slings and arrows: safe babywearing

Baby slings are getting a lot of press and sadly, the coverage is worrying parents unnecessarily.  Here is an excerpt from an AP article that ran March 13:
Those chic baby slings that many parents are sporting these days can be dangerous, even deadly, the government warned yesterday.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it has investigated at least 13 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers over the last 20 years, including three deaths last year. One other case involving a fatality is still being investigated. Twelve of the deaths involved babies younger than four months, the agency said.

The commission is advising parents and caregivers to be cautious when using infant slings for babies younger than four months.

It said that several of the babies who died in slings were either born prematurely or as a low-weight twin or had respiratory problems.
Of course, my heart goes out to the families who have lost babies.  I cannot imagine anything worse than burying a child, and I do not want to minimize those parents' grief in any way.  Infant death is always an unimaginably tragedy.  In the reporting, however, one important message is obscured:  

1. There are hundreds of types of safe baby carriers.  
2. Babywearing has been practiced globally for thousands of years.
3. It is a safe and beneficial for babies (and parents!) when practiced properly.

Most babies love to be held or carried.  That isn't feasible around the clock, but a babe needn't spend hour after hour in a bouncer, swing, car seat, stroller, exersaucer, crib, pack 'n play, or play gym.  (Seriously, how many of these gadgets do we need cluttering up our lives?)

Slings let babies rest snugly on mama (or daddy's) chest, hear her heartbeat and feel secure while the wearer has hands free.  Those first three months of a baby's life are likened to a "fourth trimester," and it is an especially good time to wear a baby, despite the CPSC's warnings.  Similar to swaddling, slings replicate a cozy womb feeling, which is comforting to newborns.   

Babywearing can encourage infant sleep and discourage crying, so it is a fantastic practice for new mamas to learn in those harried early weeks.

Of course, we must remain attentive to our babies.  I usually keep one hand on my baby's back or bottom, just in case.  A child could fall if not worn properly, so it is crucial to get comfortable with the carrier first.  Most carriers come with videos or picture instructions and must be followed carefully.  Follow your instincts, ask questions, get help and never use a carrier until it feels safe and right.  Once the wearer gets the hang of the learning curve, wearing a baby safely becomes second nature.

When Dylan was about three months, we started using a ring sling.  I rarely needed a stroller or had to lug around a heavy infant car seat.  I wore James from day one and had two year-old Dylan in it yesterday at the grocery store.  I don't think I could leave the house most days with both kids without my sling.  Wearing a baby in a sling is a fantastic way to simplify, be close to your baby and get practical things done at the same time.

The actual concern, for both the CPSC and babywearing community, is the Infantino brand "Slingrider" that four-week-old Dylan is pictured in here.  [The CPSC issued a recall on March 24.]  Even though it was never a favorite of mine, we did use one when Dylan was little, because it was what we had and we didn't know anything else. 

The concerns raised about the Slingrider are unique to its flawed design: a baby should be worn high enough to kiss, but in a Slingrider a child is much lower.  Too much fabric and awkward body positioning can interfere with infant breathing.

The Infantino Slingrider "bag sling" is completely different from ring slings, pouch slings and myriad other safe carriers.

If you have an Infantino Slingrider, you are eligible for a free replacement Infantino Wrap and Tie.  It can be worn as a frontpack or backpack. 

More babywearing info/love:
The Benefits of Babywearing
Great Things About Babywearing

Linked up with Steph at Adventures in Babywearing and Hyacynth at Undercover Mother.

Do you/have you worn your babies?
Have you encountered comments in the wake of this recall?  What is your favorite kind of baby carrier?  What do you like best about babywearing?


lauren debo said...

i have not had any babies yet, but i have been around plenty of sling wearing mama's to know that those things are AWESOME. i def. plan on using one when i have my own, i think it's a great way to have your baby close but also have the ability to be more mobile.

i understand that one must learn to use the sling properly, and let's face it, most things that aren't used properly can be dangerous especially with kids. so it only makes sense to practice, and feel comfortable before using. also with watching babies & little kids (something i do have experience with), it's very important to always be aware of what they are doing, which like you said includes keeping an eye on your baby even when in the sling. if parents understand those things than the pro's def. out weigh the cons!

great blog post suz! very informative!

suzannah | the smitten word said...

so true, lauren--almost anything can be dangerous when misused!

that's why i found the gov't warning so frustrating--i don't want to see mamas scared away from something that is safe and beneficial when properly done.

Blogless A.R. said...

Thank you THANK YOU for this post! I've been a fan of babywearing and now have a two-week-old (born 3 weeks early) that I would love to carry in something other than the infant car seat.

