By Karen Breslauer, Australian Competitions & Consumer Commission

There is no sweeter place for a baby than the embrace of a loved one. Babywearing, or holding your baby with the aide of a carrier, enables caregivers to keep their little ones close with ease.

Babywearing is a parenting tool that spans across cultures and has been around for generations. The universal appeal of babywearing stems from the numerous functional and emotional benefits it gives to both caregiver and baby.

Having been in utero for nine months, the feeling of being held and rocked is naturally soothing to babies. Worn babies can have their cues recognised and needs met quicker and often results in a more settled baby and more confident caregiver. This also helps promote a close bond between caregiver and baby. Wearing your baby bolsters their engagement with the world around them, helping to promote language and social development, but ultimately, baby wearing makes life with a baby easier, which makes for a more relaxed family as a whole.

It is important to remember a few key safety points when baby wearing and the TICKS guidelines are the best way to ensure safe babywearing. These guidelines are for front carries, which is recommended for people new to babywearing, but the guidelines for back carries are quite similar.  

TICKS ensure optimal positioning for your baby, supporting baby’s back is not only safest for baby, but it also encourages healthy spine development and healthy hip development is aided by positioning baby’s legs in a ‘M’ shape, with their knees above their bottom but not above their navel.  A baby’s legs should not ‘dangle’ in a carrier. Of course, optimal positioning is the ideal but it is something that takes a bit of practice to obtain, that’s okay. With the TICKS guidelines, and common sense, both caregiver and baby can stay safe. 

Common sense is a must, never partake in any behavior whilst babywearing that you wouldn’t do whilst holding a baby in your arms.  Babywearing changes the wearer’s centre of gravity, so care must be taken when navigating uneven terrain. Babies are incredibly curious and will grasp anything of interest within reach from quite early on so it is important to be aware of the potential dangers in your environment when wearing your baby, such as when working in the kitchen.

There are a variety of choices of carriers available to purchase for babywearing, from soft structured buckle carriers, to mei tais, to ring slings and woven wraps. Knowledge is key to comfortable, safe babywearing, so a great place to start when deciding what carrier might suit you and your baby best is your local baby wearing group.  Simply search your locality and ‘baby wearers’ on the internet to find them. 

The babywearing community is a great source of information and assistance and is very supportive of new wearers. Your local group will likely run sling meets, which are a great way to try a range of carriers, chat with like minded caregivers and get in-person help to ensure your babywearing journey starts off successfully.

Regularly check the baby

Babies can be in difficulty without making a noise or movement. Take the baby out of the sling or pouch immediately if you observe these signs:

  • Face covered or chin tucked in
  • Head turned to the side
  • Curled into a ‘C’ position
  • Grunting, wheezing, whistling breaths
  • Laboured or rapid breathing
  • A dusky or ‘blue’ tinge on the baby’s skin
  • Fussiness’, restlessness or squirming.

TICKS checklist

Remember and follow the TICKS rules:

  • T— tight: Slings should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you
  • I— in view at all times: You should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply glancing down
  • C— close enough to kiss: By tipping your head forward you should be able to kiss your baby on the head
  • K— keep chin off the chest: A baby should never be curled so that their chin is forced onto their chest as this can restrict their breathing
  • S— supported back: The baby’s back should be supported in a natural position so their tummy and chest are against you

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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