Our blog has been silent for a few months, but we are back with the first post in our Babywearing 101 series! Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we touch on the basics of just about every aspect of babywearing. First up, let’s start at the beginning: wearing newborns!
Babywearing during the first few months of your baby’s life can be a wonderful tool. Keeping your baby close promotes quicker bonding and allows you to tend to the needs of your child quickly. It also allows you (the wearer) to get things done hands-free without worrying about your baby. However, there are some things to keep in mind.
When wearing a newborn, positioning is critically important. Newborns have little to no head/neck control, so their heads must be supported properly by the carrier. Some carriers fold over to offer more head support for newborns, and you can modify others with a rolled washcloth or receiving blanket to add extra head support for those tiny babies. It’s also important to be sure that baby’s face is not covered by the carrier. Her chin should be up and away from her chest; you should be able to fit 2 fingers between her chin and her chest. This ensures that her airway stays open and she can breathe easily. In addition to supporting their airways, wearers of newborns also need to be conscientious of supporting their babies’ spines and hips. A newborn’s spine has a natural curve that should not be forced to straightened, and their hips should be supported so that their knees are higher then their hips without being overspread. Some newborns “uncurl” from the fetal position quickly and will be comfortable having fabric tucked between their legs in a wrap or a ring sling, while others prefer to have their legs inside the carrier for a few weeks before the uncurl. Either position is acceptable, as long as baby’s weight is resting on his bottom rather than his feet and his hips are in a comfortable position.
When learning to wear a newborn, we recommend wearers master front carries before moving on to more advanced carries. There are many options for front carries, and they can be done with newborns in woven or stretchy wraps, ring slings (RS), mei tais (MT), or soft-structured carriers (SSC). A simple front carry in an SSC or MT can be done with the straps crossed or uncrossed on the wearer’s back. In a ring sling, tummy-to-tummy is the preferred newborn carry. With a stretchy wrap, pocket wrap cross carry (PWCC) is a good place to start, and it is very similar to the front wrap cross carry (FWCC) that is most often recommended with a woven wrap. We do not recommend newborns be worn in hip carries as they cannot be well-supported in that position.
Back carries with newborns can be done, but these should be reserved for experienced wearers. Stretchy wraps should never be used to back carry a child, as they do not provide the necessary support. Rings slings also should not be used for back carrying newborns due to the lack of proper support provided in that position. Woven wraps can be used for back carries with very young infants, provided the wearer is a competent and experienced wrapper. When using an SSC or a mei tai, it is important to follow the carrier manufacturer’s recommendations for age and weight when back-carrying young infants.