I received one of the Infantino Slingrider slings as a baby shower gift (I had registered for it months ago) and am happy to hear there's a replacement available! My little one seems too small for the Slingrider, so we haven't used it yet--I was scared to try it out with him being so small and with the gov't warnings. I had no idea it was THAT specific sling that was the focus of scrutiny.

I'll keep ya posted...

Amy from Occupation: Mommy said...

I totally agree with you. This was a well-written and thorough post. And what a cute face in the first picture!!

I had a ring sling (NoJo?) that I hated with Georgia because it was padded and never seemed to fit right. But I could tell from using it that if I could find one that DID fit that I would love it.

So when I had Sydney, I made my own pouch sling and used it All The Time. I actually still use it occasionally if she is really fussy or sick and she is going to be three in a month!

This time, I have my pouch sling and I made a mei tai, which is similar in idea to the ergo but only cost me a few dollars in fabric. I am also planning to make a ring sling and a moby wrap, so I will have many options with this little guy!

Have you ever used a moby?

pinkdaisyjane said...

I am very excited that you posted the replacement link! I was given an Infantino, but was disappointed in the way it fit and how hard it was to see my sweet girl when she was in it.

I am very excited to try the replacement; I'll let you know how it works! ;)

Penny said...

I had one sling, a wrap and a front pack that I used at various times and for various purposes. The sling I used when they were little and both kids seemed to find it calming and would sleep happily in it. The wrap I used with Lydia once she could hold her head up - it gave me two hands free which was great for dealing with Tim. The front pack I used for longer walks and for when her head was still floppy. It wasn't as comfortable for me as the wrap but was still handy... plus Rod could wear it without feeling poncy.

Both my children loved being worn and close to me.

Bri said...

I am bothered by all the bad babywearing press too! I adore all of my babywearing gear. It is so great for baby bonding and for practical reasons too. When Maya was itty bitty we used the baby k'tan and now we use the ergo. I also have a hotsling that I liked okay, but i prefer the other two :)Thank you for writing this!

Jenney said...

Yeah, I've been disguisted with the press babywearing has been getting. Seriously? How about we go after the crap they put in "kids" food. Really? Read the labels people, that is NOT healthy or kid-friendly.

I was also not impressed with one mom I saw interviewed who had lost an infant while using a sling. Not that I want to minimize her pain, I'm sure it was the most painful thing ever. But she claimed she put her baby in, walked out of the house, and by the time she got to the car, the baby was dead. Really? I can't believe that unless you have a detached garage 1/4 mile from your residence. I think that usage is to blame, not slings.

ash said...

I LOVE my ergo baby carrier and don't know how I would have survived the 3rd with 3 under 3 without it!!!! I had a sling, but never figured it out, so I got the ergo carrier... it worked like a charm. Now I can't wait to have a newborn to get the newborn attachment for it and try that out!!! Yay for closeness with baby!!!

Mrs. Small House said...

Thanks for posting this! I love baby wearing and have gotten fed up with the well meaning forwards my friends and family have been sending me. I like to use a moby style wrap for my infants and then a pouch sling once they're a little bigger.
My basic rebuttal has been to ask them if they stopped driving their Honda when the Toyota recall was issued.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the recent media headlines surrounding baby carriers has been a bit misleading in that they infer that ALL “baby slings” are excessively dangerous. While there are risks associated with using any baby carrier it is important to understand that not all “BABY SLINGS” are created equal, especially when it comes to safety.

In well-designed and appropriately used products, like the Swaddlesport Pouch Style Carrier, babywearing is not only safe, but is actually very beneficial when done properly. Studies have shown that quality baby slings and carriers have been shown to save lives, improve health, decrease crying, increase IQ, and facilitate breastfeeding and bonding. For examples of these cases and further reading see “Increased Carrying Reduces Infant Crying: A Randomized Controlled Trial” an article written by Urs A. Hunziker MD and Ronald G. Barr MDCM, FRCP(C), “Saving My Baby” a blog post written on Fierce Mama’s Blog by Sarah Kaganovsky and Dr. Maria Blois’s book Babywearing.

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting said...

Gah! Reading that article makes me SO MAD to infer that all baby carriers are harmful. GRR!

Stephanie Wilson she/her @babysteph said...

I'm glad they were offering such a better option as the replacement, but such a headache this has caused...


designHER Momma said...

honestly, babywearing has made me such a better mom to my older ones. It's been a complete lifesaver for me.

Hyacynth said...

Love how you share your love and knowledge here! Happy IBW!. :)

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