Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Babywearing: The real deal on safety

Brace yourselves, babywearing parents.

If we thought we got inquiring looks for slinging our babies before, I'm sure we're in for a firestorm of more than just curious glances now that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is preparing to issue a warning about infants having suffocated in popular slings sold at our local Target.

And it might not be such a bad thing.

I want the conversations to begin flowing when I'm wearing my babes mostly because my heart weeps for the parents who lost their little ones while trying to wear their babies close to them. It's terribly heartbreaking that these moms and dads wanted to love and protect their babes by wearing them, and just the opposite happened when their precious little ones suffocated while being worn.

So this warning/recall is important. Yes, it's so very vital, not only because these slings are responsible for deaths but also because this warning will further thrust babywearing into the spotlight.

And though I'm praying that the warning/recall will clearly explain and define why the types of slings that have caused these terribly tragic deaths are dangerous, I, for one, am not willing to leave any of the babywearing education to a government safety commission.

Because the CPCS's job isn't to educate the public about safe babywearing.

And its job isn't to broadcast that the act of babywearing is or isn't dangerous; rather its job is to sound about which products are unsafe.

While it's important to know which products are unsafe, we need to ensure parents and caregivers understand why these recalled slings are unsafe so they can make informed decisions when purchasing a carrier.

So let me stand from my blogtop and scream it:

Any baby item can be dangerous!

BUT the art and practice of babywearing is safe. ***

Once parents understand best practices of baby wearing, they will not be tricked into thinking that all baby carriers are inherently safe or alternately not safe.

The slings, Infantino Slingriders, that have caused infant deaths are commonly referred to as bag slings, and they should not even be marketed as baby carriers.

These slings are worn around the parents' neck and body much like a messenger bag is worn. Babies who are placed into the deep pockets of these slings are at risk for suffocation because their bodies are positioned in a C shape where the child's neck often touches her chest and restricts airways. All the while, the poor mom or dad wearing baby could be oblivious to any danger because baby is all the way down by mom or dad's belly button.

(image courtesy of Walmart.com)

ALL bag slings -- like the Infantino Slingrider -- are so dangerous; they violate every babywearing best practice instruction we babywearing instructors teach:

Baby should be close enough to kiss.
Baby should never have his chin resting on his chest.
Baby's head should be above the rest of her body.
Baby's knees should be higher than his butt.
Baby's face shouldn't be covered by fabric.
Baby's head should be supported.

Not only do bag slings -- like the Slingrider -- defy EVERY SINGLE ONE of these safety musts, they also give reputable ring slings and pouches, like Hotslings and Sakura Bloom ring slings, a bad name.

Can reputable slings be worn less than ideally? Of course! {Remember, sometimes carseats are also used drastically wrong.} But reputable carriers are designed so that the wearer can, indeed, adhere to the best practice guidelines {remember, baby should be visible and kissable}.

And companies who sell sound babywearing products, like the aforementioned ones, send best practice guidelines with their slings that explicitely explain the tennents of babywearing safety.

We must advocate for babywearing. We know how beneficial it is to the health of families -- parents and babies alike.

We must also advocate safety by educating parents about the dangers of specific slings like bag slings but also by teaching overarching babywearing best practice guidlelines. The CPSC statement probably will scare parents away from these bag slings. But that is likely all the warning will accomplish alone.

Instead of fearing the CPSC warning will give babywearing a bad name, let's speak up for babies' safety and sound sirens of warning about unsafe baby slings and practices alongside the commission.

And then let's take it a step further by educating parents about babywearing best practices so that parents feel secure in holding their babies close. Because we want every parent to feel comfortable with wearing their babies. Shouldn't they all reap the benefits of being close enough to kiss?

Let's wholeheartedly pray that this warning thrusts us babywearers into the limelight so we might be able to educate the public, particularly caregivers and parents, about the many benefits of art of babywearing. And then lets teach parents how to best wear their little ones.

I don't want to see one more baby die from improper positioning in a poorly designed sling, so I, for one, welcome the gawking and comments because it will just open the flood gates for best practices to flow.

For more safety and carrier information, visit:
http://www.thebabywearer.com/ or http://www.babywearinginternational.com/

EDIT after inquiries: Baby EJ is being worn in the tummy to tummy position in a Kimz Kreations ring sling. He is one week old in the first picture and two weeks old in the second. Please be sure to note that the fabric is covering the back of his head in the second picture, but his little nose and mouth are clear of fabric and are tilted up away from his chest.

