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​Demystifying baby slings and baby carriers

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There has been a lot of focus in the media recently[1] about the use of baby slings and for good reason. The selection of baby products out there, all of which are meant to make life easier, is really overwhelming. Like we don’t have enough decisions and choices to make already! So it is not surprising that there is a lot of general confusion around baby-wearing options and how to correctly use them.

While the media attention does pull on parents worst fears of losing their baby (due to incorrect use leading to suffocation), it brings an important point of safety and education to the discussion forefront. At My Natural Baby, we advocate the use of baby slings for the many benefits it provides; we have personally tried and tested many brands of baby slings, wraps and carriers and sell the popular Hug-a-Bub baby wraps. We want to try our best to put together an ‘easy to use’ guide on baby wearing in the hope of clearing up some of the confusion and making choices easier.

Baby wearing jargon buster…

Baby sling, baby sling carrier, ring sling, pouch baby sling, baby wrap, wraparound sling, baby carrier, mei tai baby carrier….there are so many names out there – what is what, what is the difference, which is best?

Essentially there are 3 main options when it comes to baby wearing:

Type Baby Sling

Baby Wrap

Baby Carrier

Description: A long piece of fabric that loops through a ring into a sling and worn over one shoulder. Baby can be worn upright, in-ward facing, out-ward facing or in the peadpod position (across your body) and on your back. A long piece of fabric that wraps around the baby and parent’s body to support the weight of the baby. Baby can be worn upright, in-ward facing and outward facing. A structured carrier that includes straps similar to a back pack that can be adjusted and clips into place.

Baby can be worn in-ward facing or out-ward facing and some carriers allow you to use it on your back.

Ideal for: It is quick and handy to grab and put on.

Perfect for travelling and breast feeding on the go.

Wearing for short periods of time i.e while doing grocery shopping.

Keeping bub close to you while being able to be hands free. There is something about the wrapped up feel that makes bub feel extra secure.

Great head support for smaller bubs.

Perfect for travelling and breast feeding on the go.

It is set up ready to go, no learning how to wrap, fairly easy to put on and straps are easily adjusted.

Provides the best support as baby gets heavier at toddler stage.

Perfect for travelling and breast feeding on the go.

You may not like: The back carry position takes a couple of goes to learn but well worth it.

Weight distribution is on one shoulder and can get tiring – like carrying that heavy hand bag!

Not the best support offered for heavier bubs or as they get bigger – you would only be able to carry a toddle for short time.

It definitely takes a few goes to learn how to put it on but once you nail it, it’s a piece of cake.

Better suited for smaller bubs and not for toddler stage.

Bub is wrapped quite close to our body with skin to skin contact, while this is a plus for making bub feel secure, also be mindful to not let bub overheat.

Some carriers require you to purchase an additional insert to wear with newborn baby.

Made from thicker fabrics so also need to be mindful to not let bub overheat.

So many choices, how to decide?

  • We aren’t going to enter a discussion around the difference between brands like baby bjorn vs ergo baby vs manduca and the like. As with all products, researching online, reading forums, product review sites, asking other parents etc is a great place to start.
  • Take your baby into your local baby shop and try different baby carrying options. Your bub may end up making the choice for you! You may feel different carriers provide you with the support you need. It’s really a case of try before you buy.
  • While personal preference plays a part, it is also important to ensure the baby sling you choose provides good head support, provides good airflow and keeps bub’s spine straight.[2]
  • Always look for brands that provide clear instructions on how to use the product safely and choose one that you feel comfortable and confident in using.

We do have to warn you though – baby-wearing products become addictive – you may find you end up with a couple of baby wraps and carriers! There are so many beautiful fabrics and options available – it is very hard to stop at one! Personally, I used the hug-a-bub for my daughter up until about 12 months, now I can’t live without my ergo baby.

Baby sling safety…

The biggest risk of sling use is suffocation. After a study found that parents are unclear on the safe practice of using slings, The Queensland Office of Fair Trading is now working towards building an educational resource with reliable product safety information[3]. But really, it’s fairly straightforward:

  • Make sure bub’s face and air ways are uncovered and unobstructed at all times, keeping the sling tight to avoid bub falling into the slumped, chin-to-chest position.
  • Regularly check your baby and ensure they are not overheating and can breathe easily.
  • Don’t do anything to put your baby at risk i.e go for a run while wearing baby, bend over where baby could fall out etc – if you wouldn’t do it while holding your baby in your arms, then don’t do it while they are in the sling!
  • Follow the instructions that come with your baby sling – especially age guidelines. Generally after 4 months of age is considered safest but will vary from bub to bub and weight factors, particularly when bub can hold it's head up.
  • Like all your baby goods, regularly check them for wear and tear and toss them if they are no longer up to standard.

And just in case that is all too much to remember – there is an acronym to help:

T - Tight

I – In view at all times

C – Close enough to kiss

K – Keep chin off the chest

S – Supported back

For more information, there are babywearing meet up groups all around Australia:

For our selection of organic cotton baby wrap carriers: