In regard to the use of these devices I am of two minds, one as a clinician and one as a parent. Let me present the evidence and then make my recommendations.
- The primary concern about them decreasing the oxygen that your child can breath or suffocating the infant have not been proven through the research. Babies do have a decrease in the oxygen in their blood when being carried in a sling, but the same phenomenon occurs when placing a baby on their backs in a stroller. This occurrence primarily affects pre-term babies.
- The other concern about them putting too much strain on your joints and back may be avoided by following the instructions, and ensuring there is support around your hips.
Swings and car carriers:
- These devices, by design, decrease the child’s ability to move which can keep them safe and in one place, but overuse of these devices have been shown to slow motor development.
- Due to the position of the baby and the weight placed on the back of their head, prolonged use may lead to brachycephaly, a flattening of the back of the babies head.
- Allow the baby to stand more easily by rotating their hips back and forcing a slouched posture which enables them to stand up before they have the core control to stand erect. This rotation of the hips also changes the mechanics of their leg and hip joints.
With this information in front of me, as a clinician I can advocate the use of slings with very young babies who need that skin-to-skin contact, and with decreasing frequency of use as they get older. I do not advocate the use of swings, jumpers and (outside of the car) car carriers as places to put babies. Click here to read about the container baby “lifestyle”.
As a parent, I recognize the need for a safe place for your child while you do a sink load of dishes, or when trying to get a quick shower. I can tell you that, at times, I have foraged like a ravenous squirrel for a place to safely put my daughter when making dinner, or a load of laundry that I trust she will be safe, and will prevent any screaming or crying (sometimes from her). In these moments I see the need for a swing, or bouncy seat where she will be safe and contained. I have used and loved slings and other carriers to keep her near me, and in emergencies, to assist her into that elusive state, sleep.
Overall, the BEST places for your child are: in your arms, or placed on their back or tummy on a safe flat surface. Babies should be getting as much time on their tummy as they, and you, tolerate on a firm, safe surface. Lack of time on their tummy has been consistently linked to slowed acquisition of gross motor milestones.
When you need a hands-free alternative, slings can be a great tool. Regarding any other piece of equipment to put your child, my rule of thumb is: use as sparingly as possible, and the more concerns there are about your child’s development, hypotonia, torticollis, etc., the less you should utilize these pieces of equipment.
*Important safety note: Babies must always be placed to bed on their backs, and always use car carriers when in the car no matter how far.