Babywear with Care
Babywearing gives you a front-row seat when it comes to learning your infant’s cues for hunger, boredom or fatigue. It will provide you with some much-needed confidence in those early newborn days, and help your baby to feel secure. With a little practice, you’ll both benefit from safe babywearing. Here’s how to get started.
Bond all day.
Fussy babies often calm down when they’re held snugly—and experts say the benefits don’t stop there. “Skin-to-skin contact between an infant and her mother is now strongly recommended right after delivery to enhance attachment,” says Marilyn Bull, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. She says this important bonding can continue throughout the first year with the close, responsive environment that carriers and slings provide. Babywearing is also physically appealing to your little one: she loves to smell you and hear your voice, and she enjoys the gentle sway as you carry her.
Whether you pick a sling, a convertible carrier or a backpack carrier, pay attention to the directions on the label—especially height, weight and age requirements.
If your baby meets the requirements, your little one can ride in a sling or an inward-facing carrier as soon as he’s home from the hospital. Your infant is ready to face outward when he has enough head and neck control to look up, down and around easily, explains Andy Bernstein, M.D., a pediatrician in Illinois. “This occurs for most infants around 6 months, but for some it happens as early as 4 months.”
When your baby is in a sling, you’ll need to watch for any signs that she’s struggling to breathe, warns Bernstein. Since slings allow babies to curl up, a baby may be positioned in a way that doesn’t allow her to inhale deeply. “Use extra caution if your baby is under 4 months, doesn’t have very good head control, was born prematurely, is a twin or has a respiratory infection like a cold,” Bull adds.
No matter what kind of carrier you use, make sure your baby’s nose and mouth are uncovered, her chin is up and she’s not slouched or slumped over. Experts make a point to say babywearing is not for snoozing, since your child’s head could flop forward or to the side, increasing the chance of a breathing problem. If she falls asleep, the AAP recommends you transfer her from the carrier to her crib to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Take care not to bundle your baby so warmly that he gets overheated. If you notice he’s turning red, feels hot or is sweating, remove him from the carrier and take off an outer layer of clothing. When you return him to the carrier, make sure he’s not slouching and that his face is visible, which will give him a better view of the world.
Enlist an ally.
Before you’re adept at using a carrier, get help putting your baby in and taking him out. Once you’ve got the carrier on, let someone place your infant inside while you buckle him securely. Always wear sturdy, comfortable shoes, and don’t overload yourself with bags. “The greatest danger with a front carrier is losing your balance,” Bull says. Since you can’t see your baby when using a backpack carrier, “it’s wise to have another person along to check on the child,” Bernstein says.
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