***EDIT: I have edited this part of my orginal post to state that I feel the art of babywearing is safe. There is no safer place for baby to be than snuggled up right againts mom or dad's chest. Babywearing allows babies to be under the constant care and attention of their caregivers.***

If you would like, please leave a link to your own babywearing safety blog post. :)


  1. I love to wear my baby. I hate to hear of this. This is so sad for them...

  2. You said it so much better than I ever could. I'm just going to link people to you!

    Love you HY!

    (have a safe trip!)

  3. I've never liked the look of the bag slings - they remind me of having those little dogs in handbags!

    Being close enough to kiss was the main rule I used with the Sam-child, because the type of sling we had (more upright, almost like a Tomy, but with less support in the back - his TOmy was like a straightjacket!) did everything else for me.

    I miss wearing a baby lol. (Not missing wearing the wriggling toddler quite so much.....)

  4. God this is so sad. Though I wasn't too much of a babywearer, mainly because I didn't know about it, my heart broke reading this post. My brother and his wife are pregnant..yippeee..haven't announced it yet cuz it's still sort of hush-hush. Anyway, they will make absolutely fabulous parents but like all first-time parents, they will be completely overwhelmed and knowing them, wanting to do everything "just right". And they will, as much as any loving parent can. Anyway...I told them I would send them some links to a few blogs and this post reminded me that this blog is, your blog, is the only one I will recommend. Yup, I trust you implicitly with my family...ha! Thanks for being you, for sharing, for educating and for being a great Mom!

  5. Oh, not sure why it says Jennifer, this was from me, SwedishJenn :-)

  6. Bag slings are very dangerous. I was in a babywearing safety class that went into detail about the position a baby is placed in a sling like a bag sling or in any way where you can not see their face. It's basic common sense, but unfortunately accidents happen, I understand.

    The baby's chin should never be resting on their chest. And their face should never be obstructed by fabric, no matter what kind of carrier you are using.


  7. Wow - this is so sad and eye opening. Thanks so much for sharing this important information. You did a great job of defending babywearing by explaining how it can be safe when you wear your baby correctly. I'm linking to your post today today.

  8. I feel so badly for the parents of these babies! My heart goes out to them.
    But as I see the headlines this morning they are filled with "Babyslings responsible for baby deaths" and other such things. I am very concerned that people will only see the headline and not read the report or the articles will become watered down and scare people!
    I too will be shouting from twitter, facebook and our blog to get the word out. It would be a shame for parents & babies to miss the benefits of babywearing.

  9. Thanks so much. I too am deeply afraid that the public and my family/friends will think "slings" mean all carriers.

    Article like this one http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/09/baby-slings-deadly-consum_n_492186.html

    that define "use of slings, also known as babywearing" make broad generalizations about babywearing that are troubling.

    Her is an excerpt:

    "...Use of slings, also known as "babywearing," has become increasingly popular in recent years, with colorful and vibrant slings seen on Hollywood moms and sold everywhere from big retailers such as Babies R Us to smaller outfits like BabySoSmart.com in Kansas City, Mo....."

  10. I just shared this with at least 50 of my AP momma friends.

  11. Thanks for the info. Very important to know for sure.

  12. Thank you for posting this. I saw the news and thought... oh here we go. Unfortunately, too many will just assume that all babywearing is bad. I wish they could all read your blog.

  13. Sad sad sad for those mamas! Your blog post was right on. I sent out a mass email as well as FB shared(thanks to friend's link) and wrote a bit on my blog http://shineliketheson-mymotherhoodtrail.blogspot.com/2010/03/babywearing-is-safe-bag-styles-are-not.html (all linking to your post) Awareness is needed to honor those mamas and babies and remind people that with everything there is risk, it's about knowing what is safest and how to use it. I can't imagine doing my day to day without my baby snug happy and safe in our ergo/MT/Moby and I'm thankful I knew others who taught me to research everything and get help when needed!

  14. Thanks so much for posting this! I have to agree with everyone else's concerns about the fact that this may discourage all babywearing, but I will not stop wearing my kids in my ring slings! A also am looking forward to people questioning it because I want to let them know that if they look into it and research it, they'll see that it's not ALL slings, but specific one's and specifically when any carrier is not used properly.

  15. Would it be ok if I post this blog post on my sling website? I sell sling at www.HappyBabySlings.com and think this really great info to share with customers. Thanks!

  16. I love to baby wear and agree people need to know how to do so safely, congrats on a well written article.

  17. Thank you for a well written blog. I am linking it on my businesses fb fan page.

  18. Thanks so much for all of the comments today. I'm overwhelmed by the way our babywearing and blogging communities come together to spread the word when it's needed. I pray parents will be inundated with good information about babywearing safety.
    @Olivia, you are more than welcome to publish this entry and the photos on your page if you think it will help parents. Thank you.

