Safe Babywearing

Choosing a Babycarrier

 Use a babycarrier that is appropriate for your baby's age. Accidents have been reported involving young babies (mostly under 2 months old) in soft carriers and back packs. The baby has shifted to one side, slipped through a leg opening and fallen to the ground. Many soft carriers and all frame backpacks are not recommended for use with young babies. At the other end of the scale, most babycarriers have weight limits. Check the manufacturer's specifications before you decide.

Starting Out

 Practice before you begin. Try your babycarrier with a large, heavy doll or baby-sized sack of potatoes and practice bending (bend your knees), moving through doorways (watch out for his "head"!), quick movements and getting the "baby" in and out. Most of the reported accidents involving babywearing are due to the wearer tripping and falling, so it's important to develop the reflex of holding and protecting your baby when something unexpected happens. Going through the motions in advance can really help with this.

 When you start wearing your baby, support her with your arm until you are confident.

 Learn to wear your babycarrier properly and get it really comfortable. This is important for your body and for your baby's safety.

 Swap positions. Physical thereapists recommend changing positions, or changing arms, if you are doing something for a long time. If you are using a single-shouldered babycarrier such as a sling, pouch or hip carrier, this means swapping shoulders regularly (perhaps each time you wear your baby). The sooner you start doing this, the easier it will be. Your baby might appreciate changing positions, especially if you are wearing your him for long periods. Be guided by your common sense and your baby's cues.

 Continue to support your baby whenever you bend over.

 Gradually build up your endurance. This happens naturally if your baby is still small. If you are starting out with an older baby, try a few short sessions each day rather than one long one. Gradually increase the duration as your muscles adjust.

  Learning back carries. This is a bit trickier than learning to carry your baby on your front or hip. Have someone watch and assist the first few times you try. Get your helper to check that your baby is securely in the carrier. If you are desparate to try a back carry and have no-one to help, practise first with a large teddy bear or doll. Once you feel confident, you could try with your baby: choose a safe place (perhaps over a bed) and carefully check the positioning and adjustment in a mirror afterwards.

Everyday babywearing

 Check the seams, buckles and straps regularly.

 Beware of what you put in the carrier with the baby. This is particularly important while your baby is young: keys, wallets, handkerchiefs can become hazards when they jiggle around and end up near your baby's face or poke into delicate flesh. Many babycarriers have built-in pockets to contain these items.

 Sun care. Babies in carriers can be very exposed to the elements so the normal rules of sun protection apply. Babycarriers vary in the amount of sun protection they offer. If your sling has a tail, this can be draped across a small baby for some shade, but most fabrics won't provide total shade. Some slings are made of a relatively new fabric called Solarveil™, which claims to offer better sun protection than ordinary fabric, without being hot. Beware also of little legs that stick out of the babycarrier; trousers and dresses often ride up, exposing delicate flesh to the sun.

 Don't leave your baby unattended in a carrier. Babies are sometimes left sitting in frame backpacks, which can topple over when bumped or when the baby moves. This is the cause of a large subset of babycarrier accidents. Some carriers can also be used as harnesses - for a supermarket trolley, to tie a child to a chair and for other purposes. Keep in mind that a carrier is not a five-point harness, and that the piece of furniture you attach your child to might not be inherently stable.

Special Activities

 Don't cook with heat, or handle hot liquids, while wearing your baby on your front or hip. If your baby is on your back, be careful.

 Keep the tail of your sling or wraparound out of harm's way. Long tails can catch fire on gas stoves and fires. They can also get caught in doors.

 Keep dangerous items out of reach of little hands. Especially when cooking, there can be tempting knives, glasses, foods etc. all within reach of inquisitive hands. When wearing your baby on your back, she can reach things without you being able to see.

  Babycarriers are not suitable for some activities. Don't use a babycarrier while you're in a moving car: your baby can easily be thrown from your arms and a carrier provides a baby with no protection whatsoever. For playing sport or cycling, use your discretion: what would happen to your baby if you were knocked over? How much is your baby being bounced or shaken? There are usually safer alternatives.

Above all, use your common sense. If you have doubts about the safety of what you are doing, don't chance it!

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