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Baby Slings and Fleeces

MATILDA LEE

1st May, 2005

Why spend hundreds of pounds on baby-carrying
equipment – prams, carrycots, bouncy chairs – when you can hold them close to you in a sling? And when you’ve tired of carrying your baby around, what could be better than letting them sleep on an organic fleece?

Carrying a baby in a sling is almost a forgotten art. Widely practised in nonindustrialised countries, the Western world seems to have shed the sling in favour of the pram. Slings, however, offer emotional and physical benefits to both baby and parents.

THE BENEFITS OF BABY SLINGS
Emotional
Newborn babies need to be close to their parents. Jean Liedloff, author of The Continuum Concept, says that babies benefit enormously from being carried as much as possible next to living bodies. For example:

  • babies in slings can hear their parents’ heartbeat and voice and smell their scent, and, very importantly, feel emotionally secure;
  • naturally rocked as their parents move about, babies in slings are easily comforted;
  • slings allow parents to respond instantly to their babies’ needs;
  • it’s easier for mothers to breastfeed babies in slings.

Physical

  • Slings help babies maintain constant body temperature.
  • They take the strain out for parents carrying babies in their arms: slings offer back and/or hip support.
  • Babies in slings are above the level of car exhaust emissions, which hang around at the same height as most prams.

Convenience

  • In urban areas, slings are much more convenient than prams for navigating the doors, stairs and tight spaces of public transport.
  • Hands-free slings, in contrast to holding babies using one arm and their hips, allow parents the use of both arms. No need to open packets with one hand and your teeth, or to develop bulging muscles in your regular carrying arm.

Types of sling
There are two main types of sling:
1. Vertical or hands-free slings
If you want to carry a newborn baby in a hands-free sling make sure it holds them in the frog position by supporting their thighs, hips and pelvis. It should also give support to the baby’s head and neck. Babies over six months old can face outwards and observe the world around them at eye level: a perfect height for babies to be smiled at by others, unlike in a pram.

The Wilkinet (pictured left), for example, distributes the baby’s weight evenly onto its adult’s hips, making carrying the baby very comfortable and better for your back. For a wide range of hands-free slings, see: http://www.%20freerangekids.co.uk.

2. Horizontal or side slings
These hammock-style slings allow babies to lie down while being carried, but parents will need to support newborns with one hand. The Tricotti (available from www.birthandbaby.co.uk) and the Kari Me (www.kari-me.co.uk) support babies from birth in a natural cradling position in front, which places no strain on newborn babies’ immature back muscles.

DIY slings
If you are happy to trust your sewing and knotting abilities, why not make your own sling? Many slings are nothing more than carefully folded and tied sheets. For a wide range of straightforward, step-by-step guides to home-made slings, see www.bigmamaslings.co.uk/make-sling.htm.

FLEECES
One hundred per cent lambskin
fleeces are excellent for giving sleeping babies a sense of comfort and security no matter where they are. Fleeces are lightweight, so they can be carried anywhere and used on the fl oor, or in a cot, crib or Moses basket. Little Green Earthlets (www.earthlets.co.uk) and Huggababy ( www.huggababy.co.uk) both offer natural lambskin fleeces. The benefits of lambskin fleeces include:

  • they are sanitary: lambskin fleeces areboth bactericidal and dirt-repellent (viruses and bacteria can’t breed in protein, and lambskins are 100 per cent protein);
  • they insulate against both heat and cold: they keep babies warm in winter and cool in summer;
  • they’re naturally fire-retardant;
  • they’re breathable: a baby sleeping on its front can breathe through the fibres. Huggababy natural lambskin fleeces are from British lambs and are undyed, unbleached and hypoallergenic (not likely to cause allergenic reactions).

This article first appeared in the Ecologist May 2005


 

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