Around the world, children are carried by those who care for them on a daily basis & the practice of using slings such as woven or stretchy wraps & SSCs (soft structured carriers) has become more & more popular in the UK in recent years. There are a huge variety of slings available, suited to a variety of weights & ages ranging from newborn upwards, but what is vitally important is that we carry safely.
Get to know your sling.
Whatever your choice of sling, it is important that you get to know it. Familiarise yourself with your sling, make sure you know how to use it. Some people like to practice with a teddy at first, some like to practice near the bed or the sofa, some like to have someone spotting them whilst they practice or work in front of a mirror. Practice makes perfect & it will make things much easier when you come to introduce a real child!
Check your sling is safe.
It is also important that you check your sling is safe to use. Are all the parts intact? Are any buckles broken? Is there any loose stitching? Any holes? Is it appropriate for the child? Too big? Too small?
What are you wearing?
Before you put your child in the sling, think about what you are both wearing & think about the layers of the sling. A good rule of thumb is that 1 layer of sling equals one layer of clothing but remember that parts of the body not covered by the sling (legs, hands, head etc) still need protecting from the elements, whether that be the cold or the sun.
Learn your ABC’s.
Once your child is in the sling, you can do a number of checks to ensure they are safe there. One of the easiest ways to remember what these safety checks are is to use your ABC’s.
A is for Airway. It is important that your childs airway is clear & they are able to breathe safely at all times whilst they are in the sling. Their chin should be off their chest, a rough guide is that two fingers should fit between their chin & their chest. Their face should be clear & visible at all times.
B is for Body Positioning. The safest position is an upright one where the upper body is well supported to prevent the child slumping into the sling. This is one of the reasons it is important to ensure the sling is tight enough & preventing slumping will also help to protect the airway. The pelvis should be tilted to create a curved lower back, bringing the knees above the bottom into an M-position. The hands should be close to their mouth, available for chomping on if required!
C is for Comfort. Once you have checked your child is able to breathe clearly & they are positioned well, you can consider comfort, starting with your child & then moving onto your own comfort. Although comfort is the final check, it is still an important one! There is more chance of you using & enjoying a sling which both your child & you find comfortable.
Other popular guidance you may hear or read about is the TICKS guidelines (tight, in view at all times, close enough to kiss, keep chin off chest, supported back) & this wonderful safety leaflet translated by the lovely Lorette of Slingababy.
Once your child is in the sling, it isn’t simply a case of getting on with what you want or need to do. It is important to be aware of & responding to your childs needs, as well as your own, at all times. Make sure your level of activity is appropriate & remember that you have a new shape & centre of gravity when you are carrying your child!
Got some questions? Need some advice? Want to know more?
If you are unsure about any aspect of carrying, there are many options for help & support. There are qualified sling & carrying consultants like myself, all around the country, who are able to provide tailored advice & support to help you to carry safely or help you find the sling(s) that suits you. Many offer 1-2-1 consultations or groups workshops. There are even sling libraries, some run by consultants & some by peer supporters, where you are able to try on different types of slings & some may hire slings enabling you to give them a real life test drive to see if it’s the sling for you before you make a purchase. And there are many social sling-meets where you will often find parents & carers who will happily offer support, as well as sharing their experiences & growing knowledge. Local resources are a goldmine of knowledge & information!
If in doubt, get in touch with your local professional. Or even if you’re not local to me, feel free to get in touch & I will do my best to help you find your local library or sling/carrying consultant who will be able to help!