Position is Key – Even for Toddlers

Today this happened, and it got me thinking more about the importance of positioning.

Sling naps are a rare occurrence for us these days, so I am used to positioning him in a sling or carrier when he is awake. Today he fell asleep and ended up in this less than ideal position. I had, this morning, taken the hood off of the Tula, as we never us it and we find it just gets in the way. So, I had no, ‘head support’ option to use to bring his head in towards me. Now I wasn’t happy to let him continue sleeping with his head lolling backwards like this, nor did I want to wake him. The only way the latter was going to happen was if I made the minimum amounts of adjustments. Bringing him round to my front wasn’t an option.
So, what did I do? I thought about what I could do to his position to provide him with more head support without having anything material to provide that support. With a few minor adjustments of the carrier we went from him being in a rather uncomfortable position, to something much more supportive for sleep.

No hood or stooping required.

Before I share what I did to improve his sleeping position, I wanted to look at the difference between an awake and an asleep child and how they are held in a sling or carrier.

To be clear, in this article I am focussed on babies and children who have torso control. Getting a good position in a sling/carrier is highlighted a lot for newborns and young babies, and quite rightly too as it helps protect tiny airways. Positioning, however, remains important even as your baby gains more strength and control of their body.

In the photos above, this demo doll is representing a baby who has torso control and can sit independently. On the left, the baby is awake. On the right, the baby is asleep. An awake child will likely want to sit up straight, taking their head and shoulders away from you. An asleep child will have a more curved spine as they lean in towards you. This curve in the spine along with a good pelvic tilt (knees higher than bum, so that weight is transferred down through the tailbone), helps provide head control without the need for using any additional material. Rosie Knowles has written a fantastic article on the pelvic tuck. It can be found at this link: http://www.sheffieldslingsurgery.co.uk/the-pelvic-tuck/

A sling or carrier should mimic this natural positioning that would occur in arms.

Getting your child’s position right is fairly simple to do for their current asleep/awake state. The issues can arise when they change state. In the example of my day, my son was awake when I put him on my back, but then he fell asleep. Being asleep meant that he was no longer supporting his upright position or the position of his head. The carrier was therefore providing all of his support. But, the carrier had been set up to provide a good position for him being awake, with a straight spine. Therefore, it lacked any positional head control and resulted in the rather uncomfortable position he ended up in.

The fix. I needed to adjust the carrier to make it work for his sleeping state. I loosened the shoulder straps just a little bit to give him more space round his back. I also took his feet and gently pushed upwards to help make sure he had a good pelvic tilt. Doing this allowed him to get a nice curve to his spine and brought his head inwards to my back. I then tightened up the shoulder straps again for my comfort, but took care to bring the slack from the top of the panel round to the buckles. Bringing the slack round to the buckles, by lifting the straps on your shoulders, stops you tightening too much across their back, which would undo all the good adjusting you’ve just done.

The result is a well-supported, comfortable sound-asleep toddler and a comfy mummy. No sleep hoods or additional ‘head support’ required.

As a final word, if you need help with positioning in a sling or carrier, your best bet is to get in touch with your local sling consultant or peer supporter.

In Scotland, www.babycarriersupportscotland.co.uk has a comprehensive directory of sling libraries and consultants.

This article has been written and submitted as my Slingababy Consultancy course project.

Written by Jennifer Pless

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