An Australian dad caught some heat from local police recently because he was wearing his baby in a sling, sparking a new chapter in the babywearing debate. While babywearing is a time-honored practice, knowledge of sling safety is super important. Do you know the guidelines?
Andrew Langford was stopped by police near Frankston in Australia because they received complaints from a citizen who was worried he was suffocating his baby. No, his hands were not over her mouth — he was carrying her on his back, properly, in an Olives & Applesauce carrier. This style of carrier allows the parent to ergonomically and safely carry a baby on the back or the front. Langford wasn’t thrilled with the questioning and said, “It is the same as using a pram or a car seat, there are risks associated with it if you do not know how to use it properly.”
Avoid bag-style carriers
Slings got a really bad reputation a few years ago when several babies died while being worn in a sling called the Infantino SlingRider. These are also known as bag-style carriers, where your baby is slung over your shoulder in a sling that is more like a purse or shopping bag. These slings force a baby’s body into a C shape, which doesn’t allow for proper circulation and can compromise her airway.
The law firm representing one family whose baby died in an Infantino sling stated, “We are alleging that the 3-month-old baby died of positional asphyxia, which happens when a baby’s head is pushed down into its chest, restricting the baby’s airway.”
Infantino promptly issued a recall of the SlingRider carriers and another carrier called the Wendy Bellissimo and in 2010, the Consumer Products Safety Commission released a warning about babywearing safety.
Janelle from South Carolina is convinced that all baby slings and carriers are dangerous. “The reports of the baby deaths turned me off to babywearing,” she explained. “I don’t think they are necessary at all and are a really bad idea.”
Other issues with certain carriers
The popular BabyBjörn baby carriers are featured in many mainstream stores and are often a parent’s first exposure to babywearing. Some parents claim that these types of carriers can cause health problems in babies. Sometimes called “crotch danglers,” some moms contend that they cause excessive stress on the lower spine and hips and believe that they can lead to painful conditions such as Spondylolisthesis or hip dysplasia. BabyBjorn, however, maintains that there is no medical evidence to support these claims.
However, I feel that the best carriers support a child’s spine and hips with his weight distributed across his bottom with his knees bent in a frog-like position. This encourages natural development of his core muscles and is similar to holding your baby in your arms.
Other styles of baby carriers that are safe if used correctly are ring slings, soft-structured carriers, mei tais and woven wraps. And even if you’re not using one of the bag-style carriers, there are several things you need to keep in mind as you wear your little one.
Proper positioning is vital. Your baby’s back should be straight and supported, not curved into a ball. Ensure that your little one’s chin is not on his chest. A good guideline is a finger width or two between his chin and body.
Monitor your baby regularly. Check to see that she is breathing easily and that there is no material obstructing her face. Make sure that his head is high up on your chest, as this will make it easier to check on him.
Use common sense
“Babywearing is not dangerous when done correctly,” shared Kelly, mom of two. “The dangers come from poorly or incorrectly designed slings, and people who are ignorant, or choose to ignore, the benefits of baby wearing.”