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Mums and dads have been carrying their babies around with them for tens of thousands of years. Babies love and need to be carried a lot when they’re tiny and benefit from being in close physical contact with their parents.

When you carry your baby safely in a sling or carrier, they can listen to you, smell you and enjoy the soothing rhythm as you move around. Some people use the term ‘babywearing’ but this is not a new trend, it’s the way babies always have been: close to their parents.

Dads and baby slings

Using a baby sling offers dads a great bonding opportunity. Your baby will recognise their dad’s voice from the womb and will feel safe and secure held close to him, hearing his heartbeat and smelling his skin (if they’re carried high on his front). However, it’s important to check that your baby’s face is never covered up and is always visible, as slings can be dangerous when used wrongly.

Sling safety

It’s really important that you choose a safe sling that conforms to the British Safety Standard for Baby Carriers EN 13209-2-2005. This ensures that materials are fire-retardant and strong and the design is a safe way to carry a baby. Some small ‘artisan’ sling makers may have high-quality control and good fabrics but do not conform to the safety standard. Keep an eye on your baby while carrying them in a sling. Ideally they should be close to you so you can kiss the top of their head. Some handbag-style slings may not be safe, especially for premature babies. Your baby will not be able to tell you if they are in trouble.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has investigated some slings and manufacturers have had to recall some models. The CPSC recommends checking your baby’s face isn’t covered and you can always see it. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions carefully and make sure your baby is safe.

Do be aware of counterfeits available on the internet. For peace of mind, try to buy from recommended retailers or the company itself – be cautious if the sling is much cheaper than you would expect that product to be, as this could indicate that it is a fake, and might be unsafe to use.

Also, never buy a second hand sling as it’s important that you know it’s in perfect working order.

The Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers recommends that baby sling wearers follow the ‘TICKS’ rule for safe use:

  • Tight – so your baby is close to your body
  • In view – at all times
  • Close – enough to kiss
  • Keep chin off the chest – there should be a finger’s width between your baby’s chin and chest to keep their airway open for safe breathing
  • Supported back – ensure that the length of your baby’s back is supported

It’s also a good idea to wear safe shoes that you are unlikely to trip in, as babies can be hurt if you fall carrying them in a sling. It is not safe to have your baby in your sling when you are cooking.

Front-facing carriers

There has been some controversy over whether babies carried on a parent’s front, facing forwards, have appropriate leg and back support. There have been no scientific studies to assess this issue and there is no official guidance on this but it’s important that babies have very good head, neck and shoulder control before they are carried facing forwards. Babies should also spend lots of time in different positions throughout the day to aid physical development and play.

Baby sling comfort for you and your baby

Your baby sling should be comfortable for you, your partner and your baby so it’s worth investing in a well-designed product.

You’ll be more comfortable with a sling that has broad straps to hold your baby relatively high up your body and distribute their weight evenly. Some carriers have lumbar support too.

To keep your baby comfortable, they should be close to your body with the full length of their back supported (especially for newborn babies). Alternatively, many slings and baby carriers can be used in a cradle position for newborns so they can recline in the sling.

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