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?
A: 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.
If 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.
Some 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?