When babywearing a preemie, you should first check with your doctor to make sure you are cleared to wear your preemie. You should always keep your baby’s adjusted age in mind when trying carriers with age requirements. Some babies catch up faster than others, and you will know what your baby is able to do more than anyone else. As is always the case when trying new carriers, go slowly and use caution when starting out. Our educators are always available to help at meetings or through a private consultation if you have any questions or need help!
While I was on bedrest, we asked if one of the NICU's neonatologist would come to talk to us about what to expect with a 27 weeker because we wanted to be as prepared as possible. Some very scary words were thrown out like brain bleed, cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, immature lungs, and necrotizing enterocolitis. The list went on and on. We were told not to expect Elliot to cry when he was born. He would most likely need to be intubated immediately and transferred to the NICU. I would not be able to hold him. Luckily, Elliot was able to receive two doses of steroids to help mature his lungs and I was able to keep him in for 3.5 extra days. I delivered my son at 27 weeks 4 days at 2 lbs 2 oz. He has been a fighter since the first moment he was born, and even let out a cry in the delivery room. He is the strongest person that I know.
I had learned a little about babywearing before Elliot was born. I had already purchased or was gifted a Baby K’tan, Ergo, Moby, and a Seven pouch sling. I wasn’t able to wear Elliot in the NICU because he had too many tubes and wires, but we did lots of skin to skin. After 76 days in the NICU, he was discharged home weighing 5 lbs 7 oz, and I immediately wanted to wear him to keep him close.
- Skin to skin contact/babywearing can help preemies gain weight more easily since the caregiver can more readily sense baby's feeding cues.
- You get to catch up on the snuggles and spend extra time together after the time in the NICU!
- Preemies are more prone to being overstimulated, so babywearing helps the caregiver realize when the baby is overstimulated and act accordingly. Many preemies are also often less stimulated when they are worn.
- Preemies are much more likely to have acid reflux than term babies, so the upright position of babywearing can help them spit up less.
- Many preemies have difficulty regulating their body temperature, so being worn helps them keep their temperature up.
Some things I quickly learned:
- Buckle carriers, or soft-structured carriers, aren't ideal carriers for preemies. We needed to wait until Elliot's core was stronger before we could use these options well. He is 10 months old now and is just hitting the minimum weight to use a Tula without the infant insert. There are other buckle carriers that have a lower weight limit that would probably work better for a preemie than a Tula. One that comes to mind is a Catbird Baby Pikkolo.
- Mei tais were also mostly too tall and too wide for Elliot and also not ideal for a preemie. A mei tai panel can be cinched and the waistband can be rolled down, so it can work with some modifications, but it’s definitely not the easiest carrier to use for a preemie and does not offer the support needed or the ability for it to conform to baby's body.
- Stretchy wraps can also be difficult to use with a preemie. I felt like no matter how much I tightened the Moby wrap that he would slip down, and it didn’t feel safe. Later, I learned that it’s best to wait until baby is 8 lbs before using a stretchy wrap. Preemies are more floppy than term babies and can have lower than normal muscle tone, so they do better with the support of a woven wrap over a stretchy wrap.
- Thin woven wraps can work better than thick ones. A thinner wrap offers enough support without there being too much fabric, which can be overwhelming when learning how to wrap.
- A ring sling was the easiest way for me to wear Elliot safely at first. It offered enough support and conformed to his body, was easy to learn to use, allowed me to monitor him easily, and didn’t have too much fabric.