Lectures and Workshops

Rosie is regularly invited to be a keynote guest speaker at conferences around the UK and Europe, where she lectures about babywearing and the role carrying plays in promoting good infant and parental mental health. She has won awards for her work in raising awareness of this topic across multidisciplinary fields.

Rosie is a practising GP with experience in public speaking and creating engaging and inspiring talks, lectures and workshops. She has many years of experience working with parents and carers and training carrying professionals, and puts her skills to good use in creating learning experiences for other professionals, challenging and equipping them to do their jobs well.

Upcoming Appearances 2020

all on hold due to coronavirus

Past Lecture/Workshop Titles

  • Babywearing to Build a Happy Brain
  • Breaking the Rules; empowering families
  • Seven Reasons Why Babywearing Matters
  • Past, Present and Future Babywearing
  • How does Babywearing Support Maternal Mental Health?
  • The Sheffield Story (how the local service develops)
  • Building Resilience through Babywearing
  • The Fourth Trimester
  • Infant Mental Health  – why it matters
  • Breaking Down the Barriers to Babywearing
  • Anthropology and Modern Babywearing
  • Why Carrying Matters from an Attachment Theory Perspective
  • Workshops on various carrier types (particularly for new parents)
  • Workshops on adapting carriers for complex situations
  • Workshops on working with special needs

Previous Engagements

A talk for parenting editors at the Ivy, London, guest of Baby Bjorn, alongside Dr Roberto Albani, gastroenterologist

Hungary, Magyar Babahordozó Konferencia és Fesztivál October 2019, launch of Why Babywearing Matters Hungarian translation and lecture, here, here and here

Sheffield NSPCC Look, Say, Sing, Play launch event, October 2019, read more here

Ireland, Wear a Hug Fair, October 2019, talk and a meeting with Babywearing Ireland, see here and here

Norway, Sept 2017 and Sept 2019 Nasjonalt Baeretreff, several workshops and lectures, see more here and here

Denmark, Slyngemessen TætPåHjertet – Babywearing Festival, Aalborg, May 2019, a lecture, see more here

Bulgaria, SlingoFest, March 2019, a talk and the launch of  Why Babywearing Matters in Bulgarian, see more here

Poland, March 2018, Launch of Why Babywearing Matters in Polish at Nicminiewisi the Festival of Wraps,  and November, 2018, Lenny Lamb’s 10 year anniversary, talk for the Babywearing and Business International Forum, November 2018

Video of the Festival with a short section from Rosie here

Sweden, lecture,  b. babywearing festival 2018

Denmark, talk February 2018, Dansk Bærefestival and here

Scotland, 2017, 2018

The Netherlands, 2018

Belgium, 2017

England, (Sheffield, London, Coventry, Bristol) 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019


Online Babywearing peer supporter training

Babywearing Theory, Safety and Peer Supporter Training

Do you want to understand more about why sling and carrier use is such an important tool for new families, and be able to be an effective advocate for their use? Do you want a good grounding in basic babywearing safety across a range of circumstances and an introduction to the major types of sling and how to use them well? Then these online babywearing training courses could be just what you need!

Online Babywearing peer supporter training

I am a Carrying Advocate and Babywearing Peer Supporter trainer, working under the Born To Carry banner. (This is a training provider of excellence in babywearing skills, bringing together some of the most experienced babywearing teachers and facilitators in the UK). I have trained hundreds of peer supporters. These range from interested parents who want to volunteer or help their own friends, massage therapists, early years providers, health care professionals (health visitors, midwives, doulas etc) and those who want to set up their own local sling libraries.

During the pandemic, much learning has had to move online, and my training courses are no exception.

There are two courses available, which are purchased separately, to give as much flexibility as possible.


Reduced cost places are available for certain priority groups, read more about that here and how to apply.


The first course is a comprehensive standalone introduction to babywearing theory and safety, which will give an excellent grounding for becoming an advocate for carrying behaviour and how slings can help promote health and wellbeing. It also provides an in-depth introduction to the major types of carrier and how to use them. This is open to everyone, and can be completed at your leisure. There are short tests of your knowledge as you proceed through the course and a final assessment to complete the course for a certificate.

  • This will suit many people who wish to enhance their knowledge and understanding, become evidence-based babywearing advocates, be able to signpost to local libraries with more confidence, and are not planning to offer in-person support to families on a regular basis.
  • This course is not timed, and can be done at your own schedule and to your own pace.
  • Please be aware that this course is not a Peer Supporter course and the certificate cannot be presented as such.
  • This course is not sufficient on its own for anyone planning to offer any form of movement classes with babies in slings.

Introduction to babywearing theory and safety – online course, £40

  • Welcome Module.
  • Why Carrying Matters Module/Fourth Trimester Module.
  • Introduction to Basic Babywearing Safety.
  • The Role of the Peer Supporter/Consultant.
  • The Different Types of Slings And How To Use Them.
  • Special Circumstances.
  • Assessment Module (to confirm learning)

Enrol onto the Theory and Safety Course (£40)

The second course (which not everyone will need) is a practical  training session, currently being delivered online in small groups, via Zoom. This practical session focuses on actively supporting new parents with hands-on-help, and is required to become a Peer Supporter offering hands-on in-person support with fitting and troubleshooting for families. Regular dates for these sessions will be available for individuals to sign up for. The theory and safety course must have been completed before doing this section if you wish to be a Peer Suppprter.

  • These sessions can also be arranged for a single group who want to focus on a particular need (such as health care professionals only, using one type of carrier) or for a group who wish to learn together. Please contact me to arrange this.
  • Satisfactory completion of this course and the assessment will generate a certificate of competence as a Babywearing Peer Supporter.

Practical Session to become a Peer Supporter (to be done in person, or via video link), £55 per person, half a day.

  • Building and assessing skills in using the main types of carrier.
  • Learning and practising how to support others and troubleshoot effectively.
  • Opportunities for discussion with Rosie and fellow students.
  • Assessment Module (via the Born to Carry website) to ensure receipt of information and ensure the high standards of training from the Born to Carry organisation are met.

Reduced cost places are available for certain priority groups, read more about that here and how to apply.

Contact me for dates for the Practical Peer Supporter Training

What a wonderful course! Packed full of information and learning. Rosie knows a staggering amount and is so enthusiastic and inspiring.
J.T.


