Just like any baby item, ring slings need to be used properly and safely. I cannot imagine caring for a newborn and NOT using a ring sling but you need to use it safely, especially with a newborn. Ring Slings are an incredibly invaluable resource during those first few weeks breastfeeding, bonding, venturing out and beyond! I want to make sure that my slingin' moms and dads are aware of the safest ways to wear a newborn in a baby carrier.
Because newborns do not have proper head control, there are two issues that can pose a risk to them while being worn in ANY type of baby carrier, including carseats.
1. A carrier's fabric can press against an infant’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and rapidly suffocating a baby within a minute or two.
2. Incorrectly using a carrier can cause baby to be curled up in a "C" position, bending the chin toward the chest, causing the airways to be restricted and limiting the oxygen supply.
These two issues are completely avoidable by using an adjustable ring sling, like a SweetPea Ring Sling. Below you will find instructions on how to properly carry an infant in a ring sling, using the Cradle Hold and the Heart to Heart Carry.
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Certain types of carriers are more likely to put your newborn at risk than others. Deep pouch carriers, like the one shown on the right, force your baby into that curled up "C" position that can restrict an infant's breathing. This curled up position is completely avoidable with a ring sling. The fabric on this type of carrier is thick and padded. There is elastic on the rails of the carrier that can restrict the infant's wearer's view of the baby's face and limit oxygen flow to the baby.
Update: The sling pictured to the right was finally recalled on March 24th 2010. However I have still seen them sold on second hand sites so if you end up with one, please contact Infantino for more information.
The CPSC has published these illustrations to show how a baby should and should NOT be carried in the Cradle Position.
Incorrect Cradle Infant Cradle Carry
The "Cradle Carry" involves the sling holding your baby across your body, just as you would if you were cradling them in your arms. However, in a baby carrier, such as the ring sling, their head needs to be more upright than their bottom. Most babies prefer to have their head at a much more upright position from their bottoms.
The picture on the right shows the incorrect way to do the cradle carry. The baby is too low inside the sling. The mother cannot easily see the infant's face and the baby could possibly be laying chin to chest inside the pouch. The baby could also turn his face into the mother's chest and not be able to breath.
Correct Cradle Carry
These pictures show the correct way to use the Cradle Carry with a Newborn.
The baby is placed inside of the sling at a vertical angle.
The baby's head is at the top rail above the breast. The wearer should be able to kiss the top of the baby head.
The body of the baby angles down to the opposite side, going across the abdomen of the wearer.
The baby's face is visible at all times to wearer.
You can use the top rail of the sling to hold the baby's head against your chest since they do not yet have proper head control.
Again, the baby's face is always visible to the wearer
The wearer is able to check at all times that the baby is not in that curled up "C" position.
The baby's head is not forced downward causing him to lay chin to chest which restricts the airway of an infant.
Other Options for Newborns
Alternatively, when using a Ring Sling, you can use the "Heart to Heart" carry (previously known as belly to belly) for a newborn. This is my favorite carry for all ages, from newborn though toddler. This carry is the preferred carry for newborns among most babywearing educators.
Breastfed babies tend to prefer it as well because they associate a more cradle-like hold with nursing.
To use this carry the baby is completely vertical, his heart pressed to your heart. His heart is aligned with your heart. You can "froggy" the baby's legs out to the sides so that the baby is straddling you. A newborns legs can be kept inside of the sling and as they grow older, you can take them out if you or the baby wishes.