Friday, April 2, 2010

Wear your baby the right way


For centuries parents have carried their babies in a sling, but recent infant deaths has led parents to question this beneficial parenting tool
You may have seen in the news lately about a recall of millions of baby slings around the world, including around 8000 in Australia.
US manufacturer Infantino advised parents to stop using its SlingRider and Wendy Bellissimo slings “for infants younger than four months of age due to risk of suffocation”.
Tragically, these slings were linked to the deaths of three infants last year.
This recall follows a warning by health and safety authorities that all baby slings pose a safety risk if used incorrectly.
However, baby wearing is not a new trend made popular by celebrities.
Women have been carrying their babies for centuries, and the influx of sling designs has led to confusion among parents.
When done properly, carrying a baby in a soft baby carrier can be safer than carrying a baby in your arms.
“Contrary to what we have been taught to believe, research shows that babies who are held and carried all the time and get their need for touch well-met in their first year, do not become clingy and overly dependent,” says parent educator Pam Leo.
The benefits of baby wearing are extensive.
Research indicates that babies held in a sling cry 43 per cent less durin the day and 51 per cent less at night.
Owner of Babes in Arms, Anita Lincoln-Lomax, says through the presence of their mother’s rhythms, babies feel safe and secure.
“During the early stage of life, the familiarity of a mother’s breathing, warmth and heartbeat is comforting and calming for the newborn,” she says.
“Through holding a baby close by way of a sling or baby carrier, the transition from womb to outside world is far more gentle.”
As well as the emotional benefits for the baby, there are also practical benefits for the parent.

Trying to carry your baby in your arms while undertaking the multitude of activities which constitute our daily life is almost impossible.
Baby wearing allows your hands to be free to do other tasks, while baby is calm, comfortable and happy against your body.
Many baby carriers make life easy for mums by allowing them to breastfeed while in the sling, and are convenient for use in crowded places, shopping centres, public transport, theatres, restaurants or just doing the housework.
Despite the benefits, there are still risks associated with slings if they are not used correctly.
The ACCC recommends that parents and caregivers exercise caution when using infant slings.
At particular risk from these products are babies with a low birth weight, babies born prematurely, or babies with breathing issues.
The main concerns from the ACCC are that slings can become a suffocation hazard to a baby, and that a baby may fall from a sling.
In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles, and the sling’s fabric can press against their nose and mouth.
Injuries can also occur from the baby falling from the sling.
Slings that keep the baby in the curled position, bending the chin towards the chest can also restrict its ability to breathe.
The Infantino sling that has been recalled (pictured right) was a “bag sling” forcing the baby into the curled “C” position, however there are many other slings on the market in Australia that are far more suitable.
Baby Wearing International advises parents to keep safety and common sense in mind.
A correctly-used baby carrier’s positioning should mimic how you would hold a baby in your arms.
A normal in-arms position is fairly snug to your chest and somewhat close to your face (close enough to kiss) and not around your waist or hips.
Parents should ensure their baby is not curled up tightly in a chin-to-chest position; make sure their baby’s back is straight and supported; monitor their child at all times to make sure nothing is obstructing their face; and be aware of how your movements affect the baby avoiding bumping or jarring movements.
If the pouch is too deep, try using rolled up nappies as a booster under baby’s back (not under their head), or fold down the sides of the sling so that baby’s face is exposed and facing upwards.
Make sure you choose a carrier that is appropriate for your baby’s age and weight, as well as being suitable for your height and posture.
Anita Lincoln-Lomax says: “Parents may choose to carry their baby on the front during the early days to keep a close eye on their newborn. As the child grows in size and weight, parents might feel more comfortable with a back position. Certain baby carriers can convert from the front to the back, while others may choose to move from a sling to a more rigid style carrier.”
Whatever baby carrier you choose, be sure to learn how to use it properly and always keep safety in mind.
Midwife Robyn Thompson has been quoted as saying she did not believe slings were unsafe.
“I have been involved with hundreds of women who carry their baby in a sling. Modern times tend to say put the baby down, but the best place for a baby is to be with his/her mother and this is the way our ancestors carried their babies,” she said.
I whole-heartedly agree. When my daughter was a baby I carried her in a sling and a chest-to-chest carrier, and it felt both natural and comfortable for both of us. 
She was very content to sleep in the carrier while I vacuumed the house or hung out the washing. 
It certainly made life easier for me, and I now have three carriers ready to use for my next baby, including the Peanut Shell sling pictured at the top of this post (available at Babes in Arms).

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