Babywearing has countless proven benefits for both moms and babies. We love to carry our babies and keep them close, but, of course, we also want to keep them safe. Learning to babywear can take some practice, but don't let it intimidate or frustrate you! Practice makes perfect and you will get the hang of it! Follow this simple set of guidelines (called T.I.C.K.S) every time you babywear to insure you're wearing your baby safely. These guidelines will also keep you and your baby most comfortable so you can both love and enjoy babywearing and being close to each other anytime, anywhere.
Your carrier should hold baby tight enough against you to hug them closely. Any slack or loose fabric will allow your baby to slouch, and possibly restrict his breathing. A loose carrier will also make babywearing very uncomfortable for you and put unnecessary stress on you back and shoulders.
I- In view at all times
Every time you glace down at your baby while babywearing, you want to have a perfect view of his precious face. If he is slumped down, chin to chest, face squished against you, or has fabric from the carrier covering his face, it can restrict his breathing, so you need to readjust and always keep his face in your view at all times.
C- Close enough to kiss
Your baby's head needs to be as close to your chin as comfortably possible and you need to be able to easily kiss the top of his head. If your baby is too low, his weight will not be distributed properly, putting a lot of stress on your back and shoulders, and it will become very uncomfortable wearing him. If your carrier is too low, it is most likely not tight enough which can cause slouching, breathing restriction, and even falling.
K- Keep chin off chest
This one is pretty self explanatory. You want your baby's airways open so make sure his chin is up and head supported. Never allow his chin to curl down and touch his chest as this can restrict breathing.
S- Support back
You want baby held snugly against you in the same way you would hold him without a carrier, supporting the back. If you press against baby's back and feel a slouch, tighten your carrier so his back is better supported. You should be able to have both your hands free while your baby stays supported in the carrier. An unsupported back can cause slouching, restricted breathing, and can also be harmful to your baby's spinal development. Like with most of these guidelines, it will also be more comfortable for you as the wearer as slouching puts more stress on your shoulders and back.
Now that you know the basics, here are a few more safety concerns to keep in mind:
- There are countless styles of carries (positions, wrapping, or tying options) to try with some baby carriers. You should never use a carrier in a way that the manufacturer does not recommend. If the manufacturer states that a carry is not recommended, either the carrier has not been safety tested for that method, or the method has actually proven unsafe. For example, stretchy wraps, such as the Moby or Boba wrap, should never be used for back carries. These wraps are perfectly safe for wearing infants in a front or hip carry, but they are made of a stretchy material and a baby can quickly and easily fall out from simply arching his back in it.
- Never use a carrier below or above the recommended weight limits.
- Never use counterfeit ("knock off") baby carriers. Not only is purchasing one of these carriers illegal, it is also very unsafe. They are made from cheap materials by cheap labor. They may not be safety tested (or not tested to appropriate standards) and may break or fall apart. The dyes used on these carriers may also be unsafe for your baby. If you're ever shopping for a baby carrier on eBay or in a co-op (the most common places these are found), and a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. However, you can always contact the manufacturer of a carrier to confirm if it is legitimate.
- ·Never use a recalled baby carrier. Any carrier with a recall has been recalled for good reason. The Infantino Slingrider is a carrier that was recalled for causing suffocation and infant death and should never, ever be used. If you have one of these carriers, you can send it into the manufacturer and they will replace it with a brand new, free, safe carrier for you to use instead.
- It is recommended that babies are worn in a seated position, with their knees higher than their bum, for the best support and comfort in the hips and spine. Some baby carriers are not ergonomically correct, meaning the seat for your baby does not extend knee-to-knee, and has a very narrow base instead. They also give you the option to wear baby facing out (facing away from you). Some of these brands include Baby Bjorn, Snugli, Chicco, Britax, and Jeep. These carriers are rumored to be unsafe for babywearing. The Chiropractors Association of Australia notes these "can lead to a risk of hip dysplasia or dislocation that may go undetected until walking age, and may also result in painful arthritis during adulthood. Dr Harrington said the outward facing position also has the potential to interfere with normal spinal curve development." Facing out is also overstimulating for most babies, and it does not give them an option to refer back to you for comfort immediately when they need it from over-stimulation or becoming tired. If all you currently own is one of these styles of carrier and you want to make it more ergonomically correct, wrap a scarf around the bottom of the carrier so it creates a wider seat for your baby and tie it behind your back. And always wear your baby facing inward; if your baby enjoys looking around, try a back or hip carry instead (in a carrier that allows for them safely). While these carriers do not violate safety standards because there is no danger of suffocation or falling if used correctly, you will need to weigh the risks of potential harm to your baby's development, particularly if they have preexisting hip dysplasia or a similar condition.
- Only use carriers and attempt carries that you feel comfortable with. There are so many wonderful and safe options available to try. If you feel nervous or uncomfortable with one in particular, try another or ask someone for help. Find out if there is a babywearing group/International Babywearing chapter near you and there will be many experienced babywearing moms there that would be happy to help!
- Most importantly, use common sense. Never babywear doing an activity that you would not do while holding baby in your arms.