulky for your children, whilst others may take too long to tie. You might want to look for a carrier designed to grow with your child, an easily adjustable sling to make it comfortable for you (and anyone else wearing it), one that's easiest to use and particularly one that's easy to clean.
What are Some of the Benefits of Baby Wearing?
So glad you asked! The physical and mental benefits of baby carrying are quite well documented, including a lowered risk of Flat Head Syndrome, improved core strength of the baby and easy interaction with the child. For Dads, it provides a previously inaccessible chance for one-on-one time, and in Mum's can even lower the risk of postpartum depression. Experts agree slings are great for soothing fussy or colicky children, and generally agree that parents should carry their babies as much as possible, right after birth.
How Long Should I Wear a Baby Sling at a Time?
In practice, you can wear a baby sling for as long as need be. If you find yourself with pain and discomfort after wearing your baby for a short amount of time, then it might mean there's a problem with the way you've tied the sling, or that it has a fault. Always try different methods of adjustment until you find one that relieves the discomfort, and if it persists, find a local baby wearing group to see if you're doing anything wrong.
Can I Wear Them if I have Back Problems?
In general practice, yes, but always consult your doctor before doing so. The great thing about the various slings is their multiple carrying positions allows you to redistribute weight of your child to different areas of the body, and by changing shoulders your can further help alleviate stress where it is most unwanted. Your baby will want to be held as they grow up, so if you do have regular back problems a sling will be much better than just using your arms.
When Shouldn't I Wear Them?
When wearing your baby, it's more than possible to do household chores or exercise with minimal discomfort. Even something as scary as going down the stairs is better done with a sling, as you have both hands to steady yourself. Just remember the basic principles of baby safety, be aware of your surroundings and never ever carry your baby whilst holding something extremely hot or working with cutting machines.
Is it Safe to Wear 2 Babies at Once?
If you go on image sharing sites like Pinterest and baby wearing Facebook groups, there are a lot of photos showing 'tandem baby wearing'. Are these just posed for the camera, or is it possible to do safely? Ideal for twins, it is indeed possible, providing you do it the right way. There's no one sling that's adequately designed for a pair of passengers, instead it's a combination of multiple slings in various positions. As there'd be a lot to cover, we recommend this blog by Natural Parents Network all about tandem baby wearing.
How Can I get My Baby To Relax in a Sling?
You might find that, instead of being the docile image you hoped for, your baby is extremely fussy in their sling. The best advice is to practice with a doll or teddy so you're confident in your ability to tie and wear the sling properly, as any anxiety will transfer to your little one. Try different positions, and if that fails, try ensuring carrying time is not far behind feeding time...
How do I Keep My Baby Cool When They're Riding in a Sling?
It is important of course to ensure your baby is adequately ventilated when being carried, not only in having enough airflow around them - ensuring their chin is off the chest - but also that they won't be overly warm when being carried. It's not advised, in sunny weather, that you carry them naked or only in a nappy, at least not with some kind of cover from the Sun.
Wrap slings of different size and thickness provide different levels of coverage, but in general you should just adjust their layers accordingly. You have both hands free to carry an umbrella for when it's raining, plus many of our Mei Tai slings are also available with hoods. Just ensure heads, feet and hands are covered appropriately to the weather.
How Old Must a Baby be to Be Worn?
Babies can pretty much be carried straight from birth, but it's best to do once they're capable of sitting on their own. Babies that are premature or who have special needs should be carried only under advisement from a health care professional, or baby carrying consultant. For the time they should stop being carried, our slings have an advised weight limit of 35lbs, but the age itself isn't particularly rigid.
If there's any additional questions regarding baby slings, carrying and wearing that we didn't cover - literally anything at all - please don't hesitate to ask us in the comments below, or by posting on our Facebook page, through Twitter or on Google+.