A correctly fitted sling will support your baby's legs in a spread squat, mimicking their natural position. This supports the legs from knee pit to knee pit and can aid the optimal development of their hip joints, encouraging the formation of a deep socket joint. There's lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest that minor hip issues have actually been helped by carrying in a wide based sling, and studies have shown that in cultures where babies are primarily carried from birth in a spread squat position the rates of hip dysplasia are very low.
Optimal Positioning with Okinami Viridian Pocket Weave Baby Wrap
So by positioning your baby carefully in this spread squat you can help their development as well as avoid any issues.
Babies can sometimes get red marks from their clothes or a sling, which does worry some parents understandably. But babies do have delicate skin which marks easily.
If the mark disappears quickly and doesn't seem to be causing any discomfort, there's nothing to worry about. It's like us getting a sock mark or waking up with pillow lines on our faces.
One thing to check is that the panel of your sling, or fabric of the wrap, is sitting in your baby's knee pits, that the weight is on their bottom, and that their lower leg can swing freely. The tendons located in our knee pits protect the blood supply so by checking the pressure isn't on their legs and that any fabric is sitting in the knee pits, we can ensure their comfort.
Your baby may get some red marks behind the knee where fabric bunches, especially if they have bare legs, but like a sock mark this should not cause any issues and disappear quickly.
If you notice any discolouration on their legs (a blue or purple tinge) it's likely that your baby's weight is on their legs rather than their bottom and it's being caused by the pressure from the edge of the fabric. A pelvic tuck and scooping their knees up will prevent this from happening.
The advantages of a good pelvic tuck
As we discussed above, the way a newborn tucks their legs up, or an older baby sits on your hip with their knees above their bottom is ideally how a sling will support your child along the thigh and into their knee pits (in the 'spread-squat' position). If you place your hand under their thigh and scoop their knees upwards this tilts the pelvis towards you, placing the weight down into their bottom and tail bone. By lifting the knees it also helps take any pressure off the legs.
Choose a sling that's suitable for your child's stage of development
Check your sling is age appropriate. Newborns can be quite curled up after birth so a sling that isn't going to be too bulky and have too much fabric around their legs will provide the most comfort.
If you're using a carrier choose one that can cinch or adjust to fit from birth without over-extending those little newborn legs. With a wrap, think about using single layer carries or variations such as a lexi twist. Ring slings are a great option for young babies, they can be quick to use and the single layer of woven material moulds around them, offering good support.
Newborn Friendly Starry Night Ocean Baby Wrap
As your child gets older they may outgrow the knee to knee position if you're using a carrier as the panel may no longer be wide enough. However, when they are walking they no longer need the sling to support all the way into the knee pits, as their hip joint is fully developed.
Ideally, you want the fabric of the seat to reach at least two-thirds of the way along their thigh. This will help keep their legs comfortably supported in an M shape. At some point it will be more comfortable for both of you to size up to a toddler carrier.
Toddler Friendly Kelpies West Sands Ring Sling
How clothing affects your child's comfort in a baby sling
It's important to dress your baby appropriately for the temperature. In cold weather, you may need to add some leg warmers or use a babywearing cover to protect their legs from the chilly air. In warm weather be mindful to dress babies down to avoid them overheating.
Whatever they're wearing, remember that when your baby is in the sling in that ideal position with their knees above their bottom, any clothing on their legs will ride up. Denim material or clothing with large seams may be uncomfortable on their legs if they're in the sling for an extended period of time.
The same applies to any footed item of clothing, like sleepsuits. If a sleepsuit bunches up it can squish toes. Often people advise against dressing babies in sleepsuits if they will be in a sling, but this isn't especially practical advice especially for newborns!
You can easily avoid any pressure on toes from sleepsuits by dressing your baby in generously sized suits and pulling the material away from their toes when they're in the sling.
Babies will tell you if they're unhappy
Babies will let you know if they're uncomfortable so if they seem perfectly happy then they're likely to be comfortable. If they don't seem content it could be a positional or comfort issue, or something else entirely.
Read more about What your baby is trying to tell you in the sling.
If you're unsure about using your sling and would like help with positioning it's worth thinking about getting a consultation with a babywearing consultant, who can help give you personalised support.
Oscha slings are designed to be soft and supportive and to correctly hold baby in a position that is ideal for their development, our slings are approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Association. Here at Oscha we have a number of babywearing consultants who are on hand to help you with your choice of carrier and to advise you on getting the best fit from your sling. We are available Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm (GMT/BST) via email or by using the chat button in the corner of the screen.
Written by Jillyan Graham
Jill is a Baby Carrying Consultant based in the Scottish Borders and is Mum to two girls.
For more info about the work that she does visit: Carry Me Round