I wore my children from the time they were born until they were almost 3 years old. I loved the ease and convenience of strapping them in and going about my day, and while I loved the stroller for some things — like mall trips and amusement parks — in most cases wearing my baby was just easier. Worry wart that I am, I researched the heck out of babywearing before I ever purchased my first carrier. I wanted to make sure I did it safely, and it turns out, the biggest babywearing mistakes are a lot less obvious than what you're probably imagining.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has evaluated myriad types of slings, mei tais, and carriers to ensure that they're safe for the public to use. However, that level of perceived safety comes with the caveat that parents take the time to learn how to properly wear each individual unit that they own, and take measures to make sure their babies are properly positioned and supervised when cozying in the carrier. The onus of protecting the child ultimately lies with the parent, and the rules are not always so well defined. Thankfully, there are abundant resources available to educate parents how to safely wear your little ones.
1. They're Too Scrunched
Babywearing International, a non-profit company dedicated to the practice of babywearing and promoting its benefits as well as assuring its safety, lists a baby's position as the number one mistake parents make. They wrote that parents should "make sure your child’s airway remains open at all times while babywearing. The best way to do this is to keep him or her in an upright position, high enough on your body to monitor breathing and ensure that her chin is off her chest." You may relax their position to nurse, but put them back upright afterwards.
2. You Can't See Their Face
According to Baby Gear Lab, you need to be able to see their face the entire time they're being held in the carrier. That way you can easily make sure that nothing is blocking their airway, and that their chin isn't so close to their chest that they're not getting adequate oxygen.
3. The Wrap Is Too Loose
A firm wrap is important for maintaining proper posture. It was actually the first thing I learned about wrapping babies when my son was born. My grandmother-in-law was helping me get him into his carrier and I honestly thought she was tying it too tightly, but she was right. According to Babywearing International, a firm wrap helps make sure your baby doesn't slip out of position as they move during the day.
4. You Are Too Tired To Execute The Best Judgement
The CPSC stresses that you need to be able to evaluate situations quickly and exercise common sense when using a baby carrier. This is really hard to do if you're so exhausted that you could say, miss a step walking down the stairs, or pouring coffee. You're not always going to be full of vim and vigor when you're carrying your baby, but you need to be awake enough that your faculties aren't compromised.
5. You're Using The Wrong Size
The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote that one of the biggest babywearing mistakes parents make is that they're wearing the wrong size carrier for their baby. "Be sure to choose an appropriate carrier for your baby’s development and motor abilities. Avoid using a carrier that curls your baby’s body into a 'C' shape or where your baby’s head drops forward to a chin-to-chest position; this position can pinch off your baby’s windpipe," the website noted.
6. Your Baby's Hips Aren't Free & Easy
The International Hip Dysplasia Institute promoted the usage of carriers that don't allow baby's legs to dangle, but instead permit them to sit wide in the natural, "frog leg" position. Babies' legs are designed to fall into a squat position, and this is so their hips stay loose and pliant throughout childhood. Plus, if you're a man carrying your child, if their legs are around your hips, it's harder for them to kick you in the family jewels. Just saying.
After that, it's just a manner of finding one that fits your budget and that you find comfortable. It might take a few tests, and I encourage you to try them out in the store with a doll to get the feel of them first. Otherwise, strap in that baby and get on with your life.