Mothers have been successfully wearing their babies from birth through toddlerhood for thousands of years, and the benefits of babywearing are real: You can keep your little one close while getting on with your day, and babywearing has emotional and health upsides for your baby as well.
No matter what carrier you choose, safety is first. With so many options on the market, it is important to decide which carrier is right for your lifestyle and educate yourself on the 101 of babywearing safety.
As a trained babywearing educator for LÍLLÉbaby, I’ll go over 6 babywearing tips to help you feel like a babywearing pro and ensure you and your little one are comfortable and safe.
1. Baby should always be visible and kissable
It’s important for babies to be positioned in the carrier so they are always easily visible and kissable (to ensure that they are not too low). Keeping them at collarbone height is a great starting point. To know if you got it right, the wearer should be able to simply tip their head down and see the baby’s face.
In addition to seeing your baby’s face, you’ll want to feel them breathe. We want to always make sure that the baby’s airway is open and clear. If the baby’s chin is resting on their chest, it can obstruct the airway.
2. Tighten the carrier straps
A baby carrier needs to be worn tightened in a way that is comfortable and supportive for both the wearer and baby. A loose carrier allows a baby to slump down, while putting extra pressure on your shoulders, hips and back.
In a soft structured carrier, like the LÍLLÉbaby Serenity, you’ll first want to begin with securing the waistband. Get it taut and parallel to the ground. Once your baby is safely secured in the carrier, for additional comfort and support, the wearer should make final adjustments to the shoulder straps and chest clip.
The ability to feed or nurse your baby while in the carrier is one of my favorite benefits of babywearing. But it’s important to readjust the baby’s position and retighten the carrier once the feeding session is finished.
3. Protect baby’s natural positioning
While in the womb, babies are curled into the fetal position with their spines in a perfect “C” curve position and knees bunched into their chests. Once born, babies will naturally pull their legs up into a spread squat position with their knees higher than their bums when held against your chest.
Stretching limbs or crotch “dangling” while being worn in carriers for young babies can result in hip instabilities and hip dysplasia. An ergonomic wrap, sling or soft structured carrier that properly supports baby from knee to knee, preserving the baby’s natural spread squat position and the natural curvature of your baby’s spine is very important and ideal for healthy hip positioning as encouraged by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
4. Avoid dressing baby in tightly fitted PJs while in the carrier
Footed PJs are perfect for keeping those little baby toes nice and toasty, but they can pose a risk when wearing a baby in a carrier. Fitted PJs will naturally rise up when a baby is placed in a carrier, which may restrict the movement of toes and blood flow.
If the child is wearing fitted PJs while in the carrier or sling, always size up and check your baby’s toes each time upon placing them in a carrier to make sure there’s plenty of wiggle room and that they are unrestricted in their movement.
5. Support baby’s head and neck
A baby’s head and neck should be well supported by the panel of the carrier. We want babies who are unable to hold their heads up unassisted to have the proper and necessary head support while the parent or caregiver moves around freely. While supportive of the head, the carrier’s panel or fabric should never come higher than the middle of the baby’s ear to allow the baby to freely move their head side to side.
6. Forward facing outward safety
Once baby is at least 6 months old and has strong neck and trunk control, welcome to the world of forward-facing outward!
If a baby is worn in a forward-facing outward position and shows signs of getting tired or has fallen asleep, turn the baby around in the carrier to face you right away. A baby is in danger of having their airway obstructed if their head slumps forward when they fall asleep in forward-facing outward carry.
As with everything, there is a learning curve to babywearing, so don’t give up if your first try isn’t a fairytale. Your baby picks up on your energy, so there’s a good chance that if you’re anxious or frustrated, your baby will be too. On the flip side if you are calm and confident your baby will feel just that.
Prior to putting the baby into the carrier for the first time make sure your baby is fed, dry and rested. A calm and confident parent yields a calm and confident baby.
Babywearing can be a wonderful bonding experience from the newborn phase through toddlerhood. So take a deep breath, say a few self-affirmations, and know that you were born to do this!
A few of our favorite baby carriers, tried and tested by Motherly editors:
LÍLLÉbaby Complete All Seasons
Motherly editors say it’s almost impossible not to be comfortable in this carrier, which features a unique bucket seat and adjustable side and back panels to ensure your baby feels comfortable and supported too.
Beluga Baby Wrap Carrier
Designed to mimic a womblike environment, the Beluga Baby Wrap is made from super-soft bamboo cotton that keeps your newborn close and swaddled no matter where the day takes you. The machine-washable fabric is strong enough to provide a snug fit for babies up to 30 pounds but stretchy enough to create a comfortable fit for you and your little one.
One of the most comfortable structured carriers we’ve ever used, the Baby Tula Explore is a versatile, fully adjustable, and easy-to-use carrier that comes in more beautiful designs than we know what to do with. This carrier truly shines when it comes to creating a custom fit—it adjusts in both width and height to fit your baby at any stage.
Baby Bjorn Carrier One
Launched nearly 50 years ago as a family-owned company in Sweden, Baby Bjorn is the OG producer of soft, structured carriers. With their Carrier One model, we love that there’s no confusing wraps, cords, buckles or tethers—and you can easily take it on and off by yourself.