The slow rhythmical movement and warm contained environment a baby carrier provides your baby with is often soothing enough to put them to sleep. This can be a great relief for parents who are not able to get their babies to sleep long enough for them to get things done. Allowing your baby to nap while you wear them comes with many benefits as well as a few areas of caution.
Some research shows that babies who sleep in a carrier sleep for longer periods at a time are more peaceful. In addition to having your baby get good quality sleep, it also allows you the freedom of moving around. However, there is the risk of your baby’s airway becoming obstructed if the precautions are not adhered to, which can result in positional asphyxiation or suffocation.
Having the correct knowledge about allowing your baby to sleep in a carrier is valuable as it assists you in knowing how to do it safely and what warning signs to look out for.
What is baby wearing?
Babywearing is the act of “wearing” your baby in a soft baby carrier against your torso. Baby carriers are secured to your body to ensure safety and comfort for both the baby and the parent. This allows you to attend to other responsibilities while still “holding” your baby.
However, apart from the freedom that baby carriers give parents, they also have many benefits for your baby if done correctly.
SHOULD I LET MY BABY SLEEP IN A BABY CARRIER?
According to Safe Sleep best practice guidelines, the safest place for a baby to sleep is on their back, on a firm and flat surface. For many parents the only way they are able to get their baby to sleep is by using a sling or wrap to carry them. This is especially true for the first few months, yet there is no clear answer indicating that it is safe to do so or if it should be avoided.
One school of thought is that when sleeping in a carrier, your baby is able to hear your heartbeat and feel your warmth; both which mimic your womb. This is reassuring for your baby and helps them feel safe and secure which positively contributes to the length and quality of sleep.
While some professional resources acknowledge that there are numerous benefits for both you and your baby, they also indicate that it may not be safe to let your baby sleep in a sling because of the possible risk of positional asphyxiation. This is due to your baby’s reduced head and neck strength and control which means they are not able to move their head into a position which keeps their airway open. They also warn of possible suffocation should your baby’s mouth and nose become covered by your skin or clothing.
HOW LONG CAN MY BABY SLEEP IN A BABY CARRIER?
There is no set amount of time indicating how long your baby can stay wrapped in a carrier for.
However, there are some guidelines which can be used to make sure that your baby’s development and safety are not affected by them spending time in a carrier.
First and foremost it is recommended that you follow the T.I.C.K.S principals:
T: make sure the carrier is tight and firmly supports your baby.
I: make sure that your baby and especially their face is in your view at all times.
C: make sure that your baby is close enough to kiss their head
K: make sure that you keep your baby’s chin off their chest.
S: make sure your baby’s back is supported.
In addition to following the T.I.C.K.S principles, the following should also be considered:
1. Frequently check the position your baby is in in the carrier.
- Check that their mouth and nose are not covered in anyway
- Check that their hips are still in a “frog-like” hip healthy position
- Check that their back is still rounded.
2. As your baby will spend a fair amount of time in one position while they nap in the carrier, there have been suggestions that you should adjust their position from time-to-time.
- Turn their head to face the other way.
- Reposition their hips and make sure their knees are higher than their bottom
WHAT ARE THE PROS OF MY BABY NAPPING IN THE BABY CARRIER?
By sleeping in a carrier your baby is close to you allowing them to smell your familiar scent and be comforted by your warmth, touch and movement. This provides them with the safety and security they seek and alleviates any fears of being separated from you. This is also really helpful for fussy babies (e.g babies who suffer from colic or reflux) or babies who frequently cry if they are put down in their cots.
With your baby asleep on you, you are able to monitor their breathing all of the time which can help reduce the risk of SIDS. One article indicated that 75% of SIDS related deaths during daytime occurred when babies were left alone in their room. Thus, letting them sleep in a carrier can possibly reduce this risk as you are able to supervise them more closely.
Another benefit of your baby sleeping in a carrier is that they are less likely to develop a flat spot on their head because they spend less time resting on a flat surface.
WHAT CAN I DO WHILE YOUR BABY NAPS IN A CARRIER?
Letting your baby sleep in a carrier provides you with the freedom to not only do household chores, play with older siblings and eat but also the ability to go out without worrying that your baby's routine will be interrupted. This makes it easier to do shopping, socialise and engage in other everyday tasks which may have been affected by your baby’s sleep routine.
What dangers should I be aware of when my baby is napping in a carrier?
Potential dangers of letting your baby sleep in a carrier arise when a carrier is not used correctly or your baby is not safely positioned or the T.I.C.K.S principles are not respected. These possible dangers include:
1. Positional asphyxiation
This occurs when your baby slides down into a “curl” or “C” type position which results in their head flopping forward.
A baby who does not yet have adequate head and neck control is not able to lift their chin off of their chest to open their airway.
If your baby’s nose and mouth were to be covered by the carrier or your clothes or if their face happened to be pushed into you, their airway is likely to become obstructed.
This can quickly develop into a life-threatening emergency if not corrected timorously.
This is especially of concern during the hot South-African summers.
Overheating is one of the known risks of increasing the chance of SIDS.
It should also be mentioned that it is not safe to cook while wearing your baby, due to the risk of scalding or burning. This is even more dangerous when babies start reaching and grabbing, and can pull pots or kettles over.
Does carrying MY baby spoil them or contribute to forming bad sleeping habits?
There are two very different opinions around the concern of babies forming bad sleep habits by sleeping in a carrier.
There are those who have very strong feelings that allowing your baby to sleep in your arms or in a carrier leads them to use this as a “sleep crutch”. They argue that your baby will seek warmth and movement each time they need to sleep, making it difficult for you to lay them down in their cot on their back to sleep.
On the other hand, there are many who believe that allowing your baby to sleep in a carrier can promote their sleep development. This is based on the fact that your baby develops a healthy and positive sleep association when being carried by you and this makes it easier for them to develop healthy and independent sleep habits when they are ready. Using a carrier for day naps and a cot for night-time sleeping can help your baby know the difference between a short nap or a long night time sleep.
Interesting to note is that sleep associations begin to form when your baby is approximately 3 months old. Therefore, if you are concerned about your baby using movement and warmth as a “sleep crutch” then it is around the time that you should encourage them to sleep in their cot during their daytime naps.