You can start baby wearing with a newborn! Baby wearing supports the idea of the fourth trimester (that the first three months of life are an extension of life in the womb). Baby wearing allows for lots of cosy snuggles keeping baby feeling warm, safe and secure. A stretchy sling is a fantastic newborn sling as it shapes perfectly around a baby while providing ideal support and is comfortable too. (If baby is born prematurely or with particular needs there should be a sling and position suitable too!)
2. Is it too late to start baby wearing my older baby/toddler
Not at all! Older babies and big kids like to be carried too and sometimes it's easier to carry! Whenever you come to begin your baby wearing journey it's all about finding the right sling and the right position thats suits you and baby. Sometimes older babies and bigger kids may fuss when they are put into a sling (even if they have been carried from birth). Give yourself and baby time to get used to it and usually he or she will settle when you get moving and talking.
3. Is it safe?
Slings and baby carriers are safe when worn correctly. There are some basic guidelines to follow which were written by the baby wearing community (http://babyslingsafety.co.uk) and each sling will also come with it's own instructions on safe baby wearing. A good rule with regards to activities you can do while baby wearing is if you wouldn't do it with a baby just in your arms then don't do it when baby wearing.
4. Will my baby get too hot or be too cold?
Layers! They are key to getting baby's temperature right in a sling or carrier. The other trick is to make sure you choose an appropriate carrier if you are going to be exposed to more extreme temperatures. For example, if you're going to be somewhere very hot then try something like a gauze wrap or the moby aria which has a removable panel to allow more airflow. We often recommend skin to skin baby wearing when it is especially hot as this helps to regulate baby's temperature (especially in young babies). When it is very cold you could chose something like wool based wrap or a half buckle with wrap straps for a bit of extra warmth. It is not recommended to use a baby snow suit in a sling as it is hard to adjust the sling or carrier to the optimum position and tightness. Lots of layers, leg warmers, hat and cosy socks. Remember too that your body heat will keep baby (and you) warm and each layer of a sling counts as a layer of clothing.
5. Whats the "best position"?
The ideal position for baby to be in when using a sling is with baby's knees are higher than their bottom and they sit in an "M" shape. This is especially important for very young babies as it allows for their hip joint to be in an optimum position for development. (keeps the ball of the hip in it's socket as it continues to form and grow in the first two years). To achieve this position the fabric or seat of the sling should be spread from the back of one knee to the other.
6. Can I forward face?
Normally we recommend parent facing slings and carriers for babies under six months. After this point we would recommend back carrying. There are a couple of reasons why we don't recommend forward facing on the front. The first reason is that there are only a few ergonomic slings which offer this as an option where baby is still in the "M" seated position while forward facing but even these slings instructions suggest that only 10/15 minutes for forward facing. This leads us to the second reason for not forward facing. Babies are easily overwhelmed and over tired. When facing out they have no place to hide when they are "done" seeing the world. In contrast when they are parent facing, hip carried or back carried they can hide against the wearer when they need a rest or break.
7. How long can I baby wear for?
As long as you are both comfortable. I carried my (then) two and a half year old on my back for the majority of the day up and down the water falls in Glenarrif NI in the summer. We stopped for food breaks and toilets breaks but otherwise we carried on. A well worn sling or carrier hold babies in a great position physically and it allows them to be involved in life experiences from adult height with lots of adult interaction which is brilliant for their social and emotional development too!
8. Is it going to damage my back?
We always say "baby wearing should never be uncomfortable". If it is try adjusting your sling, perhaps making it tighter or higher, or wearing it in a different position (moving from a front carry to a back carry if baby is big enough) or try a different sling. For those with existing back troubles try and choose a sling which offers support for the problem area. All of the slings we use and recommend are all those which put baby into the seated "M" position meaning that baby's weight is going through your core rather than hanging off your shoulders and so should put limited strain on your back. If you babywear from birth you will find that your back and shoulders become stronger gradually as your baby's weight increases.
9. When can I back carry?
We like to recommend back carrying when baby is about six months old or when baby is confidently sitting unaided and has excellent head control. This allows you to have the confidence that baby won't slump down in a sling when on your back and also means it is easier to put baby on your back as they have enough muscle strength of their own to assist you.
10. Is it expensive?
Yes and no. There are lots of budget options that are still great slings. Our favourite companies which offer great budget options are Lenny Lamb and Yaro. There are lots of "cheaper" options on amazon and eBay. If it looks too good to be true it probably is and may well be a fake of a more expensive sling. These could well be dangerous, be aware. You can spend lots and lots on individual slings or a "stash" of slings too. Those who baby wear exclusively may find that they need more than one type of sling depending on what it is they are doing that day.