By Yvette O’Dowd
Babywearing – carrying your baby or toddler hands-free in everything from a simple piece of fabric to a purpose-designed product – is popular.
Not only do busy parents need to do a million things at once (or so it seems!) but they recognise the need for close connections to bond with and soothe their child.
You don’t need to practice attachment parenting or call yourself a “babywearer” to appreciate their use.
Working out what is safe and comfortable from the range of products can be daunting, let alone working out which will best suit your lifestyle, budget and taste.
So, let’s get started and look at the basic styles available for parents who are choosing a baby carrier or sling:
#1: STRETCHY WRAPS
Designed to snuggle your newborn against your body, these strips of stretchy fabric look complex at first but the technique to wear them is simple once you learn how. Best suited to younger babies (3-8kg), they are not suitable for wearing on your back.
#2: WOVEN WRAPS
Coming in as many colours, patterns and textures as you can imagine, these carriers also come in varying combinations of natural fibres, including cotton, hemp, linen, bamboo, wool and silk. Designed for use from newborn to toddler on both the front and back, the techniques used to tie them range from simple to complex and – again – once you learn how, are quick and easy to do. It is recommended that back-wearing is only used by experienced wearers after using front-wrapping techniques.
#3: RING SLINGS
Often known for their bright rainbow stripes, ring slings are also available in many other designs. Suitable from newborn to toddler, they are a quick option for short periods of wearing and are terrific for wearing a child who can’t decide if they want to be up or down. The simple technique to wear them is easy to learn and use.
#4: MEI DAIS
Originally from China, this traditional design has been popular in Australia since the 1960s and is used around the world. The inspiration for the soft-structured carrier, the simple design has straps which tie around the waist and over the shoulders. Although that can seem complicated, they are simple to use.
#5: SOFT-STRUCTURED CARRIERS (SSCS)
Designed to meet the needs of modern parents, these wide-based carriers support babies hips in the recommended M position and can be used from birth to toddlers. Suitable for front, hip and back carrying Adjustable straps allow personal fitting and quick use.
#6: FOUR WAY CARRIERS – FORWARD FACING
Many parents are attracted to baby carriers which allow babies to face-forward, away from the parent. Forward-facing is one way to include them and give them a wider view. Generally, only short-periods of facing out are recommended, as babies can quickly become over-stimulated or over-whelmed and have no way to make eye contact with the adult to communicate their need to have a break.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!
With many carriers only available online and those in-store not always available to try on, it can be hard to work out which will fit you and your baby best. South Eastern Babywearing Group meet regularly at The Hungry Peacock in Tyabb and the Frankston North Community Centre. With a collection of carriers for you to try, experienced volunteers can help you choose an option which is safe and comfortable. You can meet other parents and see a range of carriers and slings in use with children from newborn to pre-school. And we can troubleshoot any challenges you are finding with your own carrier.
SAFETY IS CRUCIAL
You may have seen recent news reports about dangers associated with some styles of baby carriers. If you are not sure about a product you have bought or been gifted, do not use it. Bring it to any of our meetings or contact us online.
To help parents learn about safe baby carriers and slings, Kidsafe SA have released a new video, which you can view by joining our Facebook Group www.facebook.com/groups/SouthEasternBabywearing or visit www.facebook.com/KidsafeSA .
Used correctly, most baby carriers are safe and comfortable for both adult and child.
Yvette O’Dowd is not your typical grandmother! This mother of three and Granny of two has been a breastfeeding counsellor for more than 25 years.
In 2014, Yvette established the Southern Natural Parenting Network, incorporating South Eastern Babywearing Group. With 8000 members world-wide, the group supports parents interested in breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, baby-led weaning and modern cloth nappies – and other aspects of gentle, natural parenting. Yvette has lived in Frankston for 45 years.