FAQ

Do I need to do both courses?
It depends what you need from the training. If you wish to be a Peer Supporter, yes, you will need to do both.

Can I just do the online theory and safety course?
Yes, this will generate a certificate of competence in babywearing theory and safety, which may be all you need. You will have a good grounding in why babywearing is so useful, based in evidence, a solid understanding of how to keep a baby safe in the major types of sling and be able to advocate and signpost to further resources.

I want to support new parents to choose a good sling, and become confident in putting their slings on, or set up a sling library. What courses do I need?
You will need to do both the theory and practical courses, as this is what Peer Supporters do!

I want to offer classes for new parents and their babies with slings as part of the class. Is the online course enough?
No. You must do the full Peer Supporter training. This online course will not be enough on its own, as hands-on skills and careful planning of classes are needed. Adding any movement with a sling beyond walking increases the potential for harm. Babies and their caregivers’ wellbeing should be the primary concern for such classes, and they should not be placed at risk by inadequate training.

Do I need to do both the online and practical courses at the same time?
This is up to you! Some people will opt to do the theory course at their own pace, and then decide if they want to do the practical course to become a fully trained peer supporter. If you wish to do the full course, it will help to have the online theory fresh in your mind before you come to the practical session. You must have completed the theory before the practical session.

Can I have a practical session tailored to the specific need of my group (eg neonatal nurses, health visitors or for dance classes, etc?)
Absolutely, you can do the online theory and safety course and then have your own group practical session with me, please get in touch to discuss your needs. Please be aware that I am a working GP and can only offer a certain number of practical sessions per year.

The Carrying Advocacy Peer Supporter Course has several aims. One is to understand why carrying matters so much in the vital task of building a happy brain – we look at some of the neuropsychology and biochemistry behind it all. Slings can help to facilitate this. Another is to enable people to give robust, safe advice about babywearing and infuse the people they meet with excitement and confidence about using a sling, and help them use it safely and confidently. It is not a consultancy course (therefore does not cover advanced techniques such as back carrying or complex woven wrap techniques), but is designed to equip trainees with the tools they need to be able to support the parents they meet. It covers topics such as:

  • the benefits of babywearing
  • the physiological principles of baby positioning to protect airway, spine and hips
  • confidence with the most common types of sling
  • practical demonstrating skills

  • demonstrating and discussing the safe use of slings in many circumstances (eg feeding)
  • troubleshooting common difficulties
  • assessing boundaries and responsibilities
  • babywearing in a historical/sociopolitical context

Those who attend this course, complete the post-course assessment and receive their certificate of completion are eligible for insurance from three providers.

Dance and exercise classes with slings

Please read this first if you are considering setting up one of these classes. The safety of child and parent is paramount at all times and there is simply too much to cover when the class instructor is not already very familiar with slings and aware of the risks involved (this is more than just being aware of the “TICKS” guidelines). If you want to discuss whether you are suitable for entry on this course please email me before you book. I reserve the right to refuse training.


Feedback

“I really enjoyed trying different carriers. I found the trouble shooting sections particularly interesting and fun. I learnt a lot and feel more confident with all carriers and especially with how to wrap a new born.
I really loved it and now want to do the consultant training even more. Rosie was clearly very enthusiastic and dedicated and made everything so interesting. She was pretty inspiring.”


“Everything I had hoped for was met, I feel like a peer supporter now, not just someone who loves slings!”


“Hi Rosie, I couldn’t go to bed without sending you a note to say a huge thank you for the course today. I’ve never felt more included and welcome and I’m so thrilled I came along. Thank you for your hospitality and brilliant teaching, I’m raving about babywearing to my husband and cannot wait to volunteer at a meet soon.”


“I loved the content of the day, the discussions, playing with different slings, learning new ways of slinging, wrapping etc. The course was well run, well organised and I felt empowered to speak, share and question.”


“I feel much more confident in my knowledge of both the benefits of babywearing, and how to go about enabling parents.”


“I really enjoyed meeting other like minded people. I liked the theory of babywearing as it related closely to the work I do as Breastfeeding Lead in the NHS. I enjoyed trying all the different slings and carriers and understanding in what situations they would be used.”

“Rosie was born to teach people. Simply fantastic in the way information was relayed. Would highly recommend.”


“The whole day was so good! A key element was the ability to see and try so many different types of slings and to have time to go through basic principles regarding how to use them all. The role play aspects where we were able to troubleshoot carrier problems was also very useful.”


“My personal learning aims were met, it exceeded my expectations. I found the course was extremely enjoyable and covered so much subject matter but was not overwhelming. My aims were well and truly met. I now believe I could give a new babywearer good/correct advice and help in ways I was unsure about prior to the course.”


“Having someone with your experience and knowledge available all day to ask questions and watch demo was incredible. I really enjoyed the contextual and historical information about Babywearing and what led us all into that room that day. It put everything into the ‘bigger picture’ and made me feel such a part of the huge Babywearing community. Having such a massive amount of slings in the room to try and compare was utterly invaluable – such a rare opportunity. I thought the balance between practical and theory was absolutely spot on. As someone who’s very interested in the sociopolitical aspects of Babywearing I was really pleased to see this covered in the course and really appreciated that you placed Babywearing so firmly in this context during the day.”


“The course really opened my eyes to consider the needs of individuals and how essential it is to be inclusive and approachable and gave me the tools to do this confidently (especially regarding narrow base carriers). It was useful to be shown how to exaggerate movements and words when teaching and to have the opportunity to practice this. Rosie’s enthusiasm was infectious and made the whole day very engaging. The size of the group worked well and I especially enjoyed how well we all got on.”


educational resources build a happy brain rainbow brain carrying matters

Educational Resources

This page contains various resources that may be useful for education and supporting others. Leaflets, posters and postcard packs can be purchased. Images and PDFs can be downloaded free of charge by clicking on the photos. Please ensure you credit me (Dr Rosie Knowles) if you use them.

Click on the image to download a PDF, or order a pack of high quality printed leaflets using the button below.

Buy the Carry Safe leaflets here

Click on the image to download a PDF, or order a pack of high quality printed leaflets using the button below.

Buy the Guide to Slings leaflets here

Click on the image to download a PDF, or order a pack of glossy postcards or posters using the button below.

Buy the Seven Reasons poster here

Click on the image to download a PDF, or order a pack of glossy postcards or posters using the button below.

