When I first started babywearing I had no clue what I was doing. To be honest, I was a the definition of a hotmess! I even returned the first carrier I tried, a bag sling. You should have seen the horrific carry I tried! Baby's chin was on his chest, he was down by my belly button, and I couldn't see him at all. It basically broke all the safety rules that I had no clue existed. All I knew was that it felt wrong and I knew there had to be a better option out there.
This was all with my oldest, who was born before everyone was on Facebook and before babywearing groups were as common as they are now. (I'm aging myself here!) There wasn't a lot of information out there if you didn't come from a community where babywearing is a cultural norm. But even with all of the knowledge that is available now, it's hard to know where to turn for correct and SAFE information!
Sure, now carriers come with instruction manuals and warning labels, but how do you actually know if you are doing it right? How do you know if your baby is SAFE?
Thankfully, that's pretty easy once you know what to look for. The best way to remember it is the ABC's. As Special Agent Oso would say (you'll know what I mean when you have a toddler, and if you know, I bet you sing this next part!)- three simple steps.
A- stands for Airway. You want to make sure baby has a two finger gap between chin and chest at all times! This is to ensure that baby has an open airway since little ones don't have the strength to move their heads if they are having a hard time breathing. Yes, even your super strong newborn who can occasionally lift their head, cannot open their own airway. You also want to keep baby "close enough to kiss" so it's easier to monitor their airway. While most people find it comfortable to have baby within easy kissing distance, *the goal is easy monitoring of baby’s airway with a quick glance.* Keep all fabric away from baby’s face (this includes masks on children under two).
B- stands for Body positioning. The open airway is made possible when your carrier is snug across baby's back to support them. A newborn will have a "C" shape to their back (as they grow it develops into an "S" curve like you and I), but it's a supported "C" thanks to the carrier, so they don't slump. There is no need to tighten your carrier so much that you straighten baby's back and plaster baby to your body. Look for snug and secure to maintain that two finger gap, not tight and compressed. You also want to make sure baby's legs aren't stuck inside the waistband of your carrier, or stretched straight out the sides. Baby’s legs should also be able to bend at 90*. In a Hydrogen carrier that means inside the panel until baby fits with their legs bending freely out of the carrier (you'll see this called "knee-to-knee" in a lot of places). You will use your infant harness to make this possible. And since its built-in you'll never have to worry about forgetting it, or dropping it on the floor. In the Olympia carrier, that means shortening the panel so doesn’t cover baby’s face, and allowing the panel to narrow automatically for baby’s needs (no insert or harness needed to achieve the same safe carry). Here is more information on hip positioning: “What does Hip Healthy Mean?”
C- stands for Comfort! If you aren't comfortable then baby won't be either. Babywearing is a tool to help you and baby, and comfort is part of that. Some tricks here- make sure your waistband is at a comfortable level (position it to keep baby nice and high, but don’t be afraid to adjust it up or down a little to find your "sweet spot"), your chest clip should be about shoulder blade level and not digging into your neck (it slides up and down), or you can also cross the shoulder straps instead of using the chest clip for a different feel (I have back problems so this is what helps me a lot).
It can seem like a lot when you are new! I remember that fear of learning another new thing when you are already learning to care for a new person The freedom you get is worth it though! And Olives and Applesauce is always here if you need a little more tweaking to get comfortable, or just to double check that everything looks good. Check out our facebook group, Adventures with Olives and Applesauce, for a little community love, or you can always email, or message the page for extra help.