What you need to know about using a sling/carrier with a newborn baby

Using a sling/carrier with a newborn baby can be daunting. There is definitely a learning curve involved and you want to make sure your baby is safe. However, they can be such a lifesaver! A sling is, hands down, my top parenting tool for the early weeks.  I wish every new parent was issued a sling within the first week of birth because it really can make life with a newborn so much easier.

For the purposes of this article, I’ll use the terms sling and carrier interchangeably. 

A SLING/CARRIER:

  • Keeps your baby close
  • Promotes bonding
  • Helps you spot early feeding cues
  • Reduces crying
  • Helps with reflux symptoms
  • Helps with wind
  • Leaves you hands-free to tidy, do housework, walk the dog… 

Choosing a sling/carrier

It can be a bit daunting choosing a sling.  So here are my top three slings for newborns.  If you are buying a sling, I’d recommend going to a specific sling retailer, as they will have picked good quality slings that meet safety standards (I think Love To Be Natural has a fantastic range).  Alternatively, you can often pick up a second hand sling from one of the many dedicated sling selling groups on Facebook.  You may also be able to hire a sling from a local sling library.

Stretchy wrap

A woman is carrying her baby in a Hana baby wrap (stretchy wrap)
Source: Hana Baby

A stretchy wrap is always my starting point for newborns (I’ve got a video on how to use a stretchy wrap here). It’s a long piece of stretchy fabric that you wrap around your body which creates a pouch for your baby. It may seem complicated initially, but once you get the hang of it you can leave it on all day, much like a t-shirt. You can then just pop baby in and out. Expect a stretchy wrap to serve you well for the early months, but you’ll probably want to switch to a different sling once baby is a bit older.

Ring sling 

A woman is walking and smiling. She is carrying a baby in a teal patterned ring sling (Oscha brand).
Oscha slings

There are a couple of tricks to getting a ring sling on, but once you get the hang of them they are quick and easy to use.  They work really well with newborns, with nosy babies who want to look around, and will last you well into toddlerhood. They distribute a baby’s weight a bit unevenly as they only go over one shoulder, so if you have any back or joint issues, this may not work for you.

Soft structured carrier

A man is carrying a baby in a grey soft structured carrier (Brand Isara). His head is bent and he is kissing the baby's forehead.
Isara

Also known as soft structured carriers (SSC), buckle carriers have developed so much over the last few years. Many brands now safely accommodate newborns.  Some fantastic brands to investigate include Tula, Ergo and Isara.  They are pricy, but will work for your baby right into toddlerhood, have a good resale value, and are quick and easy to put on. 

Positioning your baby in a sling/carrier

A sling should go from one knee to the other, and the legs should be flexed in an “M” position, much like the graphic below.  Make sure you check out this video to see what I mean by the “pelvic tilt” as that can have a big impact on your baby’s position in the sling.

Why is this positioning important?

This position keeps your baby’s hips flexed in what is known as a “hip healthy” position. If a baby has hip dysplasia, this position will not make it worse (and may even help to resolve it.) This is also a much more comfortable position for your baby. Think sitting in a comfy wide based chair, rather than dangling off the edge of a bar stool! Narrow based carriers where their legs hang straight down are more uncomfortable for babies. Finally, this position where the pelvis is tilted towards you helps them sleep more safely! When their hips are positioned correctly, their head won’t flop back when they sleep, nor will they “face plant” your chest. Instead, they’ll lie with their chin touching your chest and their nose will be free. 

Safety

It’s always worth bearing in mind the safety aspect of slings, so here are two good infographics about keeping babies safe. The basic principles are:

  • Remember that a pelvic tilt will help to protect your baby’s airway and head position. They should always have a clear airway. 
  • The sling should be snug across their back so they can’t slump down in the sling.
  • Their face should be on the bony flat part of your chest, not between squishy breasts. 

The following infographics give you the necessary pointers to make sure your baby stays safe. 

Do you need some support?

If you’re struggling in the early days, I have a fantastic support package I offer new parents.  We can look at feeding (breast or bottle), sleep, crying, reflux, colic, as well as look at ways of making life easier for you in those early days, including slings! If you need some one to one support with using a sling/carrier with your newborn baby, then we can incorporate that into the support package. You can also book a free 15 minute call to discuss concerns you’re having.

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