Buy the 4th Trimester products here

Click on the image to download a PDF, or order a pack of glossy postcards or posters using the button below.

Buy the Build a Happy Brain products here

Click on the image below to download a PDF, or order A3 posters using the button below.

Buy the Skin to Skin Matters products here - coming soon!

Click on the image to download a PDF, or order A3 posters using the button below.

Buy the Bonding with your Baby posters here

Click on the image to download a PDF, or order A3 posters using the button below.

Buy the Babywearing and Mental Health (mother/father) posters here

Click on the image to download a PDF, or order A3 posters using the button below.

Buy the Babywearing and Mental Health posters (inclusive) here

Click on the image to download a PDF, or order a pack of posters using the button below.

Buy the Carrying in the Heat posters here

Click on the image to download a PDF, or order a pack of posters using the button below.

Buy the Carrying in the Cold posters here

Read Rosie’s well loved Why Babywearing Matters book here, published by Pinter and Martin.

Buy the book here

Read Rosie’s well loved Why Babywearing Matters book here, translated into Polish by Lenny Lamb.

Buy the Polish book here

carrying in special circumstances

Carrying in Special Circumstances

Sometimes there is a need for extra support with using slings; don’t be discouraged if you or your child have extra needs, there are always ways to keep carrying in special circumstances.

If your child can be held and carried in arms, there is likely to be a way to carry them safely in a sling. Twins can be carried in slings, as can a baby and a toddler at the same time (tandem carrying). There are ways to carry safely in pregnancy, to carry after birth, to carry premature babies. We will help you to carry your child if you have a disability, or if your child has special needs or physical health concerns. We are here to help you find a way to keep them close.

This page links to some useful information; personal stories about carrying in special circumstances, professional advice and useful links. Please see our Common Queries page for simpler situations.

If you have a special story, please get in touch to share them with me for the wider community!

Here is an excellent downloadable article on Potential Therapeutic Benefits of Babywearing by Robyn Reynolds-Miller.

You can find more educational resources here for downloading (such as infographics and leaflets and images)

If you need more specialised support or have a query not covered here, please do get in touch with me or find your local sling library at Sling Pages.


blog

Blog

The Carrying Matters blog page.. enjoy reading! If you have any topics you'd like to see covered, get in touch! I enjoy writing and am always keen to hear of new ideas, and to host guest blog posts too!

carried baby

I am a Carried Baby

Why do we carry our babies? We carry them because it is a biological, instinctive parental response, that blesses the children we carry, and that blesses us. I find myself blessed by the small part I…

Read More


Can I carry my baby in a sling if I have epilepsy?

Guest Blog from a friend of mine about her choice to use a sling to keep her child close despite her diagnosis of epilepsy. It has worked out very well for her. Here she discusses the processes of…

Read More


Breast and Bottle Feeding Safely in a Sling

I meet a lot of pregnant ladies in the course of my varied roles, and many new mums, and one of the questions I am most frequently asked is "Will I be able to feed my baby in a sling?" It's an…

Read More



Guide to Slings

Guide to Slings

A guide to slings: choosing to carry your child is just the start of an adventure you can share together and both derive a great deal of enjoyment from! It can often feel overwhelming, trying to decide what to try first when there are so many options and everyone has their own favourites. Our guide to slings is designed to help you understand the basics of safe sling use and to know more about the major types of sling.

Useful videos can be found here and the photo tutorials here.

Read more about Common Queries here (such as facing out, carrying in the post-natal period, healthy hip positioning)

Read more about Carrying in Special Circumstances here (such as carrying while pregnant, carrying older children, carrying premature babies)

Do get in touch if you need some help.


Choosing a sling

How to Choose a Sling

I have met thousands of parents over the years, wanting help with choosing a sling. It’s fantastic to support them in their desire to carry their child close, with all the great things this will bring the whole family. For many, they can feel utterly overwhelmed by the huge range of options on offer (see here for a quick introduction to carrying, and here for a quick overview of the major types of sling).

Very often, they will ask me what I would recommend.. and this is a very hard question to answer, one that I usually respond to with more questions! Everyone’s choice of carrier is unique for themselves; and their initial choice will often change as they try things out.


Initially, when it comes to choosing a sling,

many people will look for a carrier that isn’t especially expensive, to see “if they get on with carrying.” Others will pick something that has been marketed by a mass-manufacturer in mainstream stores or at trade shows as being the best option available, or will choose something for the specific features listed, such as the ability to carry a baby in multiple positions, or being described as “the best”. Some may have been given carriers by their friends from several years ago (often hardly used “as it just didn’t work for us”), or bagged some ultra-cheap ones on Ebay.

This can sometimes lead to problems, as such carriers may not have been specifically designed to work with parent and child anatomy and can thus often be uncomfortable after only a short time. They may be worn too loose or baby may be too low, causing back pain from the strain of the carrying or the hunching that can ensue (as well as potentially posing an airway risk). This can lead to a belief that that baby is too heavy or that the parent isn’t strong enough (neither is usually true!) and carrying journeys come to a premature end. At this point, those who want to make carrying work for them will often look for support from someone like me to find something that works. Of course, some parents will come straight to us right at the start!

A good carrier should be comfortable for both baby and parent. It should support baby safely, protecting their airway and allowing easy breathing, in just the same way as when you hold them upright on your chest in your arms.

A good carrier should hold baby in the anatomically appropriate spread-squat position that respects infant and child spine physiology. Carrying in this fashion is usually much more comfortable and allows longer duration of sling use than in-arms or in a poorly fitting carrier. (Do remember to build up your carrying muscles day by day. It is exercise and gets easier with repetition, just like training for a race.)


People end up choosing their main carrier for many different reasons – and each individual will have different priorities, which will lead to their own personal choice. When I am asked what I would recommend myself, I often describe a bar chart like the one below, which shows just how variable things can be, and what suits me won’t suit them. Some people will prioritise comfort and longevity over pricing and simplicity; some value customisability and appearance more than pricing or resale value, everyone is different. People may end up choosing alternative carriers that they had originally envisaged, based on their “list of requirements”, due to how the sling feels for baby and parent when it is fitted.