  19. I knew it! I got one of those infantino slings as a gift, tried it once and was horrified at the position it put my LO in. I have a ring sling I made that is far superior - that I can follow the rules in! Still so sad for those mamas trying to do good...

  20. What a GREAT post. I just made it an important link of the day on my Facebook page. Thanks for presenting an accurate, level-headed article on this important topic.
    ~ Elizabeth Pantley
    Author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution

  21. Just had a chance to educate today! An older woman approached me in the grocery store today and asked if I had seen an article in today's local paper about the danger's of "wearing a baby close". I explained the type of bag carrier that was unsafe and the reason why. Felt good to be able to spread some good info. :)

  22. Wonderful article! I quoted you here: http://www.examiner.com/x-23788-Mankato-Attachment-Parenting-Examiner~y2010m3d10-New-government-warning-for-baby-slings-shows-need-for-safety-awareness-and-common-sense

    Thanks for the great info.

  23. This is so sad. I personally had my son in a sling, but not very often. It took some getting use to for both of us. Plus I went through several different brand before I found one that I was comfortable with. So sad, but glad to hear there are people out there to help educate the rest of us.

  24. Thank you for this article. It was very well written and informative. I used some of this information in an article I wrote today, to help me explain to others which products are safe, and wanted to share the link with you. I did leave a link back to your blog so you could get the credit. Thanks again. ~Angela Kaye Mason~ http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/world/cpsc-issues-warning-after-baby-sling-death_100332929.html

  25. I received a sling similar to the bag sling as a shower gift, but I never used it because I noticed problems where I thought my daughter may not be able to breathe freely. I'm so glad I trusted my instincts - and requested a ring sling for Christmas.

  26. Baby's knees should be higher than his butt....this is not obtainable in a bjorn is that ok??

  27. Ugh. This is one of my favorite rants against improper sling use. I always see parents with slings not properly snugged, and baby at risk of falling out through the back of the sling, or those bag slings? They're HORRID!

    I liked wearing my son snugged up high with his head right near my chin. I could feel him breathe. I also didn't like him facing out until he was muuuuch older (older than 5mos). Babies front-facing look trapped and dazed.

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. @Jaymie, You are right; a Baby Bjorn doesn't allow the baby to be worn with his knees above his bum. There is no concrete evidence that shows carriers like Bjorn to have adverse effects on baby's developing hips, though much controversy has stemmed
    from this debate. So as long as you and baby are comfortable in the bjorn, I say use it.
    It is essential, however, when baby is seated tummy to tummy in a wrap, ring sliing or pouch, that baby's knees be positioned above his bum. By ensuring baby's knees are above his bum, you create a pocket in which baby sits while nestled against your chest. The weight of baby's bum in the pocket aids in securing baby in the sling. It is essential to safety for baby's knees to be above his bum while in one of these carriers, and it is not essential with a soft-structured carrier like the Bjorn.
    One more note about the Bjorn -- because there has been no conclusive evidence stating that hip damage is caused by baby's weight being placed solely on the crotch like it is in a Bjorn, I personally do not speak against this soft structured carrier brand. Personally, however, I see a benefit to baby's weight being placed on his bum while sitting in a carrier because it mimics natural sitting positions. Plus, Bjorns typically are not comfortable for the wearer after baby breeches 10 pounds because baby is dangling off of the wearing. Pikkolos and Ergos have wider seats that place baby's weight on his bum and put the majority of baby's weight atop the wearer's hips instead of strain on the wearer's back. Hope this helps clarify.

  30. Thanks Hyacynth for the info. I made a post on my FB with your link. Plan to blog about the benefits when I have a second. I think that it is definitely beneficial to know the facts, but we need to be careful not to overwhelm our audience with TMI. This can be dificult since so many categorize us as the "granola" crowd. You did that very eloquently. Keep it simple and positive! Best wishes all on your BW educating journey!

  31. My first experience babywearing was with the recalled sling. I remember it feeling completely foreign and uncomfortable. The directions say to keep the nose and mouth clear and to make sure the chin isn't on the chest but the carrier could not work any other way! I had this thing pulled so high up on my shoulder trying to make it feel like I was holding my babe but it just didn't work. Luckily my friend bought me to Lake County Babywearers!

  32. *I* want to know how many babies die each year strapped into their bouncy seat or infant carseat or stroller. B/c if you aren't wearing a baby where do you put them?

