Baby Sling Safety

Baby Slings – What are they and Are they Safe?

What is a Baby Sling?

A baby sling is the type of baby carrier that straps to one shoulder. Often made from soft fabric, these carriers are best suited to carry babies who are only a few months old. Slings have been around for years with different communities using them in different forms. Before the modern-day version, a baby sling was just a piece of cloth that a parent wore over the shoulder to support a baby. Today, you can buy a properly made sling from the like of Oscha slings who provide ethical baby slings. Baby slings come in different types and choosing the one that’s safe, comfortable and usable is essential.

What are the Benefits of Using a Baby Sling?

Baby in a sling with mum

Baby slings have their advantages, some noticeable and others not so significant. Apart from freeing your hands to attend to other tasks, wearing a baby sling offers several other benefits. The carrier keeps the baby close to you for extended periods something that many parents claim helps with bonding. The comfort and sense of security a sling provides is also remarkable, and any parent who has used one will tell you how easily a child dozes off.

Carrying your baby in a sling can aid its development. You’re able to talk to them continually and more closely. It results in the child learning language and picking useful non-verbal quickly. When it comes to cost, a sling offers an affordable way to carry your baby around. It’s also more convenient to use, especially when outdoors and in crowded places. Healthwise, carrying a baby in a sling can be a form of body workout but which is only useful if you walk long distances. 

Are There Any Risks Parents Should Take into Consideration?

Unfortunately, yes. Despite the many benefits, a baby sling risks your baby in various ways. You could trip and fall, or the dangling legs of the child get caught in something. There have been reports of children who dropped off these carriers while the wearer was strapping or unstrapping them. Accidents have also been caused by parents who allowed a carrier to become too loose and the baby to slip off to the ground. These falls are often not fatal, though, with most of them only resulting in injuries.

The worst of sling accidents are those that involve a baby suffocating due to a poor position. One of the most dangerous sling positions is when the baby slumps into a C shape, with the head on the chest. It results in their airway closing and within no time. The other is when a child tightly presses against the body of the wearer or the sling’s fabric, blocking the nose and mouth openings.

It’s good to note that babies who are only a few months old cannot adjust position on their own, plus their neck muscles are too weak to keep their heads up by themselves. They will stay in whatever angle they’re in until the sling wearer notices it and moves them to prevent suffocation. As a parent or person babysitting a child, it’s crucial that you learn the precautions to take when wearing a carrier.

How to keep your baby safe while using a baby sling?

Baby sling safety involves many measures both during the wearing of the carrier and when moving around with the child strapped on your back or front. While there are many precautions that a sling wearer is supposed to take, the most important involve ensuring the baby’s airways are not restricted and that their position is upright. The mouth and nose should not be covered by your body or the fabric of the sling, and the neck shouldn’t bend to tilt the head forward. The Sling Consortium of the UK best summarises baby sling safety measures in an acronym that spells the word T.I.C.K.S. Here is a breakdown of the rules.

Tight – ensure the carrier is tight enough, the baby close to you, in an upright position and with the head adequately supported. A loose sling can cause the baby to curl into the carrier and the head to fall into an awkward position. That can quickly increase the risk of blocked airways.

In View– the baby should not be hidden behind the sling’s fabric. You need to monitor the position all the time, and you should be able to do so at once without having to lift anything to view them. By continually glancing down at the baby, you can ensure this precaution is adhered to.

Close enough – this means the baby should always be within reach. According to the guideline, if you cannot kiss the child’s head if you lower your chin, that position isn’t safe. Pull them up in the sling to a position that enables you to do so with ease.

Keep chin away from the chest – the chest’ referred to here is the baby’s. Never let their head to bend as to let the chin rest on their chest; it’s one of the most dangerous situations. Because the baby is too young and weak to lift themselves, the resulting blockage of the air passageways can go unnoticed by you since the baby cannot move on the own. To avoid that, ensure the child’s chin is always facing upward.

Supported backside– the sling should offer comfortable support to the baby’s back and throughout the time you wear it. That means the back needs to be in its natural position always, with no bending, and the baby’s tummy close to your body. 

Can You Breastfeed in a Sling?

You can, as long as you feel comfortable to do so. It takes some amount of practice, though, before you can do it without straining or subjecting the baby to awkward positioning. However, not all slings allow for safe breastfeeding. Some manufacturers advise against it for their slings, and it’s important to check that when buying one. Always follow the instructions of the manufacturer as they know better the reasons for the restriction.

Should you choose to breastfeed in a sling, ensure that you’re in a comfortable and safe position. Ensure that for the baby, too, and that they can breathe without obstruction. Offer adequate support to the child to make their position natural. Once you’re through, hold the baby in a free position, away from your body and the sling’s fabric. Allow them to breathe freely for a moment. To move around after the breastfeeding session, reposition the baby in the sling following the sling safety tips outlined above.