Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Babywearing: Advocating for Education, Not Fear Mongering

Unfortunately, Monday morning brought sad news of a two-day-old Australian baby who died while being worn in a sling.

So, again, with the unfolding of such an unfortunate tragedy, the practice of babywearing will most likely be thrust into the limelight, complete with advice medical doctors who have no experience with slings forming all kinds of warnings for parents to avoid the alleged dangers of babywearing.

And because my heart absolutely aches for the mother who lost her precious baby while wearing her little one and because I whole-heartedly believe babies are safest when pressed against the skin of a care giver, I feel compelled to say it again:

Any baby item can be dangerous!

Carseats, baby swings, baby cribs -- any place babies can slip into the dangerous chin-to-chest position and block off tiny airways must be monitored.

BUT the art and practice of babywearing is safe.

In fact, I would argue that the art and practice of wearing your baby snuggled against your skin where the rise and fall of baby's chest can be felt is safer than leaving baby to sleep alone, unmonitored in a car seat or crib.

With that said, we must spend time educating parents on how to ensure baby is in correct positioning in ALL baby gear items, including car seats, swings and carriers.

And we babywearing advocates and instructors must send time helping parents understand best practices of baby wearing so they will not be tricked into thinking that all baby gear and baby carriers are inherently safe or alternately not safe.

But, first, let's briefly talk baby carriers and why all carries are NOT made equally.

Some slings,like the recalled Infantino Slingriders that have caused infant deaths and are commonly referred to as bag slings, should not even be marketed as baby carriers because there is NO way to safely carry a baby in such a sling.

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 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, with baby's chin falling to the chest and restricting little airways.

But reputable carriers are designed so that the wearer can, indeed, adhere to the best practice guidelines {remember, baby should be visible and kissable}. We now also have the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance working with the ASTM to establish a voluntary standard for sling-style carriers that allow wearers to adhere to best practices while wearing their babies.  

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

So while the media circulates news stories about the "dangers" of babywearing that only promote fear without sharing education on best practices on positioning a new baby,  let's ensure that we babywearing advocates {and carseat-and-swing-safety advocates} pass along information on best positions for newborns and babies inside and outside of carriers.

I think we owe it to all the babies and families out there who have experienced such tragedies as well as those caregivers who would like to remember, honor the beautiful little lives lost as they care for the little ones in their arms.

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

Please note: Baby E 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.


  1. love the visuals you provided....you and your kiddos!

  2. Thank you for sharing such important info...babywearing is so good for babies, if done correctly! I loved that skin to skin contact with my baby, and always kept baby "kissable!"

  3. This is a great post and the pictures are adorable!

    I totally agree with you. All baby products can be dangerous, some more than others but with user error, well, things happen. Very sad about that baby: I can't imagine how her mother feels. :(


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