Babywearing has numerous advantages. Experts say it can help make breastfeeding easier, reduce crying, and build a better bond between you and your baby, all while leaving you (mostly) hands-free to do other things. If you choose to babywear in a wrap, here's how to keep your baby safe.
1. Do your research.
Check out several wraps before you purchase one. Visit a store that carries wraps and try out a few. Or you could look for a babywearing group in your community so you can learn more about wraps (and other types of carriers) and try several on, says Kathy Low, a babywearing educator and vice president of the board of directors for Babywearing International. Once you've narrowed down your choices, confirm that your baby's age, height, and weight meet the product guidelines, look for online safety reviews, and make sure the CPSC hasn't recalled the wrap. Read the instruction manual, which you can find in the packaging material or on the manufacturer's website, and watch any videos for tips on wearing the wrap.
2. Size matters.
One thing that can be confusing about wraps is they come in different sizes. The sizes aren't based on the size of the baby; it's sized for the type of carry you want to do, Low says. Typically, the sizing goes from size 2 to size 9, with two being shorter and nine being extremely long.
3. Spend time on the floor.
Don't immediately rush to wear your baby once you have your wrap. It's important to spend some time putting it on and taking it off before you use the wrap with your baby, says Danelle Fisher, M.D., FAAP, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. You can use a teddy bear, a weighted doll, or a bag of rice to practice. Have a spotter available to assist you, but also do some solo work since there will be times when you need to get your baby in and out of the wrap by yourself. Once you've learned to use the wrap, practice with your baby. Make sure your spotter is there to give you a hand. And take your practice down low. You want to sit on the floor on a soft surface (like carpet), take your time and perform the actions over and over again before you attempt to stand and practice with your baby, Dr. Fisher says.
4. Position your baby properly.
Wraps can be worn in many positions, some of which include tummy to tummy with baby seated upright, a cradle carry (this is more like a reclined seating position rather than baby lying horizontally), and a hip carry (for older babies who have control of their heads and necks). Regardless of which position you choose to carry your baby, Low says to make sure you can see your baby's face at all times. If his chin is tucked into his chest or his face is pressed against the wrap or your body, it can lead to suffocation. So check on your baby often to make sure his airway isn't blocked. As for his lower half, his back should be well supported and his knees should be higher than his bum. Dr. Fisher recommends taking your child out of the wrap every couple of hours or so to give him a break.
5. Reposition after breastfeeding.
If you breastfeed your baby while she's in the wrap, don't forget to put her back in the face-up position when she's finished nursing. And make sure your body or the wrap aren't covering or pressed against her face.
6. Dress smart for the weather.
During the winter, you can place your baby in the wrap and use a roomy coat over both of you, Low says. A coat that's a size or two bigger than you normally wear, a maternity or babywearing coat, or a baby carrier cover should work. If you use a coat, zip it up only halfway so you can still see your baby's face. Never cover his head with a blanket because, no matter how thin, it can obstruct his breathing.
In hot weather, Low recommends using a wrap made of breathable fabric. Dress both you and your baby in clothing that is light and airy, and try to stay in the shade as much as possible (it doesn't hurt to pull out the umbrella). And don't forget the fluids. Make sure you and your baby stay well hydrated.
7. Watch yourself.
Your center of gravity changes when you're wearing your baby, which can increase your chances of falling, so it's important to be careful, Dr. Fisher says. She says to watch out for trip hazards, and be cautious and alert when on stairs or walking on slippery surfaces. When you need to pick something up, bend at your knees and support your baby with one or both hands. And be careful not to bump your baby against door frames or corners. Low advises checking your wrap often to make sure there are no holes, rips, or other damages. In addition, follow some basic safety tips. Never cook or drink hot beverages when you're carrying your baby; don't babywear in a moving vehicle; and skip any activities that increase your baby's risk of falling (like running or bicycling). Taking these steps will make babywearing more enjoyable (and safe) for your little one.