A sling is (usually) a structured bit of fabric which lets you carry your baby against your body (front or back). It's a great way to keep your baby close, as she can hear your heart beat, feel the warmth from your body and snuggle tightly as you move around.
It's also a great way to keep your hands free and get a few bits and pieces done while she's calmly resting.
But sadly, like most things baby slings carry a certain amount of risk, and there have been at least 6 tragic recorded deaths in the UK of babies in sling.
Thankfully, they are very, very rare, but there are some simple easy-to-remember guidelines for safe baby wearing, called T.I.C.K.S:
The key things to remember are:
- Keep your baby close and safe, and frequently check her position.
- The sling should keep your baby high and tight against your chest, not around your waist or hips. It should fit your body.
- Your baby should be close enough to kiss, with his head as close to your chin as is comfortably possible.
- In an upright sling your baby should be held comfortably close to you so her back is supported in its natural position, and her tummy and chest are against you.
- If a sling is too loose he could slump down, which could partially close the airway. This can be tested by placing a hand on your baby’s back and pressing gently – he shouldn't uncurl or move closer to you.
Avoid a covered face:
You should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply glancing down.
The fabric of a sling or carrier should not close around your baby so you have to open it to check on her. In a cradle position she should face upwards, not be turned in towards your body.
Avoid a hunched, chin to chest position:
Your baby’s body and head should be well supported and her chin should not slump onto her chest, as this can restrict her breathing. Ensure there is always a space of at least a finger width under your baby’s chin.
Avoid bag-style slings:
In bag-style slings, the deep pouch where your baby lies puts them in a potentially risky curved or ‘C’-like position, as it can restrict airflow. It's rare to find bag-style slings on sale any more.
The thing is not to worry unnecessarily, Rebecca Ward of the Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers shared the following tips:
“The majority of baby carriers and slings are still safe to use, if they hold baby in proper alignment and fit snugly by design and instruction. And always make sure you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.”
Rebecca suggests the following sling designs are a safer bet:
- shallow pouch-style slings
- upright baby carriers
- ring slings
- wrap slings
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