Tips for Slinging Your Newborn

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: Insuring that the newborn baby boy clothing is comfortable and clean. If there are any scratchy tags left in the one-piece or an ill fitting diaper the discomfort increases in a sling, so do make sure he has comfy clothes on. 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

Spare the crib, spoil thyself

While taking my one year old son for a stroll a few days ago I stopped into my neighborhood coffee house. I noticed a woman with a similarly aged child sipping a coffee in the corner. We oohed and aahed over the babies and began to talk about our parenting experiences with the fervor of isolated stay at home parents.

“Are you still nursing?”
“Yes I am. It’s just so convenient.”
“Me too, you never have to worry about running out…”
“And it’s always the right temperature!”
“Do you stay at home?”
“Yes, staying at home is so great.”
“Yes, a little isolating, but very rewarding.”

We enjoyed the instant friendship created by our shared experiences, thrilled to have a few minutes to share conversation with an adult in the middle of our child filled day.

She asked me if he was sleeping well at night, as her baby kept getting up around two a.m.
“He sleeps with me, so he gets up some, but I don’t really notice.” I informed her.
“You still sleep with him? You are spoiling him.” She said in a sweet, caught you with a second slice of cake, voice.
“No way,” I responded “I don’t believe that for a second.”
“You’re right,” she said smiling. “You are spoiling yourself.”

She’s right. Like a great massage, or that sexy red pair of cuban heeled shoes, or a box of exclusive chocolates, snuggling up to my baby every night is a treat, and a way I can spoil myself. My daughter turns seven this year, so I know how quickly the baby time goes. I also am fairly certain this is my last child. So there is a part of me that snuggles up to him at night, warm and fuzzy in my bed, and feels like I am catching hold of as much of his chubby babyhood as possible.

For me, attachment parenting is mostly about getting the most out of my children’s childhood as I can. There is also a big laziness component. I like not having to walk the floor for an hour to get my baby to sleep before setting him in his crib. I love not having to get up and heat water for f*rmula when he wakes up hungry at 3 a.m. I like the extra sleep I get by popping a nipple in his mouth when he starts to stir. I don’t have to be very awake to nurse him when we are sleeping side by side. I find slings easier to carry in my diaper bag than strollers. However, as important as these benefits are, the true reason behind my decision to co-sleep, nurse, and baby-wear, is the extra coziness, of close contact with my baby.

The baby years seem so long when you are in the middle of them, but in reality they are so fleeting. They crawl before you can get the fog of motherhood out of your head, they walk before you can get used to them crawling, they start to talk about the time you are really understanding their non verbal cues. Suddenly they are two, and stridently demanding their first taste of freedom. Then they are going to school, and a part of their life is lived outside of you. The small precious baby who once required you for everything is suddenly a small person with their own friends, and experiences that you are no part of at all.

So I co-sleep, and nurse, and baby-wear, so I can keep my baby closer to me for just a bit longer.