The theme this year is Safe Babywearing, as a response to the concerns earlier this year over unsafe bag/deep-pouch slings that prompted a CPSC warning about babywearing safety. (Read the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance's position paper on the warning.)
So, courtesy of Babywearing International, here are some helpful safety tips for you as you hold your baby close enough to kiss:
- Make sure your baby can breathe. Even as you enjoy the convenience of hands-free carrying, be vigilant about checking on your baby as you carry her.
- Never allow a baby to be carried, held, or placed in such a way that his chin is curled against his chest. Babies need good back support in carriers so they don’t slump into the chin-to-chest position. An upright kangaroo carry can be ideal for little babies (see some newborn carries at Wrap Your Baby, and click on each link for specific wrap instructions). For nursing, a cradle carry where the baby's back is only gently curved works well, and then you can reposition your baby more upright after the feeding.
- Never allow a baby’s head and face to be covered with fabric. This is a suffocation risk with young babies, who lack the strength to uncover themselves to get fresh air when needed.
- Practice with a doll or teddy. I know when I would read or look at babywearing tutorials, I still needed to actually try it out before I fully understood it. If you don't have a baby yet or want to practice on something that won't get upset with your initial fumbling, try something squishy and inanimate! Even a wadded pillow or blanket will do, though granted that it's not as cute as your little one.
- If your baby (or you) is not feeling well, try again later. For instance, when a newborn is frantic from hunger is not the best time to try out a nursing hold for the first time!
- Enlist another trusted adult. Make sure he knows you are depending on him to catch the baby if she starts to fall.
- Use a mirror.
- Start low. Sit on the floor as you begin a wrap so you both can have less fear of falling. Later on, try starting from a sofa or bed.
It seems like a lot of advice, but it really does become second nature once you get started! I really think most of these tips are in the no-duh category (no disrespect intended, because we can all use a reminder now and again!). A good basic rule is to remember to keep your baby's face visible at all times, and the closer to your lips to give a kiss the better.
And what is the payoff?
"Not only does babywearing allow parents to have both hands free while carrying their children, but research is also shedding light on how this practice has numerous benefits for children. A study published in the journal Pediatrics in 1986 found that 6-week-old babies carried at least three hours a day in a soft carrier cried and fussed 43 percent less than others overall, and 51 percent less in the evening hours. Another study, published in the journal Child Development in 1990, found that mothers who were given cloth carriers at birth were more responsive to their babies and had babies who were more securely attached than mothers who received plastic infant seats."
I seriously loved (still love) babywearing Mikko, and I soooo look forward to starting all over again (with perhaps some lovely new carriers, oh, joy!) with the new baby. I found it really easy to be safe while babywearing, because I loved keeping my baby's face in sight.
I think maybe the best overall tip I can give for what carrier to buy, and it's going to sound kind of snotty, is to buy a crunchy-granola wrap or carrier that you can't find at a big box store. Because babywearing has been around for much longer in the alterna-crowd, I feel like the slings, wraps, mei tais, and structured carriers that are made by small sellers and mama-owned companies are usually the ones that make the most practical sense, are sewn with quality construction (and love!), are road tested by babywearing parents and caregivers all over the globe, and are most likely to be safest for baby while at the same time being most comfortable for the adult (and for the longest amount of time). There are exceptions, of course, but that's my two cents. Just check for reviews first. TheBabyWearer.com has a big collection of product reviews, as do the Mothering.com forums, where you could also post a call for help in deciding what kind of carrier to get. If price is a barrier, try out quality consignment stores in your area to look for some good used carriers, try searching for baby carriers on eBay for a deal (I put up a widget at the bottom of this post so you can see what's currently available), or consider making one for yourself! I also recommend some good ones in my series of links below.
Here are some of my favorite carriers to get you started, from newborn to toddler:
What are your favorite carriers? Do you have any safety tips or concerns for babywearing?