Babywearing Safety

The CARRY Rule of Hand

Babywearing is as old as humanity itself. From bark to basic fabrics, parents across all ages and cultures have developed unique ways of carrying their children out of necessity. Keeping a baby close not only kept them warm and safe from predators, but freed a new parents’ hands to participate in everyday chores. In order to simply survive, new parents ensured the supply of life’s necessities were not compromised by the arrival of the tribe’s newest member.

Babywearing offers both functional and emotional benefits. Not only is it convenient, but is also strengthens the bond between caregivers and the child, and can help babies to settle and sleep deeply. Modern scientists have recently been able to quantify the many benefits of babywearing, something our foremothers and fathers knew instinctively for many millennia. Babywearing has been proven to be a useful parenting tool from supporting reflux and hip dysplasia, to preventing flat head syndrome and assisting with healthy emotional attachment.

To make safe babywearing practices easy to remember, Babes in Arms have developed the ‘Rule of Hand’. Each finger represents a different babywearing safety tip. By simply learning these five tips, reinforced each time you glance at your hand, you will learn to trust your instincts and enjoy the closeness of your babe. As a parent, you are ultimately responsible for the safety of you baby, but these tips you will give you confidence about wearing your baby, and help you to recognise safe babywearing practices.

CARRY babywearing hand

CAREFUL  If you wouldn’t do an activity whilst pregnant, don’t do it while wearing your baby.Like being pregnant, babywearing can tilt your centre of gravity and not allow you to see your feet much. Avoid climbing ladders, horse riding, parasailing, and any other risky sport that could lead to a fall. Unlike being inside your womb where the baby is protected somewhat, the carried baby does not have inbuilt protection surrounding them. Be mindful of what your baby can reach. Babywearing in the kitchen? Watch the hot pot on the stove or the kitchen knife when you turn to grab something else.

AIRFLOW  You should always be able to easily see your baby’s face without opening the fabric. Ensure that your baby’s chin is not pressed against his/her chest to allow easy breathing. To check, simply slip two fingers under baby’s chin to ensure that breathing is not hindered which could otherwise lead to ‘positional asphyxia’. This can occur in any device, including some prams and car seats that allow the head to flop forward thereby blocking small airways, so be vigilant.

RIDE HIGH Keep the baby high and tight against your chest, not low on your hips. This will also afford you a good line of sight to monitor your baby’s needs and wellbeing. A sling or carrier should mimic holding baby in your arms, or in the instance of back carry, like a piggy back. You would find it tiring carrying baby in your arms lower than your belly button, likewise a sling that carries your baby low will quickly prove sore on your shoulders and back.

RIGHT FIT Make sure that you read your sling or carrier’s instruction booklet and/or watch the videos (if available) so you can ensure the carrier is the right fit for your body shape and the age/weight of your baby. When trying a new carry position, test it with a doll or teddy the first few times, with your partner to spot check you. Back carry positions are recommended to learn while kneeling in the middle of your bed.

YOUR INSTINCT You are the parent, trust your instinct. Try to mimic with the carrier or sling, the way you would naturally hold your baby with your arms. You should always be able to make eye contact with your baby. This will allow you to determine whether baby is safe, happy and content. A cursory glance will allow you to quickly assess if their chin is up and that they are comfortable. Using the back carry position? Invest in a rear view mirror for peace of mind.

Knowledge is the key to confidence. Remember to research the sling or carrier you would like to use with your baby; purchase it from a reputable stockist, and seek out help when you need it – the babywearing community is very supportive and willing to share helpful tips.

Further babywearing safety information is available here:

Sling Safety

This article has been produced by Babes in Arms.  It is intended to provide general information in summary form on the safe use of baby carriers.  It does not replace any instructions provided by the manufacturer.  Babes in Arms and the Autralian Breastfeeding Associatiion does not accept liability for any death or injury or damage to property resulting from reliance on this article.