This is why one “size does not fit all” and why many of us in the sling world use an analogy of shoe fitting, jeans or wedding dresses when it comes to trying a carrier. Everyone ends up with something difference. Cheap shoes bought over the internet often don’t fit your feet and can cause blisters. Jimmy Choos, Louboutins or Doc Martens really do not work for everyone, however desirable or pretty or cool they may be. What works for your friend, or for a large number of enthusiastic sling owners on the internet, or an experienced sling professional may not work for you. Current trends or famous brands don’t equate to an instant “perfect fit” and no one carrier can claim to be “the ultimate” or “the best.”

Trying a few things out before you commit yourself to a purchase that can feel expensive is very useful, and it is often worth spending more on a good quality carrier that fits you well, to ensure you and your baby are both comfortable and that it will last for some time. Many people find, however, once they have the right sling, it gets used daily, and the cost per use per day comes down to pence. Don’t be tempted to buy an extremely cheap carrier that may well be a fake (Ergobaby is the best known carrier to have been counterfeited) – always ask for proof of purchase from an authorised retailer when buying second hand. Your child’s safety isn’t worth the risk. Buyer beware!


Once you’ve recognised the benefits of carrying as comfortably as possible, how do you begin to choose?

I highly recommend visiting your local sling library to try out several options; there will be someone there with training and experience to help you navigate the choices. Some people will have a “shopping list” of requirements for their ideal carrier, based on what they have read online or been advocated by a friend or an internet group. Of course, such recommendations can be helpful, but a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works in practice. Every baby-parent dyad is unique, with their own personal stories that influence how they stand, how they carry, how they prefer to be held, for example, and particular features that seemed desirable on paper may not feel quite right in person. If you think your other half is likely to carry too, do bring them along to try things themselves; it is very hard to guess what will work.

For example, some people will love the feel of thicker, more padded waistbands, while others will find them bulky and restrictive. Some will prefer straps that cross over, others find this can ride up to the neck. Some find rucksack style straps hard to do up. Some inserts are simple to use, others more complex, many don’t like inserts at all. Some people find meh dais and woven wraps more comfortable than carriers. It is generally a good idea to have an open mind; you may be surprised to find some things work much better than you had imagined, while others just don’t feel quite right.

Bulky carriers may not necessarily equal greater support or comfort for everyone, and too much bulk can be unhelpful for some. Knowing how to achieve good positioning and how high and tight to have a carrier are very effective tools for successfully distributing weight comfortably.

A good sling librarian or peer supporter will be able to show you how to position your child, as well as tips and tricks that can make things much easier (such as how to put on fiddly straps, or how to make sure your stretchy wrap is tight enough, or how to ensure your ring sling feels secure). Sling libraries are fantastic resources.

Choosing a sling

It is worth being aware that knowledge about sling safety and best practice positioning is improving all the time. Older carriers and older brands may have instructions that are no longer part of current safety guidelines; feeding and sleeping positions in slings are often out of date. Do check with your local sling professional if you have any concerns at all, they will be only too pleased to support you and your child.

Your sling should bring you and your child great enjoyment and should not cause you pain or be uncomfortable. Furthermore, as a family’s familiarity with slings grows and as their baby gets bigger, their choices can change. They may move from things that are especially designed for small babies, or carriers that are as simple as can be, on to things that they find increasingly versatile and comfortable. Babies may wish to change how they are carried, desiring greater visibility, for example. Each parent may have different shapes too, and families may decide to have different carriers for different situations (eg a simple buckled carrier for use on a school run or on a muddy day, or a woven wrap for a long sleep-inducing walk, for example). There are no “perfect” answers, but options that end up being the best choice for the circumstances.


Breast and Bottle Feeding Safely in a Sling

Carrying babies is a wonderful way to encourage successful and more long-lasting breastfeeding, as the frequent skin to skin contact and the building of loving relationships help to stimulate oxytocin release.

Oxytocin release (which stimulates let-down) becomes conditioned to the mother’s experience and emotions; the touch, sight, smell or cry of her baby, as well as thoughts of her baby and the natural rhythm and expectation that baby will be hungry soon.

A sling that allows ease of access to the breast encourages responsive feeding, helping the harmonious nurturing relationship to flourish.

Mothers can go about their daily tasks or care for older children while their child’s need for nurture and nourishment can continue uninterrupted. This is normal human behaviour.

If the mother is in distress, unwell, or struggling with postnatal depression or anxiety, her feelings will inhibit oxytocin release and have an impact on breastfeeding. Close physical contact with her child as well as effective emotional support can help a feeding relationship to recover.

A comfortable baby carrier can thus be an excellent solution for a breastfeeding mother and baby who have had a complex start. This can be especially valuable after a difficult labour and birth or a prolonged separation for medical reasons.

The carrier can help create a safe space for the dyad, keeping them close together, allowing them to heal each other, encouraging the hormones of love and bonding to flow. This has a positive impact on breastfeeding.

If breastfeeding comes to an end, the baby carrier can preserve the growing relationship by keeping mother and baby in close contact and help it to continue to blossom.

 

There is always more of a risk to safety when combining breastfeeding with babywearing and it must be done well. Here’s my guide to safe breast and bottle feeding in a sling!

I meet a lot of pregnant ladies in the course of my varied roles, and many new mums, and one of the questions I am most frequently asked is “Will I be able to feed my baby in a sling?”

It’s an important question to deal with, as it crops up so regularly, and for some, is one of the criteria for choosing the right sling for their needs. The simplest answer is that, “Yes, many parents are able to feed their babies in slings, from the breast or from the bottle.”

But this then leads to other vital questions…

1. “Why might you want to be able to feed in a sling?”

2. “How can you keep your baby safe while feeding?”

3. “How can you make feeding in a sling as easy as possible?”

4. “What slings can be helpful for feeding?”


1) Why might you want to feed in a sling?

Most commonly, mums of more than one child find being able to feed the baby on the go very useful. This is especially so if they are feeding responsively, as recommended by the WHO, and have an older child who needs their parent just as much. Quite often, they will have had some experience of breast or bottle feeding already, and may be very familiar with their sling, and will be “old hands” at combining the two skills.

Mums of older children who can feed quickly in a sitting upright position may also find a sling an invaluable and very convenient tool for getting on with daily life.

For mums of small babies, it may be that the sling will be useful to carry their child to a place where they can be taken out to feed in peace and comfort. For others, being able to have baby partly supported with the sling and with one arm may allow a “third hand” to work on achieving latch, and can prove very useful for facilitating feeding. For others and once feeding is established, it can allow some simple multi-tasking rather than being pinned to the sofa.

