There are many benefits to using a sling with a very young baby; in fact. many hospitals use them in the practice known as Kangaroo Care, and there is much evidence to suggest this skin to skin contact between mother and newborn (especially premature babies) can confer great benefits to both.
The baby gains assistance with their physiological regulation of breathing and heart rates, temperature control is improved, and the contact helps to establish breastfeeding and promote more rapid growth compared to babies who are not held as close for as long. Furthermore, the baby will feel more secure in their developing relationship with his caregiver, due to the time spent in close contact.
The caregiver may find that he/she is able to bond with her baby, due to the increased release of oxytocin, and post-natal depression may be reduced. Being able to be hands-free can really make a difference to a familys ability to get around with their new baby, keeping them active and engaging with normal life.
The key is to know how to use the sling in a safe and secure way, just as you may practise learning to ride a bicycle, or drive a car. Familiarity and practice make perfect. Many parents choose to use a stretchy wrap for their tiny baby, as they are very soft and snuggly, very respectful of babys natural position, and easy to take on and off again. Others may use a less structured and very adjustable ring sling and some will choose to use a supportive but rigid buckle carrier. Others will use a bag-shaped sling as they have seen it for sale and seen it marketed as suitable from birth.
How can be sure that I am using my sling safely?
A good sling should mimic the natural, in-arms upright position for carrying babies, ensuring the caregiver can see and sense the baby at all times, and thus able to be quickly aware of and rapidly responsive to any changes.
A good thing to learn is the Sling ABC
Airway, Body position and Comfort.
Babies heads are heavy and it takes time for their muscle strength and tone to develop enough to hold up their heads and support their own airways; until then, it is our job as parents to be as caring and careful as we can. A babys head should be resting against the caregivers chest, with the windpipe straight, not curled over. A good guide is at least two fingers being able to fit between babys chin and his chest. Air should be able to circulate freely and the face should not be obscured by fabric, or buried within cleavage. Babys cheek can rest against parents chest, and hands should be accessible to the mouth for sucking if needed (and not trapped down the side of the sling)
The upper body should be supported against parents chest, to ensure no slumping (this is why carriers should be tight, to make sure that babies do not roll up into a ball). The pelvic tilt into the M shape with knees higher than bottom will help support babys back as well as being very comfortable. The back of the head should be supported where possible to avoid backwards lolling. The pelvic tilt and using a rolled muslin cushion can be helpful if babies resist head support.
Make sure your baby is happy in their sling and not slumped into a tight ball or folded over in a cradle carry.
You will want to make sure your baby is Tight, In View, Close enough to Kiss, Keep Chin off the Chest, Supported Back.