For the Safety & Comfort of your Newborn
By M'Liss Stelzer, R.N., and Holly McCroskey

Often parents assume that if the baby has difficulty breathing he will fuss or cry. The majority of infants will protest if they are struggling to breathe; however newborns, babies born prematurely or infants with low tone or developmental delays may not communicate their distress. When cradling a newborn in a carrier it is important to make sure the infant is positioned properly.

Baby should not be curled tight chin to chest because this position partially closes baby's airway.

Sling fabric should not be draped across baby's face. For slings made from thin, airy fabrics please check the airflow of the fabric by placing it over your own nose and mouth. No matter how breathable the fabric looks, if it is difficult for you to breathe through the fabric it will be difficult for baby as well.

Baby should not be rolled so that his face is pressed tightly against the parent's body. Position baby's face upward when he or she is not actively nursing and when nursing ensure that baby's nose is not blocked.

An infant should be repositioned if he is having any sign of respiratory difficulty. Symptoms include: rapid or labored breathing, grunting or sighing with every breath and/or restlessness.


Pulling more fabric against the parent's chest and/or moving the pouch seam slightly behind baby's back can change the depth of the pouch.

Equal amount of fabric is in front and in back of baby and his bum is centered on the pouch seam.

Fabric in back of baby is pulled high on mom's chest and the pouch seam is centered on baby's back.

If necessary a thin, folded receiving blanket can be used to raise baby higher in a pouch. The blanket is placed behind baby's back but not behind baby's head. To keep baby centered on the folded blanket it is often easier to spread out a receiving blanket, place a second folded blanket on top and then center baby on the folded blanket.

Pick baby up, placing baby, blankets and all into the sling.

NOTE: The positioning recommendations in this article are for infants 0 to 4 months of age or until baby achieves good neck and head control. Once baby has good head control the neck muscles are generally strengthened sufficiently to support baby's airway, even if baby becomes slightly curled or slumped in a carrier. Of course, no matter baby's age it is important to check baby's position frequently.

The amount of modification necessary, in order to position the infant correctly in the carrier, will depend on the depth of the carrier used as well as the weight of the baby. As baby gets bigger modifications to the carrier may no longer be necessary; usually once baby weighs between 8 and 12 pounds.

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