On the whole, it may help to consider each element as a separate skill to master – how to feed, and how to use the sling, and learn how to combine them safely, however, for some, the sling can actually be an aid to achieving latch. Practice will, of course, be needed, like with every new accomplishment!

2) How can you keep your baby safe while feeding?

All the basic rules of sling safety apply when carrying a baby. The TICKS guidelines and the ABC reminders are below. However, there are different considerations needed with feeding in slings (as baby may not be close enough to kiss, for example). As always, protecting the airway and ensuring breathing is unobstructed is of paramount importance.

Babies, on the whole, are obligate nasal breathers. This means that they find it much easier to breathe through their noses than their mouths, for the first few months of life, and it is essential that noses are kept clear of any obstruction. This is why babies may struggle more than older children with mild respiratory infections affecting the small nasal passages. It is also why they are able to feed for prolonged periods of time without needing to delatch for mouth breathing, and why babies with snuffly noses find it harder to feed.

Therefore, while a baby’s mouth is engaged with the process of sucking and swallowing, his only patent airway is his nose. It is important for the carer to be consciously aware of any potential obstruction, either external (from sling fabric, or breast tissue, or clothing ) or internal (neck bent over too far) and able to rectify it rapidly when required.

how do i keep my baby safe in the sling
from www. babyslingsafety.co.uk
from Babywearing International

Whether feeding upright, or slightly reclined, the safest positions are…

  • those in which the parent is actively engaged and frequently checking on their child, and able to recognise any changes

  • those that ensure a good air supply at all times with no fabric over the head and chin off the chest (check you can fit two fingers underneath if you are unsure)

  • those in which baby’s head is aligned with their spine and only turned slightly to one side if needed

  • those in which baby’s back and occiput (lower part of the back of the head) are appropriately supported

  • those in which baby’s knees are above the bottom and hips are flexed (bent upwards)

  • those that ensure that a baby who has finished feeding or has fallen asleep is returned to the most optimal upright position to keep airway supported and open.

The choice of best position will vary from person to person, depending on the individual circumstances, however, the majority of successful “on-the-go” feeding is done in the upright position.

In my opinion, the greatest risk comes from breastfeeding in positions where baby is held face inwards towards the breast, with sling fabric pulled up over the back of the head, so the face is pressed firmly into breast tissue or the child is curled over into a ball.

Please note this dangerous position is not the same typical gentle reclining in-arms “cradle” positions where the head is well supported in the crook of the elbow and the chin is not on the chest. This is the most common breastfeeding position, with a sling adding a little support, almost like a cushion or a hammock, to take some of the weight off the supporting arm and give you one hand free.

What should a feeding carry look like?

Baby’s head should be completely free of fabric, being supported by the sling up to the nape of the neck, able to latch and delatch as needed. Their lower body should be well supported from knee to knee, either by wrap fabric well and snugly tucked up between your bodies, or a well tied/securely buckled waistband. Both of baby’s arms should be positioned around the feeding breast or bottle, just as if in arms, and the head should not be at an awkward angle.  Feet should be free of fabric and baby should be comfortable and easily able to reach the nipple. If baby is able to achieve a good latch from this position, he/she should be able to feed if ready. Some practice may be needed for both of you!

Feeding in slings is more risky if you have a snuffly baby who is needing to delatch frequently for some mouth breathing, and finds herself unable to do so as her head is not free to pull backwards for a little extra air.

Babies should never be left to sleep in feeding positions as their disproportionally heavy heads can too easily droop or be folded over, with subsequent obstruction of their airways.

**Please remember that loosened slings with longer tails can present a trip hazard if you are feeding on the move.**

 

In general, it can help to think of the sling as a third hand to help support baby in position while you work on achieving a latch. Many people manage to feed happily and safely in slings, once they are armed with good information, and know what to watch out for. It usually works best with older children, too. If you feel unsure about feeding your child in your carrier, do get in touch with a professional who can give you some one-to-one help and advice.

A hip carry may work well (with a wrap/ring sling/cross strap buckle carrier/meh dai).


3) How can you make feeding in a sling as easy as possible?

For breastfeeding, think about ensuring easy access for your baby. Your choice of clothes can make things a lot easier. Loose fronted tops that can be easily moved out of the way, pulled down or lifted up, or those that open and close with zips or poppers, rather than buttons can help. Many mums swear by a combination of a loose shirt that can be lifted up/pulled down with a stretchy camisole or vest underneath that can be lifted up/pulled down. Such layering often provides good cover, if required. Bras that are easy to undo one handed (while your other hand supports baby”s head) are also helpful. Some mums find latching on more successful if they lean forwards slightly to bring the breast up to baby’s mouth, and many need to hold their breast up with one hand for the duration of the feed. Hoods can help with providing some discreet coverage, but remember that temperatures inside slings rise quickly if air cannot circulate freely, and carbon dioxide levels in rebreathed air are raised.

4) What kind of slings are good for breastfeeding in?

It is usually possible to feed a baby in most slings, with a bit of care. I don’t think there is really any such thing as hands-free feeding, as one hand or arm should always be on your baby to provide support, especially before they have excellent head control. But one hand free is better than none! Breast size, shape, flexibiliity and nipple position varies from woman to woman, and from stage to stage in the breastfeeding journey, so each dyad will need practice to work out which height works best for them. Larger breasts may prove more tricky for some.

Please remember that baby’s back and occiput should be well supported with no curling over and his chin should not be resting on his own chest, and once finished feeding, baby will need to be returned to his previous snug, upright and close position, by adjusting the sling appropriately.


Feeding in Stretchy Wraps

There are many different ways to feed in a stretchy wrap. Some methods are safer than others. On the whole, stretchy wraps are mostly used with small babies in the classic upright “hug hold” also known as the “pocket wrap cross carry”. It is these young babies from birth to four months who have the greatest risk of airway obstruction, so it is worth visiting your local babywearing consultant to get some advice and support if you can. I can’t stress enough how important it is to ensure your baby’s back and head is well supported, but still able to move freely to create an effective latch (and delatch), and that baby’s face is visible, not covered with fabric and their nose is clear. Once the feed is over, baby MUST be returned to the previous snug, close, upright seated squat position. There should NEVER be any fabric behind the back of baby’s head.

The video shows how to use a stretchy as a breastfeeding aid. You can see how baby is in the classic tummy to mummy position as the fabric is removed.

