For many parents the most common question when considering using a sling is " is my baby safe?"
But what does SAFE mean? there's actually quite a lot to break down to cover this.. lets start with TICKS
TICKS is a fabulous acronym designed by the UK Sling consortium. It it widely
used by babwearing professionals because its quite literally a tick sheet that you can learn and use each time you place your baby in a sling. The right hand image is the most common infographic handed out.
Let's break down the steps further... T stands for TIGHT! now this is a great starting point because quite often new parents are surprised at how tight their slings need to be - this in itself can cause alarm and safety worries. Often parents will worry that their baby feels squashed or restricted - but tight means supported and secure which in turn means safe! I often find the most common error with stretchy wraps particularly is having the whole thing on too loose, then parents will tell me they are having back pain and feeling like the need to keep a hand across baby. This is pretty much always fixed with tightening the whole carrier up. You shouldn't see loose areas or slack material on any sling type.
I stands for IN VIEW. You should ALWAYS be able to clearly and see your baby's face, nose and chin... This sounds like a fairly obvious one but we often see parents worried about their babies in certain weather conditions. It could be that is very windy and cold or it could be the opposite that its very warm and sunny - in both circumstances it may well be tempting to cover baby's face to protect them from the elements by either using the sling or another piece of material but having baby in view so we can be checking on them is crucial! never be tempted to cover baby's face regardless of the weather - a clear airway is vital for safe babywearing
C stands for close enough to kiss. This one is a great guide to finding the perfect height to
carry your baby! too high and baby will feel like they are in your chin, giving you little to no
view to to be able to check on them. Too low and this indicating a loose unsupportive carrier- also making checking on baby difficult. So where is the perfect position? If you can gently bend your head down and easily kiss your baby then this is the perfect place! Someone commented recently on my video tutorials and demos that I am always kissing my demo dollies - and of course this is to show TICKS in action but actually I do it without even realising! its from years of carrying my own babies and going through 'TICKS' in my head I would always finish off wrapping with a little kiss on the forehead.
K stands for KEEP CHIN OFF CHEST - your baby should always be able to move their head back and should never appear slumped or curled whilst in the carrier. you should be able to see an index finger sized space between their chin and chest. This is important as it shows a free and open airway. Luckily most slings on the market nowadays promote upright positions only and this is the safest and best way to achieve this. Where I worry is when I see a lot of bag style slings still available on the market - I'll write more about these and why they are concerning below.
S stands for SUPPORTED BACK - a wrap or carrier should be high enough up the baby's back that is supports them but equally not so high that is covers their face. Sounds confusing does it?! but it doesn't have to be - Here's a great easy to break down diagram. Babies who can sit independently have far stronger head and neck muscles so you can afford to have the carrier slightly lower down the back - this is important because many babies start to want their hands and arms out at this age and parents worry that its not safe. It absolutely is safe!
Okay so we've looked at TICKS in detail - and hopefully we are feeling a bit more confident that our babies are safe. But what else do we need to consider? I mentioned it a little above but what about the type and brand of sling you are using? We live in a world where we can buy anything at our fingertips in just a few clicks and baby carriers are no different. You can decide you're going to give babywearing a go and have something arrive on your doorstep next day using popular auction style sites such as Amazon and Ebay ... But there's a lot of downsides to using these websites and similar websites. They are often showing you products from independent sellers from across the world. And unfortunately not all of these are from well made, reputable and safe sellers. What's rather more alarming is that often sellers will use the images from reputable brands to sell theirs - when in fact it is not this carrier you are receiving. I have unfortunately seen it all too often - a parent uses these sites to order a wrap, what arrives is a long piece of material similar in thickness and support of a cheap bedsheet. I cannot be certain; but I would place my bets on the fact that these items have not been under any safety tests for carrying weights, flame resistance , or the dyes used have not been approved for being safe for babies to suck on (yes babies do like to suck on slings!)
What's even more alarming is the many many fake and copies I have come across. Parents believing that they are purchasing a genuine brand, the sling arriving and it being branded in the same logo, same box etc as the one you see on the shelves but its usually half the price. Alarms bell should ring if its half the price!! I'm afraid to say these
fakes and badly made carriers are not rare; ask any babywearing consultant or sling librarian and we've all seen them - regularly! On the right you can see one example of a ringsling bought on ebay by a Mumaroo customer (who gladly exchanged for one of our ring-slings as soon as she had seen and tried the diffrence) It was almost see through! The rings also had an open join. Safe ring-slings will never have a join or welded area at all the rings will be a continuous aluminum loop.
Another sling I see often on these websites is what we refer to as a bag type sling. This style has been banned for sale in the UK due to the risks associated with encouraging babies chin onto chest but unfortunately we see them available widely still online.
So my advice is always to avoid these website completely. Speak to a babywearing professional - or go to the brands website and they will have a link to their approve stockists. Not only are you then confident in the knowledge that your money is being spent on a product that has undergone strict safety tests and passed certain tests but also you have access to the knowledge and support of a professional should you have any concerns or questions once you receive your product.
Ok so we've studied TICKS in detail... we know not to use auction sites... anything else?
There's always other aspects to think about when we think about safety and these can be very specific to the wearer and their child. For example - one question you will always be asked before booking a one to one is if either of you have any medical conditions... this is so important to disclose even if you think it may be irrelevant because we can tailor the session to you and ensure you are both safe. I have worked with parents and babies with epilepsy, fibromyalgia, cerebal palsy , downs syndrome, mobility issues, PTSD, anxiety, depression, vision or hearing impairments and many more... all can safely babywear! but they may require specialist adaptations or there may be the odd thing we avoid.
So if you do have a medical condition it is always a god idea to book an appointment to discuss it in detail.
Sometimes babywearing can seem so daunting and scary that you can think its not for you... you'd be surprised how many people start my sessions by saying 'I'm never going to be able to do this!" and leave saying "actually that wasn't too difficult was it?" it's truly wonderful to witness a parent getting more confident right before your eyes. I'm always conscious when writing an article on safety that its a lot to take in and you can read things like 'restricted airway' and want to run a mile - so I'd like to finish this by saying that in my own personal view - babywearing is the SAFEST place for your baby to be, snuggled up onto parents chest where you can be constantly but effortlessly checking on babe, whilst also bonding and enjoying the lovely experience. If you're ever unsure. ASK! whether its me or another babywearing consultant we will always be happy to discuss safety, we'd rather you ask a million times than be stuck and unsure.