Tips for Slinging Your Newborn

by drmariablois on April 22, 2008

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Dr. Maria Blois will be doing a twice monthly babywearing Q&A on API Speaks. If you are interested in submitting a question, please do so by adding a comment to this post. Your question could be answered in Maria’s next post!

Q: I tried putting my three week old, eight pound newborn in my ring sling in the cradle position (reclined, head towards the rings), and he hated it! He cried and fussed. I really want to wear my baby not only for the convenience but also for the closeness. Do you have any suggestions?

sling1.jpgA: Sure! Here are some tips that have worked well with my own newborns as well as many others. First: Turn that baby around so that his head is away from the rings. Most newborns prefer this position for several reasons. The first is that it allows them to recline more fully. As you can see here in the photo of Heidi with five week old Remy, the back of the head is properly aligned with the spine. Make sure the sling is tightened up properly. Baby should be riding above your belly button. A sling that is too loose is not only uncomfortable for you and baby (babies often balk at the sensation of freely swinging and swaying and prefer the security of a snug sling), but there is also the risk of baby falling through the too-loose folds of fabric.

Secondly, baby’s head is resting easily in the fabric near the surface, baby is not lost in the deep fabric of the typical cradle position. In fact, I often recommend that you try starting with baby’s head out of the sling initially. Many babies dislike the sensation of having their head tucked in. Put baby in the sling with his head slightly out, support his head in the crook of your elbow and then start the baby dance: walking, moving and gently bouncing baby until he is contently settled in the sling and then when he is asleep, you can tuck his little head in and be hands free.

I prefer newborns to be in this reversed position because mom has a clear view of baby’s nose and mouth and can easily verify that he is breathing comfortably. This is also one of the easiest positions for discrete nursing. Simply pull up on the rings to loosen the sling, move your clothing out of the way and latch baby on. You may use the tail of your ring sling to cover you and baby for added privacy. You may want to practice nursing baby in the sling at home before you attempt it in public. I certainly consider nursing in a sling to be “advanced” babywearing.

sling2.jpgIf you have a pouch style sling instead of a ring sling, you can approximate the nice shallow pouch necessary for a newborn: Just pull the excess fabric up against mom’s chest before placing baby in the pouch. This way, most of the fabric is up against mom and baby’s head is nice and high, riding near the surface of the fabric pouch.

sling3.jpgSome other tips for helping a baby adjust to a sling include: Do as much adjusting of the sling as possible before putting baby in. Most babies have limited patience for fussing with the carrier and with positioning. Try to start learning when baby is rested and fed. As we all know, a crabby baby is in no mood to accept any new ideas. Practice in front of a mirror. Watch experienced babywearers. Once baby is in, get moving. The best way to become an expert babywearer is to wear your baby often!

Any one else care to chime in? What tips worked well for you when you were wearing your newborns in a ring sling?

- Maria Blois, MD

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drmariablois (12 Posts)


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Justine April 23, 2008 at 7:30 am

Dr. Maria Blois,

I am returning to my job shortly and will occasionally be slinging my baby on the days that I am in the office. Although I am very grateful that my employer is so open to this idea, I am also worried that despite having 3 babies worth of experience that I will run up against several obstacles:

1) I will be doing a lot of writing at my desk which won’t allow me to move/dance around to sooth my little one.

2) I am very short, and am afraid that the baby will feel squished while I sit.

3) I am afraid that it won’t be nearly easy as I had hoped to combine work and parenting while I am there. I was able to stay at home with my last three babies, so slinging them was always easy and comfy… this time I will be in dress up clothes instead of yoga pants and a tee, at a desk instead of my sofa, or bed or kitchen…

Do you have any tips for combining these two worlds? What do other moms who have tried this have to say? I feel as if I am an ambassador for AP at my work and want my fellow employees and clients to think it is as wonderful as we all do!

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Nicole April 23, 2008 at 7:45 am

2 of my 3 newborns have hated lying down in a sling. I’ve been able to carry them upright both in a stretch wrap and a ring sling from birth. I just use the fabric pulled up to support their heads.

Great post and great topic, thank you!

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Jeannette April 23, 2008 at 7:01 pm

I used a ring sling with my first child, but learned about wraps before my second. He just turned seven months old yesterday and he spent most of those months in a wrap. He is now too big (24 pounds) and long to be comfortable in the wrap so we have transitioned to the ring sling. While I love the sling for older babies, wraps are, in my opinion, the way to go for newborns. My baby loved it and I found it much more comfortable than a sling, mainly because the weight is more evenly distributed across the entire back and onto the waist.

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API Speaks April 23, 2008 at 8:20 pm

I love that we have so many carriers to choose from these days–there’s one to fit each child’s needs as they grow! What worked well for my son was different than what worked for my daughter when they were both newborns. And now that they’re bigger, they love, love, love riding on my back in the Mei Tai.

My son is almost 4 and I can still carry him on my back for quite some time without a problem!

Thanks for the great post, Maria, and it looks like you even have a question for your next post.
:) Julie

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Half Pint Pixie April 24, 2008 at 7:16 am

Great idea for a regular feature! I tried carrying my newborn daughter in a ringsling in the cradle position and she was having none of it! Although, I think I may have had her head towards the rings.

I got a wrap when she was three months and we were off! I carried her upright and she loved it. We now have a colourful selection of wraps, ring slings and mei tais, something for every occasion :)

Looking forward to reading more from you!

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Theresa April 27, 2008 at 1:36 am

My little one was much more comfortable, as was I, in an upright, tummy-to-tummy position from birth. She (and I) hated any reclining position in her ring sling.

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phyllis April 29, 2008 at 7:29 pm

i also liked (because the baby liked!) to carry my ring-slung baby upright using the fabric to support her neck. plus i had a great ring-sling made of uv-protectant fabric so it was light enough for the summer and a great substitute for sunscreen!

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Taie May 5, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Well rested and fed are the best time to practice…I do one more check, a clean diaper. If my daughter fussed when I put her in the sling she was wet. A quick change and happy baby again!

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