When it comes to all things babywearing, the motto ‘safety first’ is one to bear at the forefront of our mind. Let’s consider the actual act of babywearing. We are taking a piece of specially made fabric, and are using it to carry our child. It is in essence replacing our arms and hands, in securing our children to our bodies. Safety when using a carrier is paramount to ensure our children aren’t in any danger.
The normalisation of babywearing in Western society means that more and more parents are putting a carrier on their ‘must have’ list. This in turn means an influx of beginner wearers in the babywearing community; at meets, in online groups, and even in the privacy of their own homes. So how do we ensure new wearers aren’t being overwhelmed with information, and are being provided with safe advice? Below are some suggestions to assist with this dilemma.
Start with T.I.C.K.S. guidelines
T.I.C.K.S. guidelines were created for ease of demonstrating how to position children in carriers. T.I.C.K.S. is a simple acronym designed to be memorable, and promoting and following these guidelines ensures new wearers have a checklist to perform, when using a carrier. The guidelines promote safe, optimal, and comfortable positioning for both wearer and wearee.
To view and download the T.I.C.K.S. guidelines, please visit here.
Keep it simple!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with sticking to front carries, regardless of the wearee’s age, size, or weight. It is the recommended and preferred style of carry to teach with a wrap, ring sling**, or soft structured carrier (SSC). Front carries are preferable for small children, and current recommendations from babywearing educators is to promote the use of front carries for those new to babywearing. This is to ensure the wearer understands the skills involved, irrespective of the type of carrier being used.
Of back carries
It should be noted that back carries are only recommended for babies who have proper trunk control, which enables them to maintain their airways by themselves. This is commonly demonstrated by the child independently sitting unaided, reaching for an object, and being able to correct their posture from such a seated position. Whilst Ankalia does not sell stretchy carriers, it is very important to note here that it is unsafe to back carry in a stretchy wrap.
In addition to this, back carrying should not be demonstrated or attempted until several front carries have been mastered.
**Please note that it is not preferred practice to use a ring sling for a back carry.
One size doesn’t always fit most
If you’re introducing babywearing to a willing participant, it should be noted that there are a large variety of carriers available to use, and each variety of carrier has its own skill set to learn. Buckle carriers, for example, require specific tightening and fitting to each individual wearer; a ring sling necessitates precise threading and tightening; a wrap also needs particular attention to tightening strand by strand. Make sure you are aware of the individual carrier skills required, and that you are promoting the development of those specific skills to the new wearer.
Optimal is preferable but safety is the primary goal
When the word ‘optimal’ is used, it can be easily misinterpreted as being finicky, or overly critical. ‘Optimal’ in the realm of babywearing refers to the preferred practice of the skill, which may not necessarily be unsafe. For example, if a child in a wrap does not have the optimal ‘M’ positioning, they and the wearer will become uncomfortable quickly.
But whilst learning, the focus should always be on safety. As babywearers we should always strive for optimal positioning; safety, however, is the number one consideration that should not ever be ignored.
For more images on optimal positioning, including specifics for newborn, baby, and toddler wearing, please visit here.
For a new wearer, it can be incredibly overwhelming to realise all of the above points, and it is tempting to draw focus away from the importance of understanding the basics, and the need for practise; for risk of scaring the new wearer off, at the very least!
But focus on these we must. The more experienced wearers and educators amongst us need to remember that babywearing is a learned skill; and that learning requires much time and practise in order to develop understanding and profiency. The promotion of correct and safe carries is a responsibility that we need to be aware of, when bringing new wearers into the fold.
To the beginners out there; I know it feels ‘boring’ when it seems you do the same carry over, and over, and over again. I know how desperately you want to move on to that back carry you’ve seen in the groups, in photos, and at meets. But try and remember why these guidelines are in place. The safety of our children should always come first.