I usually advise parents to see their stretchy wrap as a breastfeeding aid. It can add a layer of extra support and spread some of the weight to the non cradling shoulder, and allow a short period of moving around while their child is feeding. It is not hands-free.


Feeding in ring slings

Ring Slings and upright feeding

From a good seated squat position, the pouch can be gently and slowly loosened by lifting the uppermost ring up carefully, so that baby is lowered slightly down your body. Ensure that the loosening is equal across the width of the sling so that baby’s upright seated squat position is maintained. Bring your child to the breast up so he is able to latch on without twisting his neck.

  • Bottle feeders may not need to lower their baby as much, but some loosening will help to ensure baby does not have to twist his head to the side too much for teat access.

 

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Ring Slings and slightly reclined feeding

From the snug seated squat position, loosen the fabric slowly and carefully to lower baby just a little.  Lean forwards slightly and support baby’s upper body with one hand. Gently recline your baby into the waiting crook of your arm as you bring his far leg around to your front so both legs are together. Ensure the pouch of fabric is well tucked up between your baby’s side and your tummy so he is resting as if in a hammock, slightly turned towards you, bent knees above bottom, feet outside the carrier, with his head and neck resting on your arm. Adjust his location in this position so his mouth is able to reach your nipple – it should look and feel just as if you were holding him in your arms to feed. Keep the top rail of fabric under baby’s neck, do not pull it over his head.

  • Bottle feeding is similar, but baby’s head will be facing the ceiling.


Feeding in Woven Wraps

Woven wraps and upright feeding

Carries such as the Front Wrap Cross Carry and its variants can be easily adjusted for feeding. The knot at the back (or side) can be loosened just a little, with the resulting small amount of slack worked equally and evenly back along the fabric so baby is sitting in a lower pouch with mouth above nipple, but still snug and supported, and in the spread squat position. The whole carry can be moved slightly across to one side or the other, and the baby can then be brought to to the breast. It is easy to switch sides.

Hip carries (especially those with slip knots) are easy to feed from one side.

Bottle feeding is similar, but baby may not need to be lowered quite as much, and may need a little more space at the top edge for the bottle to be accessible without baby’s head having to turn too far.

feeding with a bottle in a woven wrap

Woven Wraps and slightly reclined feeding

This works best with carries that do not have cross passes under baby’s legs, so baby can be gently tilted to one side to rest on your feeding arm. The FWCC can be partially untied so the long tails are hanging down over the shoulders and baby is sitting just in the horizontal pass. He can then be carefully gathered to one side with his far leg brought round to the front, his body turned to face the parent, bent knees above bottom, feet out and head and neck resting on your arm. Adjust his location in this position so his mouth is able to reach your nipple – it should look and feel just as if you were holding him in your arms to feed. Keep the top rail of fabric under baby’s neck, do not pull it over his head. The long tails are usually best left loose as retying them will mean you are not in control of baby’s head during the process.

  • Bottle feeding is similar, but baby’s head will be facing the ceiling.



Feeding in soft structured carriers

Soft structured carriers (mei tais, half buckles, full buckles) and upright feeding

This can work well for bigger babies who have some head control. Baby should be in the carrier at the height she would normally be carried, with back and legs comfy in the seated squat position. To feed, slightly loosen the waistband gently and lower it a couple of inches and retighten, then loosen the side buckles or ties one by one to lower baby to the required position. One side may need to be loosened more than the other as baby feeds from that side. The breast can then be brought to the mouth. It is usually easy to switch sides with the straps being adjusted each time to allow baby to move. Baby’s back and occiput should be well supported with no curling over and his chin should not be resting on his own chest.

  • Bottle feeding is similar, but baby may not need to be lowered quite as much, and may need a little more space at the top edge for the bottle to be accessible without baby’s head having to turn too far.

Once finished feeding, baby will need to be returned to the previous snug, upright and close position, by adjusting the sling appropriately.

breastfeeding in a Mamaruga Zensling

So in summary.. “Can I feed my child in my sling?” The answer is a resounding YES YOU CAN, from newborn to toddler, in lots of positions, from breast and from bottle. The key to doing it well is to ask questions about how to do it safely and empower yourself with knowledge to make a choice about how you wish to feed and then practice. It’s all about the AIRWAY! Do ask your local sling professional for some support…. – and enjoy!

 

Some further reading;

Seven Reasons Why Carrying is Great for Breastfeeding Mothers (Jess Hippey for Oscha Slings)


fuss about facing out

The Fuss about Facing Out

family in spain sunnyOne of the most common “controversies” in the babywearing world is the “fuss about facing out” that is, the issue of babies being carried in facing out positions. This means babies being held with their backs to their carer, facing the world, rather than facing the person who is carrying them. Opinions vary widely among manufacturers and parents and even among professionals. Many babies do very much enjoy being held in positions where they can see the world, so why all the fuss? Is there any need for a fuss at all?

What are the advantages of world-facing?

Babies do enjoy seeing the world, especially once they are a little older and have mastered head control and wish to be more involved with their environment, rather than sleeping or snuggling in as they did when they were very little. Curiosity often coincides with increased motor co-ordination and greater periods of awake and interaction time. This is often the point at which families begin holding their babies in positions that give them greater visibility. Instinctively, they tend to support their little ones in very gentle positions that still ensure good hip and spine support; cradled in arms with chin off chest, or held in semi-seated positions with back curved against parent but hips held in flexion, as if sitting in a bowl.
These positions protect the natural anatomical curve of the immature spine and do not straighten it uncomfortably.

As babies grow, their muscle strength increases and fatiguability decreases, alongside greater coordination and gross motor skills. This allows slowly improving head and neck and upper back control (with less drooping or wild flailing) as their spines gradually begin to uncurl. Furthermore, as their focal length improves and visual acuity rises, the world becomes very interesting! There are stages in baby development when babies seem to arch away in arms a lot; this may be related to a desire to see more, but may also simply be attempts to hone upper back strength, in preparation for turning skills and rolling over. This is very common around ten to twelve weeks. Babies may also arch when they are tired, if they have reflux, if they are frustrated.

In-arms holding is responsive, which is the key issue; if baby makes a protesting movement or noise, the carer responds and moves the baby to help it to become calm again. Also, parental arms get tired and baby is easily moved to another position, this may often be on the shoulder facing parent again for a while. Such reactive carrying in-arms, with changing facing-in and facing-out positions, is of great benefit for honing development and also to encourage learning about the world from a safe and comfortable position.

