Baby Carriers: Selection and Safety

Parents commonly use baby slings and carriers to carry their babies. There are various types available, including soft carriers and harder backpack types. Soft carriers including slings and wraps are for infants less than six months of age. Harder, backpack types that carry baby on the back or the front of a parent are for older children who weigh more than seven kilograms or fifteen pounds and have good neck and head control. While carriers may be practical, using them incorrectly can lead to injury or suffocation. Babies born prematurely or with a medical condition are at higher risk of suffocation. Talk to your healthcare provider before using a carrier if this is your situation.

Here are some general baby carrier tips to ensure your baby’s safety and comfort adapted from Health Canada’s website.

  • Choose a carrier that is size and weight appropriate for the baby and for the adult who will carry the baby.
  • Read the safety recommendations and respect the age, weight, and size limits, and keep the safety guidelines.
  • Ensure that the baby carrier hasn’t been recalled.
  • Make sure your baby is safely placed in the carrier.
  • Every time you use the carrier, make sure the stitching is intact and that all ties and straps are in perfect condition.
  • When you place baby in the carrier, if it’s a shoulder strap carrier, make sure that the knot or buckle is securely tied to avoid the child falling. The guidelines should show examples of safe knots.
  • Place baby in a position where he or she can breathe. Make sure baby’s chin is not on his or her chest, or that his face is not squeezed against your body. No other objects should be in the carrier that prevent breathing, including a coat, blanket, straps, and clothes.
  • While in the carrier, the baby’s head and neck should always be straight to allow for proper breathing. Check on baby often to ensure baby is neither in a curled, chin-to-chest position, nor that the face is pressed against you or the carrier material.
  • Protect your baby from the cold when you go out in winter. Do not block his breathing with your coat. During warm or hot weather, watch that baby does not get overheated.
  • To prevent yourself from falling, make sure there are no objects blocking any stairs.
  • Never use soft baby carriers when doing activities that could endanger your baby: for example, cooking, boiling water, biking, driving a car, stepping on a stool, chair, or ladder, jogging, skating, etcetera.
  • Never use soft baby carriers in places where you could easily fall, e.g. on icy sidewalks.
  • Never sleep or take a nap with your baby in the carrier and never leave a baby alone in the carrier.
  • Hold the baby tightly when you bend down to avoid him slipping out, and make sure you don’t bump into surrounding objects such as doorframes and posts.
  • Make sure that your baby’s back is well supported.
  • Always carry your baby in an elevated position and very close to your body to distribute weight evenly; this will be less tiring for you.
  • Make sure that the openings for the legs are small enough so your baby doesn’t slip out through them—but not too tight. You don’t want to cut off your baby’s blood flow.

These are general guidelines. Which specific type of carrier you use depends on your individual situation, needs, and preferences. Regardless of which type you choose, always follow the manufacturer’s specific recommendations and guidelines.