Many times a day we see people ask online if their sling fits OK – is their sling fitted safely and correctly. However, it’s really quite hard to tell if you’re comfortable in your carrier from a photo even if it does allow some spotting of safety issues.
There are lots of factors which go into deciding if a sling is fitted well for you and your baby, and what this blog aims to do is give you the tools to understand what to look for to check that your sling is safe, fits your baby and is comfortable for you.
3 Steps to a Comfortable Sling Fit
If you’re using any sling or carrier there are 3 areas that you can check to see if your sling is fitted well.
- Child’s development and comfort
- Your comfort
The first and most important factor to consider with any sling use is safety. For a sling to be safe it must meet two main criteria
- Your baby can breathe
- Your baby is secure and cannot fall
Your baby needs to be supported in the carrier so that they can breathe, so their airway will remain open. You need to ensure that their head and spine are supported so their chin is off the hard part of their chest (check you can get a finger under their chin!) and so that they cannot slump down into the carrier. Your carrier will need to feel snug to hold your baby in this position and not slacken as you walk.
So that you can continue to monitor your baby’s breathing and to avoid any suffocation risks you need to keep your baby’s face uncovered and loose fabric away from them. Covering your baby’s face can also restrict their flow of oxygen and adds additional risk.
Secure in the Carrier
Your baby needs to feel secure in the carrier and be safe from falling out. You need to feel able to take your hands away, confident your little one is securely held.
Again, this means your sling needs to be snug, buckles need to be tightened, knots tight but also means you need to be aware of wear and tear on your sling!
Any sling or carrier which meets these criteria is safe to use as long as there are no other medical issues. Whilst other aspects of fitting might make a sling more comfortable or longer lasting for some people, the most important aspect is always safety and ANY Carrying is good carrying.
Baby’s Development and Comfort in a Sling
Whatever age and stage your baby is at, in an ideal world your sling will support their body in an appropriate way. The ages I give here are averages, each child will have their own timeline for reaching milestones and you can get personalised advice for individual circumstances from us or your local sling consultant.
There are 5 areas we check to see if a sling is appropriate for your child’s developmental stage and if it is providing optimal comfort.
Knee to Knee (and no further)
In babies who are not yet walking the sling will ideally support from knee to knee. This helps support the physiologically normal position of your baby. This position supports the natural curve of the spine, which in turn supports their head resting on you and maintaining an open airway.
You do need to ensure that it does not extend past their knees and that your baby can always bend their knee freely, as overextension can cause serious damage to developing joints. It is better for the sling to be too narrow over too wide. Your baby can widen their hips to a comfortable position, but they will not have the strength to narrow them against the pressure of a sling or carrier.
Once your baby is walking knee to knee can be less important unless you or your baby are uncomfortable. Often for comfort we would suggest that the sling supported at least 2/3 of the thigh.
The tilted pelvis also supports the physiologically normal position for your baby, and supports a position which is optimal for hip development. Tilting the pelvis looks like angling your baby’s crotch towards you so that their knees come up and their bottom drops down. This position is often referred to as the ‘M’ position where your baby’s knees are above their bottom. This helps maintain the natural curve of the spine, which in turn supports their head resting on your and maintaining an open airway.
In a sling this makes sure that your babies weight is supported on their bottom rather than their thighs or legs, which is often more comfortable for your baby.
In very young babies knees will be close together and very high compared to their bottom. As your baby grows their hips will open, knees will move apart and drop lower, creating a flatter shape.
Smooth on the Spine
Your sling needs to be smooth along your baby’s spine – no knots or bumps or lumps! There are lots of sensitive pressure points along your baby’s back which can trigger back arching, fussing and crying. It will also make it harder for you to maintain the curved spine position, which can make it harder to avoid slumping in the carrier. Some of these pressure points are especially sensitive in reflux babies.
If your sling has a pocket over your baby be aware of what you put in it!
Many babies like to chew their hands! They also use their hands to explore the world – touching themselves, you and whatever else they can reach! For this reason most babies are more comfortable when their hands are up near their face and many become distressed when their hands are down and trapped.
Height of the Carrier
Your carrier needs to support the top of your baby’s back at a height according to their age and stage of development. This support helps maintain an open airway and keeps your baby secure in the carrier. This is the lowest that we suggest the sling supports to ensure a low fall risk. The height of the carrier needs to be no higher than the bottom of your baby’s ears. A sling supporting the natural position of your baby won’t need support behind baby’s head.
In a newborn baby or baby with no head control the sling or carrier needs to support to the nape of the neck.
For babies with strong head control, on average from around 4 months, the sling needs to support up to the top of their shoulders.
Once your child is walking then the sling needs to support to the armpits.
If your sling is safe and also meets all the criteria to fit for your baby’s age and developmental stage then the sling is fitting well!
Sling Fit For Comfort
As with so many things in parenting, your comfort comes last when checking a sling! There are lots and lots of things which will contribute to your comfort, and all slings will fit people slightly differently. It would be impossible to list everything that can be tweaked!
However some common examples are
- Keep straps away from your neck to avoid the carrier pulling and digging in. Move them to the flat bony part of your shoulder
- Spread and smooth the sling across your back to avoid anything digging in
- Make sure buckles and knots are on comfortable places on your body, both when you’re standing and when you’re sitting if you’re moving positions
The perfect sling for carrying your baby is safe, appropriate for your baby’s age and stage and comfortable for you both to use! If you’d like some help finding the right sling for you and your baby, or help fitting a sling you already have why not get in touch?