  33. @MacBump brought up the exact point I was about to bring up. Will there be equal concern over car seats and swings?


    Thanks for a well written response to it all.

  34. It's such a beautiful way to be near your baby. Thanks for all the helpful information. I'm sure you helped many moms with questions.

  35. @Felicia, so glad you had a chance to talk to someone!

    @s'me -- that's a perfect use for a bag sling -- the handbag dogs might really enjoy them! lol.

    @Sara, That's exactly where I love to wear my little babies, too -- right up high where I can feel them breathing. Not only does it promote safety, but they are just so darn sweet when they are lying contentedly snuggled on your chest!

    @Selia, good for you for realizing the slings you had were not working for your babes and seeking something different. There's a lot to be said for mother's instinct, isn't there?

    @Sharon, Do you have a babywearing group near you? You could surely get some tips on using your sleepy wrap from a local group or thebabywearer.com. I feel like the tummy to tummy position is safest with little babies in wraps. There are some really good YouTube videos on doing Tummy to Tummy in wraps. :) Best of luck!

    @MacBump and @Gettysburg Mom, don't even get me started! lol.

    @Krissy, so glad you found a good sling to wear your little one in. It's a little overwhelming isn't it?

    @ClanBrunn, @Stephanie, @ShineLiketheSon, @Sheri, @Margot, @Kate, @Lindy, @Olivia, @SeasideSiblings, @Heather,@Mankato Ap Mom, @Angela, @SleepyMommie -- Thank you so much for linking and spreading the word. I just love that we are able to spread good information about babywearing through our blogs, businesses and facebooks. Very sincerely, thank you!

    @SwedishJenn, Yay! You'll be an aunt! And that baby's parents will so know how to wear him or her. :) Thanks for spreading the word to the people you love. You rock!

  36. I blogged about this post on my blog. thanks for the insightful post, love it!

  37. we don't have a very active CPSC-like regulator in our country and recalls are rare here! thank you for the babywearing tips which are very enlightening especially for new babywearers.

  38. Such a great blog post! I've worn all 5 of our kids and I've loved every minute of it. I could not have survived without my wraps & slings. I've never used the one at issue and I do hope that this leads to more baby wearing not less. Babies need their mamas!

  39. Such an important, informative post.

    I never knew this stuff when I was wearing my kids.

  40. I liked wearing my son snugged up high with his head right near my chin. I could feel him breathe. I also didn't like him facing out until he was muuuuch older (older than 5mos). Babies front-facing look trapped and dazed.

  41. It's so sad that parents lost their babies because of this. I wear my daughter all the time...when she was 6 months and younger, I wore her sometimes all day long. Before she was born I read about babywearing, met with a babywearing expert to try slings, etc etc - and I didn't hear about positional asphyxiation until she was already at least 2 weeks old. I think you're right, that this could happen to anyone with any sling. Thank god that I gave up on cradle holds (they just didn't work for us...) and was using the tummy to tummy while I could have ignorantly hurt my baby.

  42. Awesome post!! Thank you!! I wear my baby regularly and have since she was a newborn. She's now 10 months old, and at 15 weeks pregnant with #3 it is becoming more uncomfortable. Before I got my moby wrap I had tried several bag type slings and they never look very comfy for the baby. I love my moby and plan to use it for the next baby!!

  43. Thank you so much for posting this - what a great response- yes, safety is so important. There is a Facebook group called Babywearing Safety, and I want to recommend this post on that page for all the members to see!

  44. OMG, my head is spinning. We purchased a bag sling when I was pregnant. In theory, it looked comfy because it had a thick, padded bottom. We used it a few times in the early weeks until I got a better ring sling and discovered the better comfort for me. But...oh I'm just feeling sick knowing my baby was being worn in the completely unsafe way.

    I didn't like that sling because it pulled on my neck and I was thinking about giving it to goodwill. Now I think I will trash it so no other parents are tempted to use it.

  45. Thank you so much for this informative post! I blogged about this (and you) today!


  46. @Nicole, @Carrie, @Morgan, thank you for spreading the word at your blogs and on FB!

    @Olivia, you can NOT beat yourself up for past mistakes on parenting decisions. It will make you crazy :) You listened to your insticts and got a better sling. And now you can help other moms avoid that experience. And, yes -- trash it!

    @Kendra, I really loved using a stretchy for my second little guy. Such a great wrap! If you still want to wear your LO, may I suggest a pouch with the tummy to tummy position, but up high? Oh, I loved using carry and position with my oldest until my belly got too big!