This all sounds great, so what’s the problem with using a sling for this?

What are the hazards of facing out?

It is important to remember that young babies are not ready for prolonged and intense interaction with a very sensory-overloading environment; they have not yet learned how to process the bombardment of information their brains are receiving. They have not yet discovered how to “filter out” the irrelevant for a more focused look at the world, (a skill that we take for granted) so this can be very tiring. Being able to turn away from the noise and bustle and fall asleep (to process information) is important. A facing-out carrier holds a baby in a fixed position for a prolonged period of time. The duration of this time is entirely dependent on the parent; they are unable to see their baby’s face to pick up early cues of tiredness or distress or breathing difficulties, and they are less able to feel subtle shifts in baby’s body signalling discomfort or a need to change positions. Babies can easily be left in carriers for much longer than they would be held in arms.

Babies are intensely social creatures and learn to regulate and control their emotions from interaction with their parents and watching their faces. Social referencing (also known as triangulation) is very important in the first year and well into the second. A child will often decide how to react to a new experience after it has looked to its carer; it will be less likely to touch something dangerous if the carer reacts in an upset way. Potentially scary experiences can defused by turning the head to see a parent remaining calm, or to receive comfort and reassurance, and vice versa. In a structured carrier worn facing out, it isn’t as easy for a baby to twist around to see the parent’s face for reassurance or to be able to seek comfort.

Many pushchair makers now include parent-facing positions as standard, as this is believed to encourage and improve language skills and bonding. (It is worth noting that there is no formal evidence to suggest that our children are any slower at language acquisition than previous generations who did not use facing-out means of transport, however, anything that promotes bonding and communication is to be encouraged.)Sleeping

Furthermore, the world-facing positions do not provide any safe sleeping positions (all respected manufacturers say babies must be turned around to sleep; this is often missed in the small print) as there is no head support in this carry. A heavy head that is unsupported by a parent’s chest will droop forwards, putting baby’s chest under slight compression and pressing the chin downwards, potentially compromising the airway.

This is why the majority of respected sling manufacturers suggest that babies under 4months should not be carried facing out. Before this, babies simply are not developmentally ready.  Beyond this age, they should not be held in carriers facing the world for longer than twenty minutes to half an hour or so. (Some manufacturers say facing out from 3 months up, some say from 5months up). I think it depends on the child’s personal developmental stage and there should really be no rush.)

There is also the issue of hip and spine positioning in facing out positions. Most facing out in slings is done with “narrow-based” carriers, as very few high street options offer wider, more ergonomic seats that protect the gentle curve of the spine and promote healthy hip development in the world facing position. Most babies find their backs are held in straighter positions than ideal, with their legs hanging straight down from their hip sockets in this narrow shaping. While there is no formal evidence that choosing a narrow-based carrier will cause any harm to a baby who has healthy hips with normal sockets, there is a small percentage of babies who do have developmental hip dysplasia that are missed at their routine checks. These babies will benefit enormously from the ergonomic seated M shape position that allows their joints to be held in the optimum angles for healthy blood vessel growth and nutrient provision, and often this positioning is all that is needed to correct mild cases of hip dysplasia. It is worth weighing up the risks and may be better to choose a carrier that holds a baby more optimally if you decide to face baby out. Additionally, it is more comfortable for a person to be seated on a broad based hammock shaped chair rather than perched astride a narrow padded beam, and babies are no different.

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Carrying a baby who is sitting high up against the carer’s body with the centres of gravity closely aligned is much more comfortable than carrying one who is low down, far away, and suspended from the carer’s shoulders. The parent’s body does not form part of the support structure of the carry when facing out, so much of the work of carrying has to be done by the upper body, rather than the core postural muscles. Centres of gravity diverge further when held facing out in narrow based carriers. Put simply, carrying facing out in this style of carrier is often uncomfortable.

Ok, so what can I use to carry my curious child optimally?

It is common among parents who are considering using a sling to look for options that offer world-facing positions. This position is what is often seen in the media and is widely advertised; it may be more pleasing to see happy babies looking directly at the camera rather than away from it, which can be better for marketing purposes. As it is so visible, it becomes the “norm” and carriers that offer this option are often perceived as “better.” 

Pao

Many parents believe that babies need to be given the opportunity to face the world as much as possible for the stimulation, rather than looking at their parent all the time. Sometimes this belief can be be a marker for low self-esteem in a parent; that they just aren’t interesting enough, when in fact, for many well-attached babies, their parent is their most beloved sight. This is especially true if parent and baby are attuned and the parent is responsive and communicative and able to engage happily in play with their baby. Babies are often able to pick up on unhappy or uneasy feelings in parents and can be reflexively resistant to close contact, creating a negative spiral. Lots of in-arms carrying, skin to skin, and just time spent together can be very helpful with this.

Sometimes babies may begin to resist being carried in their parent-facing positions – they may have come to associate the sling with sleeping which they don’t want to do, and they may want to be able to see more. 

JUNOlo-16
To achieve a good view while the child remains parent-facing, and ensure access to the world, try carriers with broadly angled straps that don’t get too close to the face can be very useful, or ones that can be tied carefully for good visibility. As children grow in co-ordination, they need less head support and often enjoy having their arms out of carriers (with the panel reaching up to the armpits for safety and support.) It is surprising how far a child can turn round to see when they can move their shoulders! 
JUNOlo-38Hip carriers and ring slings will hold a child “off-centre” or laterally on the hip, for a great vantage point, and they will still be able to turn towards their parent for conversation or rest. Back carrying can be another very useful way for a curious child to see the world coming towards them. Most structured carrier makers will suggest sitting-up age to be the most appropriate time to begin to think of this option, and it is not hard to do on your own. Your local sling library or consultant (www.slingpages.co.uk) will be able to help you learn.

If you have a baby who is developmentally ready for facing out in a carrier and has stable hips, then I think it is just fine to give it a go! Your local sling library will be able to show you some options and talk you through which may be the most comfortable for you. Trying the carrier out first for a period of time at home is very useful to see if it really does work for you before you buy; advice from the internet is no substitute for real life trials.This period of “fussiness” doesn’t usually last long, as babies grow in co-ordination they are happier and many babies who once resisted facing in are very content a few months later in a carrier that is more comfortable with greater longevity.

