1. Precautions and warnings
  2. Threading the sling
  3. Putting the sling on
  4. Positions:
    1. Cradle hold and Nursing in the cradle hold
    2. "Football" hold for nursing
    3. Tummy-to-tummy hold and Nursing in the t2t hold
    4. Kangaroo/front-facing
    5. Back carry
    6. Hip carry
  5. Other usage suggestions
  6. Troubleshooting
  7. Folding your sling for storage/travel

Cradle hold:

In light of the CPSC warning about using slings with babies under 4 months, particular caution needs to be taken with this position. Your baby should never be horizontal in the sling -- I know you've probably seen celebrity photos where they have their babies totally horizontal, with their faces hidden in the fabric, but that's totally a "what not to do" scenario. The ideal position in a cradle hold is actually more of a partial recline. The baby's body should be diagonally inclined in the sling, with her head clear of the fabric so that her chin isn't forced onto her chest, and you should always be able to clearly visualize her mouth and nose for safety. Grunting and snoring noises that occur only in this position are a sign that she is having trouble breathing and should be repositioned at once.

This position is fine for infants and small babies who don't yet have head control. Some babies like to nap in this position, and it is among the easiest for nursing. However, lots of babies don't like this position, so don't give up on your sling if yours is one of them! Also keep in mind that your baby's airway needs to be straight (her chin should not rest on her chest, as that can impair her breathing). If your baby seems swallowed up in the fabric, or has difficulty breathing due to being too scrunched up, fold up a receiving blanket and put it in the sling before you put baby in. Or better still, use the "tummy to tummy" carry, which does not carry the same airway risks as a cradle hold.

Decide which side you want her head to be on. If you are petite, there may not be enough room across your body for you to have her head on the same side as the rings. On the other hand, if you are larger like me, you may prefer to have her head on the same side as the rings. I almost never wore my babies with their heads opposite the ring end, except when I was breastfeeding them. However, my petite friend was just the opposite!

Put the sling on as you normally would, and then pull the bottom edge upwards on your chest so that you've formed a pouch with the sling. You'll want the now-inner edge to be nice and tight, so pull on the part of the tail that corresponds to that edge (if your sling isn't twisted, it will be the outside edge of the tail). You may wish to start with the rings a little bit higher than the corsage position, as they can move slightly when you tighten the sling later.


If you want her head on the side opposite the rings, cradle her with your opposite arm, just as you would if you weren't wearing the sling. Starting from a vertical position will help you get her in a safe, partially-reclined position, rather than the potentially unsafe full recline.

Open the sling with your other hand, and slip the baby into the pouch with your arm still around her. Keep supporting her head if she is a newborn.

Supporting her head with the hand on the same side as the rings, slip your arm out from underneath her. Now you can tighten the sling.

It's also important to make sure that the fabric is not covering the baby's face, and that she's not too deep in the pouch. Her neck should be in a neutral position -- not tipped far back or forward or sideways -- to keep her airway clear, and her mouth and nose should be clear for breathing (not squashed into your breast). You can tuck a small pillow, rolled-up fabric, or the sling's tail under her upper back if her chin tends to dip to her chest, but tightening the middle part of the sling will also help.

You will need to tighten the upper and lower edges -- and even the body of the sling -- independently, by pulling on each in turn. If the sling is difficult to adjust, you can hold the rings apart slightly with one hand, while pulling with the other. The series of pictures below shows first adjusting the top rail, then the bottom (inside) rail, and then the body of the sling (if the baby feels too deep in the sling).


If you are unused to the sling, it is a good idea to adjust it while you are sitting down, to minimize the potential risk to the baby should it slip. Until you feel confident in wearing your baby, it is helpful to keep an arm around the baby in the sling.

The technique is similar for the cradle hold with the baby's head on the same side as the rings, but you will want to start with her head at least 4" from the rings, to avoid having them touch her head when the sling is fully adjusted. It's also a little easier to do a semi-sitting position with her head on the ring side.

Nursing in the cradle hold:

You can nurse with the baby on either side relative to the rings; smaller-breasted people may prefer to nurse on the ring side, while larger-breasted people may prefer the opposite. Being the latter, I don't have pictures of the former, but the technique will be essentially the same.

Cradle the baby with her head away from the rings.

Pull the sling around her, so that her feet stick out the end (tiny infants may keep their feet in the sling, but Sophia is 6 weeks old in these pictures and is already too long for that). Adjust the fabric around her bottom and sides so that she is secure.

You may want to cover the back of your baby's head with the sling in order to keep her secure, but if you will be holding her with your non-dominant arm, it's not strictly necessary. Tighten the sling until you are both comfortable. It will probably be significantly tighter than in the normal cradle hold. You may need to loosen the lower edge while tightening the upper edge. It is a good idea to practice this while sitting down, for safety's sake.

You can use the sling tail to cover your chest, if you desire. This is most helpful when you are learning to chestfeed in the sling, or when you are getting things set up. It is especially useful for infants who are easily distracted when nursing in public, as the cover can keep her eyes, and your breasts, covered up :) However, you *must* be sure that you can still see her mouth and nose while she is nursing! When I nursed in a sling, I would wear a v-neck shirt and pull the shirt down around my breast for nursing. Then (or usually, at the same time), I used the sling tail to cover my breast up to about the baby's mouth, so that I can still clearly see her and check her breathing and position frequently.

It is *never* safe to completely cover your baby while she is nursing. It doesn't matter how many times you've done it, there is always potential for something to go wrong. Unfortunately, babies have smothered (even outside of slings) while chestfeeding (their mothers thought they were just sleeping), so you really need to be able to see what's going on. It's one thing to be discreet while you're nursing, but please put safety before modesty!

After she is finished, even if she's gone to sleep, gently move her into a vertical (tummy to tummy) position.

"Football" hold for nursing:

For nursing in the football hold (especially helpful after a c-section), start with the rings high on your shoulder. Place the baby in a cradle hold, with her head about 8-12" from the rings (depending on your size and build – smaller people will need less distance than larger people). The goal is for her head to end up at nipple level when she is shifted backwards in the next step.

Hold the rings with your ring hand and support the baby's weight with your other hand. Gently pull the rings down at the same time you move the baby around towards your back. (This is a good maneuver to get familiar with in other positions, too; supporting your baby's weight is key for moving the sling and keeping the tension correct.) The rings should end up in corsage position and the baby's head in the proper position for nursing. Please remember to check your baby frequently. I have my arm out of the way in the photo, but I don't recommend hands-free nursing for the reasons above. It's better to have your baby's head free of the fabric so that she can unlatch or clear her airway as she needs to, and supporting her head with your hand will fascilitate that. Supporting her head with fabric means it can be difficult or even impossible for her to move her head away your body, which is a suffocation risk.

Just a note... when you're first learning how to chestfeed in a sling, it's tricky to do it hands-free. When you're just starting out, and with a tiny newborn, I recommend keeping your arm inside the sling, supporting the baby's head as you would when nursing without the sling. Once your baby has better head control, and you're more comfortable with the sling, you can have your arm in the sling when getting latched on, then take out your arm once the baby is latched on correctly. Having even one hand free (as the sling will take most of the baby's weight) can be a major help when you're newly post-partum and trying to get things done!

Next: Cuddle hold


Copyright © Jan Andrea Handmade 2022