It’s very important that anyone wanting to use a baby carrier is aware of some basic safety advice. The following T.I.C.K.S. Rules for Safe Babywearing have been put together by the UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers Consortium, and apply to all carriers, though are particularly important when carrying young babies:
Tight – slings and carriers should be tight enough to hug your baby close to you as this will be most comfortable for you both. Any slack/loose fabric will allow your baby to slump down in the carrier which can hinder their breathing and pull on your back.
In view at all times – you should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply glancing down. The fabric of a sling or carrier should not close around them so you have to open it to check on them. In a cradle position your baby should face upwards and not be turned in towards your body.
Close enough to kiss – your baby’s head should be as close to your chin as is comfortable. By tipping your head forward you should be able to kiss your baby on the head or forehead.
Keep chin off chest – a baby should never be curled so their chin is forced onto their chest as this can restrict their breathing. Ensure there is always a space of at least a finger width under your baby’s chin.
Supported back – in an upright carry a baby should be held comfortably close to the wearer so their back is supported in its natural position and their tummy and chest are against you. If a sling is too loose they can slump which can partially close their airway. (This can be tested by placing a hand on your baby’s back and pressing gently – they should not uncurl or move closer to you.) A baby in a cradle carry in a pouch or ring sling should be positioned carefully with their bottom in the deepest part so the sling does not fold them in half pressing their chin to their chest.
These are also downloadable in PDF format form here: The T.I.C.K.S. Rules for Safe Babywearing
And there is another very useful document including practical advice about how to actually position your newborn safely in different types of sling here: Correct Positioning For the Safety and Comfort of your Newborn
Other points to consider:
Use the Sling or Carrier Correctly:
When using a sling or carrier always refer to the manufacturer’s safety advice and instructions and choose a carry position or method that is appropriate for the developmental stage of your child. Parent-facing front carries are suitable for all ages and stages; most instructions for away-facing and/or hip carries will suggest waiting until your baby can fully support their own head (usually around 3-5 months). Back carries are usually recommended from when a baby can sit unaided (around 5-8 months) – see below for additional notes on back carries.
Ensure that the carrier is oriented correctly, all straps pass in the right places, and that buckles and clips are fully clicked closed. When using tied slings, always tie off using secure double knots. You may find it useful to practice new carrying methods using a baby-substitute such as a doll while you get used to unfamiliar carrier features and techniques.
If instructions are unavailable, unclear or do not seem to result in a safe and comfortable carry then seek the help of a qualified expert, whether by contacting the manufacturer or a local babywearing consultant. The T.I.C.K.S. checklist above may always be used in addition to manufacturer’s instructions to check for a safe carry.
Safe back carries:
The T.I.C.K.S. rules also apply (in an adapted form for the second and third rules) to back carries. Though a correctly postitioned and adjusted back carry is as safe as a front carry, the advice above may be harder to follow and to check when back carrying. For this reason, we recommend that back carries are only attempted by confident sling/carrier users with previous experience of front or hip carries. For carriers other than woven wraps we further suggest that you wait until your baby is able to fully stabilise their own torso from the hips and/or sit unaided. For the best comfort for parent and child, position your baby or toddler so that they are able to see over your shoulders.
It is advisable to check your carrier regularly (many manufacturers suggest you check before each use) to ensure that there is no damage to the fabric, that all seams and stitching are intact, and that there are no missing or damaged components.
Listen to your Instincts!
If you think that you have followed all instructions and checked all safety points, but still feel that your baby may be unsupported or unsafe for any reason then do seek qualified help. Common feelings are that you do not feel able to fully let go of your baby with your hands/arms when they are in the sling, or you feel uncomfortable or unable to relax whilst using the carrier. These feelings may well suggest that there is something that is not right about the fit or adjustment of the carrier for you and your baby; often a simple tweak or adjustment is all that is needed to allow you to carry safely, confidently and comfortabley.