When we start to wear our new baby we begin to wonder how they will fit into a carrier. They are so small and scrunched up we often worry if the carrier will fit them or if they will be safe. Newborn babywearing positions differ from older infants and it’s important to get this position correct not only from a developmental perspective but also from a safety perspective.
Babywearing a newborn baby is an easy choice, especially in the beginning days when babies need their mother to help them transition from their soft and gentle womb-world. The outside can be a quiet, bright and altogether confusing place for a new baby. New smells and feelings and sounds (or lack of) bombard the new infant. It’s no wonder they cry.
Our fast-paced lives often leave us with no choice but to integrate back into society as soon as a baby is born. Whilst birth is indeed a natural process, giving birth is tough on a body and it takes time for a woman to heal from this.
Women’s bodies go through a huge amount of changes whilst pregnant. Their bodies expand and move to accommodate the growing baby. They produce a hormone called Relaxin that helps the muscles stretch in response to the growing baby. It can take up to a year after the birth for the levels of Relaxin to recede.
During this time to a mother is a greater risk of injuries such as strains and overextending muscles. So, it’s worth being extra cautious not to lift anything too heavy.
When considering babywearing a newborn give thought to the kind of carrier you will use. Will be suitable for your post-pregnancy body? Do you have any underlying health issues that need addressing and will the carrier you choose be appropriate for those? Have you had a cesarean? Does your baby have any additional needs?
There are several main types of baby slings and carriers and within that many different variations and even more brands. The main types are:
Asian Inspired carriers
Ring slings and pouches
Physiology of a newborn
Newborns are born curled up with both their arms and legs tucked in against their body. This allows them to fit inside the womb with ease. When they emerge into the outside world, without the confines or fluid of the womb they begin to develop a explore the world around them. However, for many weeks they remain in the position known as the fetal tuck. It’s at this time that parents struggle most with positioning. Through fear of breaking and be unsure of how to use a carrier, an infant is most at risk of being placed in a carrier incorrectly. Whilst developmentally incorrect positioning probably will not cause any long-term issues. Safety can be compromised if the infant’s airway isn’t protected. Good positioning can really be the catalyst to ensuring a child’s airway remain open and protected.
Newborn babywearing positions – How to protect a child’s airway
As an infants head is proportionately larger than their body, and with minimal head and neck muscles built up yet. We as the wearer have to ensure that the babies chin doesn’t drop to the chest. If this does happen there is a substantial chance that the infant’s oxygen levels will begin to fall as the head begins to reduce and cut off breathing. We either need to be physically supporting the child head and neck with our hands or using positioning against our body or another surface to do this. Keeping a minimum of at least 2 fingers width under an infants chin is a good way to check the airway is open.
Newborn babywearing positions – The spine
A baby is born with a very pronounced C position in order for them to fit in the womb. This C shape gradually evolves into the S shape we recognise in fully walking children and adults. This happens within the first year naturally as they learn to keep their heads up from the floor when on their tummy, as they learn to crawl and finally as they learn to walk. Read more here about these stages.
We need to ensure the C shape does not become too pronounced as this can cause the chin to drop to the chest. We do this by making sure there is no gap between our and their body when up against us (similarly to when we hold them in our arms) By making the sling or carrier ‘tight’ ( think supportive like leggings). This holds the body in place gently.
Newborn babywearing positions – The legs
We also want to make sure the legs are in a comfortable position. This can help the child to develop optimally but also it’s generally the most comfortable for the wearer too. We want to use the natural curl of the infant’s legs to our advantage rather than force a position they are no used too. The image below shows how each age and stage has a leg position that is most suitable.
Image from www.babydoousa.com for more in-depth details on positioning please visit http://www.babydoousa.com/babywearing-in-the-first-year/
Newborn babywearing positions – Suitable carrier
Most carrier can be made to suit a baby. However, it is worth thinking if it would be easier to get a carrier from the start that is more suitable for the child’s age rather than ‘hacking’ something to fit your requirements. Carriers most suited to a newborn are:
All of the above are particularly useful for utilising an infant’s natural positioning as the wrap and mold around an infants body, gently encompassing them and supporting their bodies. They support the infant in a spread squat or ‘M’ position.
Another important position aspect is ensuring the head, spine and hips are all in line. This will ensure that the child in optimum positioning for development, comfort and to ensure the airway is protected.
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