We often hear from parents that their baby doesn’t like their sling or baby carrier. Sometimes they’ve tried three or four slings with no luck. Yet most of the time we’re still able to find a great sling or carrier that is comfy for parents and that baby loves to be in. Pretty much all babies love to be carried and it’s biologically normal. The key is finding the right sling and making sure you’re using it correctly, in a way that is comfy for you both.
So what’s going on for babies who “don’t like slings”?
1. CHANGE IS UNSETTLING FOR BABIES
First of all, it’s completely normal and very common for babies to fuss when they are being transferred from one place to another. In and out of car seats, clothes, nappies and slings – if your baby was comfy where they were they’ll likely react when their situation changes. Many babies grumble whilst this is happening, but quickly settle once they are safely secured and you get moving. In a sling this fussing is happening right in front of your face and close to your ears, you’ll probably be far more aware of it then when you’re strapping them into a car seat or buggy.
2. BABY MAY BE TIRED OR HUNGRY
It’s so easy to underestimate how often small babies (especially breastfed babies) need to feed. If your baby is hungry then they just won’t settle in a sling. Especially if they can smell milk but cannot get to it! Even if they recently fed, check for signs that your baby might still be hungry – these include being restless, shaking or nodding their head against you (rooting), opening and closing their mouth, or sucking their hands/anything close to their face.
Tired babies are also more likely to fuss and may just need five or ten minutes to settle in a sling before they then fall soundly asleep.
3. BABY CARRIER MAY NOT BE FITTED CORRECTLY
A carrier or sling that is not fitted correctly will be less supportive than a carrier that is right for you and your baby. Babies just like to feel safe; when they’re in a sling that’s snug and well fitted it will support their spine and head and they can relax. If they don’t feel supported then they won’t be able to settle as easily.
We often see parents who have loosened their carrier to give baby more space to make them comfier. Actually, it has the opposite effect. Babies who feel less secure will fuss more, may be unsafe – and will put a lot more pressure on your back, as your baby’s weight pulls down and away from you.
4. DO YOU LOVE YOUR BABY CARRIER?
The first thing I do when someone tells me that their baby “doesn’t like the sling” is to ask how the parent feels about the sling. Almost every time the parent isn’t sure if it’s safe or whether they’re using it correctly, or sometimes they just find it really uncomfortable. Babies are very intuitive and will pick up on your feelings so if you’re not sure or don’t like your sling then they’ll often feel the same way.
5. IT’S A NEW EXPERIENCE
New for you and for your baby. If you’re not completely confident with your new sling then your baby may pick up on any nerves. Remember that they just want to feel safe and so a tense and anxious parent may make them worried too. Practice until you’re confident using your sling and you’ll find that putting on a sling becomes a much easier process for both of you.
So that’s WHY your baby may not like their sling. So what can do you about it?
6. DON’T GIVE UP
Don’t give up at the first grumble from your baby! Remember that it’s completely normal for them to react to a new experience, or a change in situation. Check that they’re not hungry or have a full nappy and otherwise get them secure and supported in the carrier. Once they’re safe and you’re relaxed then they’ll likely relax too, though it’s normal for this to take a minute or ten.
7. CHECK YOUR SLING IS FITTED SAFELY AND COMFORTABLY
If you don’t seem to be able to get your sling to feel secure or if you always feel like you have to support your baby with your hands then you may need help (or a different sling) to get a safe fit. Your baby should be held high and snug against your chest, close enough to kiss the top of their head; and with the carrier tightened to prevent them flopping or slumping away from your body. If your baby is safe, but you’re still not comfy then you may need to try a different brand or style of carrier to make sure that you’re also getting the best support.
8. GET MOVING!
This is so important! Movement is very soothing to newborns and bigger babies will love seeing the world go by. As soon as your baby is safe and secure in your sling, get moving! If you stand still and worry about whether your baby likes the sling, you’ll probably find that they worry too. Once you’re walking, dancing or swaying this will help them to relax and give you both a chance to feel positive about being in your carrier.
Top tip: Always be sure to have your shoes on before you put your baby in your sling, so you can get our for a quick stroll round the block right away.
9. TRY A DIFFERENT POSITION IN YOUR BABY CARRIER
Newborns are usually happy snugged into your chest with their arms in the sling. Once they get past their ‘fourth trimester,’ 3, 4 or 5 months old will often prefer to be less restricted and want to look around. Try using a carrier that allows them to ride with their arms and shoulders over the top so they can look around. Or a supportive outwards facing carrier (from around 4 months), a hip carry (from 5-6 months) or a high back carry so they can see over your shoulder (usually 6 months+).
10. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
The more confident you are about using your sling, the happier your baby will be in it. With practise you’ll be able to get your carrier on quickly and without fuss making the whole process easy for you both. Getting advice from a carrying expert so you know that you’re doing everything right can be really reassuring and boost your confidence too.