baby in a sling

NHS guidance about dressing infants in “one extra layer” is being put to the test

Scientists are examining NHS guidance to parents which recommends dressing infants in one extra layer of clothing when using a sling.

Researchers at Loughborough University have put the advice to the test by studying the effects of ‘baby-wearing’, with and without the extra layer, on the body temperature of children under 12-months-old.

Current guidelines suggest wrapping youngsters in an additional item of clothing – one more than the parent.

However, Dr Davide Filingeri, who is leading the project, said there is no scientific evidence to support the NHS’s recommendation and has begun testing parents and their little ones to see what effect it actually has.

He said: “This research aims to improve our understanding of how warm babies get as a result of being held close to an adult in a sling and to consider whether the current NHS advice of dressing a baby in one extra layer than the parents is appropriate during babywearing.

“Currently, the guidance for baby clothing is given for all babies regardless of whether they are lying on the floor, sitting in a buggy or positioned in a sling.

“This is surprising when considering that during babywearing the temperature and heat generated by the carrying adult is likely to greatly affect the temperature of the carried child, hence consideration should be given to how these external factors might shift baby body temperature beyond safety limits.

“As the NHS ‘one extra layer’ advice may not be necessary or desirable during babywearing and especially in warm weather conditions, there is an urgent need to evaluate infant thermoregulation during babywearing, to provide evidence in support and/or against current healthcare advice.”

Last week, the team, including research students Callie Merrick and Helena Cowley, began testing parents and their babies and collecting data about body temperature during ‘baby-wearing’.

Measurements from skin temperature body sensors were taken during two 15-minute periods, whilst the mother carried her child in a sling and simulated gentle movement by stepping up and down.

The first step-ups were carried out with no extra layer for the baby.

Then, additional clothing was added for the second set – in line with the national NHS guidelines.

baby with a device in his ear

One of the first participants in the study was mum Cat Majoribanks, 32, from Loughborough, who had brought along her 10-month-old son to take part in the experiment.

She said: “It’s important to understand when and where you should be adding extra clothes because the advice you get is quite generic.

“If you’re an anxious parent – luckily I’m not – it could be quite distressing.

“Being told your baby needs one extra layer is a good rule of thumb, but there are so many different factors involved that it’s good there’s finally going to be science to back it up – or not.”

The experiments are taking place Loughborough University’s THERMOSENSELAB – part of the Environmental Ergonomics Research Centre.

The project is the result of a collaboration with the Parenting Science Gang, a Wellcome Trust-funded citizen science project that links parents, gathered in Facebook groups around a specific interest, with scientists who help them design and carry out experiments about parenting and babies in general.

The testing is expected to be completed in March, with the results due to be published in the summer.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 18/29

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