Is It Safe For My Baby To Sleep In a Sling?

A black woman stands in front of a brick wall, staring in to the middle distance. She carries a small baby, wearing a pink headband, in a sling. The baby is sleeping.

This is a common question for lots of parents and is often a very individual decision. The question actually, often isn’t about safety. Lots of people are worried about allowing their baby to sleep in a sling or carrier because someone has told them that they’re “making a rod for their own back”, that their baby “will be clingy” or that “they’ll never learn to sleep alone”! The thing to remember here is that this is YOUR baby! You know YOUR baby best. If allowing them to nap in a sling means that you get 30mins (or more) to eat lunch in peace, drink an actual warm drink, chat to a friend/scroll Facebook, or even (shock horror – don’t overdo it) get some laundry on – then GO FOR IT! What works for you and YOUR baby, may not be the same as what works for your friend/sister/cousin/auntie. It may not be the same as what works for your partner & the baby, or even the same as what works for you and your last/next baby. Each adult/baby relationship is different – even between twins and their parents. You are absolutely welcome to ask people, both inside and outside of your support network, about what worked for them – it may give you some great ideas! Listen to their opinions, ideas and information, and then, smile and nod, and DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU and YOUR BABY!
Research around attachment actually shows the opposite to a lot of the concerns that people often have about keeping your baby close to you. Studies show, the more you meet your baby’s needs now, the more independent they become later. They are more willing to move away from you and explore their surroundings when they know they can return to you, as their safe space, when they need to. Having your baby nap on you, may mean they get more sleep, as when they rouse, they recognise you as their safety zone and can drift off again, compared to waking fully, because you are not there.

Studies have shown that having your baby in the same room as you when they sleep (night AND day), can reduce the risk of SIDS &, with this in mind, BASIS (Baby Sleep Info Source) suggest that if your options for baby’s daytime naps are a separate room, alone, or in a sling on you, then the sling may be safer. More details here.

If you decide you would like to try allowing your baby to nap in your sling/carrier, there are a couple of factors to consider:
*Are you comfortable in your sling for long periods?
Let’s face it if the answer to this one is no – the rest of the consideration points are pretty irrelevant! Most slings and carriers can be made more comfortable with a very slight adjustment or two. If you would like help to feel more comfortable in your sling/carrier, then please book a consultation and I can help you. Using your sling/carrier should never feel heavy or uncomfortable – if it does give me a shout!
*Is your baby safe in your sling?
What this boils down to, is are you aware of the TICKS Safety Guidelines & are you happy that you are ticking all of your safety boxes when you are carrying your baby. If you are happy that you are both safe and secure, then you are good to go. If you would like help to adjust your sling/carrier so that you are ticking all your safety boxes, then please do book a consultation.
*Should my baby sleep on my front or my back?
Either really – or even on your hip/side, although do avoid allowing them to sleep in the “facing away/facing out/world facing” position as sleeping in this position can pose a risk to baby’s airway. Most standard soft structured carriers (ErgoBaby, Tula Baby, BabyBjorn One, Isara, Beco, Izmi, etc) can be used in a back carrying position from around 6m or sitting unaided. If your baby is younger than that, but you’d like to get them on your back (perhaps you’d like to bake/use a sewing machine/wash the car/play playdough with your toddler and it would be handy to have baby “out of the way”), then you may want to consider a MehDai or Woven Wrap that will enable you to get a nice high back carry, to make it easier to monitor your baby while they sleep in that position. Generally, stretchy wraps are not suitable for use in a back carrying position, due to the stretchy nature of the fabric.
*What can you do while your baby naps?
Right, so your baby’s asleep, you’re handsfree – now what? As I said earlier, it’s a great time to maybe grab a cuppa, or some lunch, scroll Facebook, get some laundry on, or lots of other things! Is this the right time to climb a ladder and change that pesky blown lightbulb/wash the windows/get some stuff down from the loft? Probably not – those jobs might be best left for another time/person. Is it a good time to jump in the car/on your bike and head to the supermarket? No! Where there should be safety equipment involved (car/bike seat) you should use that and NOT your sling – if you can walk/get a bus/train to the supermarket – yes, absolutely. Can you sleep? Well, the “I” from the TICKS Safety Guidelines is “In View”, so probably not, as you cannot keep your baby in view if you are asleep. If you need to sleep while your baby naps, you may want to settle them in their cot/crib/Moses basket or consider whether bed-sharing may work for you.

I hope that helps! If you have any other questions about this or any other carrying or reflux related subject, do please get in touch!