Slings and baby carriers have been around for a very long time and many parents find them invaluable.
It is instinctual to keep your baby close to you. It helps attachment and bonding. We become in-tune with our baby’s bio-rhythms as they do us. Babies are instantly soothed as they sense our smell and listen to the heart rate that was so familiar in utero.
Baby wearing can help with establishing breast-feeding. Having your baby close may increase your milk supply and help with the let down reflex. If you're breast feeding the smell of your breast milk may soothe baby.
A very colicky or refluxy baby that is difficult to settle can often be instantly soothed with a sling.
They are great for that fourth trimester and the very tricky evenings and the witching hour.
Cortisol, the stress hormone is lowered in babies carried regularly in a sling. If you've got a refluxy baby then a sling can sometimes be the only way, till either the reflux settles or the medication kicks in, of having a 'normal' life and getting things like housework done.
Babies that cry a lot really benefit from a sling and research has shown that it can reduce crying by as much as 50%.
So what sort of sling is a good sling?
- Baby needs good support for the head and back.
- Be breathable with good clear air entry for the face
- Able to carry a small or bigger baby – adjustable
- Easy to manoeuvre baby in and out of
- Able to be rear facing. To encourage healthy hip development, babies should have the freedom to remain in the fetal position. Most forward facing carriers prevent this position, instead forcing the baby’s legs together and placing unnecessary pressure on the hips.
- Easy to assemble - some you need a PhD to work them out! I've regularly used them on night shift in the Special Care Nursery for very unsettled babies, and they can be a lifesaver
- Do they look/feel safe? There is currently no Australian Safety Standard in relation to baby slings/carriers (but there are many other baby products).
- A very popular sling in Australia is the Hugabub sling. Babies and mothers just love them. I've pointed my sister in this direction http://www.productreview.com.au/p/hug-a-bub.html
- The Baby Bjorn is another popular sling. I like it for older babies – over 3 months as by then, they have better head control. Very small and young babies seem to dangle in them, and the head is not as supported as it is in the Hugabub http://www.babybjorn.com.au/products/baby-carriers/
- Another good one is the ergo baby http://www.ergobaby.com.au
- http://memotoselfblogger.blogspot.com.au/2009/02/baby-wearing-history-of-our-travels-in.html (a blog on slings and babywearing)
- There was a very sad incident in South Australia where a baby was in a sling, and the mother was wearing a jumper over the top of it (the baby suffocated). It was a very young baby, and its air supply was cut off either because of the jumper or the neck wasn’t in a supported position for breathing. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/adelaide-baby-dies-while-carried-in-baby-sling/story-e6frf7l6-1226140461556
- Also, a while ago, I took a phone call at my GP's where I used to be a Practice Nurse, where a baby had not been strapped correctly into its sling and had fallen onto the pavement, hitting its head. Luckily the baby was OK.
Also, caution regarding head control and airways in young babies. The sling needs to support the baby's head in the correct position to maintain their airway.
- The sling needs to support hips in young babies. If your sling doesn't support the baby's hips appropriately, it can contribute to hip dysplasia (dislocated hips).
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