    @Amber and @annonymous, I definitely couldn't make it without wearing my little ones either. Sometimes the baby spends hours in the sling during the day.

    @Ann and Jenny, thanks for reading and leaving me some love. :)

    @Margot, thanks for the news story link. Had a feeling we'd be up against some pretty tough criticism. And that other link you sent me on facebook? OUTRAGEOUS!

    @Adventures ..., can you believe they still sell those slings after all of the information that has been brought against them? It's kind of crazy.

  47. @Catherine Anne, I love wearing my little ones, too. And those little babies having died -- oh, it hurts. That's why I hope we can all spread the word about safety. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  48. JPMA's goal is to get safe products in the hands of parents and caregivers, and we thank you for sharing this message about juvenile product safety!

    - JPMA Public Relations

  49. The ring sling looks very good. I wore my babies when they were awake - they were born in the late 1950's. I also had a carrier that could be used even when they were a year or 2 old, that had holes for their legs to stick out so their weight was carried on my hip. I feel so sorry for the babes that seem to spend their lives in those carriers (like a baby carriage with no wheels) - instead of being nestled to their parent's chest. I feel that closeness makes the babes feel more secure & loved - less "alone in the world" & anxious. I'm glad there are mothers wearing their babes now & hope they will all do so safely.

  50. I was wondering if you were going to post (ok, knew you were but I'm behind) on this topic. The stories are horrifying, but you're so right that it's all about people making sure they know what they're doing in ANY situation. The messenger bag ones sorta freak me out anyway... and so crossing my fingers that this doesn't keep people from correctly using slings!

  51. You summed this issue up beautifully! My heart bleeds for those parents who endured such tragic loss.

  52. Wow! My bub is 9 months old and to be honest I hadn't given this much thought. When he was a newborn a friend lent me a sling and I put him into it twice and took him straight out as it just didn't feel right, with him all bent up, chin onto chest. So glad I went with my gut instinct. We carried him in a bjorn when he was small and now snuggle up in an ergo.

  53. Great article! I am posting a link to this on our sites network. We are a store that is owned by a lactation consultant and has evolved into a storefront that sells baby carriers along with other maternity/nursing/baby essentails. We did a huge expo this weekend in Grand Rapids, MI. where I had my 6 month old son in the Moby Wrap and there were tons of people asking us about this issue. It did give us a great chance to talk about better carriers as well as safety - and they could see for themselves that he was being carried well and LOVING it. I don't think that anyone was "turned off" of babywearing which is good.

    Anyways, I'm off to post this article. You can check it out here:


  54. That Infantino sling was the first sling I ever bought and it was so horrible that I returned it. It didn't make sense at all! At the tightest setting, it was far too low, it was uncomfortable, and I couldn't understand how a baby could breath like that. I got mad at them for advertising it as the "natural" way to carry your baby because there is nothing natural about it! I'm so glad it has been recalled but so sad that babies have died in it.

  55. Great blog, glad i found you! A couple of comments mentioned that they had a bag sling and knew something wasn't right so never/stopped using it. The same thing happened to me. I considered donating it but decided not to and boy am I glad!

    thanks for the 6 rules, i love them!

  56. Thank you for reminding us not to shy away from concerned comments but to take advantage of them! This press could ultimately help millions of families by familiarizing them with SAFE babywearing...if we all start shouting out the truth!

    I posted on my babywearing blog too!

  57. So so sad. But good that the slings in question have been recalled.

    Bag slings are not good at all. Soft-structured carriers, wraps and mei tai's are best for baby to be maintained in the orthopedically correct M or frog position.

  58. This post is really useful. When i was a new mom, i never know about this sort of wearing. anyway, i'll leave a link to your blog post fro our site so that our readers can be educated enough. thanks a lot for sharing this info and thanks for reading my comment :)

  59. My heart goes out to them!
    I feel so badly for the parents of these babies! Good lucky to them !
    I love these babies !

  60. I find these very uncomfortable although my husband swears by it. Very different body shapes I guess.

  61. Thank you so much for this valuable information. I just wanted to let you know I posted this link on a blog entry I wrote about swaddling and baby wearing. Thanks again for being a knowledgeable reference! www.fishsticksandkidsense.blogspot.com

  62. Really loved your post Hy. Looking at this post reminded me when I had my first child 8 years ago, and i was so clueless and really didnt have any idea that baby slings can cause deaths :( scary thought.

    Id like to link back to your blog if that's ok with you. My blog readers will benefit greatly from your post. Thanks for reading!


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