Babywearing safety is one of the most fundamental things we are concerned about as peer educators. It can be difficult to define what “safe” and “unsafe” babywearing is. These terms can have different meanings to different groups and people.
The absolutely critical issue is that baby’s airway must always be protected. For information on this see:
- Baby Wearing International’s safety page
- Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) “Visible and Kissable” campaign
- Carry Australia’s safety information
Fall hazards are another critical issue and parents need to be educated about these. When in doubt, reference to the manufacturer’s instructions is the simplest and most sensible way to begin that discussion where required.
Other less important issues include baby’s core temperature (hot weather is more of an issue in Australia than cold). See BCIA’s hot weather safety tips and also this guide to safe babywearing in hot and cold weather.
What does all this mean for us as educators? Babywearing education is very much dependent on context. You may teach someone face to face in a different way than if you are giving advice online. You can convey more information and often have more time in person than online. The following table makes some suggestions on approaching the topic of safety with a new wearer:
Lastly, don’t forget common sense! There are some things that we should not be doing while babywearing. Most people use common sense while parenting, but if they are unfamiliar with babywearing as a concept “common sense” may not always be obvious. Please also be be conscious of the values and judgments you might bring to a discussion on safety and how other people might have a different perspective.
Becoming a peer educator is not hard and it will help you hone your communication skills: both online (written) and in person (oral and body language).
These are some suggested practice exercises. You can work through these in a few different ways:
- Don’t work through them if you don’t want to. They aren’t compulsory. They may help.
- You can approach your local peer educator and see if they have time to practice one or two with you. They aren’t designed to take long. Please don’t use slingmeets as spontaneous practice without clearing it with your local peer educator first.
- You can post the exercise on the Carry Australia volunteer discussion group and ask for feedback on how other volunteers would handle the situation. This will give you many ideas you may not have considered previously.
Practice exercises: Module 1
- A caregiver comes to a sling meet with a baby under the age of four months. He/she is a competent user of their carrier and after a while the baby is hungry and he/she feeds the baby, covering the baby’s head with the tail of the sling or a light cloth.
- What are the safety concerns about this? How concerned should you be as an educator?
- What are some affirming and encouraging ways you could open a conversation about this practice without embarrassing the parent?
- Is this a practice you should “ban” from your local sling group? Why/Why not?
- A parent with a baby under the age of four months approaches you as a peer educator. Baby is difficult to settle and the parent is exhausted and needs his/her hands free for other young children in the household. The parent expresses a desire to learn to back carry.
- What is CarryAus’ position on back carrying?
- What information would you want to gather before offering this parent any advice?
- Is there any other assistance you could offer the parent with babywearing that might be relevant?
- How does a parent’s previous experience of babywearing factor into your decision?
- A caregiver attends a slingmeet or posts a photo online of their baby in what you are concerned is a position that is too low.
- What are your concerns as an educator?
- Is there a circumstance in which you would consider offering unsolicited advice?
- How could you approach the parent in a supportive and friendly way?
- What do you think is the most important aspect of babywearing safety?
- This module has only discussed a few key points of babywearing safety: what are some others you are aware of?