What the three most common mistakes parents make when using baby slings or carriers?
Expert: Laurel McCarthy, creator of www.carrymeaway.com and baby-wearer.
1. Giving Up Too Easily
Many people get a carrier as a shower gift. They may try it once or twice and it doesn’t feel comfortable for them or they feel like the baby’s not comfortable in it, so they give up and think, “I’m just not a sling person.” When moms feel this way it’s usually because they were using the carrier incorrectly or they didn’t spend a little time practicing with the carrier before putting the baby in it. When you get a carrier, you should take time to read the instructions. It sounds basic, but most people don’t do it. It can also help to practice first with a doll or stuffed animal. That way you feel confident with what you’re doing before you put the baby in and the baby starts crying and you feel panicked. A lot of people also make the mistake of starting out using a cradle carry, where the baby is low and across the stomach. That’s a carry that most babies don’t like and it’s not the safest option either. Most babies prefer a tummy-to-tummy carry, meaning that they’re upright with their head on your chest. So, try different positions and don’t just assume that this horizontal, flat carry will be the best. A good bet is to try a position that mimics how you usually hold your baby. Babies also need time to get used to a sling. They really like gentle motion, so when you put the baby in the carrier, walk around or sway. That can help you both adjust.
2. Size Matters
The second mistake that I often see is that people buy a carrier that’s too big or wear an adjustable carrier too loosely. That is almost universally the problem when people tell me that a carrier isn’t working for them. Buying a carrier is not like buying a T-shirt, when if you’re not sure that a medium is going to fit you, you just get the large. With carriers, you really need to get one that fits. When you wear a carrier too loosely, the baby doesn’t feel secure. It’s not safe. When a baby is in a carrier, he should feel as snug as if you were holding him. An oversized carrier is also ergonomically bad for your body. A properly used carrier should distribute the weight across your back. You should be using your core muscle to hold the weight. If a carrier is pulling on your neck and shoulders, you’re either using it wrong or it’s the wrong size. If you’re not sure about this, find a baby-wearing group in your area and ask someone there for help. You can also carrymeaway.com.
3. Not Looking Beyond Björn
The Baby Björn-style carrier is probably the best-known and most available type. It serves a lot of parents really well, but it has its limitations. First of all, the Baby Björn is only for infants up to fifteen pounds or so, which gives people the impression that carrying is for really small babies. However, there are many carriers that can be used from newborn to toddler. I carry my four-year-old still and with the pouch I have. It’s very comfortable. Also, the Baby Björn is only a front carrier. You can wear the baby facing out or in, but you can’t do any other types of carries, like back or side. The other thing about that type of carrier is that they’re not very snuggly. A baby’s legs are spread apart, which most newborns do not like, and they’re more strapped to you than snuggled. Different carriers are good for different things. The Björn is great if you want to be active, go hiking, walk around a city, but a ring carrier or a sling is better if you’re looking to soothe or snuggle. There are a variety of carriers out there that can do more and can last you longer, so it’s good to think about what you will use the carrier for, and buy the one best suited to that purpose.
As told to Lindsay Armstrong