In summary, facing out can be a great deal of fun for parent and child, if done sensitively and thoughtfully, with consideration to the child’s anatomical development and comfort; look for those carriers that take your baby’s comfort as seriously as yours. Try to pick a carrier that will hold baby optimally for most of the time, some come with specially designed bucket seats and others will widen for facing in and back carrying.

Age-appropriate facing out for those who enjoy it is great, when done safely! Your local sling library can be found at www.slingpages.co.uk.

 

ten FAQs FFO
ring sling

slings and prams and guilt

Slings and Prams and Guilt

“I have a confession to make. I like my pram; sometimes I choose it over my sling. Does that mean I’m not a real babywearer?”
“I feel guilty if I pick the pram for days out when I know the sling is so beneficial.”
“I feel selfish if I use the buggy, but sometimes my body needs a break.”

Slings and prams and guilt often seem to go hand in hand; as if there wasn’t enough guilt involved in being a parent in the first place.

I hear phrases like these from time to time, and while I am delighted that these families have discovered the good things that come from using a carrier, I feel sad that guilt has started to creep in, and that divisions are developing. There is more than enough guilt in the world for parents; how they choose to feed, how they choose to dress their children, and now it seems, how they choose (or don’t choose) to carry. I am really keen to prevent any “mommy wars” regarding carrying from springing into life, so here are my answers to this sort of situation.

Carrying DOES matter. Carrying your child is an important and necessary part of the “fourth trimester” early months of life, it is part of the essential bonding (imprinting) process whereby attachment is created. Secure attachments with a loving caregiver are the bedrock of future positive mental health and the springboard into healthy emotional relationships in later life. For young babies, loving touch and holding are one of the major means of providing this sense of being loved and being secure. Few of us are able to resist the urge to hold our crying children, to provide them with relief and to be their safe space, it is instinctive in us. We should all spend a lot of time holding and loving our babies and allowing them to learn to love us back.

However, modern life is demanding and society encourages us to think that early independence is desirable; that children should not “hold us back.” It is important to care for all members of the family; baby, siblings and parents equally; and this is where using a sling can help. A baby needs to be carried; a sling will allow this to happen while life can continue around them. A sling can mean the childcare can be shared with other adults, a sling will allow a parent to get out and around without the need for lots of equipment.

That said, there are many ways to keep a child close without the need to use a sling 24 hours a day. In-arms carrying, cuddly play, breastfeeding, bedsharing, piggybacks, reading stories with baby on your knee and so on are all ways to be in close contact. It is indeed vital to keep up with regular close contact well into the 2nd year and beyond as our children’s brains are still learning about love and attachment – it’s an investment in their future mental health. However, once babies begin to take control of their own bodies and learn how to move they need the freedom to do so.

Prams and buggies are a perfectly valid, convenient and useful way of transporting your child around and there is no reason to feel you are disadvantaging your child by using one instead of the sling today, or depriving her of something, especially if she can see you and remain in communication. You can meet her needs for closeness some other way later in the day. There is no reason to “ditch” the pram if you find it helps you in your parenting. A pram is (like the sling) a tool for getting around and carrying things, and may be easier in many circumstances, just as a sling can be easier in others (eg public transport, busy shops, off-road exploring). There are many ways to carry other things when your baby wants to be up; special bags that fit around the sling.. or a buggy!! Many families use and love both types of transportation, choosing what will suit the situation best.

Some children may just prefer the space of the pram; this is not a rejection of you, but may just be an expression of their personalities or their wish to explore what they can do with their limbs. It may be that your little boy feels too hot in the carrier that you have, or just fancies a change! Your toddler may also enjoy being able to see the world from a different perspective. If your baby loves the pram and doesn’t want to go in the sling today (assuming of course it is a comfortable and well fitting one – see here if your baby seems to hate the sling), that’s just fine. You are being responsive to your child; there is nothing to feel guilty about.

Sometimes YOU may just prefer the pram over the sling, especially if you are feeling a little claustrophobic or touched out, or just tired. Maybe you have two children, or more, and the buggies are the best option!

We don’t live in the same supportive communities these days and it can be hard for one (or two) people to shoulder the load of responsive parenting alone 24hours a day, we all need a break sometimes. “Villages” of old would share the carrying/ feeding/ entertainment more widely, which provided a much better balance of life than many of us are able to find today. If you want to use your buggy, use it and enjoy it, you can cuddle your baby later (or you may have already used the sling today.) Do not feel guilty that you are not being the best parent that you could be.

Do not feel guilty if you feel you just can’t carry today. There is no such thing as a perfect parent and social media sharing doesn’t present a true picture of people’s lives; it can look like others are using their carriers hour in hour out, day after day from their photos, but these don’t show the in between hours or days where the sling is not in use (and the pram is!) Sometimes prams are an expression of our personalities too, just as the carriers we choose can be…

snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold

All safe and responsive carrying is good

; the sling you choose to use is not important, as long as it is safe and comfortable. A buckle carrier is as valuable as a mei tai or a woven wrap or stretchy or a ring sling. Even brands of buckle or wrap is irrelevant; what matters is that you and your child are together, in close contact, safe, and enjoying each other’s company, or sleeping in contentment.

If you are a sling user, this is a great opportunity to avoid creating a culture of guilt and judgement. The parents you see using a pram to quieten a crying baby may well have found this works better for sleeping than their sling. The mum you see pushing a pram in crowds may feel her baby is safer inside the pram than being bashed by passers by in a sling. A parent carrying a heavy toddler in their arms after a melt-down may well have chosen not to use their sling today. iIt is important to be kind and recognise that one moment is not a whole life, and we do each other a dis-service if we unintentionally spread the message that either prams or slings are superior, or if we stare and make comments about others that could be overheard.  All safe slings are of great value, and we should be cautious about what message we send to the new parents around us.

I’ll finish by reiterating that carrying IS important. We should all carry our babies and spend as much time in close contact with them as we can, be that in a sling, in arms, hand holding and so on. We should try to carry our children as much as possible, as there are many good reasons to do so. That does not mean that we should feel guilty if we choose to use prams or buggies as well, or if we choose to use one kind of sling over the other.

Oh, and of course it is fine to come to a sling meet/sling library session with your pram! And no, you definitely don’t need to feel embarrassed if you see me out and about and you are using your buggy!